There’s a lot of reflection going on right now.  We’ve reached the milestone of one year since the first lockdown.  Lots of looking back but also looking forward.

Most people are very much hoping that we are almost at an end to lockdown restrictions.  But we’re just at the beginning of working out what the new world of work is going to look like.  Will workers all be back in the office come 21 June? Will it be the end of remote working? We suspect not.  It’s much more likely that there will be a gradual transition and also very likely that the way we work will change – both where we work and how we do it.  For the accountancy profession the ‘what we do’ is already changing … the digital switch has meant an increased focus on business advice.

So, how will we manage the transition to a new way of working …  when no one really knows what that looks like yet?

How do you peel a banana?

When thinking about change and change management, this is a surprisingly useful question!

Most people (not all) would answer along the lines of, ‘Well I grab the stalky end and force it back and there you go’.

Which prompts a second question – Why do you do it that way? Most people (again not all) answer something like, ‘Because it’s easier; that’s just how you do it; everyone does it that way …’

I’m sure you have guessed by now – it isn’t the only way.  And in fact, should you want to ask an expert, look up how monkeys do it – they do it the other way round!

The point of the question is that we tend to do things the way we always have done unless we are forced to change.  Most of us are creatures of habit and habit applies to working practices and cultures, as much as bananas!

So, in some ways, the pandemic has handed us a fantastic opportunity to be able to reflect on what works, and will carry on working, and also what might work even better.  It’s given us chance to leave behind some working practices that were just habit, but we never thought to challenge and to embrace new ideas that might be more effective and efficient.

Working from home is the obvious example.  A senior partner at a firm we worked with just prior to lockdown commented ‘I’ll never allow flexible working; how can I trust people to put in the hours?’.  Of course, they soon had no choice, and the firm has benefited from increased effectiveness – not only arising from flexible working but enhanced levels of trust in their people which boosted motivation.

So, what’s changed for your firm, what will you keep, what will you go back to?

Individual Behaviour

People are different.  They have different personality types, different strengths and weaknesses.  The key to personal effectiveness is self-awareness – knowing and being able to harness the best of yourself and what you need to be effective and what help you need when the going gets tough.

It’s likely that we have all learnt something about ourselves and how we work over the past year.  Whether working out of the office, away from other people, has increased your effectiveness or had the opposite effect.  What about your motivation?  What about your stress levels? What about your self-development?

What’s key now is that each individual can take what they’ve learnt and put the best of it into practice in the post-pandemic world.

Team behaviour

So how has team working changed?  For pretty much every team, how they interact with each other has been the big change.  The remote working tools we’ve come to rely on (Zoom, Teams …) were in existence a year ago but underused.  Now, possibly overused some might argue, but certainly now used by most people.

It’s likely that the individuals in a team will have had different experiences and will be approaching a return to the office with a mix of excitement and possibly apprehension.  It’s critical that we don’t just think about the logistics when planning the return to the office, but the people aspect too.

Change alters team dynamics and has an impact on how effective the team is.  Individual preferences in ways of working have may have changed, working relationships will have changed – some will have become stronger when communicating remotely, other relationships may have fractured.  Some people may have left the team. Some new people have joined but have never met other team members face to face.  Just as there was a need to focus on team building when lockdown first hit (we all remember the remote quiz), there will be a need to refocus on team building as we work towards a new normal.

So, what do you have planned in your firm?  What are you thinking about in connection with your people – aside from health and safety and logistics?

What would help your team?

We know that this next period is going to be a time of challenge and we’d like to get your thoughts on what you would find useful in our future programmes.

What would you be interested in from a people perspective?  If you have time to let us know please click here to take our 1 minute survey or feel free to get in touch with your thoughts.  Thanks in advance!