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  • Luke Munro

Lockdown - One Month In

My kids are now back at school. By which I mean they’re sitting at home, back at school.  And it reminded me of all those years ago, when for those first few days of term, you didn’t really get much done in class. You’re all getting still into the rhythm of it. Then, without really noticing it, you are into the full flow of lessons.  

That’s a bit like we’ve all experienced in recent weeks, for those of us fortunate enough to be working still.  And it’s why, a few weeks into this lockdown, the support our clients need is increasingly shifting, from the physical to the mental. How do we keep our colleagues inspired, motivated and mentally healthy?  

That first adrenaline rush of doing something new and exciting - overcoming an essential organisational challenge of having to work from home - is starting to give way to an expectation that we do our jobs from home, whatever the obstacles that presents.  

Some of the companies we work with are not just planning for the next 6 weeks, nor even the next 6 months, but for a whole new way of working, because no-one can honestly tell you when this will end, can they?  So our conversations are increasingly focusing on far more fundamental questions for their colleagues: How do I work? How am I valued, and how much control do I have over what we do?  

One business leader I spoke to recently summed up her approach to providing the best environment for colleagues to thrive in two words: trust and respect.  Trust and respect can only grow with regular communication. Always being in touch with the people you manage. Asking the simple questions. “How are you?” is as good starting point as any. And listening to the answer, then responding to it.  Visual communication through social and video platforms is also a very useful tool here.  It means trusting your team to do their jobs. And respecting the demarcations between work and home, even though the physical boundaries are currently quite blurred.  

For colleagues, this is about belonging. Being part of something which is worthwhile. Having structure when you worry that working from home provides only chaos.  It’s about engagement, when drinks after work, or the office bowling trip are out of bounds. Virtual office choirs are one great example I’ve seen of teams keeping in touch and staying connected.  Giving people the right physical tools to work from home is in many ways the easy bit.  Giving them that sense of worth, of making a difference, or excelling, is the next challenge, and it’s going to one of the toughest any manager will face.

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