As lockdown restrictions start to lift it’s becoming increasingly apparent that there are distinct differences in our attitudes towards moving forward. Some businesses have continued trading throughout and many have thrived due to extra demand for their essential advice, care, goods and services. This requirement may now have to be reviewed and ultimately modified as demand for those specific items gradually wanes.
For those who’ve had an exceptionally busy year, successfully tailored their offerings to meet specific demands, who’ve adjusted the way they trade, taken on extra staff to cope with the unprecedented demands for supplies, support or essential goods it may well be time to refocus. Is this level of demand likely to continue or is it time to yet again readjust and plan for a further change in direction?
Other people will be keen, even desperate to get back to work after weeks of non-trading, in a bid to resurrect their businesses and introduce some normality back into their homes, relationships and lives. They may have struggled, trying to home educate their children, manage a difficult domestic relationship, juggle their finances and now need to regain some ground, recover as much as possible and start anew.
Some will have stopped trading altogether and may never be able to open their doors again. They may have furloughed staff but have since realised that any optimism about a future return to work was unfounded and is not viable. In the retail sector many customers are likely to continue shopping online, a decision which impacts on the rental income of landlords too. Hospitality and fitness have been affected too.
Then there are those people who have become tense, nervous, apprehensive, who feel scarred and scared at the prospect of leaving their homes. They are consumed by fear and dread at potential dangers out there, may have experienced personal tragedy and can’t see a way to move beyond those feeling and resume ‘normality’.
How do we start again after such an unprecedented start to 2020, a new decade that began with such promise, effectively wiped out overnight? The figures speak for themselves.
More than half of Britain’s working population of approximately 35 million are on the state payroll, with one million being added on one day alone in April, at a cost to each household of £1500 as at the start of May. Approximately a third of pubs have permanently closed. Roughly 600000 18-24 year old’s could be left jobless and there’s been a 97% reduction in new car registrations since this time last year.
The Bank of England has warned that we’re on the brink of the worst recession since the great frost of 1709, which is why there’s a need to get back on track in the best possible way. Even though the furlough scheme has been extended until the end of October 2020, with Government loans already in excess of £330 billion, or 15% of the UK’s GDP, it’s clear that there’s a very real need for the country to get back to work and fully trading again.
– Many are in favour of a staggered ‘stay alert’ approach to work to avoid overcrowding on public transport, office spaces and in general thoroughfares like shops, streets and public places. This may require the introduction of flexible shift patterns. Any decisions need to tie in with business requirements, childcare arrangements and other personal responsibilities and considerations.
– Staff support is important. As well as social distancing, personal protective equipment, hand sanitizers and even counselling may be required by staff who’ve experienced loss or serious health issues. I offer individually tailored workshops and sessions designed to support with this. Some staff may start their return on a part-time basis as an affordable way to bring the business back to life. If staff are working from home they’ll need a suitable work area, appropriate kit and software capability. Data security, training and technical support probably need to be factored in.
– Decisions on how to move forward operationally and hold successful meetings, networking, keep contact with existing clients and forge new relationships all need to be agreed. Software, databases, internet access and communication systems are all crucial in adapting to a more online business presence, whilst social distancing is essential in supporting customers, as well as staff in every area of personal contact.
Staff communications and briefings are especially important as many staff will be apprehensive about several issues, from their personal health and safety through to job security. Specific concerns may be relevant to different areas of the business. Regular updates are a good way of reassuring staff that management is aware of their concerns. Keep staff updated, whether by meetings, emails or in-person conversations, but avoid too long or formal directives which could appear impersonal or formulaic.
– Focus on nurturing a positive team mentality. Businesses with an established reputation for treating their staff well will be in a favourable position. Good relationships with both employees and customers matter in times of crisis, with staff often prepared to work harder and both customers and staff ready to be more patient, understanding and loyal.
Some staff may return to work with changed priorities. They may not be as motivated by money, status or even the job itself and be less keen to travel or work long hours. This may be a temporary situation, but the needs of both the business and staff may both require a little time and sensitivity to discover their new ‘normal’.