Reflecting on Aspirations, Goals and Great Salad…

Let’s face it the Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging to say the least. Lockdowns, furlough, mask-wearing, and social restrictions, need I say more, they’ve all taken their toll and changed our behaviour long term if not indefinitely.

I’m writing this as we approach February, how can it be almost February? Time flies when you’re having fun as they say…maybe that line should read ‘time flies when you are busy’…and this got me wondering…

How the Covid upheaval has changed the way you plan, set goals or even make resolutions, both personally and in business? 

I’m thinking about this because Covid-19 is like nothing we’ve experienced before, well not in my lifetime, the ever-changing situation made it extremely difficult to plan, we were all waiting for that next curveball…

To give you some perspective on the scale of what we’ve just endured, the Office for National Statistics reports, that the 2008 recession had a ‘smaller’ impact than the COVID-19 pandemic on individual industries and the economy. 

So, as we’ve almost come through January, a major time for goal setting and new beginnings, I’m pretty sure I can guess what the more common resolutions are that people set themselves at this time of year?

According to Statistica.com in the UK a whopping 43% of us pledge to exercise more, another 40% of us pledge to lose weight, these figures do not come as a surprise, at this very point in time I’m enjoying the renewed enthusiasm I have for a veg loaded diet.

So what about the less common resolutions?

  • 10% plan on becoming vegetarian or vegan – higher than I expected
  • 17% plan to stop smoking – less than I expected
  • 19% want to spend less time on social media – fully agree
  • 20% want to cut down alcohol – higher than expected

For the employers amongst us, here are a few you might want to take note of:

  • 17% of people want to reduce levels of stress in their job
  • 25% want to spend more time with family and friends and 43% want to eat more healthily.

I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s one thing the pandemic has altered and that’s the way we work. Prior to the Pandemic, just a few job roles gave real flexibility on where and how the majority worked, the daily commute to the office was the norm for most. I don’t think any of us could have imagined just how much this would change when suddenly almost overnight whole buildings full of employees were suddenly sent to work from home.

Since then we’ve seen an incredible shift in both employers and employees views on flexible and remote working. A 2021 study by the University of Strathclyde reported that 78% of respondents asked said they would prefer to work in the office for only two days or less and almost a third – 31% said they would prefer not to spend any time at all in the office. It’s no surprise then that we see this reflected in those resolutions, with 25% of people wishing to spend more time with family and friends.

So, coming back to business, employers really have to take this research seriously, after all a happy workforce is likely to be a productive one…and whilst none of us wishes to see our town and cities become a ghost town, these efficiencies can have an impact on the bottom line in more ways than one.

A blog by happy.co.uk reports on 9 benefits of a happy workforce, here are a few of their happiness highlights:

  • Happiness encourages creativity
  • Happy employees are better at handling adversity
  • Happy employees are better at sealing the deal
  • Happy employees stay
  • Happy employees provide better service

Covid-19 meant many people spent more time at home and whilst that’s not great for everyone, for many it was enough for them to take stock and re-think what is important in their lives. But Covid’s not the only thing we had to deal with, Brexit for some was a bit of a double whammy…

Now more than ever, businesses need to get these things right:

  • Improve working conditions permanently for their existing employees
  • Attract and retain the best people
  • Ensure those employees are well rewarded and recognised appropriately 

There are more but…the harsh reality is that getting these things wrong could be very costly, each employee that leaves has a cost to replace and train, and then there is the impact on your customers and any loss of trade. Businesses these days can ill afford to allow their competitors to get the upper hand.

With all of this in mind and corny resolutions aside, do you have firm goals in place for your business? Have you considered what might be best for the business but also what’s best for your employees? Most of all do you consider yourself to be a ‘good’ employer?

If you do, congratulations, if you don’t, you might want to consider the longer-term repercussions for your business!

Luckily there is help at hand, the ‘good work’ agenda is a hot topic across many UK local authorities and here in the North East the North of Tyne Combined Authority recently launched their Good Work Pledge. It’s a zero-cost scheme to recognise those businesses putting people at the heart of their organisations and it provides a pathway for businesses who may need a helping hand to start their journey to ‘good work’. Businesses can apply at two levels and become part of a community where they will support each other to do the right thing. Why not sign up today?

It’s never too late to revise or renew those goals and ambitions even if you’ve let them slip just a little……anyone for a salad?

Caroline Preston – Economy and Policy Advisor (Business Engagement), North of Tyne Combined Authority