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Preparing to build back better from Covid19: Four factors to ignore at your peril

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Organisations across Yorkshire have been meeting fortnightly to share the impact of COVID-19. They’re keen to learn from each other, make meaning about what they’re learning in this world that we have no benchmark for. It’s become clear that now more than ever, facilitated sessions that press the pause button, to make sense, challenge thinking and review where next are critical success factors for those organisations most likely to do well as lockdown eases and we emerge into a new world.

In our recent member meet, moved to the virtual realm of zoom, we took a steadier pace, allowed ourselves permission to take care of our wellbeing, mindful of zoom fatigue and the adaptations required for successful facilitation in an online world.

It was insightful, inspiring and heart warming.

What follows are key themes, that with the permission of the member organisations (which span digital and creative, housing, manufacturing, construction, hospice, childcare, education and professional services) shared with you to help you locate where you and your organisation are with regard to readying yourself and your organisation for a new way of working. If you’re interested in joining the network or ready for a critical friend to hold a generative, challenging and resourceful session to make sense in your world, get in touch. I’d love to hear from you and be able to support you back to better.

Hopes and Fears for ‘back to better’

Hopes were wide and far reaching but humbling and realistic and included;

·      Going back to something more meaningful with a better work life balance

·      Considering impact on others and planet more

·      How to structure work more holistically – we’ve learnt commitment stays the same even if you’re not in the same room, in fact in many organisations flexible working has increased productivity (the opposite of presenteeism concerns). This has cultivated more trust and empathy for those working from home

·      We’ve cultivated a different level of care for each other because we’ve got to know more of the people we work with (their homes, their pets, their children) How do we sustain that back in the office?

·     More courage will be required to do the right but difficult thing

·      Shared purpose/strength in working together. Collaboration and community. Keep hold of this opportunity to dive into being more agile. Great relationships between teams, continued kindness and slower pace

·      Opportunity to slow down, press the pause button and look to do business in a different way – build back better, not back to normal. That we can take time to recover from lockdown before we reintegrate. Lockdown has been hard.

·      Value of wellbeing has got better – we’re all taking more ‘care’ of eachother and see the importance and value of our health but individually and collectively

·      Stripped away fear of seeing person as more than just their job

Fears seem to centre themselves around the need to pace/speed/get back to normal and a desire to pull away from that in order to build back better;

·      Big rush to get back to BAU. Ramping it back up…pulling out all the stops, feel weary and low about that

·      Will we get our culture back, can it be better than it was or has it gone forever? It used to feel like a hug and all the things which brought that sense of connection can’t be done due to distancing

·      Fear… scariest time of my life, anxious that we get it right, people worried about their jobs, service to clients and their health and mental health

·      Frenziness – concern that there will be an initial wave of too much extrovert energy that won’t support the slower pace most of us have been forced into

·      Process of reintegration becomes individualistic, back to I rather than WE. Worried we’ll lose collective approach or that decision will be made top down and applied rather than consulted.

·      Pressure to get back on track, make up for lost time… some organisations asking their people to take holiday now in order to ramp up the end of the year. Many still feeling like they need time out between lockdown and reintegration to recover from the shock of lockdown.

·      People haven’t been on holiday, they’ve been juggling work, kids stress, fear, adaptation

·      Don’t lose the learning

Build back better

In the second half our time together we started to look more to the future using the RSA model to share insights.

1. END: What we’re looking forward to leaving behind

  •  Formality of catching up/communciations/employee engagement – the sense of being overly communicated to, too many briefings, not enough engagement
  • Virtual drinks (rather than face to face ones)
  • Working in a ‘bubble’ and working on own list of goals without being able to bounce ideas off others more informally to aid creativity and ideas
  • Managing divisions between those working & those furloughed
  • Disciplinary and difficult conversations on virtual platforms like zoom
  • Hand sanitiser/ social distancing/ not being able to attend funerals
  • Not being able to see loved ones
  • Decisions driven too much from data and statistics and not enough from conversation, meaning making and wisdom beyond intellect

2. AMPLIFY: What we’ve tried we want more of

  • A shift from time based working to productivity working, flexibility around working hours, trust, working from home
  • Increased trust. Especially around decision making, where power has been more shared in organisations rather than locked into those in senior positions
  • Interactivity with others – recipe sharing, virtual exercise, idea sharing, innovating
  • Doing things for the greater good, for the collective not the individualistic
  • Embracing technology that enable (which has forced a more equal sharing of voices rather than being dominated by the loud extrovert ones)
  • Office space – reconsidering what office space really required and how the space might be used more effectively to support new ways of working
  • Obliteration of fixed mindset. For many overt to change, they’ve been forced to acknowledge that they can learn new things
  • Resourcefulness. People realising they’re way more resourceful than they have been.

3. RESTART: What we lost that we hope to restart

  • Training and development (although some clients were supporting their people with additional training development recognising the need in uncertain times to support people with personal development more than ever)
  • Client KPI’s… BAU rather than crisis management
  • Face to face meetings
  • Cafes and restaurants, more relaxed ways of connecting
  • Culture that we had before distancing made it less human
  • Face to face networking
  • Old ways of signing legal documents

4. LET GO: That which we let go of that we don’t want to pick up again

  • Processes for process sake
  • Physically located in the same place to do a job that we know now isn’t necessary
  • Micro managing teams – younger people in particular sited as thriving with more freedom and trust
  • That we can only do work locally.
  • Business can be done quite well virtually (save money and time on less essential travel)
  • Presenteeism fears for flexible working


We ended with a final round of sharing our hopes for reimagining a world better than the one we left behind… our if only list…

  • More democratic and less autocratic – greater shared power has worked for many organisations, how turn up the dial and empower more employees?
  • Amplify the leaders that have stepped up and stepped in where senior members have had to step out for personal reasons
  • Localised decision making – more of this. Helps the speed, efficiency and appropriateness and effectiveness if left to local teams to decide what’s right for them
  • That black and white no longer serves us, what about a both/and approach?
  • Doing what’s right for everyone not just for profit (which will most likely lead to more profit anyway ironically)
  • To keep capturing what we’re learning through collective enquiry – involve everyone, not just those at the top
  • People are going to transition at different times, how we support individuality and self as responsible adult with limited judgement
  • Emotional health will be the next wellbeing movement (you heard it here first…)

If you are looking to do the right thing by your people and your organisation and would like some inspiration, accountable, challenge and support, then you might just be interested in joining our RAW Network. To find out more DM me jennifer@simplyjp.com