2020 has been one of the most challenging and unexpected years I’ve ever encountered as a business owner. As businesses across the country navigate the uncertainty that surrounds COVID-19, our primary concern has always been the survival of the business while supporting the health and wellbeing of our team, even more so in a post-pandemic world.
Like many others, we have shifted to a remote workforce to protect our employees, continue to serve our customers, and maintain business continuity.
As a team, we’ve not physically been together since mid-March. For a close-knit, small team like ours at Natural HR; it has felt like a very long time. But this unique situation we find ourselves in has meant that leading the team has become infinitely more complex.
This pandemic has forced us all to pivot to a new way of leadership that reassures and motivates the team to continue to thrive even when our working lives have been turned on their head.
But as we make our way through these uncharted waters, maintaining a productive, collaborative team is more important than ever. Here’s how I’ve approached it as a leader and will continue to do so post-pandemic.
Be transparent at all times
Employees naturally look towards their leaders for reassurance and guidance during any time of uncertainty. But honestly, sometimes I didn’t have all the answers when the pandemic started – and I still don’t. I don’t know when we’ll be back in the office, I don’t know what the world will be like in 2021 – no one does.
And it’s important for me to share that with my team and be completely transparent with them. Sometimes, I am just as in the dark as everyone else.
Transparency and honesty about the ongoing situation have been key to deepening the trust between us as leaders and our team. Something as simple as our companywide town hall meetings provide insight for the team into our current situation and provide a platform where we acknowledge challenges and recognise success.
Keep communication flowing
Everyone in the team needs to understand what is happening, why it’s happening, and what we’ve been doing as leaders to preserve our business post-pandemic.
It is our role as leaders to ensure we’re transparent with the team and that all communications are delivered with empathy. A crisis like COVID-19 has meant that clear and open communication channels have been imperative in our ability to weather the storm as a business.
That’s why scheduling regular check-ins and communicating frequently with your team is important. Whether you have updates and changes to make or not, tell them and keep them informed throughout. Poor communication throughout this testing period will lead to inadvertent issues and heightened anxiety levels among staff. What’s more, you risk your staff becoming disengaged and losing trust in your leadership team if there is a distinct lack of communication.
Be open to change
The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for rapid change in many businesses – mine included. We’ve seen the UK’s pubs and restaurants pivot to providing home delivery hampers, distilleries making alcohol-based hand gel, and clothing brands making gowns and masks for the NHS; without some level of agility, many of these businesses wouldn’t have survived.
It’s important that we, as leaders, make ourselves open to change in how we work and how we run our businesses. Whether upgrading your tech stack or changing your flexible working policies to allow working parents to manage childcare and homeschooling – it is important to be willing and able to change to ensure business continuity and employee morale.
After all, it’s often in a crisis – when we’re forced to make difficult decisions – that our true priorities and things that need to change are brought to light.