It will still be some time before things return to what we once called normal, but we are hopefully at the beginning of the end of lockdown. Each new week brings fresh guidance and the unlocking of areas of our lives we’re able to return to as the government attempts to manage this tricky transition.
The sport, hospitality and travel industries have all tentatively resumed, with modifications. For me, these are signs we are moving – hopefully permanently – in the right direction. But, more important than that, they’re indicators of our ability to adapt.
The challenge for employers in all industries as we move out of lockdown will be to demonstrate the ability to adapt and keep on adapting again and again if we are going to come through this with the minimum of further disruption.
Going in to lockdown was straightforward: we had a pretty clear set of rules which began on a definite date. Emerging from it, as we are learning, will be very different. When there is so much information out there, ever-evolving and varying depending on circumstances, employees will be looking to us to lead the way safely out of lockdown and towards a new world of work that for many of us has been changed for good.
We have been fortunate at Progeny because we can do much of what we do remotely, so most of our staff have been able to operate from home. At the beginning of lockdown, we moved everyone to remote working in two weeks and rolled out a programme to promote mental wellbeing amongst our teams.
Now, as we embark on the long road out of lockdown, we’re putting further support measures in place. Starting with the practical, we’re working closely with our health and safety consultants to make sure we are doing everything to protect our team members who are returning to the work environment. A small number of our staff who can’t carry out their roles as effectively from home have recently returned to our Leeds office.
Each step we take as we come out of lockdown comes with its own set of decisions. Of this small group of first returners, we did not ask anyone vulnerable who is currently shielding, anyone who has children, or anyone who does not have their own transport to come back to the office.
Planning further ahead, we have prepared a road map setting out, as government guidelines evolve and the capacity increases for more staff to come back, how our teams will return to the office over the coming months.
A number of the productive and flexible working practices we’ve successfully adopted in lockdown will also be absorbed into our normal processes going forward.
We’ve launched a Progeny Welfare Grant for those who might need financial support at this time. While we’ve been paying our team in full and have not furloughed any staff, we’re aware that not all employers have been able to do this and some households may have different financial circumstances to contend with.
Successful psychological step
Good practical preparations will help staff to also make a successful psychological transition. This is not going to be like returning from annual leave. Every one of us will have had a very different and personal experience of lockdown. After such a long time away it’s natural to be apprehensive but I hope that returning to work again will unite us in a common purpose and experience.
One thing we do know is that it won’t be a case of going back to how things used to be. The working life we return to will look different and will have changed forever. This is no small gear shift to manage. The way to approach this is to focus on making sure what we return to is better than what went before. We can let go of the things that weren’t working and embrace new ways of doing things that get better results.
We’ve all had to change our lives so much already but what we’re learning now is that easing out of lockdown doesn’t mean that this period of flux is over – it’s likely to continue for some time. This is where, as employers, our capacity to remain agile and our stamina to keep on adapting will be essential. It will be a challenge but one we need to meet together because our wellbeing as individuals, the growth of our businesses and economy, and our sustained recovery as a society, will depend on it.