Lockdown fatigue and leadership - now!

This weekend is one month of lockdown in the United Kingdom. It is coincidentally the second payday since lockdown began. I say the second payday, but for tens of thousands of people, there is no payday. Their debit orders and monthly payments are not going to stop, only the inflow to their bank account will. Their final company payment may have been before now, or it came in yesterday. Many have a minimal prospect of another pay check while the unemployment figures and recruitment activity are going in starkly opposite directions. I am speaking of monthly-salaried employees, and many people who were paid by the hour or by the week saw their final pay two or three weeks ago.

It is hard to believe that it is only a month of lockdown. Still, then again, I am not living with an unemployed partner, or with children who cannot go to school and needing home-schooling. I'm continuing with my usual mode of working remotely in my comfortable apartment. I am sure that for many working households with children, this one month feels like several months. The initial 'novelty' of the new way of living and working is wearing off, and lockdown fatigue is setting in. People cannot wait to have the house to themselves, and if working, would prefer the commute and be back in a typical office environment. Many are predicting a significant move to remote working, but that's not everyone's cup of tea.

Lockdown fatigue Is not surprising. We need to see a transition of managers from reacting and managing to change, to leading and managing change now.

In this case, the responsibilities move from managers not only managing but also intentionally being leaders of change within your workplace. If this were a typical organisational change exercise, then this would already have been in your playbook. Because this transition happened in extraordinary circumstances, managers have not received as much guidance as will now be needed.

Let's use the ADKAR model and 3-phase process of Prosci to explain, as they are helpful in this regard. Prosci advocate that there are five steps to be followed in managing change. In ADKAR, you create Awareness of the change, create the Desire or motivation to participate in the change constructively. You then evaluate and provide the Knowledge that is required to deliver on the change and be sure that the employees have the Ability to translate the Knowledge into practice. The final step of the model is the Reinforcement of the change.

Looking at the 3-stage structure, Prosci has the broad headings of firstly Preparing for change, secondly Manage change, and thirdly Reinforce change.

Preparing for Change

The magnitude and velocity of the change in ways of working allowed very little time for preparation. It was a reactive process using whatever means were at hand for mobilising the organisation's resources to effect the necessary changes. Most organisations had about two weeks of real warning before lockdown. It took a couple of days to move out of the chaos mindset into sorting out the complexity into some kind of plan.

Awareness of the imperative of change was generated mainly by government and media. Your organisation could lag a little in your messaging.

Desire or motivation was similarly created by mass-messaging and not all specific to your organisation.

As we enter the second month of lockdown in the UK, as people tire of lockdown, as stress takes its toll, as tensions rise at home, organisational leadership is critical. There is a need to personalise the Awareness message. Reinforce why lockdown is still good for the individual and their household. Share what the company is doing to prepare for the immediate future.

It is urgent for you to lead with fresh empathy and clarity. Remove as much uncertainty as you can, and therefore create the Desire to continue to give of our best.

Revisiting Awareness and Desire is a key aspect of Reinforcement at this stage.

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