The Ultimate Curveball

The Ultimate Curveball

Photo credit: Joan – BlogBizBuzz on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

On Monday, France moved into the easing of some of the lockdown restrictions which have been in place since 17th March.  We’re fortunate here in that there was a clear, documented process (including the various options being debated and voted on in parliament) and every step of the way the government, via the media and public broadcasts, has kept the public fully informed.

Because of the process, the French government has followed, we’ve had some time to ‘prepare’ for the next phase.  Our mayor galvanised the village some weeks ago, organising donations of suitable material and a volunteer force of ladies who sew.  Last Friday, we found two reusable masks in our post box, with a second set to follow shortly.

Under lockdown, we’ve only been able to exercise/walk within 1km of home but now have the freedom to go where we want within a 100km radius.  I would leap at the chance to take a walk or go for a run around our local lake, but ironically, at the very point we’ve been given more freedom the fantastic weather which has dominated lockdown has ended abruptly 🙄

In theory, we can now meet up in groups of up to 10 people.  What’s been striking is both our and our circle of friends, reluctance to do so straightaway.  We’re all adopting a ‘wait and see approach’.

Life isn’t getting back to normal any time soon.

It’s been interesting to watch the contrasting way in which events in the UK have unfolded this week.  Starting with Boris Johnson’s address to the nation on Sunday evening and followed by the media storm of criticism over the lack of clarity and confusion.  One of his ministers providing contradicting advice didn’t help either.

I think Matt Lucas summed it up best:

Of course, it’s easy to criticise, but the truth is I don’t envy anyone having to make decisions about how we safely get our economies opened up again.  Across the world, leaders have already made mistakes which have cost lives and knowing that the decisions you make today could lead to more deaths is a massive burden for anyone to bear.  In many ways, going into lockdown was the easy part.  It seems coming out of it is going to prove far more difficult.

I feel incredibly fortunate to work in a profession where working from home for me and my team is not just an option, but for some of us is our default work mode and we can carry on doing this for as long as we need to.  Our company has been paperless and cloud-based for over 15 years.  I don’t have any worries about the nuts and bolts of how the business operates on a day to day basis.

So, on the one hand, there is the comfort of knowing that – unless things get considerably worse than at present – it is unlikely we will need to make anyone redundant or furlough anyone.  But on the other hand, the responsibility of determining when it’s going to be safe to let our staff go back to our office feels like a massive weight at times.

The one question the younger members of our team want answering above all others seems to be ‘When can we go back to the office?’.   In contrast to those of us over 40, they have struggled with working from home (and from the confines of lockdown in general).  They seem to need the company of others, physically rather than just remotely, much more than we do.  Jumping on Zoom or picking up the phone just doesn’t do it for them.

Being responsible for other peoples’ addiction to food, clothing and shelter is hard enough.  Now I also feel responsible for keeping them safe from a deadly virus.

Like so many other small businesses, we rent space in a large building with multiple tenants.  At this point, I have no clue how the building managers plan to deal with issues such as restricting the number of people in lifts or communal food preparation spaces.  The standards of the building’s contract cleaners already leave much to be desired – do I trust them to thoroughly clean and disinfect not just our office but all communal spaces every day?  The honest answer would have to be ‘No’.  One of our team is due to come back from maternity leave in July.  Right now, would I want her coming into the office?  Again, that’s a big fat No.

I have no idea what needs to happen for me to feel comfortable letting our team go back to the office.  For the time being, I’m just thankful we’re not part of the first wave being encouraged to go back to our workplace.

As an employer and business owner, I never could have imagined having to deal with a curveball like this.  I’ve certainly never received any training for it.  None of the books I’ve read on leadership has prepared me for dealing with a pandemic.  It’s hard sometimes not to feel out of my depth.  Josh Brown on a recent podcast appearance managed to sum up pretty much exactly how I feel right now.

I do sometimes find myself wondering if I’m doing a good enough job trying to lead my little gang through this.  I wrestle with trying to determine if there’s more I could be doing or stuff I could be doing better.

Leadership in any form always has, and always will, present challenges.  Most people in leadership roles relish a challenge, and I think that applies to me too.  I may not have asked for this particular challenge; it may take some time before it feels as though life is approaching something near ‘normal’ again, but I hold hard to the belief that we will get there.  Until it does, I’ll carry on doing the best I can and taking it one step – and one day – at a time.