How not to prepare for a return to work
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
In my previous post, I listed the nine elements of gardening, that help to effect sustainable change. Little did I know that the UK's Prime Minister (PM) was about to demonstrate the risk of not doing the second of those elements, to prepare the soil.
On Sunday evening, in front of a primetime television audience of millions, the PM announced an easing of the lockdown, saying "step one from this week, those who cannot work from home should now speak to their employer about going back to work".
Later, in answer to a question about safety he answered, "there's guidance that we're publishing today and tomorrow about how to make places of work COVID secure, how do we transport COVID secure."
Unfortunately, the government had made their decision, without consulting those affected or those who would have to carry it out.
"What happens if an employee doesn't believe their employer has created a safe work environment?", asked, the leader of the UK's biggest trade union on the radio the next morning.
"We want to help people get back to work. Most of the sectors that cannot work from home are unionised, and we have experienced health and safety practitioners in almost every organisation. We can help. Why didn't the government ask us about how best to do this?" Employers' representatives and transport bosses were similarly, if less vociferously, at a loss to know how to implement the change.
This approach to change not unique to the UK government. Every day, people, in organisations of all sizes, make decisions in relative isolation. Then, after they decide, they start to think about how to get others to "buy in".
The weird thing about this case was that it would have taken a relatively small amount of time for the government to consult, given the consultation mechanisms already in place as a result of the crisis.
And who knows, maybe that would have resulted in a better solution? Or if not, at least, those affected would have been acknowledged and had their say. Never underestimate the power of acknowledgement when you want to make a change.
My point in writing this is not, however, to berate the government. My point is to ask you to draw a lesson from what the UK government did poorly. Think about what you can learn, for a change you want to make at work, or in your personal life. Ask yourself who is affected, who needs to help, and what you need to do to prepare the soil, to make your change sustainable.