A week can feel like an eternity.  The last seven days have seen us arranging home schooling for two hyper-active boys, housing a relative who got the last plane out of the Philippines and trying to manage an organisation facing an acute drop in income with most activities suspended. 

Momentous change, but nothing compared to the astonishingly brave people putting their lives on the line everyday caring for the growing number affected by the COVD-19.  This puts every challenge into perspective.  It is this realisation that sets the tone for my second blog on managing an organisation in the face of coronavirus.

Keeping the organisation together

We have now had two weeks of working as a virtual organisation.  It is amazing how quickly a new way of working becomes the norm.  Regular catch-up meeting using Zoom or Microsoft Teams provide some semblance of community and joint endeavour.  People are getting increasingly used to using the platforms and last week we were able to run brainstorm meetings, training days and social events. 

The difficulty is keeping tabs on how everyone is coping, which has emphasised the importance of regular calls with line managers to check on the well-being of the whole team.

Accessing government support

With a huge drop in income and a suspension of activities we need support from the government’s COVD-19 job retention scheme.  How best to use this support has led to a lot of discussion amongst the leadership team. 

We have decided to top-up all salaries of furloughed staff as it isn’t their fault that they are not required in the short-term and we want to demonstrate that they are as equally valued as those retained employees.  We have decided to make decisions on a monthly basis even though this will increase our administration as we want to be flexible in rapidly changing circumstances. 

We are acutely aware that although these decisions have to made rapidly, we need to follow a process that is fair and have been hugely grateful for the amount of free guidance and advice being provided by organisations such as People Puzzles https://www.peoplepuzzles.co.uk

Changing our tone and approach

What society needs has changed beyond recognition.  How to cope day-to-day is the new norm, including how best to feed the household, how to survive financially and how to cope emotionally when many of the usual social escape routes don’t exist.

We have sought to change our communication and support to fit with this new reality.  Meeting these daily challenges will often have environmental benefits but that is not central to our messaging.  It has been heartening to see how useful people have found our new #LiveSavvy materials and we are getting a growing number of organisations contacting us about sharing them through their platforms, increasing the support we can offer to people in these difficult times.

The long versus the short-term

The speed of change means we can get caught up in the here and now.  We have made a conscious effort to find time to step back and think of the long-term implications of the crisis.  We envisage that once some sort of normality returns people will want to build stronger connections with their local community, some of the changes forced upon us will stick and there will be a fundamental reassessment of global supply changes and what is sustainable.

We will be running workshops with our key partners to get their views on what the future might look like, helping to ensure that we are in a strong place to create positive change in the new reality.  Already we have received financial commitments for some of our future plans as investors can see how our thinking will be needed post-crisis.

The importance of our Board

Never has the importance of our charitable board become more apparent.  It consists of people facing similar challenges in their own organisations providing a reference point and guidance that is essential.  Being slightly distanced from the day-to-day turmoil they are able to offer a perspective that is hugely insightful.  Finally, on a personal level, leading the organisation can feel lonely and stressful and they are always there to provide support and reassurance when most required.

Read the next blog post in this series

Lessons in the lockdown