With the re-opening of shops and more recently pubs and restaurants opening we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel as lockdown is slowly being lifted and the ‘new normal’ is being adopted by many South West businesses. In amongst the chaos, uncertainty and for some, complete heartache, there have been a few silver linings to Covid19 for local businesses. Overall, the situation is not ideal – no-one forecasting for 2020 envisaged a global pandemic would be on the horizon but at testing times; it is important to reflect, acknowledge and learn from this experience. Below are a few of the positives that we have noted and can put down to being pushed into this surreal situation.

Business confidence has grown for employees working from home/flexibly

Pre the Covid19 crisis; Flexible Working Requests and Working From Home (WFH) Requests have been steadily increasing, however it wasn’t uncommon for some firms to have their reservations and approach them with resistance, concerns surrounding the productivity of working from home or outside of traditional work hours, and how it would impact on teams and their effectiveness.

However, when lockdown was announced in March and many office businesses having no choice but to either close or staff to work remotely, the situation was forced upon them. Initial setup and technical teething problems may have been present, as with any change but the speed of change was accelerated, employees adapted to the situation and some are known to have thrived. A reduction in commuting time and cost, additional time with families and generally a sense of more balance in life.  We know this is not the case for all, those juggling childcare alongside working full/part-time have been tested, but with an honest and motivated approach, some employees working evenings or weekends to manage childcare and workloads, stigma surrounding WFH and flexible working has very quickly diminished. Resulting in some firms reviewing cost efficiencies and re-evaluating the need for large office premises.

WFH or working remotely can work, and businesses can still move forward, make decisions, grow and with technology, stay connected. It can be a huge cost saving for businesses on rental premises and reduce employee expenses.

We do of course realise it is not possible for all industries to function this way and there is still a need for face-to-face – and when it is safe to do so, we too look forward to meeting up with clients and our teams in ‘real life’!

Local businesses and Not-For-Profit organisations adapting to technological changes

Covid19 forced this situation upon most but it has identified a reliance that people and businesses have, that change can made quickly, and individuals have the ability to adapt to the changes and still progress.  Many local South West businesses and not-for-profit organisations have had to adapt, their current systems and processes – technology has been at the forefront of this, improving communication channels, switching to contactless payments, reduction in paper, recruiting via video and telephone, team motivation (our sister company, CitrusHR have set a team challenge to do 2 million steps in July!) and engagement tools all led virtually via a variety of systems.

Local NHS hospitals and surgeries have completely adapted their systems to ensure safety and minimise contamination, reducing the amount of paper being used and technology has been at the forefront of improving these processes, from the back end. Additionally, surgeries introduced a simple phone or video chat prior to face-to-face appointments which has proved great success and is something which may be considered long term.  Local schools very quickly put online home-schooling portals in place and/or setup regular online video calls with students to support children with their learning journeys.

Local communities coming together

A wonderful silver lining has been the sense of community Covid19 has created; the clap for carers, street party VE celebrations and online street support groups that were setup have all ignited a community feeling. Notes of support from local carers through the door, hopefully helped those suffering and very vulnerable during the difficult days.

Additionally, it has recently been announced that The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) is investing £100,000 to develop Thrive West – this aims to support small local business recovering and impacted from Covid19 – from financial advice, loan support, virtual events and webinars and to those firms that have employees suffering with mental health issues. Thrive West is an extension to ‘Thriving at Work Bristol’ and offers valuable information, advice, guidance and online tools to help those that need it. For more information go to:  https://www.wearegrowth.co.uk/

On a more personal note, we here at CitrusHR Consulting have had conversations with our team and all agree on one silver lining to Lockdown has been discovering local beauty spots and a new sense of community amongst all the different villages/towns we live in. Bristol, Bath and Gloucestershire are home to such beauty and often it appears it has taken lockdown for us to realise it is literally on our doorsteps! Alongside this, there is an increase in awareness of the small local businesses in operation, and a desire to support them wherever possible.

What are your silver linings to lockdown? As always we’d love to hear from you, and if you require any support from us please do get in touch direct:  CitrusHR Consulting, call us on 0844 854 6704 or email us at info@citrushrconsulting.com.