A Matter of Choice is a business consultancy founded in 2011 by twins Lesley Heath and Karen Powell in a bid to empower and equip females in male-dominated corporate environments, working with both men and women to make a change. The consultancy now includes a varied portfolio of programmes, delivered to clients across the UK covering subject matters such as mental health and wellbeing, safety culture and behaviour, coaching and mentoring, leadership, management and talent development to name a few.
There is no question that we are currently going through a phase of uncertainty and we’ve seen many small business owners and entrepreneurs facing challenging questions about the future of their livelihood and seeking practical solutions that will enable them to adapt and come out stronger on the other side.
Although the current pandemic is unique in many ways, the approach that we can take as business people is something that can be applied to everyday working life going forward. There are some important lessons and behaviours that we can take from this situation that can have a positive impact on the uncertainty and ‘doom’ projected by the media.
The internet is widespread with advice around coping mechanisms to manage the psychological effect of COVID-19. A positive mental attitude is key, but not always achievable and certainly not the only answer when it comes to offering a pragmatic solution.
Accept that you don’t have all of the answers and seek advice from the people that do
We appreciate that many entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses often juggle a number of tasks. Alongside running your business, dealing with clients and focussing on business development you may also have to wear a HR hat or look after your own accounts. In all this uncertainty, now is the time to step back and focus on your strengths, otherwise, the responsibility will mount and could result in unnecessary stress.
Pride can be a barrier to success and can weigh you down psychologically. It can be overwhelming to do all of the necessary research yourself, so call on the advice of an accountant, a HR professional or a solicitor for a clearer picture. As experts in their field, they will likely be able to offer solutions that you may never have thought of. Working with others, even if it means calling on people outside of the business, will enable you to make a short-term plan of action to get you through the storm with minimal disruption.
Ensure that the wellbeing of your staff and clients is a priority, but don’t forget about yourself
There are a number of practises that you can implement to aid others at this time but don’t forget about yourself and your loved ones in the process.
Adapting your business to a new way of working is not a novel idea. Many companies undertake the challenge of change management, whether that’s around a shift to digital or offering new services, but how you execute this process is key. The following advice can be used in most scenarios but with the prospect of working from home becoming more widespread, now is the time to act.
By encouraging an open-door policy, you’re empowering your team and enabling them to confront issues head-on, rather than bottle it up to the point when it starts to impact their work. Create an open dialogue with colleagues and create a community whereby they can be open to senior management about their problems, both personal and professional. As a business owner, or if you’re someone who works alone, make sure that you have someone available that you can call on too, whether that’s a friend, a business partner or advisor.
Working in isolation can be stressful for many and if not managed correctly can lead to a decline in productivity. As a business owner, this can lead to worry in itself. Do you trust your team to deliver work remotely? If your employees sense a lack of trust or feel that they are being micro-managed, then their dedication can waiver. Instead, make sure that there are methods in place to communicate regularly throughout the day and set clear, measurable deliverables that are realistic.
It’s important to build a trusted community around you, even in a workplace context. One way to do this is by creating or joining online forums or wellbeing groups, which can act as a crutch and often a lifeline when it comes to sharing experiences. Whether you confine this to your own business or open it up to your wider community or network, by talking to others, you’ll soon realise that you’re not alone in this.
We’re fortunate that working remotely has never been more accessible. With the use of online conference platforms and group chats, we’re able to stay connected and remove that feeling of isolation that many dread and improve our overall mental wellbeing and outlook. Some of these new agile working methods can even be applied to the business long term.
Use this time wisely and give yourself a purpose
A lack of purpose can be a trigger for anxiety and stress among other things so it’s important to keep up routine and give yourself clear objectives. During this time, the workflow is expected to change as client demands differ and your business model finds a way to adapt.
Give yourself weekly targets of the things that you want to achieve and if the business is down, use this period to focus on how you can come back stronger. For many working individuals, we’re so tied up in day-to-day duties and management that often, there are things that get left behind, whether that’s a refresh of your website, a strategy to implement new services or improve the ones you have, or enhancing your digital visibility on social media. Rather than worry about any ‘downtime’ that you may be experiencing, get productive and plan for these things that often get cast aside in the workplace in place of other, more pressing client-facing work.
Although the situation is far from ideal, as business owners we have to adapt and appreciate that this is a ‘new normal’ and make changes in our routine to make it work as best we can in this temporary timescale.
Finally, add an element of fun into your day. Perhaps now is the time to reflect and reconnect with the things that matter most. Business owners can become consumed with their work, but some distance can work wonders for your mind and body.
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