The international health crisis that occurred in 2020 prompted businesses around the world to reconsider and adapt their operations. Remote working became the new normal for most companies, changing the way employee teams interacted with each other and how businesses interfaced with their customers. This transition coincided with more cautious spending decisions as companies also sought to ensure their operations would be able to navigate and survive the ongoing lockdowns.
Now, as the resulting restrictions begin to wane and businesses begin to have greater control over their operations, we are beginning to see many company leaders reflect on the benefits that came from 2020 in order to retain the changes in operations that proved most worthwhile.
Learning From COVID
Last year, payroll services experts, People Group Services, relaunched their Learning From Leaders series, which opens forums with well-known business leaders, allowing them to reflect on the lessons they personally learned while overseeing operations and teams during recurring lockdowns. A recent episode welcomed Ashton Ward, managing partner of Eton Bridge, to discuss his experiences.
Firstly, and understandably, Ward discusses adapting to a remote working environment, which has been a ubiquitous challenge among many sectors. Interestingly, in the run-up to the initial lockdown, Eton Bridge held a remote staff practice day, trialling a teleworking business operation before being potentially forced to do so.
“It meant we were able to prepare, get the technology, and prepare people mentally,” Ward says, describing how it was a decision that paid off, readying them for the impending transition and furthermore leading the company to adopt remote working practices in the long term.
Ward goes on to discuss how fundamental communication and connectivity became, noting “They key thing was making sure people didn’t become disconnected.” Remote working has a huge number of benefits, including for levels of productivity since many employees find managing their own working environment and schedule to be conducive to better professional performance. However, this must coincide with an emphasis on connectivity.
Such connectivity is not solely for the benefit of the task at hand, such as collaborative operations and the productivity of meetings but also for the ongoing wellbeing of employees, preventing the experience of alienation. Businesses have discovered that supporting internal initiatives for the benefit of employee wellbeing actually has remarkable potential.
Ashton Ward and his team spent much of the year expanding on their already extensive wellbeing support processes to host numerous team building activities, especially those that would involve exercise and reasons for employees to leave their homes. Ward adds that “There have been dozens of initiatives that really helped us become a much stronger team than perhaps we were before the pandemic.”
Remote working also led many businesses to practice a more hands-off approach when managing their teams, being unable to easily oversee progress within a shared working space. “My team, being able to do essentially what worked for them is a result of empowering them,” Ward says, adding the importance of trust and how it benefits individuals, not only for their productivity but for their greater integration within the business.