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The importance of pace in responding to Corona; a community perspective

wooden racing car

A fortnightly call with members from the RAW Network. To share what’s emerging across our different sectors, how our organisations’ and our people are responding to the changes brought about by covid 19 and its impact on employee wellbeing.

We have a representation giving a community perspective from professional services, manufacturing, leisure, digital, construction, childcare, housing, hospice and care.

April 2nd 2020, week four of lockdown.

We start all our community calls with a check-in, a way of bringing our whole person to the work we’re doing, an opportunity to be seen, witnessed and held as we each find ways of making meaning.  Emotions ranged from feeling too full, noticing tolerance starting to be tested, tempers running higher in the world and in ourselves. Impatience is being triggered more. Some noticing that they’re flowing through the grief cycle… shock, guilt, anger, loneliness… and waiting for the upturn to arrive, acceptance and hope.

We shared how surreal it all feels and that it’s odd given what’s going on out there to have time to do things at home we wouldn’t have been able to do.  Some members reporting a sense of having to be stoic for now and already preparing for a crumble that will happen after.  A sense that for many, last week (first week of lockdown) felt more practical and this week more emotions are surfacing. The lack of connection really starting to show its’ side effects.

There’s a still a sense of ‘getting used to this new thing’ around.  We had our first children joining us on the zoom call, the balance to juggle working with little people at home is real.

Amongst employees there is still confusion about how to feel, work contracts continue to ebb away but make way for new opportunities to emerge so managing the ups and downs of productivity and workforce management are tough.

Core organisational themes emerging from the call:

Furlough – some already facing into bringing people back from furlough as new work opportunities expand the operation of working life again. One member rotating all their staff through furlough so everyone gets a week off every three weeks.  Alongside such decisions some organisations looking to redeploy skills into other roles as workforces ebb and flow.  In some workforces, the very notion of furlough seems to be confusing, for some are interpreting it as redundancy and others get it. It’s triggering a sense of not feeling valued in some and feeling liberated in others.

Responsibility – feeling the pressure in HR and L&D type roles asking managers to take more responsibility for their teams.  A sense of needing to upskill on the people and relationship skills in the organisation. Also with new and different ways of working, particularly in smaller organisations there is a lack of clarity around who is responsible for holding those new processes.  More to ‘sort out’. There was a moral question about how right it was to deploy people to work out there (at higher risk), when we ourselves were socially isolated.

Virtual world – seemed to be taking its toll for many if not all. People already fatigued from looking at self and others in little square boxes. A shared appreciation of the steep and speedy learning curve for many that have had no choice but to learn new tech tools. And a curiosity for the feasibility of workshops and longer programmes online, and how we would best manage them to support participants wellbeing as well as their learning experience.

Pace – for many still figuring out the big question, for how long will we be ok, and at what point without intervention or new opportunity will bigger decisions need to be faced into. Some organisations are finding having a strong sense of their values is helping them navigate tough decisions. For BTG in particularly their values of people, planet and prosperity have enabled the business to ‘create an army of the willing and well’ because well, we need tea in a crisis (I loved this quote).  There was a sense that we’re still in a holding space, preparing for what’s coming and will be needed. Trying hard not to contribute to the noise that’s already out there. This is going to be a marathon not a sprint, we can pace ourselves with the support, tools and resources our people will need as we face into different phases.

Opportunities for growth:  Some of the new way of working is starting to throw a light on unhelpful ways of working; including how easily some organisations have moved their already ‘too many meetings’ from the office to the virtual office. A frustration for some and an opportunity to review which ways of working are meaningful and which superfluous.  Similarly on a personal level, some members noticing how the busyness of doing contributes to a sense of personal significance and now finding it hard to recalibrate their significance with less to do and feeling less needed.  It’s also starting to throw up questions for those already ‘reimagining a new future’, ‘will we still need an office or can we let that overhead go now we know we can work virtually?’

Survival activities – and some lighter examples of creativity extending into employee engagement; who’s lunch is it anyway, use of slack and other apps to stay connected informally, 21 day challenges for mental and physical health, daily quizzes.

It’s reassuring to locate ourselves within the same field of uncertainty and know that there are similarities as well as nuance differences in how we’re making meaning and learning from each other.

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.