This article was intended to serve as a round-up of everything we’ve learned this year and what organisations have put in place to be more resilient—but after all the announcements that have been coming thick and fast from the Government, we need to be reactive rather than reflective.
The subject of resilience has never been more appropriate than it is now. Just as businesses were starting to get on an even keel, just as employees were getting into their stride—working from home or back in the shared workspace—it’s all change again.
We’re writing this during the worst part of any change process—the interim. The period of ‘not knowing’.
Do you go ahead with the plans you’ve made for 2022?
Do you put everything on hold and see what happens?
Do you scrap everything in the belief it will all go to pot anyway?
We are an adaptable species
As humans, we are an adaptable species—much more so, when we know what we’ve got to adapt to. Unknowns are scary, and to be fair, the Government will be feeling this right now. They don’t know enough about the Omicron variant to be sure that any restrictions or lockdowns they impose will be justified, nor the extent to which vaccines and boosters will protect us. At the same time, they can’t just wait and see, as the world will continue turning, and if they take too much time to act, they could be accused of having blood on their hands from preventable deaths.
We’ve seen various events cancelled and projects put on hold during the last few days. The response across the media is as unbalanced as ever; the mainstream media is all for shutting everything down, where opinion across social media is that doing so would be akin to cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer. Everyone’s got their opinion.
There’s also an underlying fear that this pattern could become just a fact of life…forever. The pandemic will never be ‘over’, but something that ebbs and flows. For some people, this thought will be difficult to take on board, such has been their hope during the last couple of years that we will endure the crisis then come through the other side with it completely behind us. In a few of the blogs we’ve written during the pandemic, we’ve suggested that we will never go back to how things were before Covid showed its face—and this prophecy looks like it’s being fulfilled
Further lockdowns and restrictions could become trickier for employers and managers to handle.
There’s likely to be far more resistance than the first time they were imposed. In the beginning, there was a strong sense that, if we all followed the guidelines, we were not only saving the lives of others, the thought was there that the virus would simply go away eventually. Now we know that isn’t how viruses work (of course, scientists have always known about viruses and their life span, but this knowledge had to trickle down into the general public’s subconscious). A virus doesn’t like killing off its host, because it inadvertently dies too, and like any living thing, survival is a virus’s main concern. It therefore adjusts, or mutates, so that it can do its job whilst staying alive…the result being, its host gets ill, but not so ill that it wipes them both out. Its other aim, again, like other living things, is to procreate; the virus, therefore, changes, so that it spreads more easily—which is exactly what we can see playing out with the Omicron variant.
I’m not here to argue about the severity of the virus, and whether Omicron is more dangerous to our species than Delta and any other variant. What I wish to demonstrate is that a virus will keep mutating and spreading, because that’s what a virus does. Whether it’s Covid, the flu virus or a common cold, it’s something that will keep coming back under different guises until it’s stopped.
Some viruses we have managed to eradicate through vaccination, such as smallpox, polio and malaria. There’s nothing yet that tells us this can’t or won’t be the case with Covid.
However, until we have this answer, we may have to live with never-ending uncertainty, which isn’t helpful to our mental or physical health, long-term.
So, how should leaders guide their teams through this latest upheaval? Here are our thoughts:
Remember what works
We’ve lived with Covid long enough to know that there are some measures we can take that will limit the spread…we’re not coming at this blind, as we did at the outset of the pandemic. Many companies made social distancing adjustments that can be reinstalled in workplaces quite easily, or they can insist employees work remotely, knowing that this won’t equal financial disaster. Yes, it feels like everything is going backwards rather than forwards, but clinging to the familiar will help your employees, even if the familiar is being two metres apart, virtual meetings or physical screens between provider and client.
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t
Your team will undoubtedly feel frustrated if they can’t have their Christmas party after all, or if they may have to once again struggle with the remote working juggle. Remind them of what they can do within the current guidelines. The glass-half-full approach will be much more conducive to a productive, harmonious team than the glass-half-empty one. Even if it galls you to suggest Christmas drinkies over Zoom from the comfort of everyone’s individual home, swallow that feeling and present a positive, can-do, we’re-all-in-this-together attitude.
Adjust your expectations
The latest news may feel like it’s a case of one step forward, two steps back. Maybe sales and/or productivity was just picking up within your company as fears surrounding the Omicron variant began to flood in. Set a good example and show your own resilience…just deal with the cards you have at this moment and focus on getting the best out of your people as things stand. They’ll have enough on their plate if more restrictions come into force, so don’t subject them to the same targets and expectations you’ve all been allowed to enjoy since everything lifted in July. Take current challenges into account.
Not even Boris Johnson or his most decorated scientific adviser can absolutely say where we will all be in a few months from now, so it’s no use trying to predict this yourself. Acceptance is half the battle when it comes to adapting to outside pressures and influences…just roll with the punches, and have the merriest Christmas and happiest New Year you can.