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Coming back from furlough? Top tips when working from home

Create a workspace: Having a dedicated room/space, where you can sit comfortably, solely for work, will help you ‘get in the zone’ and focus. Make sure the workspace has everything you need before you start so you aren’t constantly up and down looking for paper or a pen, for example. If you live with family or in a shared house, be open with them about your expectations during work time, especially when you are on calls/meetings relating to work. Be reasonable but clear on your expectations. Craft a daily work routine: Replicate what you would do if you were in the office; wake up at a certain time, take a break at a certain time etc. Make sure you follow a certain schedule, structure your breaks, and in general, create a structure to follow. Stick to your working hours: Along the same lines as creating a routine, try and stick to your working hours. During this pandemic is has been quite apparent that people may be shifting their working hours to suit them but it’s important to try and retain your working schedule as much as you can. From a Managers stand point what’s also very important is to be open and honest about expectations and flexibility. Also, let your team members know when they can reach out to you throughout the day and be available to them. Check your internet connection: Make sure you have a secure internet connection and fast enough to keep things running at all times. Communicate with your employer if you are having difficulty accessing the internet or if your connection may be unsecure. Be visible: It’s important to stay connected with your team and colleagues. Keep on top of emails and any other internal communication channels. If you have a lot of meetings, or are not working specific hours put that in your calendar so people know when you are available. Limit distractions: Whether that’s taking a TV break, scrolling through social media or making a snack, make sure you have finished (as best you can) the task you are working on so you can leave your work at your desk when taking time out. This will also help you be more productive as it enables you to retain your focus and dedicate your time to your duties. Share your thoughts: Working remotely may be a huge change for some people and in others it can lead to the fear of missing out. Remember that your manager and team members are always there to hear your ideas and updates and some of them will be feeling the same way that you are. These are uncertain times for us all, don’t be frightened of communicating your thoughts. Remember to have fun: Relationships with colleagues are important, it’s a key factor in building a working culture in an organisation. Having them around only virtually can seem strange and can make you feel detached and alone. Try and get involved in fun virtual experiences with colleagues whether that be a quiz or a Friday night catch up. Pursue work-life balance: Maintaining a positive work life balance is something that has been a challenge long before this pandemic. But having work life balance shouldn’t be something you aspire to, you need to create it. Again as mentioned in point 3 “stick to your working hours” - if you work over time on certain days, communicate that to your manager and work out when you can take those hours back, if possible, or at least create yourself a plan to try and reduce this moving forwards.

Melissa Kilday

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Have you put your professional and personal development on hold?

I’ve recently watched the 10 part documentary ‘The Last Dance’ which focuses on the life of basketball legend Michael Jordan. It was a great watch (definitely recommend it, even if you aren't a fan of basketball) and it showed insight into the life of numerous superstars and gave real perspective on Michael Jordan's motivation and drive as a professional athlete. The series talks about the highs and lows in Jordan's life, it shows his commitment to being the best and how that commitment never took a back seat even during the toughest times. Why am I telling you this? Well, the documentary got me thinking about growth and my own dedication to self-improvement, which has taken on a different dimension this year due to COVID 19 and its impact on the world. The current pandemic has created crises amongst the health and financial markets that are disrupting the lives of almost everyone on our planet. COVID-19 is forcing many of us to confront a new world that is unfamiliar, unpredictable, unexpected and uncontrollable. The rapid change has caused people to purely focus on the here and now which is completely understandable, but it’s important to also try and keep hold of personal and professional goals and motivations during this time, if possible. Before I go on, I want to acknowledge that using the current crisis as an opportunity for personal growth is something that has been forced upon us, we either sink or we swim. This blog is not intended to reduce or distract from the seriousness of the consequences many people will face due to COVID 19. However, many people are motivated by working on their personal development whether that be via education or through experience and it’s important that, even during challenging times, that doesn’t stop, you just need to manage your expectations accordingly. Progression within business is important for many employees and, even in times like this, dreams and ambitions shouldn’t need to be put on hold. Rather, they should be adjusted in line with what the new business world may look like during and following this pandemic. Many businesses will be in no position to offer that progression right now. But it is still just as important to note how you may be able to develop your skill set and knowledge during this time and understand what short term goals can replace some of the more longer term ones you originally had planned. For those on furlough, being detached from work may be causing stress and worry, others may be enjoying some ‘time out’. Either way it’s important to ask yourself how you may be able to utilise this time to set goals you never thought about before? Such as; taking up online classes, reading that book on leadership you were always keen on, volunteering, even gaining insight to a completely new skill that may be outside your professional field. Personal development can be inspired by role models in all different fields, such as Michael Jordan. People working in key/core roles may be feeling additional pressure and stress due to an increase or decrease in business demand, they may be working in a new environment, with new systems implemented purely due to lockdown. I’ve spoken to some people who are even doing a completely different role to help out. It’s important that, if possible, you try to understand how this time could provide you with an unexpected chance to grow and understand how this is impacting your professional development. You may be learning new ways to handle stress, learning how to get the most out of rapid change and even how you've adapted your leadership style to suit the ‘new norm’ such as managing remotely. Either way your personal and professional goals and ambitions should not be shelved, we need something to focus on during times of adversity. It’s healthy to be mindful on how you are growing during this time and if you feel like you are not, then reach out to someone who may be able to help and provide guidance on how to make the most out of this time. If you don’t have a personal development plan now is a good time to sit and reflect on what it is you want to achieve and how you may need to adapt to do that in these current times. Ask yourself questions on how you want to develop outside your role, what objectives can you set yourself that are achievable now rather than later. If you would like access to a development template, please email me and I can send one over. I’m writing this blog because I’ve always been passionate about development and I’ve had some times in my life where I felt lost, and focusing on my personal and professional goals gave me a much needed anchor to grasp hold of. I didn’t realise that during the last few months I have been ignoring and distancing myself from my dreams, as if I sub consciously gave up on ever achieving them. Over the last 10 years I have chased those dreams passionately, with a fierce commitment to achieve them, and I felt extremely disappointed in myself for almost letting them go - even temporarily. I now need to refocus my personal development to enable me to grow and develop in the “new, post COVID 19, business world”. This has been a difficult time, there’s no denying that but I want to make sure that when I look back on this period of my life, I know I have been present and mindful in understanding how difficulty creates opportunity.

Melissa Kilday

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Blurring the lines between work and home life - how to reduce burnout and stress!

Last week Twitter announced that they were giving employees the ability and option to work from home indefinitely. There are clearly positives and negatives regarding this with experts saying we shouldn't be surprised if people are starting to feel unmotivated or less productive. For many, working from home started out positively! Extra time in bed, no reason to get dressed unless you are on video calls that day and spending more time with the children. For others, it was more negative, as it’s natural for people to need a routine and to be able to separate personal lives from their professional one, which is hard in any normal situation, but in times like these its become almost impossible. Burnout was already on the rise before the coronavirus, in part because the blurred professional boundaries made it more difficult to switch off. We are now in a world that is considered ‘always on’ which means we have instant, one touch access to the whole world. We have no regimented down time. Did you know that, on average, professionals check their email 15 times per day, or every 37 minutes and some people (including myself) check work emails first thing in the morning and last thing at night. With the “new normal” now being that people work from home and organisations starting to contemplate a permanent remote working culture, we need to understand and know what that will do to our personal lives and mental health, both in a negative and positive way. I personally enjoy working from home but only for short periods of time. Personality testing indicates that, being a extrovert, I thrive being around people, which makes times like this difficult as, like most, I enjoy human interaction. Understanding qualities in yourself like this will help you figure out and process what barriers may arise when working remotely that stop you being motivated, engaged and productive. So, what can you be implementing or thinking about to make sure working from home isn’t a problem and how can you separate your work and professional life to reduce burnout? - Keep your work space to a specific area in your home so your job doesn’t intrude into the lives of your family members or people you are living with (especially if two of you are working from home at the same time). Have a dedicated space that you assign as your workstation instead of checking emails, voicemails or texting in front of the TV or spreading work out all over your property. Make sure this space is as quiet as possible so you can concentrate. - Keep the noise out. The world can seem even more noisy and chaotic when we are trying to concentrate, so try using noise cancelling headphones or ear buds to block out any sounds which may cause distractions and result in you feeling frustrated. ‘Studies show that a delicate blend of soft music combined with soothing nature sounds—such as waterfalls, raindrops, a rushing brook or ocean waves—activates the calming part of your brain, helps you concentrate and lowers heart rate and blood pressure’. - Establish boundaries around your work space during work time that is off limits for others in the house. Explain that you need no interruptions or distractions in this space, even if you have to put up physical barriers such as locking a door etc. I know this can be futile with young children running around the house. Always try and explain why you need to focus and concentrate. If possible, only go to your designated space when you need to work, don’t go in there to rest as your brain will not be able to distinguish this as personal space, no doubt you’ll be happy to move as far away as possible anyway! - Put the work tools away. After your agreed work time is finished, put away your electronic devices or switch off emails. Keep work reminders in the designated work space and well out of your personal space to prevent your mind from always being pulled back to work. You need time to relax and switch off to allow yourself to be able to separate yourself from always being ‘at work’. - Make sure you stay connected! Utilise platforms like Facetime, Teams and Zoom to keep in contact with your colleagues or employees. If you start to feel lonely or disconnected with your work, consider setting up a support group of friends who are also working at home. Make plans to ‘meet’ on a regular basis and share creative ways you’ve adjusted to the new situation. - Get out of the house when possible – spending so much time at home can cause ‘cabin fever’. Make sure you have a plan to get out of the home at least once a day, even if it’s to sit in the garden or walk around the block. There is extensive research that shows spending time in nature lowers stress, helps you relax and clears your mind. - Make the most of your free time - After work try to enjoy other areas of your home or engage in fun activities that you enjoy, even if that’s just watching a bit of TV. Try to stay in contact with people as much as possible. Organise an online quiz via video call, or host a digital dinner party for you and your family. It’s important that we speak to and spend time with friends and family members when you can, so you feel connected to the people in your life that you care about. For some people working from home is easy, some people even suggest they are able to concentrate more and be more productive. But for others, it’s difficult, whether that’s because you have children, feel lonely and detached or just want to be around those you work with to bounce ideas off. Its important to understand how you are feeling about your current work situation and implement steps and routines that can help improve the balance between your personal and professional lives.

Melissa Kilday

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Do you have a financial wellbeing strategy?

Over the last few months the world has been turned upside down, leading to stress and worry amongst families, businesses and loved ones. Having a personal financial wellbeing strategy has never been more important as it is at the moment. Clearly it’s not just about the economy and the financial markets; the new reality we are faced with affects all of us in terms of everyday decisions around how we spend, how we save, and how we protect ourselves. We all need to think about reprioritising and being sensible with our money. We encourage everyone to refocus on the things that are needed rather than wanted. To be able to manage during this time, we need to get creative, to make the most out of what we have available; we all need to learn how to live with less. When it comes to money, it’s important to make sure that you think about all options available to help keep you as stable as possible. Unless you are financially secure it’s sensible to stop buying non-essential items right now; as much as it’s great to use the extra time we all have to scour the likes of Amazon and ebay, having less money to make purchases may lead to financial hardship sooner rather than later. Whether you're trying to save money, adapt to a decrease in salary, or need some extra financial help, you can rest assured that you have options. If your income hasn’t been affected Budgeting will enable you to make the most out of your disposable income. As all restaurants, pubs and clothing stores are closed, as well as no sporting events or concerts to attend, at least for the time being, you've probably been spending less without even realising it. If that is the case this will allow you the opportunity to reprioritise what you will spend your money on when we do eventually come out of this unprecedented situation. That will, hopefully, be a positive thing to do – we all need any positive thoughts we can to cling on to at the moment. I’m sure there’s never been a more pertinent time to realise how important saving is and how important it is not to waste money. If this has been a tendency in the past this time will help you realise this and change spending habits moving forward – having some savings at this moment in time will enable people to come through this relatively unscathed and certainly less stressed than if this was not the case. If your income has dropped Of course a reduction in income will effect people as we all, generally, live to our means. Due to COVID19 many employee’s across the UK have taken a reduction in hours or been furloughed to support employers. But, just because your salary has changed, that doesn’t mean your outgoings have. So what can you do? Well, it’s a matter of budgeting, getting rid of spend that’s non-essential and finding ways to lower your normal monthly expenditure. Here are some tangible ways to do that: Understand your total monthly outgoings and calculate how much a month you need to reduce that by inline with your new salary. You can, for example, take a look at your utility bills and contact the suppliers to find out which tariff is best for you and ask about any other low cost options there may be. Insurance is a big cost for many people. House, pet, car and life insurance can take a large chunk of your salary each month. Contact your providers to see if you can lower the rates in any way, even for a couple of months. Shop around to see if you can take advantage of multi-policy discounts or find a cheaper supplier – then ask your provider if they can match it to save any further administration. There’s never been a better time to spend your food vouchers or coupons. Nectar cards, Tesco club cards and any other loyalty schemes will come in handy during these times. If you have any saved coupons hidden away, then make sure you use them. Down load money saving apps that give you daily deals or apps that auto generate discount codes when shopping online. Look at your mobile, TV and broadband providers to see if you are paying for any “add ons” like additional data, more minutes, a land line etc. If you have any credit cards or bank loans talk to your bank and see if you could re finance, reduce interest rates or lower the monthly payments. If possible, try to get an understanding from your employer around how long the reduction in hours or pay may be for, so that you can factor it into your conversations with suppliers (we realise no one has a crystal ball though). Re-evaluating your fixed monthly costs and looking for ways to save is a smart move at any time. You may find that the changes you make will have long-term benefits and will, of course, give you a more realistic understanding of your outgoings, something you may not have given a thought to. If you’re struggling to make ends meet So many people are struggling right now. Part time employee’s, people who have been made redundant, the self employed and freelance workers are all trying to figure out how they are going to make ends meet. So, what can we suggest? Firstly, how much are your fixed outgoings per month and how much you need to live (food, supplies etc) . As above, it’s important that you speak to suppliers to see if there is anyway you could get some short term help. Whether that’s minimising card repayments, taking a mortgage holiday or minimising missed payment fees. Once you’ve done this you will have a better understanding of your finances and allow you to prioritise your bills/spend. Take advantage of help If cutting your budget isn't enough to make ends meet in the current environment, don’t panic. There could be something to help that you haven’t heard or read about just yet. If you're having trouble paying your rent, talk to your landlord about your situation and your options. Some agencies and landlords are granting 3 month payment holidays or considering a temporary lowering of rental payments. If you own your property and your income has been affected, as previously mentioned, jump on the phone to your lender and talk about your options. Some banks and lenders are offering 3 month or more payment holidays on mortgages. In response to COVID-19, the UK government has put into place the job retention scheme which has been a HUGE help for UK employers and employees. If you have been furloughed, use this time to truly understand your financial situation! Some loan and credit card lenders are allowing you to freeze interest, to lower payments or to take repayment holidays for up to 3 months. If you know you’re incomings aren’t going to cover your outgoings please don’t just let the bills pile up! Reach out to providers, ask for help, you may be pleasantly surprised at the support and guidance you receive. I know there are millions of people across the UK worried about their financial situation, but you need to know there is help and support out there. Having these conversations are not easy but you will feel a lot better from having made them!

Melissa Kilday

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8 ways to support staff who are furloughed

The coronavirus outbreak has had a huge financial impact on UK businesses. The government have implemented a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in order to help us retain staff during this difficult time. Those taking advantage of the Job Retention Scheme will be placing their employees on furlough. Whilst this may ease the financial strain on the organisation and, in most cases, the employees, what we need to think about is how those on furlough will adjust to such a significant change. Talking to our own employees, our families, friends and business connections, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that staff may be worried about whether they will even have a job to return to. Being furloughed, when other staff aren’t, may cause them to feel undervalued and, some people have even mentioned feeling guilty that they aren’t working, especially if their colleagues are. So, what can we do to support our staff during the furlough process? We aren’t experts on mental health, so we have taken advice from places such as Mind, Mental-health.org and other mental wellbeing professionals. But the bottom line is no one has experienced this before and we don’t have all the answers but, we do have some very well thought out suggestions. - It’s vital to be honest and open with staff. Never make false promises, this can lead to staff feeling let down. As Managers, always explain why you have made the decisions you have and offer insight into the real workings of a business. - Get other members of management or even the business owners to reach out and fully explain why this decision has been made, people will appreciate the time and understand that this was not an easy decision and the primary goal is to retain jobs and protect the business. - Set up regular wellbeing calls with furloughed staff. Whilst they can’t help you with work, you can talk to them about what they are doing with their time now and just check in to see how they are coping. Try and get teams together via video chat, groups of people who are furloughed could provide advice and suggestions on how to keep busy and active during this time. - Encourage staff to think and talk about their mental wellbeing and try to check in with tips on how they are managing it during this time. We have recently written a blog with 7 tips to stay positive here - Try and encourage staff to set personal goals during furlough. Talk about any skills they want to learn and new avenues for development they could look into. One thing we have tried to do with newer/less experienced staff is suggest ways to improve their skills via online training platforms and reading materials. This has had a fantastic response, and, who knows, when we are all back to work, employees may have learnt new, innovative skills to help drive their personal performance. - Encourage staff to keep in contact with other colleagues who have been furloughed. Even if it’s just one other member of staff, this will help them develop deeper bonds and connections with members of the team they don’t necessarily have day to day contact with. - Openly suggest things they could work on that, as their Manager, you may think they would benefit from or be good at, knowing them as individuals.This may not even be work related learning, it could be learning a language, writing a book or even starting a Youtube channel. Anything you think someone could use their abilities for and help them to feel good about themselves is clearly of benefit. Communication and encouragement is massively important. If you liaise with your teams and try to establish a transparent line of conversation it will encourage them to express honestly their concerns and thoughts. Even if you can’t provide any support in the form of answers, you can provide support by listening and talking.

Melissa Kilday

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Ideas for a fun filled Easter weekend

Easter weekend usually means going away with loved ones, a BBQ or two if the sun is shining or trips to see family and friends. This one will be different of course due to the current lockdown. I’ve been speaking to colleagues, business connections and friends who have children and each persons situation is different. Some people are still working full time from home trying to balance work and giving their little ones enough attention, some are furloughed and feel frustrated and out of ideas to keep the kids off of the Xbox. Many people within the team at Cherry Professional are working parents, so, we wanted to pull together a few fun ideas that anyone could embrace to ramp up the fun at home. I think the last few weeks have reminded us all about what’s truly important and how precious time is. So, here are a few ideas to make Easter with your little ones as memorable as ever. Grow your own Easter eggs This one helps bring a little magic to the weekend! The night before Easter Sunday, take the kids outside and get them to ‘plant’ some small foil-wrapped chocolate eggs in a flower pot. Whilst they are sleeping, replace the small foil eggs for HUGE ones and watch their delight. Try to remind them this only works once a year otherwise you may find them hiding treats around the garden hoping for a bigger treat every morning! Bunny hop You might not be able to go out, but you can always bring the fun and mystery inside! Before the kids head off to bed, help them set up a gift for the Easter Bunny. Sprinkle some flour on a tray (or the floor if its easy to clean) with a carrot as a gift for the Easter Bunny. Whilst they are sleeping, find something that can create bunny prints in the flour, a cotton bud, end of a pen, anything small should do the trick! You could even put some flour paw prints leading away from the carrot. The kids will wake up to magical bunny prints around the house. The classic egg hunt! If you’ve never done an East egg hunt, here’s what usually happens; parents hide eggs all over the house or garden and the kids have to find them, usually there is a map and clues! But this year it may be a little different as you can’t bring everyone together, there may only be a few of you. So, leave a letter from the Easter Bunny telling you and the kids that there are eggs hidden in the garden, in the house, even just in the kitchen! That way, parents and kids can be involved, everyone racing to find the most eggs! Egg decorating This is a classic! Most of us have either painted or dyed eggs in our time, and it’s a great craft activity for kids of all ages (yes, even teenagers!). There are plenty of ways to decorate eggs, whether you choose to hard boil the eggs first or use Styrofoam ones, it’s just as fun! This video shows you how to decorate eggs with food dye from English heritage, it shows you how to create bright and fun eggs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjHeWTqPgT8 If you’re looking for something a bit more advanced for the older ones, you could set up a competition to see who can decorate the best egg. The prize - a HUGE Easter egg, remember, no matter what age, everyone loves a treat!. Another idea, as you can’t be with other loved ones in your family, why not use felt pens/sharpies to decorate the eggs to resemble a family member! An egg-celent way to bring a few familier faces into the house! Easter baking Such a fun and messy way to enjoy Easter and it’s something that everyone can get involved in. This is also good for parents who have children with allergies or who try to reduce sugar intake etc as you can choose what you bake! A few recipies I like to use but there are so many out there, that you wont be short on ideas! Gluten free Easter cookies https://freefromfairy.com/wholesome-easter-biscuits-gluten-free-dairy-free-egg-free-nut-free-refined-sugar-free/ Lemon and Blueberry Quinoa Pancakes https://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/lemon-blueberry-quinoa-pancakes/ Healthy one bowl bake brownies https://amyshealthybaking.com/blog/2018/03/28/healthy-one-bowl-chocolate-chunk-brownies/ (you have to scroll quite abit to find the recipe, but it's worth it they are yummy!) Classic fairy cakes https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/iced-fairy-cakes Play Easter games Pin the tail on the bunny, egg & spoon race, sack race, Easter crafts and so much more! You can get creative with this one for sure, think about all the outdoor games you used to play and add an Easter themed twist! We hope you and your loved ones have a egg-cellent Easter, and its filled with egg-treme fun and laughter. Stay safe and stay home. The weather looks nice too, so you may even be able to get the BBQ out after all!

Melissa Kilday

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How to reduce burnout and increased stress in key/core workers

Over the last few weeks the UK and indeed the world has been thrown in to uncertainty and chaos. With people being told to self-isolate and many being made redundant or furloughed, there has been a huge focus on peoples mental health. We wrote a blog previously about this subject – you can read it here. But this blog is about the critical key workers still leaving the comfort and safety of their homes to go into work, staff who haven’t been furloughed, still working long hours, keeping the wheels moving as much as possible. We all know that over-working can lead to burn out, burn out (if not addressed and treated) can lead to all sorts of mental issues that people are left to battle with such as depression, anxiety, extreme stress, insomnia and more. Even before this pandemic, extra pressure and mental health issues within the UK workforce caused 44% of absences. COVID-19 has taken organisations by surprise and there is, therefore, an increased pressure on existing key/core workers, many working in conditions that aren’t safe. With all of this in mind, mental illnesses are expected to rise. As a manager or business owner it’s imperative you create an open working environment where possible. We understand at the moment that certain sectors are massively under-staffed and over-worked to even have the time to support employees who may be suffering. Here are a few suggestions to bear in mind or implement within your team: - Allow employees to talk with one another, whether that’s via electronic devices, over team video calling or even face to face whilst following social distancing rules and wearing protective equipment. In an organisation in which employees can talk freely with each other, productivity and problem-solving is usually enhanced. - Try to ensure efficient training is in place. If you are hiring temporary staff to fill holes for sickness, or just to cover increased demand, they NEED the correct training. Invest the time as much as you can at the start as that will reduce new members of the team distracting current employees or their manager. When a member of staff doesn’t fully understand a task they themselves tend to procrastinate, which just results in the work still not being done and being passed to someone else, increasing their risk of burn out. - During this time trust is key. You need to give employees adequate control over how they do their work. If staff are working from home, on a warehouse floor, in a dispensary or on a checkout, you need to have faith that they know how to complete their job. Of course newer members of the team will need more support initially, be there to offer it, but bear in mind, after training, workers are more productive and able to deal with stress better if they have some control over and flexibility in how they perform their work. - Talk openly with employees, communication is important now more than ever! Management should keep colleagues informed about what’s happening in the business, transparency is key. This also gives employees the opportunity to ask questions, make suggestions and feel valued. - This might be an obvious one but right now it’s vital that management appreciate all employees’ efforts. Workers are better able to cope with heavy workloads if management is sympathetic, understanding and encouraging. Listening to employees and addressing their issues is helpful for moral. During COVID 19 most employees understand that as management you may not have all the answers, you may not have the resource to support the issue or ease any work load but you need to explain that. Don’t make false promises, or over promise and under deliver. You’ll find loyal and committed employees will value the honesty and will persevere more positively as they know what to expect. We are now swimming in muddy waters and navigating a situation that we have never experienced before. As Business Owners, CEO’s, Managers and employees we all have to pull together and share knowledge. Offer support to other businesses where possible and think about the people, the business and the ‘other side’ of this pandemic; the best way to get through this is together.

Melissa Kilday

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How to answer difficult questions

Line Managers, Business Owners and Leaders have been asked difficult questions recently due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Employee queries are becoming increasingly more frequent but, unfortunately, difficult to respond to due to the fact that we don’t have all the answers. This isn’t unique to COVID-19, in business there are always issues and topics that raise uncomfortable conversations. We wanted to compile some top tips on how to handle difficult conversations, because 2020 is throwing us some real curve balls! Understand the root of the question Some questions will be asked out of different emotions, stress, anxiety, uncertainty, ambition, curiosity etc. It’s vital you seek first to understand the reason behind the query in front of you. That should help you devise the best response in the most appropriate way. Finding the root of the question and fully understanding it will allow you to be prepared for any reaction that may follow during the conversation. It’s important to allow the person to express their emotion freely too and feel safe doing so otherwise they may leave the conversation dissatisfied. Take time to respond If you’re asked a difficult question, give yourself time to determine how you want to respond, having processed the information. This tactic­­­ is evident when politicians or vocal celebrities don’t answer the question instantly, they’ll repeat or rephrase the question as a lead in. If they do it well, that method gives an opportunity to think of ways to reposition the information. Utilise that when you’re approached about difficult topics, it may give you those vital seconds to create the right response, but if you need more time just say so and get back to them with a well thought out reply. Don’t get defensive It’s important not to let people hit your emotional triggers when you’re answering questions. If that happens during a 1:1 or a business conversation and you get defensive, you lose. Maintain your confidence by maintaining your composure. During this time not a lot of organisations have all the answers, and some employees may get emotional and question the businesses sustainability and methods which can raise emotions and cause business owners and leaders to get defensive. Make sure you communicate your point that even if you don’t have all the answers right now, give them the answers you do have, even if that only clears up half of the query. It will allow the employee to leave the conversation feeling more informed that they were previously. Be honest It’s easy to tell white lies to avoid a difficult conversation, that applies to personal and professional life. But you need to establish and understand your core values and how you want to be perceived amongst your employees. If you don’t have all the answers or feel unsure on how to answer something specific, be honest about it. Most employees will appreciate your transparency and understand no one has all the answers all of the time. Communicate your position If you feel you are not in a position to answer a question then explain why. If It’s because you don’t have time to go into the detail needed, ensure you rebook for a time when it’s more suitable, allowing you to obtain external help where appropriate. If you feel you're not the right person to answer that question due to knowledge around a specific subject or that the question may need input from different departments such as HR or finance, make sure you communicate that. Employees would much rather be given the correct answer from the right people, than to be passed between departments and various business leaders seeking answers. By explaining this you gain credibility, it shows your dedication to business synergy and also shows that you want the employee to get the right answer. Our number one piece of advice for this specific situation (COVID -19) would be to keep employees up to date on any changes as soon as possible, be as honest as you can about the businesses position and try to keep people engaged and motivated. If you would like additional guidance on ways to do this, please let us know and we will share our help guides with you.

Melissa Kilday