Like many social enterprises, charities and businesses, we started this year with hope that we would get back into the office in January and build up our community once more face to face by working with our amazing tenants, clients and Academy candidates. Unfortunately, a further lockdown was announced, and this was not to be.
Memories of March 2020 came flooding back and of course the overwhelming emotions I felt during the announcement of the first lockdown. This time though, I felt slightly different. The team pulled together so much last year to get us through the low points and times of uncertainty…
Ruth, Paul and I had spent a huge amount of time with Ann Gillies from our board supporting us to develop our company values in the latter part of 2018/2019. Throughout 2020 each one of these values really came to the fore. Especially Teamwork; We had to communicate via Microsoft Teams and Zoom and we started to struggle with too much screen time and not enough face to face interaction.
Some Important Lessons
It was then I learnt some important lessons that I wanted to bring into 2021.
I really struggled with the digital fatigue and realised quite quickly that other members of the team who were still working felt the same. I felt like I had to be constantly in front of the computer to ensure the business survived.
In addition to this, we were supporting our tenants, clients, setting up and advising new charities and delivering our Academy online to Cohort 2, and I was writing our 3-year strategy. I felt uncomfortable about writing the strategy in such uncertain times and not knowing what was ahead but with full support and encouragement from the board, it was finalised in December 2020. I can now see the importance of this, it is our plan and like any plan it can change, but we have a clear focus and we demonstrated last year more than ever that The Circle Team can be adaptable to achieve our goals.
Taking A Break
During lockdown, staff were given extra discretionary days off to help them to balance the strange new way of working, getting a chance to spend time in the sun, go for a walk, deal with household tasks and cope with parenting/caring responsibilities, and most importantly, step away from the computer. Those who were furloughed were invited into virtual rooms for quizzes, and we even had a leaving party for one of our former members of staff.
The extra days off that had been implemented as far as I was concerned needed to continue and this was our chance to work in a different way to the traditional 9-5 model. The staff were incredibly positive about this and started the 4-day week pilot in October 2020.
I took up running in the middle of the first lockdown and I completed the “Couch to 5k” accompanied by Michael Johnston all the way. This really helped me clear my head, get outdoors and step away from the computer! I have an amazing little dog named Odie so planned a long walk with her every day too.
I kept a gratitude journal and focused on the things that were good in my life and with The Circle. It made me appreciate everything I have in my life, again very much helping my mind focus on something positive. This I realised was essential not just for me but for the whole team to know I had my oxygen mask on so to speak and was able to support them and The Circle to the best of my abilities. I was helped during this time by the amazing operations team who continued to work securing funding, supporting tenants, and delivering the academy programme online as well as The Circle Superstars.
In addition to the support from the operations team, I am so grateful for the support from our board of non-executive directors, who stepped in for board meetings on a regular basis as well as catch up calls, feedback on our new 3-year strategy and check ins with the team and I.
So here I am Embracing 2021, for me it was essential I did not forget some of the lessons from 2020, the year many of us would rather forget. It is a chance to focus on what can be done, not what we cannot do and make some changes that really will make a difference for The Circle team.
Most of the team are now either furloughed or part-time furloughed given the loss of income from going into a second full lockdown, so how could I make sure the team was supported and motivated through more uncertain times?
4 Day Week
The first thing is we have decided to continue with the 4-day working week and we have recently been accredited with a Gold Standard Employer from the 4DayWeek.co.uk.
The second has been a focus on mindset and offering all staff those working and on furlough a chance to take part in a 4-week training programme through Y Mindset called ‘Mindset Reset: The Path To Your Best Self’, to support with their mindset and hopefully gain a positive focus for the coming months amidst the global pandemic.
Walk & Talk
Thirdly, I introduced Walk and Talk sessions where I meet different members of the team for an afternoon walk, stepping away from the computer, a chance to see each other at a social distance and encouraging physical activity and exploring various parts of Dundee. It is a great chance to see people face to face and see how they are doing. On a personal note, I have also signed up to an 8-week new year challenge at GHF and have set myself a personal 9-week challenge of 100,000 steps a week until 7th March, so this is certainly keeping me motivated and getting plenty of physical activity.
I want to continue to work with the team over the coming months to ensure they are supported and take these lessons from 2020 and continue to be brave enough to do things differently.
I would encourage charities, social enterprises, and the boards of these organisations to think about some of this.
2020 showed me, more than ever, that having the right people around is so important on how we face the future and make our way forward. I believe those of us who run charities, social enterprises, and community groups cannot risk the staff not being able to manage or suffering from burnout as this cost not only impacts the organisation but also that we may not be there for the people that need us most in our communities, now more than ever!
MY ADVICE TO YOU IS PUT YOUR OXYGEN MASK ON FIRST!