Are you ready?

Our meetup this week started with this question. Ready for what? Ready for having to wear masks, to go to shops (other than supermarkets or pharmacies), ready to return to the office, ready for children to return to school. Are you ready for everything to be different? Are you prepared to make the adjustments being requested of us?

Essential considerations:

  • Safety – employers have a responsibility to ensure safe working environments. How will this be achieved?
  • Communication – critical skills for all current leaders. However, a different mix is needed with a focus on people and the issues causing anxiety, fear, and stress. How will we prepare our leaders and ourselves?
  • Trust and empowerment – working from home has drawn a sharp focus on company culture and the need to enable people with flexibility (through trust) to get their work done under extremely different conditions. How will this be adapted in a return to the physical workplace?

Safety

No one disagreed that it wasn’t going to be easy. Social distancing is OK – we can do that. But we also discussed people who seemed oblivious to social space and how confronting this was. How would we manage this in a workplace environment?

We looked at one of the key strategies – wearing masks, or personal protective gear (including gloves). In Australia, there’s been mixed messaging about the value of masks from advice to wear them only if you’re sick, to not using supplies that should be preserved for healthcare workers, to recommending masks in busier areas. Overall, the messaging hadn’t covered the approach that addresses people being infected and asymptomatic – so unknowingly spreading droplets. In contrast, across Europe, wearing masks is compulsory in most public spaces. In supermarkets and pharmacies, along with disposable plastic gloves, it is mandatory – you will be refused entry without them.

The mindset that masks equal safety was not strongly promoted and most of the group, although acknowledging it, felt they would likely not wear them unless they became compulsory. The mixed messages from health experts, government and local authorities had impacted levels of confidence and created confusion about what practices should be required.

As we discussed returning to the office environment, we also pondered preparing to return to restaurants and other public places. Again we asked the question: are we ready? What would need to change?

Communication

A highlight was listening to one of our New Zealand participants discussing how Jacinda Ardern had demonstrated leadership through her daily press conferences. In particular, her communication approach of evidence-based, calm, empathy and competence, providing clear information and reassurance. Prime Minister Ardern stresses a message of unity and community in her daily updates and makes herself available on social media to answer questions from citizens with patience and respect. What lesson might leaders everywhere – in business, as well as in government – draw from her approach?

Trust and empowerment

Thanks to one of our members for highlighting an episode of the podcast Making Sense, in which Sam Harris interviews Matt Mullenweg (founder of WordPress) about the 5 levels of distributed working. Running a fully distributed organisation, Matt has over 1,100 employees, all geographically dispersed, which provides some critical and unique insights into the realities of working when your entire team is remote.

We also discussed engagement surveys and pondered what might be reflected during these lockdown times. Would it reflect what people had lost? And would we capture what people thought was working well, not just what they struggled with or missed?

We wrapped up where we had started, with no clear answers, rather an acceptance that mindsets have and likely will remain changed, that people are out of position – and future perspectives are challenging at this stage in the global crisis.

Our next session is Friday 8 May, and we’d love you to join us to share your thoughts and contribute to our discussions. Join the Meetup group (if you haven’t already), and RSVP for our 8 May session.


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