Lessons learned in leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic
I have always valued face-to-face communication, both in my personal life and in the myriad strategic communications campaigns I have led over the past two decades. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many of us were forced to adapt and communicate effectively without sharing the same spaces we once did. Meetings went virtual and Hirons’ office – normally bustling with our nearly 50 team members – went silent.
Having already had three full-time remote employees prior to the pandemic, Hirons was well-suited to make the transition to remote work. Once the few kinks of that shift were worked out and our team members were safely in their homes, our pandemic response team put our heads together, brainstorming, “What’s next?”
We approached the situation just as we do any engagement with our clients – we researched. And then we planned.
We gathered information and materials from by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, Indiana State Department of Health and the Marion County Public Health Department. We also conducted an internal survey of all employee-owners, gauging their preferences and the pandemic’s effects on their individual lives.
We then shared an internal pandemic response plan with all staff. Including a number of policies and procedures to ensure everyone’s safety, the plan empowered employee-owners to make the return-to-office decision for themselves. We designed the 15-page document to center around one central message: “We are doing everything we can to make the office a safe environment, but we want you to use your best judgment to determine what is right for you and your family.”
Aside from a few people who found they preferred masking up in the office to the distractions at home, our office has stayed silent since March 16. It will likely remain that way through the end of the year, as we’ve made the decision to allow our staff to continue working remotely through January 2021, if they so choose.
It saddens me that we won’t be together. However, I am firm in my belief that making this decision – giving our team a date they could literally circle on their calendars – is the right choice for the holistic health of our employee-owners, clients and partners. Pandemic or not, no one benefits from uncertainty.