Touching base, not touching face

It’s particularly important during this lockdown period to make sure that you remain in contact with your team, particularly those who have been furloughed. These are untested times for many people and helping them feel engaged will ease the transition back into work again when this is over. Trying to keep communications open, with a degree of ‘normality’ in terms of routine and a working day. This will ensure the return to the office environment isn’t too dramatic or traumatic.

Adapting and learning

The concept of furlough has brought with it extremes. Some people are loving being on furlough and are possibly enjoying themselves too much. While others – although understanding the rationale behind it – are actually feeling less certain. In fact, some have been emotionally impacted as if they had been made redundant, even though in many cases their jobs will be there for them to go back to when the lockdown eases.

While staff aren’t allowed to work for their employers while furloughed, they are allowed to volunteer (not for their own company) or undertake training. It might be useful to help furloughed employees focus by signposting some training that they can do. There is lots of free or low-cost training available online at the moment. It’s an excellent opportunity to use the time creatively in a way that will stand them – and the business – in good stead in the future.

Staff updates

Different firms and managers are dealing with this crisis differently. Good employers are making sure that their staff are involved in the ongoing developments, as and when the government announce them. When the government decides on its exit strategy and shares it with employers, companies can plan how they can activate their businesses and to what degree ‘normal’ business can resume. Such assurances to staff are important, but interim updates along the way are equally crucial too.

A change in the weather

People’s mental wellbeing is also important during periods like this. Good, regular communication can help with this aspect for your staff too. April’s good weather has made it easier for many people to deal with worklife changes, but the weather can soon change. Resilience, both mental and physical, is very important. It’s also worth considering how people who haven’t been furloughed are feeling. Some are thankful to still be working, while others are resentful that some people have all this perceived ‘time off’, when they are still working.

Continuing to work will stand employees in good stead going forward. They will not have had the disruption of being furloughed and a break in routine. But equally, furlough is probably doing certain people a lot of good, with a chance to take stock and spend time doing things they otherwise don’t have time to, which can considerably help their mental wellbeing.

These unprecedented times can induce a conflicting mix of emotions, sometimes from day to day. Employers can’t make any assumptions about people’s situations, financial position and stability of home life. Keeping in touch with staff will help keep them rooted in the reality of a working environment, even if that environment is something very different to what they are used to.

Goals – the short and long of it

In these current times, it’s hard to predict what will happen over the coming two or three days, let alone next week or next year. With daily government announcements changing everyone’s perception of the global health crisis every 24 hours, we have a situation where workers are on furlough and some self-employed people are wondering how they are going to manage in the coming weeks. Because of the uncertainty and lack of a defined route out of this, long-term goals are all but impossible to set and achieve.

At Career Evolution, we usually advocate long-term planning when it comes to career progression. But in these current times, which are challenging both personally and professionally, some form of looking ahead remains important. At some point things will return to normal, though it may still be a way off and it may be a different normal to what we are used to.

Daily exercise

A useful exercise is to identify short-term goals that you can define and influence. As businesspeople this may be against our nature. We are hardwired to develop long-term goals – quarterly or 12-month plans – but don’t increase your stress levels by trying to do that at the moment. Making a short-term plan could involve looking after your key stakeholders. This may be internally, for example your employees, to make sure they stay engaged. Or it could be external, such as customers, suppliers, key network and warm contacts.

Developing and nurturing relationships in these dislocated times, is perhaps more important than ever. In the same way that many of us are working remotely, you can still connect to anyone you would normally see in person, or ring on the phone. Use your LinkedIn or other business community platforms to engage and communicate, building bridges that you may, post economic lockdown, be able to cross.

A learning curve

Even working remotely, you can still share experiences and new ways of doing things – those that have worked well and those that haven’t. The best way of learning is usually talking to someone who has experience of doing it. It’s amazing what you learn just from listening or participating in discussions online, either one-to-one or on forums or networking groups.

We are all in this situation together and people are generally more open about the issues they are facing during this testing time. The confinement and limiting of movement are impacting physical and mental health, as well as the way we carry out our jobs and interact. Having a plan – even a short-term one – will help give you clarity and purpose. Set out goals that align with the SMART formula – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timeframe – and think about how to implement these new benchmarks in the future. In this way, you will gradually be putting in place plans you can activate as normality returns – and it will provide you with anchor and focus for the time being.

Together we’re stronger

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During this unprecedented period of uncertainty and disruption, it’s very important to bear in mind strong mental health and wellbeing in general. We all deal with change differently. However, the social and economic measures we have witnessed over the last few weeks are like nothing any of us have experienced before. There is no ‘right way’ to do things in these changing times, but throughout this crisis your health and wellbeing, and that of your team, is very important. There are several things to consider.

Stay connected

Although some people work from home regularly, for others this shift is a huge change and challenge. Make sure that workers who are now working from home have the technology to be able to perform their tasks. Most homes have some form of broadband or internet connection, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Not everyone needs or wants to have that level of connectivity at home. There was a flurry of activity in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown, as BT and other engineers visited homes to install internet connections to those home workers who didn’t have this capacity.

We’re in this together

It’s good to remember in these difficult times to be kind – to yourself and to each other. Some people might be struggling with the uncertainty and change surrounding this situation. They might need the support of others to help them through. People will be worried about their jobs and the shape of work after the lockdown is lifted. There is also the economic implications, depending on how long the situation lasts. They may need reassurance, or more reassurance than normal. Giving them the sense that ‘we’re in this together’ will provide a degree of security and assurance in insecure, unassured times.

Distance networking

It’s a good idea to reach out and network with people beyond your household and even your team. Many people will have a little more time to talk at the moment. This is a great opportunity to build your networks and develop relationships. Honesty is welcomed and for many the opportunity to share their frustrations and challenges – and solutions and triumphs (no matter how small) – is appreciated.

Still part of the team

It is also good to get other people’s opinions on things. If you’re used to working as part of a team and bouncing ideas off people in your office, then carrying out your job in isolation may seem very odd indeed. Working in the bubble of your own home, where professional and personal lives have clashed for so many people recently, can be challenging. For most workers these two entities – work and home – are two completely difference spaces.

Video conferencing

People are using all kinds of video conferencing tools at the moment, in a way they have never done before.  There are plenty of positives and negatives around using platforms like Zoom (other platforms are available). However, if you are nervous about using them, there are a few things to remember. IT issues are to be expected. People will forgive you, as the chances are, they are suffering the same niggling issues. A dog/child/cat/spouse might come in at an inopportune time and interrupt the call. Don’t worry, as above, people are willing to make allowances. You might find it advantageous to apologise for the potential disruption in advance. It breaks the ice and helps people relax. It can be a bit like the ‘housekeeping’ that is often done at the start of normal meetings. Don’t be too nervous about letting fellow workers ‘into’ your home space.

Whatever your situation and wherever your location, trying to make the best of the current circumstances will make is easier for everyone. Stay healthy, keep active, and this will positively impact on your wellbeing.

Adapting to the new normal


Times change and we all need to adapt, but the pace is usually slower than a single week. With the implementation of the UK’s countrywide ‘lockdown’ at the end of March, the way most of us carry out our jobs has changed beyond all recognition in a very brief timespan. Thanks to the technology now available, remote working has become the new normal for many people. Dining tables have turned into desks and communications expanded to include virtual meetings and even remote networking.  Some people are prepared for this, as many staff now have the flexibility of working from home at least one day a week as part of their routine. But for others, it may be a considerable shock to the system.

Home, not alone

With so many aspects of our society closed, such as universities and schools, even those of us who are used to operating from home offices are finding their workspaces very different places. Partners, children, relatives and pets now also in the mix. As we’re all adapting to the ‘new normal’, there’s a few important points we all need to bear in mind. Some people like structure, while others benefit from the flexibility offered by home working. There’s no single answer, as each case is different.

Firstly, it might not always be possible to work our regular hours. Our normal working day might hinge on being able to drop our children off at a nursery or school. However, many of these establishments are not open, or are only taking in children of ‘essential workers’ at the moment. So, in addition to carrying out our jobs from home, we are also juggling childcare, which means they are at home too.

Shared responsibilities

As a result – and more people being in the house – you might be sharing the dining room table with your partner, or the study with your child. This isn’t always conducive to concentration and efficiency. Distractions may result in your productivity being affected. Try and find a way to strike a balance, dividing your time between your various responsibilities, to ensure everyone is, if not happy, then accommodated.

It’s crucial however that your home working environment is set up so you can find some time to concentrate and get some work done. This may mean changing your daily routine to incorporate more flexibility. A good way of doing this is getting up earlier, or working later, in the day than you would normally do. Many workers already adapt their hours to avoid rush hour traffic, drop children at school or nursery, or to help care for elderly relatives. Lessons learned from these examples can be useful at this challenging time.

Thought for the day

It’s also useful to set yourself some basic goals each day. In this way, you can retain a modicum of structure. Give some thought to setting yourself SMART (specific, realistic, achievable, measurable, timely) goals for each working day. Using these guidelines, it’s not about the number of hours you work, but rather the quality of the work you produce that becomes important. It also gives you benchmarks for what’s achievable, so be realistic. If you find you’re not hitting your targets, perhaps you’re being too ambitious – or not working hard enough!

It’s important too, to try and give your day structure. If it’s possible to work a ‘normal day’ do so, with regular breaks and a set start and finish time. This is obviously the ideal, but there will be many factors, some beyond your control, that will impact how productive you can be. Basically, find what works for you and be prepared to be adaptable. If one way doesn’t work, then try mixing things up a bit the next day. It’s a learning curve, with no ‘right answer’, but eventually we’ll each find our own ‘new normal’.