How do you know if the decisions you take as the leader of an organisation are right? Are you judged on top line growth? Bottom line? Cash flow? Mental well-being of colleagues? Contentment of clients and candidates? Originality of ideas? Communication and integration when working remotely? Modernisation trajectory of business practices and office culture? How much we are able to switch off at home when the laptop closes? All of the above? Some of the above…? Loads of others?
Some decisions seem natural whilst others are calculated risks. For instance, I suspect we won’t know really for several months whether our approach to the job retention scheme and other cash saving initiatives were right, likewise with annual leave and home working.
On Monday, 3rd August we are opening our office doors again but we couldn’t be more serious about our message to Allen Laners – come in only if you want to. Only if you feel ready. But if you do – we are ready. If you don’t – don’t. No judgement.
In 3 small bubbles, with arrows guiding our path around our kitchen, with flexible hours and staggered times to the fore, with a secret stairway for AL staff only… we are very fortunate to have an enormous space for when we’re all in the office and therefore even more fortunate to have the enormous space right now, where people can sit at least 2 metres away from anyone – and with enough tape, PPE and sanitiser to go round (and round).
I am as confident as I can be that this isn’t putting people at unnecessary risk. The PM has suggested a return to the office at employers’ discretion, ending the government’s work from home guidance. We have been out since early / mid-March (a week before we were all told to) and I believe some people are genuinely excited / in need of a return.
A year ago, some colleagues were celebrating buying their 1st property – dreams realised through seriously hard work. That same 1st property has been a 1 bedroom flat / office / holiday home for months now. On a more personal level, we’ve been in a new place for 5 months now – a badly timed but long overdue home renovation has meant we are renting a house, but it’s not home. Cold floors and average wifi tell me that… so for the 1 / 2 days per week that my bubble is in, I will be too. I think…
Our back office team, some of our lockdown heroes, would benefit from being in the same room as each other to colour in the areas that have become grey in terms of who is responsible for what. Managers who have teamed and zoomed their way through meeting after meeting are probably keen on a bit of face time. But most importantly – I believe that a change of scene is as important for mental well-being as a daily walk.
It comes with a warning. I believe that for some, slipping back into ‘the old routine’ will be really difficult. Perhaps less so in my line of work where home working is very possible. But I really hope that there is support for those who are expected, after months of inactivity (work-wise), to adapt to the pressures of slipping straight back into the old routine (after furlough) without being properly re-inducted or supported. Those in the hospitality / leisure industries for instance. I hope that leaders are empathetic to how transformative the last few months have been and don’t just click fingers and expect everything to be normal – it isn’t. Some people are nervous about change, about changing back – for leaders, the right call is to support, be patient and create the environment in which people can flourish safely.