WFH Week 10 – What we’ve Learned

You can do a lot in ten weeks

Once we were all safely into WFH, we enjoyed anticipating how we were going to make the most of this apparent pause in BAU; what business books we were finally going to get round to reading and how we were going to use this time to find a bit more balance in our working lives. Equilibrium became our favourite word. We immediately signed up to the Down Dog Yoga App, secretly enjoyed seeing folk in their homes spiced up by the occasional random family members inadvertently moving into shot along with wondering who the hand and arm belonged to as a cup of tea arrived on some lucky person’s desk/table. Then after about a week or so of such novelties they seemed to quickly become the norm – did you notice how many people were so pleased to discover the ‘fake’ beach or loft apartment backgrounds offered by Zoom or MS Teams and then just as quickly couldn’t be bothered with them? You can see me in the spare bedroom with the dove wallpaper, it’s ok, I don’t care anymore.

But like us all we very quickly found ourselves thinking; ‘OK, how do we continue to offer support and development and insight (at a time when teams are going to need it most) without being able to be with them? How do we make Maier digital? And that was pretty much the last time our feet touched the floor/Yoga mat. Pause, what pause? This is intense.

We’ve embraced our inner geek

We’ve impressed and surprised ourselves with just how techy we’ve become and how quickly we’ve been able to move from novice to ‘self-designated expert’. This is definitely something we have in common with most of our clients too – and the IT Director who told us 6 months ago how we should all be using Microsoft Teams and was ignored has been gracious enough not to say – ‘I told you so’! This is something we will not be letting go of and intend to continue building into new ways of operating over the coming months/years. Mind you, we do miss our Post-It Notes.

Being apart has drawn us closer together

At Maier we have always cultivated a culture of team and family and because of this we’re genuinely missing hanging out together. But we’ve continued to share, celebrate, laugh, challenge, chat, create and plan. And like all families we constantly talk about the day when we’ll all be back together, in the same room (possibly still 2 metres apart – but hey, we’ll take it). We obviously miss clients too. We work so closely with our clients it’s sometimes hard to see where they stop, and we begin. Being part of their journeys through COVID has only galvanized those relationships and made us even more determined in our purpose. When has it ever been more important than now to ‘set leaders free’ – coupled with our new caveat of ‘safely’ of course.

The world might have turned upside down, but some things haven’t changed

What’s always mattered to us, still matters, but even more so now. Before COVID struck we did a piece of work with our amazing friends at Borne. We revisited what was important to us at Maier and why what we do and how we do it is so unique. As part of the process we redrafted our values but the one value that has always been at the core of who we are at Maier remains unchanged. Generosity of spirit has been our beacon throughout the twenty five plus years we’ve been around, but it’s perhaps never been more relevant than it is now. For the time being Maier might be solely digital, but that hasn’t changed who we are or what we believe in. Generosity of spirit is still our North star.

We still look forward to the weekend

In a conversation the other day with one of the Directors at a large Housing Group they mentioned that even though they haven’t been able to go out at weekends, they still loved it when the weekend arrived. It struck us that until very recently, even though the highlight for most of us has been queuing patiently outside a supermarket, we still looked forward to the weekend arriving. Miraculously on a Friday afternoon our houses revert back to homes having been offices all week, the final ‘home-school’ bell signals the end of what has been a productive, challenging, fraught, messy (if you’ve been doing art) five days and having whipped through the house and garden with the vigour and ruthlessness of Marie Kondo in those early weeks, all that’s left to do (in our imagination at least) is to kick back and enjoy the weather. Bring on the weekend we say.

WFH Week 8; What We’ve Heard

In spite of some restrictions being lifted following the much anticipated Sunday announcements, it’s clear that the move from home back into the workplace won’t be happening en masse any time soon. In light of continuing lockdown measures, what we’re hearing from clients this week is how remote working is affecting our ability to create […]

WFH Week 7; Remobilisation – through the looking glass

As we see our European colleagues take their first tentative steps out of lockdown, and with our own ‘next phase’ to be announced on Sunday, conversations with clients this week have understandably turned to the topic of remobilisation. With leaders beginning to scope out what a ‘new normal’ might look like the question many are wrestling with is just how different do we WANT life on the other side to be? In reimagining a next phase leaders are beginning to think about what might be different by necessity and what could be different by design i.e. what has the COVID crisis enabled us to do better, quicker, more effectively and more efficiently? What do we want to keep as part of the new world?

Many leaders have shared with us how proud they are at the speed at which their teams have adapted. The rapid learning and adoption of new processes and technology etc. has given them a sense of what can be done, of what’s possible. But as we begin to think about the transition out of the current phase and into the next, this fast and frictionless new way of operating will surely have changed the perceptions and expectations of employees and customers alike. For them the past really is a ‘foreign land’ and one they have no desire to revisit.

As stressful as the move from office to home was, all agree that remobilisation will be much more complex and many of the groups we’re working with have already assigned ‘business continuity and transition teams’ to take on the challenge. In responding to the initial call to action there was something of the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ in needing to all pull together and act as one. In many cases it was a unilateral decision – acknowledged and uncontested and for the majority aided by the fact we were physically still in the same place together making informal communications that bit easier. In returning there are many more factors to consider; can we operate in the workspace while socially distancing, which teams should return first, are the transport links to and from work safe for everyone, are schools and nurseries open? The list is endless. And in amongst all of this will be the individual decisions people make in terms of what it will take for them to feel psychologically safe to return to work. It will be important as leaders to suspend any judgments we might make, subconsciously or otherwise, and to encourage and communicate, with what will be a disparate workforce, the need for everyone to accept and respect elements of personal preference in ways of getting the job done. Perhaps most importantly, how do we hang onto some of these new ways of working that maintains that sense of choice, mutual trust, heightened personal accountability and autonomy.

In keeping these numerous plates spinning, and no doubt with increased governance and scrutiny to boot, there will inevitably be moments of high dudgeon and emotion. As one of our clients put it, ‘Know when to remove yourself from the ‘drama trail’ and be less involved’ – let some of the internal intensity dissipate before putting yourself back in the mix. Ultimately what people will need most from their leadership teams during transition is clarity and consistency – are you all able to communicate and respond with the same level of confidence and conviction of purpose? There’s also something in all of this about maintaining the human and empathetic elements so noticeable in interactions and communications during this period. Don’t be afraid of sharing some of your own vulnerabilities and in reassuring staff that their safety and well-being is still very much at the top of the agenda. As is their input in; how we reshape working practices and structures to get the best out of all we’ve learnt and been through.

We’re ending this week’s post with a quote from another of our clients who is working with fellow Exec members on a transition plan, ‘It’s important that we’re not forced into acting too quickly. We need to set our own pace and know that what we’re doing for our staff and business is right for us. We don’t want to be rushed or panicked into returning by what the Government are saying or what others are doing. We know we can deliver great service safely doing what we’re doing now so for us it’s about getting it right before we move back into the office’ – or indeed not back in the office at all!