Over a year on from the start of the pandemic and as lockdown is slowly lifted, many changes in the way we operate business are most likely here to stay.
But what lessons do we need to ensure we have truly learnt from the pandemic? Thom Dennis, CEO at Serenity in Leadership, looks at what we need for a new healthy business lens…
Measure output not hours. Many businesses have been measuring productivity through the number of hours put in. The pandemic has taught many of us that it matters less how long it takes for someone to do a task and more that they get the job done effectively. Self-employed and small business owners have been working successfully in this way for decades.
Know and show your people are your most important asset. Treat all colleagues with compassion, respect and gratitude, and in return they will show loyalty and work hard. Showing your workforce that you appreciate them will increase job satisfaction which will in turn maintain staff retention rates, boost productivity and morale.
Global without travel. Whilst the pandemic has put a stop on most international and domestic travel, businesses have never worked more globally thanks to working remotely, video and audio conferencing, chat, webinars, and social media. These solutions are a far more cost and time effective and ultimately productive way to work as long as they aren’t depended upon entirely – human contact still has an important part to play, particularly for promoting creativity and innovation. Whilst borders are almost closed, global reach has never been more possible.
Inclusion is an absolute, not a tick box. Countless times in the last year we have seen huge national and global movements standing up for what they believe in despite the pandemic. A business that sees the importance of diversity and inclusion of different races, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, religion and socio-economic status, and celebrates those differences, creates an environment where people feel comfortable to be themselves, bullying and harassment are absent, and people thrive.
Promote health sustainability. The pandemic has made us understand how important but fragile our health and wellbeing is. Reconceptualising health policy is vital. Don’t just follow the guidelines, go over and above. Find out what your employees need, and bear in mind that individuals may well have contrasting needs. Be clear about the importance of physical and mental health.
Promote a ‘speak-up’ culture. Open communication is key to combating systemic problems at work, such as bullying. Where possible, remind colleagues to share their feelings and troubles at work, and be a role model in this way. Be empathetic, actively listen and show care for their wellbeing to help your employees to speak up and feel that they are truly being heard.
Trust, don’t micromanage. With employees having to work remotely, companies have been forced to place their trust in their staff more than ever before. Micromanaging your workforce damages employee trust, leads to burnout and increases employee turnover rates. Trust is key to all aspects of business success including employee retention, loyalty and increased engagement, productivity and empowerment.
We are not in the office but relationships matter. Even if we are physically not in the same building, an absence in communication or the social side of working as colleagues is damaging. Making the effort to reach out to support colleagues, work collaboratively and maintain relationships will help keep the company thriving, encourage creativity and keep morale at a high.
Flexibility and agility are vital. Flexibility increases staff wellbeing and job satisfaction. Giving your employees the option to choose their ideal schedule and setting within reason, allows leaders to show they understand and care that we all have additional important personal commitments and responsibilities. People also work better at different hours of the day – don’t we want them to work when they are most productive? Having internal procedure in place to acknowledge we don’t have to all be “at work” at the same time will benefit the business in terms of employee experience, innovation and ultimately growth.
Place importance on work/home life balance. Burnout is a real problem. During the pandemic it has become worse for many, particularly for mothers who work, but the forced circumstances also highlighted to many what they aspire to and what is important to them. Act decisively on changes that need to be put in place, consider the different spaces, circumstances and equipment people have at home. Working from home was put in place as an emergency solution but is here to stay in one format or another.