As we enter a second lockdown, the question everyone is asking is: ‘Will it be the same as last time?’.
For Business Services teams within Professional Services, it already feels very different.
What happened in Professional Services during the first lockdown?
Recruitment ground to halt first time around. For most firms:
- Offers were rescinded or start dates pushed back to the end of the year
- Having all employees successfully working from home was seen as a challenge
- Onboarding new hires virtually was a scary thought.
How is the second lockdown different?
Roll on living through 7 months of the worst times we have experienced both personally and professionally and a brave new world has dawned.
People are more used to using the technology
- The initial lack of tech enabling people to successfully work from home was resolved within weeks.
- Zoom and teams were quickly embraced (although zoom fatigue was at a high recently).
- People now feel more comfortable mixing business meetings with calls and zoom.
People are mindful of their physical and mental wellbeing
Many internal meetings are now conducted by phone rather than zoom.
I have heard a number of people now walking and talking during meetings as way to escape from the desk and a positive nod towards protecting one's mental health with some form of daily exercise.
Professional Services firms are feeling more confident this time
Many firms were in survival mode when the first lockdown started and companies had to restratagise, restructure and sadly many people lost their jobs.
It is different this time.
In the UK, with cases rising at a rapid rate, we have to protect our friends and families and the NHS.
However, unlike last time, firms now have robust plans in place to get through another lockdown; cost controls and measures have been put in place and most firms are better structured to work remotely.
People still have work to do and deadlines to meet.
People know what it is like to work from home and are better prepared to deal with their working days.
As we know, this isn’t the case with the wider market with the hospitality sector, retail and small businesses suffering in a horrific manner and although the policies such as loans and the furlough scheme are on offer, this is very sadly not going to be able to save so many businesses and people’s jobs.
People have adapted to remote working
Within Professional Services firms there is a sentiment that we have moved on from a survival mode mentality to one of the 'new current norm'.
People are more used to working remotely and even though there is an element of fatigue around not being able to get back to offices, there is a focus in continuing to work to full capacity.
We have learnt from the first lockdown
There have been many learns from the first lockdown, the main one being that:
Communication is key.
Share as much information as you can with your teams.
Not every call/meeting needs to be conducted by zoom or teams, a phone call can work just as well.
Listen to your teams and ask them their preferred mode of communication.
Look after your physical and mental health.
More people I speak to are taking up a virtual commute. A walk around the block at the start and the end of the day to give headspace from the home and work environment and forcing a hard work stop to ensure a work/life balance.
Remote working has its perks.
Trust levels have definitely increased and as such people are taking more accountability for their work which can only be a positive outcome.
New hires can be interviewed and onboarded remotely and whilst it is more challenging to bring them into the culture of the firm as quickly as being in office would be, we are adaptable creatures and have found ways around achieving this.
Seeing inside people’s homes and having the cat/dog/kids walk past the screen has made even the most intimidating Partners and Senior Managers seem more human and approachable, which is feedback I have heard increasingly from people.
We Brits are a stoic lot and we have and will continue to find ways to make the best of a difficult, challenging situation.
We have definitely had many learns through the last few months.
I am not sure the weekly zoom quizzes will return, but we are operating in a more structured manner to enable us to get through the next month and beyond.