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Four leaders' lessons after one year of lockdowns

It’s been one year since the UK’s first lockdown in March 2020 and how times have changed. To mark this sombre anniversary, we spoke to four business leaders about what they’ve learned from this experience and how they believe organisations can move forward.

23rd Mar 2021
Editor HRZone
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Four lessons from business leaders
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This month marks one year since the UK went into its first national lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, there was hope that it may only last a few weeks at best, a few months at worse.

Now, as the vaccine rollout continues and there is hope on the horizon, HRZone speaks to five business leaders on the lessons they have learned during the various lockdowns, and the advice they would give to help organisations thrive in the coming months. 

1. Locality is no longer a requirement 

One of the positives that has come out of the pandemic is the realisation for many organisations that being near an office is no longer a necessity, as Nicole Sahin, Founder and CEO at Globalization Partners, explains.

“The advent of global remote work was born out of crisis, but society has found unexpected silver linings even as we begin to pull out of our collective grief. Global remote work is here to stay, and with it the stronger family ties, greater diversity in the workforce, and the democratisation of opportunity.

“Companies have realised that they can hire great talent anywhere in the world, and opportunity is no longer limited to a fifty mile radius of where people live. The doors of opportunity have flung open to everyone, everywhere, and with it comes our ability to harness the great minds that can be found in every corner of the earth.”

2. Remote teams can stay connected with the right tools

Richard Buxton, Director of N4Engage, reflects on how organisations have kept their remote teams connected, and prevented staff from feeling isolated.

“The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work. Never has remote working been implemented at this scale and speed before. For many organisations, this has revolutionised work in a way that would have been inconceivable just a few years ago. And, the collaboration tools that have enabled this are now core workplace technologies. For example, pre-pandemic, how many organisations would have considered deploying fully remote contact centres?

"Thanks to cloud-based collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams and Webex, organisations have been able to maintain constant contact with their employees, partners and customers, all from the comfort of their own homes. These tools will not disappear once employees are allowed to work in the office again, in fact, organisations have realised they can continue using it to allow more flexibility and support to their employees going forward."

3. There are new challenges to overcome

However, not every consequence of the pandemic can be viewed in a positive light. Graham Jackson, CEO at Fluent Commerce, emphasises how equality and diversity should be key tenets of businesses today.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case and repeatedly we see businesses talk the talk without walking the walk. This has become increasingly evident this past 12 months as jobs in female-dominated industries such as hospitality and retail have been hit hardest by the coronavirus. At the same time we have seen women picking up the lion's share of unpaid labour that became necessary with school lock downs etc. And with women already doing around 75% of the world’s total unpaid care work, they’re much more likely to drop out of the workforce in order to accommodate all these demands on their time and energy.

“With experts warning that the pandemic could set progress towards gender equality back decades, organisations must adopt a proactive approach in developing an authentic and flexible family-friendly culture that ensures parents and carers are able to retain their pivotal place within the labour market.”

4. People should always be the priority

To conclude, Ian Rawlings, RVP EMEA at SumTotal Systems, encourages organisations industry wide to continue to focus on employee wellbeing and ensure that teams stay safe as life slowly returns to normal.

“Looking back to March 2020, few organisations would likely have predicted that pandemic restrictions would still be in force a year later. Most will have also been blindsided by the rapid acceleration of digital transformation that’s occurred since. However, the shift in both technology and workplace practices has placed employee wellbeing at centre stage, as organisations focus on keeping remote workforces connected, engaged and supported. As we move beyond the pandemic, this should continue to be a top priority for organisations.

“Workforce management tools will continue to play a key role in keeping employees engaged, as well as helping them operate safely as local and regional guidelines change over time. This fundamental technology has been instrumental in supporting employees working remotely and will remain vital as organisations manage an increasingly hybrid workforce."

Interested in this topic? Read 'Three predictions for HR in a post-pandemic world.'

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