Change is The Law of Life
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every one of us. Peoples lives have changed significantly, and many things we hold dear have changed. As J. F. Kennedy said in 1963 “change is the law of life’.
Organisations are tackling significant challenges, rapidly working to adjust to the ever changing landscape. Managers and leaders are identifying how their businesses can best navigate to survive, and ideally thrive.
In the UK we are almost 3 months in from lockdown, and there’s still a huge amount of uncertainty. A survey released on 4th June from the Office for National Statistics shared that of businesses who had closed or paused trading due to COVID-19, 45% are still unsure when they will start trading again.
Of businesses that intend to start trading again in the next two weeks, 99% plan to put some safety measures in place, such as social distancing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). For the majority of organisations this will involve a huge amount of detailed work and clearly have an impact on how they do business in the future.
Leaders and managers face complex issues – how to navigate their business through this pandemic and hopefully come out stronger the other side, ensuring their work space adheres to government guidelines and supports their teams in the most effective way.
The future of work and where we work is likely to be a longer term challenge. We could see businesses across the globe changing their attitudes towards home and remote working, offering teams better technology and a culture to support home working.
Setting good standards now is vital to business health.
In this article I share my R-O-P-E System™, which I believe will help you and your team navigate through this changing and challenging time.
R – Roles
I’m considering the the words of Bernardino Ramazzini, the Father of Occupational Medicine in the 17th century, when he advised his medical colleagues to always ask their patients “What is your job?” so that they could start to identify risks to their health in any given job.
These words are relevant now more than ever.
Organisations are working hard to ensure they meet their responsibilities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, re-visiting roles and identifying the risks to health and wellbeing associated with those roles.
Occupational Health plays a pivotal role in helping organisations keep employees safe and healthy – even when working from home. Whilst our risk assessments are much more sophisticated than they were in the 17th Century, the core question remains the same. Determining someones role within the organisation is key to identifying the health risks they may be exposed to.
COVID-19 throws another risk into the mix, and with so much to consider it can be overwhelming for many organisations.
Employees’ roles within an organisation are likely to have changed slightly or more dramatically. I’ve spoken to many of my clients who have given me the following examples of how roles have changed since March 23rd 2020, some examples include:
- Unpredictable workloads and responsibilities
- Greater uncertainty
- More autonomy
- Shift work to address social distancing
- More working from home
- Increase in online communication (rather than face to face)
- Parts of the organisation that don’t normally work together may now be needed to come together, requiring understanding, patience and a fast learning curve.
Whether roles are changing for the shorter or longer term, managers need to be clear and transparent about the changing job roles and expectations associated with that role. Role clarity is an important step when it comes to employee wellbeing at work, it helps reduce uncertainty and anxiety and clear objectives help increase job satisfaction and productivity.
Remote working also brings its own challenges including creating an effective workstation and the feeling of isolation. Don’t underestimate the importance of a phone call or video call to home workers; regular communication will help bring the team together and help them to feel engaged and valued.
O – Organisation
There is no business as usual with COVID-19, forcing organisations to make rapid adjustments to their corporate vision and goals and budgets, adapting the way they work and keeping the team aligned and motivated to retain focus and deliver results in a very uncertain world.
Corporate governance has to consider emphasising the fairness and transparency of the business with everyone in the business and its stakeholders. The culture of the business at these times needs to be as supportive as possible to ensure that everyone feels valued and to establish trust between the business and its people. It can be hard to engage employees’ hearts and minds to your business purpose and vision when there is no trust, and even harder still when they have other things on their minds, such as health, job security, stress, burnout and financial security. All of this needs to be considered.
With any organisational change comes communication. Organisations need a communication strategy that works for the whole business, including those who have been furloughed, working from home and shift workers. The strategy needs to cover 1 to 1 communication right through needing to communicate to the whole business if a large announcement needs to be made, so that everyone feels informed and involved.
Remember that it’s not just a one way communication of telling, listening at this critical time is vital too. The challenges are greater for hierarchical organisations than those who adopt a collaborative approach.
P – People
The effect on everyone as the COVID-19 pandemic developed was sudden, dramatic and devastating. Shops, pubs, theatres and outdoor areas such as garden centres and public gardens have been closed, preventing us from the therapy we need when times are tough.
A recent article by The Guardian asks: “As a fragile normality slowly returns, many mental health experts are asking the inevitable questions: what will be the long-term emotional and psychological cost of such a sudden and seismic disruption of our way of life?” Organisations need to be equipped for an increase in mental health issues at work, particularly those who work on the front line or directly impacted.
Uncertainty also plays a large part in peoples’ health and wellbeing, and COVID-19 still brings huge uncertainty and unanswered questions such as:
- Will I get the virus?
- How do I protect myself?
- Do I need PPE and where can I get it ?
- Will I have a job to go back to if I am furloughed?
- What happens if I am shielded?
- How can I teach my children and also do my job?
- How can I get into work when my workplace opens?
As terrifying as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, how opportune has been the mission statement by the CIPD that we are moving into a people-centred approach in business. Compassion and kindness to people at this time has been the mantra of the CIPD. This is the time when leaders need to be compassionate, flexible and aware of the challenges that their team face.
With more people working physically apart from each other, the only way to keep people on the same page and to function effectively is through better collaboration and communication. We are all in this together and we need to stand as one.
E – Environment
Our working environment has changed dramatically. Suddenly the risks in the work environment need to be reviewed. As we move into a new phase of supporting a safe return to work, Occupational Health is more important than ever, helping identify health symptoms at work and prevent health conditions. Occupational Health works with the business to identify people health risks and offer solutions through risk assessment and risk management within the work environment: for example, social distancing procedures and practicalities and improving cleanliness within every function.
Work stations have been relocated in many offices to enable the 2 metre distancing to be upheld. Layouts are changing to protect people with one way systems introduced.
Chaos has arisen in the transport world to enable people to get to and from work. The Government is encouraging people to use bicycles and their own cars to get to work, but this isn’t always practical.
The office used to be a space to bring people together, community activities were on the notice board and work colleagues gathered in the kitchen to touch base and connect. How long will this be a thing of the past? Are those valuable informal connections with our teams lost forever?
With many people working from home and shift work being introduced, many offices are sitting half empty, and I ask myself how long until businesses replace their large office spaces (incurring large costs) for a more flexible working approach.
Take the time to find out if and how you can support your team, through providing the right equipment where possible and also putting the right structure in place. Pay attention to workstation furniture and display screen equipment needs, and health and safety issues when working from home and accommodate. Consider that some members might be juggling home schooling too, so be reasonable with deadlines and schedule zoom calls when convenient for those team members.
The key to the success of business recovery will be the trust and wellbeing between employers and employees, therefore support during this unprecedented time is crucial, along with clear communication in all aspects of the business.
“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.”
Please get in touch if I can help you or your team.
Tel: +44 (0)333 900 9280