How to look after our own in lockdown
The people in our organisations are the most valuable assets. In the good times we invest repeatedly in training and building our teams. A well built team are expected to work better together, and can adapt and adjust in challenging times. In a traditional team building workshops, the teams are often put in front of practice scenario that are designed to test their abilities to think and work together when there is no right answer, or simply no answer to the well designed circumstance of difficulty.
The lockdown in New Zealand has sent all of our teams home and suddenly the teams have been put to a real life test. This time it is not a team building exercise we pretend in order to get our teams to think about how to work together in strange situation. The real challenge of a lockdown, an economic and health crisis cannot be more strange a situation than a role play from the textbook. No one has expected this and no one was given any prior ability to be more ready for this. All the plans and appointments are changed by a virus, or the fear of the possible reach by the virus among us. The test has started suddenly and the team is thrown in the deep ends of their own homes, quite literally.
In professional services industry, our teams do not just get to go home and rest until further notice. They are able to continue to keep the business going, and keep the income coming in where possible. It has been quite incredible to observe that within hours of the lockdown starting, without any prior warning and additional resources, our team has survived and thrived ready to roll the business as usual remotely.
The team demonstrated the skills and motivation to work from home, despite being taken out of their usual workplaces. They set up at home, utilised their own access to technology to continue the daily routine and kept the work going. They supported one another and maintained their sense of humour despite the shock and inconveniences we all inevitably experience.
In these uncertain times, it is a humbling realisation to realise it is not the only capital that is sustaining the business, but it is the people that are in this together with us.
As leaders of these wonderful peoples, I had to think hard to find new ways to respect, support and encourage our wonderful team. Changes are hard. Sudden changes with no certainty of future plans are harder for those who work for us. In the first ten days of lockdown, I have tried a few things and noted them down in case some of you find it useful also.
The impact of any changes to economy and work environment come as a stressful time and change for our people. We cannot change that but we can support them in this time. Have more conversations. Offer more regularly the available times for our people to reach us, on the one on one basis. If you can meet in person, don’t do it on the phone. If you can’t meet in person, do it on the video. Talk, and don’t text or email. Listen to better understand what our people might be feeling, or there may be other battles and challenges quite aside from the work changes itself. Be there for them is not hard, and is most worthwhile during this time.
The working from home during lockdown is a necessity because we are not in perfect times. We do not have everything perfectly as usual. We cannot assume our people to have perfect conditions at home. Internet may not be reliable, the space at home may not provide for optimal work set up, the family also stuck at home may not be in the best place to support an uninterrupted work schedule. Work with the practical limitations and allow flexibilities. Discuss these constraints and make reasonable compromise.
Be kind to our own
While the lockdown means we cannot meet our most valuable players for coffee or lunch physically the range of essential services have made it possible for us to continue to show our care and love physically. In our team we have ordered some box of juice supplies for the 4 weeks to the homes of our team. We also supported a social enterprise and bought their cookie making kits for our team to have some family activities in this confined time at home. With threat of virus, we organised some locally mask supplies for our team to better protect themselves when going out for walks or for getting supplies.
When the going gets tough, our teams are put to the challenge of their abilities. Equally we as leaders in our organisations are also put to test in our humanities. As leaders of humans, we have some kpi to show for our people.