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One Virus, Six Perspectives.

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Six individuals, all in very different situations, share their stories on how Coronavirus has impacted their life.

There is no doubt that the Coronavirus and the lockdown has affected absolutely everybody, but has it affected everyone in the same way?

We asked six individuals, all in different circumstances, all facing different challenges and each with their own perspective.

  • The Job Seeker – Stephan Gehring , Transformation & Change Leader.
  • The Furloughed Employee – Alun Graham, Board of Management Partner at Connells
  • The Employee Working Remotely – Tomas Savicianskas, Capacity Planning & Optimisation Lead at Jaguar Land Rover
  • The Business Owner who has Furloughed Staff – Beckie Towle, Founder of The Events Raccoon
  • The Business Owner who has not Furloughed Staff – Joe Perkins, Founder of Chaptr
  • The Self-Employed Worker – Sue Herbert – Owner of SNA Secretarial

All were asked the same six questions. Their answers demonstrated that whilst we are all in this together, everyone is dealing with their own sh*t in their own way!

From communication breakdowns and anxiety through to a new appreciation of family & friends, Stephan, Alun, Tomas, Beckie, Joe and Sue talked openly and honestly about how their lives and businesses have been impacted by the Coronavirus. They talk about their biggest challenges, how they have had to adapt, how they stay motivated and even what positives they have seen in the past weeks.

From reading their answers, one thing is clear, alongside the difficulty, lies opportunity & alongside the fear, lies hope.

 

Q. What impact have you felt because of the Coronavirus and the lockdown?

 

The Job Seeker

Assignments have been cancelled, budgets diverted, too many people furloughed or too early, because “it seemed the best decision at the time”. As a knowledge worker and because my selling points are predominantly experience and skills based, this has – at least for now – locked me out of a large portion of my potential market.

The Furloughed Employee

Workwise, the housing market has pretty much dropped off a cliff with about 90% less houses coming to market in the last month compared to the month before.

From a personal viewpoint it’s been challenging to occupy my children and help them to understand why they can’t socialise face to face with their friends.

The Employee Working Remotely

Professionally my workload has increased dramatically, not all my senior managers admire the working from home culture, as a result, micromanagement has increased significantly.

On a personal note my wife has been furloughed, so she is at home every day. Luckily, our house is big enough so I can focus on my work during the working hours with minimum interruptions.

The Business Owner who has Furloughed Staff

We organise live events so have seen everything drop out until at least September, this represents around 80% of our order book and we are still uncertain if postponements will extend further.

Personally, it has broken my heart. I have grieved for the business we’ve lost; I’ve cried with clients over their losses, I’ve been angry we can’t control things, I feel I’ve failed the team by not being better prepared. But then, I have been humbled by the support offered to the community, country & worldwide. I have been inspired by people’s kind words. I have been motivated to be better and fight harder. I have become more driven than ever to come through this stronger than before.

The Business Owner who has not Furloughed Staff

We have had a few clients pull out or pause contracts which had a negative short-term impact on our cash flow and our morale. Obviously, we are all working remotely now which means we have an office space just sitting there not being used – but we have ongoing communication with our landlady regarding a fair rent payment agreement. I think we are all feeling the pressures of the lockdown – I’m lucky to have a small garden in our Brighton town flat which is keeping us sane!

The Self-Employed Worker

Initially I was constantly anxious, but I have worked through that with breathing techniques.

I haven’t lost clients per se, but I have seen a drastic reduction of workload and therefore income.I work mainly for surveyors and they are not allowed to enter peoples’ homes due to the virus, so they can’t work, so that part of my work has completely dried up at the moment.

Q. How have you had to adapt what you do over the past month?

The Job Seeker

Because of extreme restrictions in our self-isolation,time for business interaction is limited to tighter windows than before, because of this I have had to adopt a much more structured approach to the day. I can’t call most people before 10am or after 4pm, there is usually a long lunchtime window when calls are unanswered between 11:45am and 2pm or later.

I had underestimated resistance to video calls and online meetings, yet phone calls are not very effective at building relationships and trust. This means that networking is not as effective as I need it to be. More and shorter calls are necessary.

The Furloughed Employee

My wife is still working remotely, so I have had to take more responsibility with home schooling our girls. We also live in a small two-bedroom cottage with only one reception room, normally I’m at work, the girls at school etc, so we have had to learn to give each other the space we need, luckily we have a garden.

The Employee Working Remotely

Professionally, I haven’t had to adapt much, due to the nature of my role, it can be done 100% remotely. There were some technology issues initially such as systems crashing as VPN servers were struggling to cope but these have since been resolved.

Prior to the lockdown, my commute was 1h 15mins each way, every day. I had to get up very early in the mornings but now, I have at least 2.5hrs a day extra time to travel between the living room and dining room!

The Business Owner who has Furloughed Staff

Our business has been turned on its heel. We can’t do the main thing our business delivers, getting people in a room together to create experiences and so we have needed to adapt quickly to ensure those experiences are still as amazing and impactful as ever while being delivered virtually through online events or through our clients internal community ensuring they engage and support their teams.

The Business Owner who has not Furloughed Staff

It’s something we should have always been doing, but we’ve been more proactive with talking to our existing clients to see how we can support them through these challenging times. We’re being more flexible with payment terms and rates as we know that any new work we do together is mutually beneficial. We’re all in the same boat at the moment.

We’ve also been forced to think more creatively about our marketing, and we have had to pivot our strategy to provide the most value to our clients, based on what they need right now.

The Self-Employed Worker

I certainly have been looking for more clients and, to be honest, as I carry out secretarial work from home, I did originally think I may get some clients quite easily say, for instance, if their secretarial staff were self-isolating and couldn’t get into the office, but, hard as I’ve tried, it hasn’t turned out that way so I try every day to get more clients but with little joy.

Q. What’s your biggest challenge right now?

The Job Seeker

Because the end of the lockdown is not foreseeable yet, a lot of potential clients are not engaging or even planning workloads. This leads to stalling, repetitive conversations, which are not positive over time. Also, potential clients are less and less willing to discuss actual business challenges they face (if they are even operating).

Closely connected is the apparent inability in businesses to make short term decisions for the short term. e.g. my offer of serving a rolling assignment without obligation past the end of the following week has not found interest. Likewise, the offer of hourly (even free-of-charge) assistance is not being taken up.

The Furloughed Employee

My biggest challenge right now is not knowing what is happening at work, there hasn’t been any communication from them for the last two weeks.

The Employee Working Remotely

My challenge is keeping myself busy during non-working hours, there is only so limited movies/series to watch on Netflix! On a professional side, 50% of JLR staff have been put on furlough. It is extremely difficult to do some of my work when most of my core stakeholders are on furlough.

The Business Owner who has Furloughed Staff

Uncertainty. I am a control freak and our business manages fixed timeframes. We cannot best advise our clients as we don’t have the answers as to when it is best to rebook for and I can’t control 90% of my usual tasks.

Needing to flex and find new offerings while the team are on furlough means the responsibility is on my head more than ever, the agency has always been a place where all ideas are brought to the table and discussed and it is very apparent the agency will be operating a very different model when the team can return.

The Business Owner who has not Furloughed Staff

I think financial stability is the biggest challenge for small businesses, we have a robust business continuity plan in place so we have clear actions to take when and if certain scenarios arise, but it’s the unknown which is the biggest threat; we don’t know how long this will last which adds a layer of complexity to any plan you put in place.

The Self-Employed Worker

Loss of income and not being able to see my (married with children) two daughters.

Managing potential boredom by distraction. Having just moved home I had plenty of furniture to paint/chairs to re-upholster, boxes to empty etc.

Q. What do you think will be the longer-term impact?

The Job Seeker

I expect that the return to pre-lockdown economic activity and reaching the “new normal” will happen in waves. There may be a short-term wave of exhilaration based on the sentiment of freedom from the constraints of the lockdown, but that is unlikely to incorporate the necessary changes to our economic and social behaviour.

The current lack of price and cost sensitivity will also start showing in new market dynamics. We may see competition going into overdrive.

The Furloughed Employee

I think that the company that I work for will streamline their operations including staff redundancies and possible office closures. Environmentally I think this pandemic has made people appreciate buying locally, which is why I think that more and more people will buy UK products in the future.

The Employee Working Remotely

I expect that the longer the lockdown lasts, the bigger impact on the economy. My feeling is that we’ve paused everything and when the government gives the green light, everything will be back to normal. But if the lockdown continues for a longer period of time, I’m not sure if the “normal” will be the same.

The Business Owner who has Furloughed Staff

I think there will be a new normal that is not too different to what we have seen in the past. We are creatures of habit and people need that face to face interaction. I think those companies that don’t currently have a working from home policy will very quickly realise they need to adopt one. I think a lot of meetings and travel will be questioned as to their worth and if the time could be better spent carrying things out virtually but that more investment will be given to those larger, significant gatherings with a real emphasis on ROI & ROE.

I also think there will be a new wave of skilled workers looking for jobs as companies who have been able to furlough may need to enforce redundancies to ensure the companies survival.

The Business Owner who has not Furloughed Staff

Looking longer term, repaying any loans for years to come isn’t an attractive proposition, if it comes to that, it will crunch profit margins. More broadly speaking, the amount of people that will be out of jobs due to the inevitable economic destruction is deeply worrying.

The Self-Employed Worker

I think those “old-fashioned” companies who don’t like their staff “working from home” in case they are not productive may well actually go to the wall if they fail to adapt as I think employees will have more empowerment to ask/request/demand more flexibility in future.

Q. How do you keep yourself motivated?

The Job Seeker

Primarily, I try to see the choice of opportunities on a daily basis. There are opportunities to learn, meet new people, change ways of working, explore new professional territory, clear down long-term “building sites”, enjoy the quiet and focus in professional and private matters that generally lead to much richer experiences and which have been missing in past years.

The Furloughed Employee

By keeping to a set routine, daily exercise and setting specific daily tasks.

The Employee Working Remotely

My work motivates me, it helps my day to get through so much faster. I am lucky enough to have a job, so that’s another motivation to do well. The fact that I’ve not been placed on furlough gave my more motivation, because the company showed that my work is critical.

The Business Owner who has Furloughed Staff

I have learnt to refocus on what I can control and say thank you and goodbye to those things I cannot control. I have given myself more time for me to read, run, cook and meditate. The gift of time is now a gift rather than a fear that came in the early days and I am writing a list of everything I miss at the point I miss it so I know exactly what I’m going to do first when we are on the other side of this.

The Business Owner who has not Furloughed Staff

My wife is a doctor of medicine working in a hospital, that helps me to keep a healthy perspective. My team keep me motivated, I’m so proud of the way they have risen to this challenge and I owe it to them to remain focused and upbeat and show the kind of leadership I’d like to receive if the situation was reversed. We’re not going down without a fight.

The Self-Employed Worker

I am naturally very positive, ever the optimist and I focus on the fact that at some point the lockdown will end.

Q. Have you seen any positives?

The Job Seeker

There have been opportunities to connect with colleagues and associates at a more personal level. I have reconnected with long term almost forgotten friends, some through work and going back to university and even school days.

I see an opportunity to come out of lockdown better equipped, with a changed confidence and focus on relationships, more resilient in dealing with major events outside my control and calmer, because despite the challenges this time is more restful.

The Furloughed Employee

Fewer airplanes in the sky, not so many cars on the road, I’m definitely going to appreciate the small things in life such as a handshake with a client or a hug with my mum or dad. More sense of community and people being more neighbourly.

The Employee Working Remotely

Living costs have dropped and I have more time to spend on hobbies, DIY projects, reading and learning.

The Business Owner who has Furloughed Staff

So many!!! Our agency is strong, we are resilient, and we will fight and come back stronger. My team have been amazingly supportive and committed, more than I ever could have given them credit for before. It is estimated that 65% of agencies in my space will not survive and while that is hard for them, it brings a LOT of opportunity for us, as clients will be looking for new support.

The Business Owner who has not Furloughed Staff

Yes, paradoxically we’ve seen an increase in new business enquiries over the past few weeks. There are businesses that are benefiting from this crisis, especially those who have adapted to online trading; they need us more than ever now.

We’ve also seen a lot of clients taking this time to spend more time on their own websites and digital marketing efforts which, again, puts us in a good position. There seems to be a general coming together from the agency community. As such I’ve had the chance to talk to lots of owners since all this kicked-off and it’s nice to know you’re not alone in your challenges. The support I’ve had from complete strangers has been quite beautiful.

The Self-Employed Worker

The fact the virus appears, presently to have shifted our attitudes towards front line workers, NHS, care workers, delivery drivers, supermarket staff, bin men etc and I fervently hope that attitude remains in the future and I hope, indeed I would campaign, for ALL front line workers to get meaningful pay rises.

I want to thank everyone that replied to my LinkedIn post offering their help with this blog, and especially those that took the time to answers the questions above, I really appreciate your valuable input and hope that everyone get back to their ‘normal’ as soon as possible!

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