These COVID days

For those of us that work in a tech-comm business, I suspect our experience has been somewhat different to most. The products and services we provide have seen unprecedented demand.  Connectivity and collaboration tools to facilitate the mass migration of workers from the office to home and remote working environment have underpinned the nation’s ability to continue to work and that’s required our industry to move quickly to bring solutions to market that reflect these unique times, with a greater degree of flexibility than ever before.  It’s required us to work more closely with our customers and prospects, to listen carefully, engage diligently and to be more benevolent than ever before.

This need for innovation has come at a time when our own business has been adapting to the conditions brought about by the COVID pandemic. As with many companies of our ilk, we faced into the logistical challenge of moving thousands of desk-based staff from permanent office locations to home environments in the space of just a few days. In SME sales alone, we moved over 100 people to remote working in less than 2 weeks and 8 months on, we continue to remotely manage and engage the vast majority of our organisation.

For my own team, the change and the required adjustment has been significant.  Many of them are long-standing desk-based sales and service advisors, some of whom have only ever worked in an office environment.  For my managers, the task of remote management has been a new challenge and has required them to acquire a new skillset and embrace new ways of working to ensure they engage and encourage their people.  For my part, I have recognised that at this time, one size cannot fit all and it has been important to engage at an individual level, recognising the unique circumstances, demands and responsibilities that exist for every member of my team.  Understanding their needs has enabled the provision of a flexible and adaptable environment within which, every member of the team feels supported to give their best.

I’m extremely proud of the work that Vodafone has undertaken to support us all during this unprecedented period.  From the immediate and unequivocal prioritisation of employee safety, to the prompt provision of tools and tech to improve the working-from-home experience, their support has been unstinting. The leadership team have worked hard to find innovative ways of keeping the workforce engaged and motivated – small gifts, regular checkpoints, clear guidance for our people and programmes to support both mental and physical well-being have created a sense of value and community, whilst highlighting the important role we are all playing at this time to #keepconnecting.

On a personal note, the last 8 months have brought unprecedented change to my working life.  For many years, I have driven the length and breadth of the UK, rising ridiculously early to miss the morning traffic and arriving home well after the evening commute has subsided.  I can’t say I have missed those motorway miles one bit! I’ve enjoyed the new morning routine and the time with my family before the working / school day commences. What I have missed is the human contact – the quick coffee and chat, the quick ‘you’ve got this’ hug, the ‘white-boarding’ and debating of ideas and the sense of collective and informed decision making.  I have found working from home isolating and lonely at times, especially when things aren’t going to plan and on occasions, the days are almost indistinguishable from each other, such can be the repetitive nature of video conferences and calls!

But one thing that strikes me when I reflect on this period is that it has made us all a little more ‘human’.  The lines between our personal and professional lines have ‘blurred’ more now than ever before, certainly, we’ve brought more of our ‘whole selves’ to work! It’s highlighted the multitude of responsibilities we are all carry alongside our roles at work and we’ve all bonded not just with our colleagues but also with our Customers, over the glimpses of errant pets, demanding children and persistent forgetfulness when it comes to hitting the ‘mute’ button!  It’s emphasised more than ever, the need for empathetic leadership – the reality of the COVID virus is that it has claimed many lives and caused much suffering.  I want my people to feel secure in the knowledge that we understand their challenges, support their need to prioritise and allow them the flexibility to balance their commitments, as they need to. 

And so we move forward during these uncertain times, sure only in the knowledge that there will be more change to come.  The COVID pandemic will continue to challenge us all - I suspect we are nearer the start than the end of the journey.  We must continue to embrace the need to be adaptable in our expectations, ways of working and propositions to ensure we remain engaged and relevant. We have to focus on the positives and to ensure we make time to listen and talk – to our colleagues and our customers and we have to continue to highlight and celebrate our successes; we all need to find the ‘feel good’ during these difficult days. 

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