Updated on 18/01/2021
The coronavirus pandemic has seen a huge spotlight placed on the performance of businesses, under the tough and unpredictable macroeconomic climate. Less of a spotlight, though, has been placed on the people behind the scenes running those businesses.
Some CEOs and small business owners throughout the country have had to adjust from working in office environments to a world in which they are running their businesses from their living rooms. It’s a huge shift, especially considering that the number of challenges stacked up against them will likely have increased this year - involving anything from cash flow management to staff shortages.
In light of this, we’ve compiled some tips that may help SME owners in particular with running their businesses effectively while many of us continue to work from home moving into 2021.
If you think there’s a likelihood that your stakeholders are feeling the impact of the social isolation and anxiety induced by coronavirus, it may be time to develop or improve some of the skills that other CEOs are using to overcome them. Namely, empathy.
Showing empathy towards your stakeholders and employees alike; asking them about the challenges they’re facing and the worries they hold, could be a good way of strengthening the bonds between you and finding common ground.
Sarah Beale, chief executive of the UK's Construction Industry Training Board, believes empathy to be a key skill that is integral to navigating coronavirus challenges for SMEs. That’s because the types of challenges that business leaders are facing have generally shifted from being primarily data-led and technical, to becoming more trend-driven and people-focused.
Businesses may need to take a step back from their day-to-day operations and observe their customers’ evolving needs within the wider context of their industry. CEO’s, then, may then need to communicate regularly with their stakeholders (including suppliers, partnered businesses and investors) to ensure that priorities and values are aligned with every step they take forward.
Those who are able to connect with stakeholders in such a way may find themselves better able to form a shared approach to business that all parties can get behind, and may also find themselves being regarded as strong business leaders by peers.
‘Unpredictable’ and ‘uncertain’ are fitting adjectives used to describe the nature of change affecting the SME landscape during the pandemic. One of the consequences of this radical change for businesses is the frequent revision of employee priorities and objectives.
It’s therefore essential that you, as a business leader, can facilitate this change and rally your troops around common goals. McKinsey describe how having more frequent team meetings is proving to be a vital to success for some CEO’s, with increased communications even enhancing a team’s ‘metabolic rate’; that is, the speed at which it’s able to process information and make decisions.
Further methods for engaging your employees while running a business from home include having more face-to-face conversations, even if they’re digital, which should allow for clearer and more natural communication, and collaborating more with team members whose roles are naturally more isolated. CEO’s are ultimately responsible for developing new approaches to business that sees employees feeling inspired and motivated, and teams that do this well may be better equipped to respond to new opportunities.
Conversely, religiously sticking to your old processes and workflows may cause issues for team members who panic a little under the circumstances or haven’t adapted as well to the working-from-home shift. Consider connecting with these employees on an interpersonal level; perhaps getting to know their personal circumstances and their concerns.
It’s difficult to motivate a team and lead a good operation during a worldwide pandemic if your own mental health and wellbeing is suffering. So, prioritising your own self-care could potentially be profitable for your business.
Working in an office environment creates a clear physical barrier between your work and home life. After all, the office is an entire commute away from your living room, so you aren’t likely to struggle with allocating time to home or work-related tasks or keeping to those allocations.
However, the working-from-home lifestyles that some CEOs have adopted may be guilty of blurring the precious distinction between work life and home life. This could result in SME owners working around the clock or bringing work into the social space enjoyed with family or friends.
Not having a clear separation between work life and home life can have negative repercussions for everyone involved; with stress forcing people to take sick leave and recover. In fact, MentalHealth.org.uk state that ‘work related stress already costs Britain 10.4 million working days per day’, which can be particularly difficult to manage for smaller businesses and teams.
They also found that when working long hours, more than a quarter of employees feel depressed (27%), one third feel anxious (34%), and more than half feel irritable (58%). That’s a whole host of negative emotions that do not benefit your home environment. So, rebuilding boundaries and being strict with your time could be a smart way of maintaining a more balanced and healthier lifestyle. After all, what steps have you taken to construct new boundaries that substitute your commute?
If the answer is none, you could benefit from paying closer attention to the clock, making more plans to spend time with loved ones, and not allowing your work to clutter your social space.
Finally, it’s worth acknowledging that you aren’t alone. According to The Federation of Small Businesses, at the start of 2020 there were around 5.94 million small businesses - all of which have leaders who are trying their best to maintain a positive working environment, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you run into any roadblocks along the way. Instead, steel your resolve and you could look to upskill as much as possible by making use of NatWest’s Business Builder’s learning resources and support to best position yourself for success.
This has been prepared by Esme Loans Limited for informational purposes only and should not be treated as advice or a recommendation. There may be other considerations relevant to you and your business so you should undertake your own independent research.
Esme Loans Limited makes no representation, warranty, undertaking or assurance (express or implied) with respect to the adequacy, accuracy, completeness, or reasonableness of the information provided.
Esme Loans Limited accepts no liability for any direct, indirect, or consequential losses (in contract, tort or otherwise) arising from the use of the information contained herein. However, this shall not restrict, exclude, or limit any duty or liability to any person under any applicable laws or regulations of any jurisdiction which may not be lawfully disclaimed.