-By Ruth-Beth Jackson, Principal Consultant-
Can you imagine going into a senior management role solely to recruit your team in order to build it up, and then the world as you know it goes into Lockdown within your first round of interviews? Well, this happened to one of my clients and I got to “sit down” via Zoom to discuss the experience. Their team is now full, but getting there was no walk in the park.
Job Title: Area Housing Manager
What was it like to start a new role before lockdown and manage a team during a pandemic?
“Not having the options of going out to support the staff but just being a name on a piece of paper was difficult. My role was to make sure everyone could work remotely. We had team calls every morning, but there is a thin line between keeping in contact and feeling like you’re bothering everyone.
I was recruiting during the entire pandemic so I had to think of a way to do everything virtually when before, everything was face to face, we had never done virtual interviews before. Now, it is the way forward.
I was mainly trying to engage my team, seeing what formulating a team virtually meant. At the beginning, it didn’t always fit in with what I knew, as it was an alien environment, you couldn’t walk up to people as you would normally. Just very strange!
It caused a little anxiety, you start to think if it is for you, all on your own the whole time, can’t ask anyone anything.
The caseload increased massively, unsure of whether we could even go out to do visits so it was the uncertainty that made everything 10 times more than what the situation was at face value. I questioned whether this was what I wanted to do with my life.”
What have you found has been the best way to stay in contact and manage your team?
“Microsoft Teams was the best way, it created a good bond, especially as it was a new team. Every morning, we had a meeting to discuss everything people had thought about so everyone felt included and heard. We also had a group chat where everyone got the message at the same time so there was no miscommunication. Also, calling occasionally to see how things were going.
After a while we asked them if they wanted to continue meeting every day virtually for a catch up and they said ‘yes’, as they found it really beneficial and a good way to set up the day first thing in morning.”
What are you most appreciative of that you got to experience with your team before we went into lockdown?
“I didn’t have a team before lockdown but I am appreciative that I’ve built my current team around personality. Not necessarily what they know as you can teach that. Otherwise it is sense of humour, resilience and people who will have a smile on their face and real energy, a sense of comradery when things aren’t going great for people. That is really needed during all of this.”
Have you had any staff leave for COVID-19 related reasons? If so, how have you navigated this?
“No one left due to COVID-19 itself, but people left due the new ways of working because of the lockdown. For example, as people were inducted from home (and not in the office) they did not get to properly meet the team or anything like that.
To be honest, I understand the anxiety that some of them would have when they did accept the role as people struggle to focus mentally during this time, adding a new role to the mix isn’t always manageable for everyone. Working from home, people have the personal struggle of not having anyone around, in a flat on their own and it starts to take a toll.”
In relation to managing, what have you found to be one of the most constant helps during this time of uncertainty?
“Trying to keep the team positive and let them know they don’t have to fix the world in one day. In the end, I told them to use a ‘To Do List’ and write what they were going to do that day and stick to it. Don’t worry about the next day and what they can’t fix, just worry about today.”
How have you made your home an office?
“Well, we had little budget for this as it was so unprecedented. However, I have a little area where I have made an office space but in the beginning, I went in headfirst: laptop open at 8am, finish at 8pm. I started questioning whether “this was for me”. I then started to realise I hadn’t actually separated my home from my ‘WFH Office’ mentally’.
Something had to change, I changed things little by little e.g. I started taking an hour lunch break even if it is was just a walk down the road to get a bottle of water or something. I came to the realisation that I was good enough, even if it wasn’t perfect, and I got my life back.
I still feel really bad that some of my staff are cooped up and some don’t even have a desk to set up on. I made sure they were able to come down to the office where they were allowed to take chairs, bluetooth headsets, monitors/screens and I’m glad this helped, even a little.”
Are you phasing back into the office yet?
“Yes, Officers are on a once a week rota basis or once every other week, and managers are in twice a week every two weeks, there is limited access but there is a manager in every day. However this might change due to the new restrictions”
Simply put, there are lots of uncertainties in the world, and even when things are going the way we plan it is easy for things to change at the flip of a hat. Hopefully, you will see that you are not alone in all the confusion 2020 has brought. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I would love to help you with any employment needs. Just pop me a line.
For those of you currently looking for a new role you can read my blog on what it is like to start a new job in lockdown by clicking here.
If you are thinking of applying for a new job or starting a job during this strange time, I would be keen to help you with any guidance needed. You can reach out to me over email Ruth-Beth.Jackson@oysterpartnership.com or by calling the office on 020 7766 9000.
Ruth joinedOyster Partnership in Oct 2016 straight out of her master’s degree. Since then she has never looked back. Ruth has worked hard over the years and has moved her way up in the Housing Management Team. She has developed new skills and abilities, and has gained an immense amount of knowledge and respect within the Social Housing recruitment world.