The traditional “9 to 5” shift is now a thing of the past due to the Covid-19 pandemic according to Wright Hassall Managing Partner Sarah Perry, who, to mark six months since the UK went into lockdown, has laid bare her experiences and the lessons she has learned as a business leader, while predicting what the future holds.
Lockdown, although not unexpected still happened very quickly and was quite disorientating. It was really important to quickly set a series of short-term goals whilst creating a clear vision of how to restructure the business and also looking at what future opportunities there could be in a shifting market place. Having a strong leadership team around me, who I can work with at pace, continues to be invaluable and it made sure that I was as well placed as I could be to deal with all aspects of lockdown - including making the most of new opportunities and investing in new technologies
The expectations placed on any leader at such times are very high and the sense of responsibility for all is huge. I have needed to demonstrate real empathy whilst at the same remaining highly engaged, energised, and being very clear in setting out the roadmap to navigate the business through the crisis based on facts - a difficult thing to balance and not one I always got right.
As a leader I needed to take both a telescopic view of the business and a microscopic view at times in dealing with the here and the now, whilst making sure that we were navigating what our future “new normal” might look like.
Sharing with other business leaders was very important to me personally, and by providing help and support to others, this helped to give clarity to my own thinking. The last six months have been exhausting, and the fluid nature of the pandemic continues to challenge every aspect of my role as a leader, but at times it is also rewarding when I can feel the business moving forward.
In my role it is crucial to remember that one’s attitude can rub off on others, so I have tried to “be a 10 every day” when it comes to my outlook, focusing on the positives, and ensuring that we preserve and enhance our inclusive and collaborative culture at Wright Hassall.
As a leader it’s also important to show humility. For example, I’ve realised that it’s ok to say that I don’t know if I am asked a question, and that different people have different needs – what is important to one staff member is less so for another. Transparency, as ever, is also key regardless of how good or bad the news is.
Working remotely has been a revelation for many businesses in terms of productivity, but I would say that it does have some challenges, such as being able to gauge the overall mood of your business – which is why it’s important to have mechanisms in place that can produce unfiltered and sometime contradictory viewpoints to allow for a more accurate assessment.
Having a team dedicated to managing Covid-19 issues, separately to daily business activities, has certainly helped our business to embrace change quickly where needed, such as agile working, and has instilled a determination that where certain aspects have not worked as effectively as we would like, we revisit them and do not simply go back to our old way of working.
Many businesses have indicated that they do not intend to go back to an old way of working. For that to achieve an environment that fosters and positively encourages creativity and innovation is essential. At WH we had already set up an innovation business and this has been key for us testing new products and services. Creativity and agility is going to be a key Covid legacy that will drive forward successful businesses in the future.
I believe we will see further acceleration of flexible and remote working, increasing investment in workplace and consumer technology, and more local businesses continuing to work more closely together compared to pre-covid, given the greater understanding of the interdependence of those relationships to help each other survive.
Recent events have bought equality and social justice to the top of the agenda and I hope 2020 is remembered as a turning point for these issues.
As we head into the winter months and another period of uncertainty, the last six months has at least prepared us as a business to be able to react quickly to developments that are announced by government, as we have recently seen with a recent change of emphasis on working from home where possible.
As I have found, every good leader needs a great support network around them to succeed, as will be the case over the course of the next six months as we look to make the most of what the future holds in a post covid world, in what is an ever changing environment.