Returning to work | Learning & Development | Primeast

Returning to work

Author: Sarah Cave

Date: 23/06/2020

Embracing the complexity

This month, many countries are seeing the start of a return to work and to a completely different kind of normal. In the UK, we have seen car showrooms and non-essential retail shops reopening and salons, pubs, campsites all now given the go-ahead to reopen from 4th July. Whilst many people are still working from home (and will be for the foreseeable future) this month has certainly seen more people coming off furlough and returning to paid work albeit in a different format than before (Barrett Values Centre Covid-19 Cultural Assessment Report).

So what does this mean for leaders and managers?

Most will be hopeful for a good recovery, however this will very much rely on having a high performing team who return to work ready to make a difference, step up to the mark and work harder than ever to try to fill the revenue gap which 12 weeks of lockdown has left. And yet many managers, leaders and workers will also be anxious about many aspects of this new world. Leaders not only have the pressure to get business back on track, but they also have to manage the safety of their staff and customers, and motivate a workforce who have been at home, educating their children, dealing with elderly relatives who need care and support, and in the saddest of cases, have lost a loved one to Covid-19.

Leaders need to find a way to deal with the current challenges and manage in these complex times when the new way of working is just emerging.

Managing the People

The key to the success of any business at any time but most definitely right now, are the people who work there.

Leaders have a huge and complex job to help ease people back into the workplace. Every one of your team is different and has different needs. Some will be relieved that they are able to come to work and do something “normal” again. They will be motivated just by being back and therefore may need a lighter touch from you, their manager, now. Others will be balancing home demands with the need to be back at work. It's possible that they still have children at home who need caring for and if both parents are suddenly back at work what happens? As their manager you may need to work with them to find a balance which allows them to be fully present when in the workplace but also share the responsibility of parenting. Others again may just be reluctant to be in the workplace - maybe because of safety concerns or perhaps they have lost their purpose whilst being furloughed. As the manager you will need skill, patience, and a bucket load of interpersonal skills.

Managing the Task

The second part and possibly the most pressing part of your job as a manager is to deliver the job in hand. Whether that is in retail, service or manufacturing, you will be under pressure to drive revenue as most businesses are playing catch up following such a long pause in the economy. Balancing the short and medium-term goals will be your priority whilst ensuring you keep an eye on the future vision and company values and that these are not lost in pursuit of a short term gain. Planning and implementation must be your focus.

You will have many challenges:

  • Do you need to restructure your business to ensure your long-term goals can be met?
  • Do you need to have a phased return to full operation so that you can balance current income and costs?
  • Does your product range still fit the market?
  • How do you need to change the service you offer in order to meet the new health and safety requirements?

It's not just a case of getting back to 'normal'.

Managing Yourself

Whilst you are looking after both the business and your people you also need to be mindful of your own needs. Perhaps you too have home demands which need to be balanced with work. You may have had time to get fit whilst the business has paused - this will serve you well as you get back to work but how are you going to maintain that now you are back? How are you feeling? Is your resilience high or do you have a wobble some days? It’s really no surprise if you do - who wouldn’t when faced with this hugely complex and demanding situation? But support is out there.

Coaching for Performance

One place managers and leaders can go to for the help and support they need is to their coach. Coaching offers a non-biased, non-judgemental way of thinking through issues and potential solutions and those leaders who already have a coach in place will have been working with that person to think through the return to work approach over the last few weeks. This gives them a head start however for those of you who don’t have an existing coaching relationship all is not lost.

My recommendation is to go and find a coach who you can work with. Of course, as a coach, I would say that wouldn’t I? You have a point. However, I am also a leader of a business and as such I have my own coach, so I am speaking to you from both sides of the fence. As a coachee I find the challenge I receive from my coach helpful in thinking through issues and looking at them through different lenses. Sometimes it’s hard as a leader to take a helicopter view of the business and yet my coach asks questions which allow me to take a step back and look at different angles which often leads me to a more effective solution. Coaching certainly helps me to take a breath and think more clearly - something which I a very grateful for as our business fires up again and as our clients start turning to us for the support they need.

So if you would like a coach to reflect with, challenge your thinking, help you navigate the way forward managing your business and your team, then contact me directly and we can discuss how we can support you with coaching to help you in delivering results quickly and positively.

You can email Sarah directly or call Primeast on +44 (0) 1423 531083.

About the Author

Sarah Cave

Sarah Cave is a Director of Primeast and Head of Leadership. She is a development professional who is passionate about learning and performance improvement. A leadership specialist, she believes that great leaders have both an academic understanding of leadership models and theory and the ability to breathe life into these within their organisations.

Sarah brings a wealth of commercial experience to her coaching and leadership development work ensuring she provides high-level and relevant coaching support to her coachees. Her pragmatic style helps coachees in finding clarity and the opportunity to reflect on positive and actionable outcomes.

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