Leading in the “new-norm”: insights for business owners planning to reverse from lockdown and return their team to the workplace

As we start to look forward to slowly coming out of total lockdown and towards a new normal…what does, or will a “new-norm” look like?

Likely a question we are all asking ourselves, but unlikely any of us will be able to answer at any point over the coming months with any certainty.

The one thing we can say with certainty is that it will be constantly changing and evolving…

To live, work and thrive in these challenging times we need to embrace the change, recognise that we can’t fight it and at all times strive to do our best within the circumstances as they are at that point.

So, what does that mean for you as a business owner considering what the future of your business will look like as you bring it out of lockdown?

It means that regardless of the sector you trade in you know with certainty that the next period of business will not be as you envisaged it on Thursday 2 January when you walked back through the doors after the New Year celebrations and considered your plans for 2020. The plan you had then will most likely have been ripped up and re-written several times by now.

So, what should you do? How do you manage when you have limited data to build a plan from?

Initially, take stock – recognise what you had achieved with your business before this pandemic. Give yourself credit for that and remember that you haven’t lost those skills – it is the environment that has changed, for the time being.

With your trusted advisor be that Finance Director or Accountant constantly continue to revisit and revise your cashflow forecast – cash is king now more than ever – act promptly and proactively as necessary. Take control of the decisions, however, hard – be proactive, not reactive. Don’t procrastinate – things are changing at a pace, you haven’t time at present to analyse decisions to the nth degree – yes, use data to make informed decisions, but also trust your gut – you know your business better than anyone.

Next – make some assumptions, based on what you know now – or can, with reasonable confidence predict. Using these assumptions prioritise the actions you can take soonest that will make the greatest beneficial difference to your business – this maybe finding a way to have new client meetings face to face and in the office; or facilitating some in office team-working perhaps where gaps have been left with home working; it may be developing a new temporary route to market – we will all have experienced some great innovations over this period – pubs offering takeaway food and takeout beer, the garden centres that delivered…

Then plan…

Plan for how you can achieve this. But, keep a watching brief on the future beyond this stage.

No matter what your business looks like we will all need to consider the following in the appropriate form.

Your environment or route to market

You will need these to be Covid Secure. What does that look like for you now; what may it look like for you at the next iteration?

Use the relevant resources for your business available on, and linked from, the Gov.uk website. Sign up for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) newsletter to be made aware of updates as they occur. Consult your business insurers, refer to regulatory or professional bodies, seek professional expert advice as necessary.

Undertake a risk assessment and gap analysis between your usual working practices and the Covid Secure work practices you want to achieve. Remember that this should be proportionate – have mind to the ROI. Whilst an ideal maybe the whole team back in the office – it maybe that a reasonable level of investment will only allow you to have smaller “bubble” teams in; so, what can that team time be most effectively used for.

As you plan for one change, always have in the back of your mind the next step so that resource can be replicated, reused.

Your team...

It is most likely that the majority of your team will have been apart for some considerable time, whether working from home, or furloughed. As you make your plans be mindful of the impact of this; and the potential challenges that you and they will face coming back into the workplace.

As you plan consider the ongoing challenges some team members may face to come back to the workplace – they may have school age children that they still need to home-school. They may be shielding or shielding a family member – what does that mean for their ability to return to the workplace. They may have lost a family member and be grieving. They may have been ill and will need a further period to fully recuperate. It is likely that some will have struggled with lockdown and their mental health during this period.

So not only do you need to be mindful of individual circumstances and challenges; but you should recognise that there may well be ongoing issues with wellness as you work towards and in the new-norm. Consider your employees limitations and what support you can put in place for team members – either globally or individually.

The best thing you can do is to continue to regularly engage with your team. You should recognise that you don’t have all the answers – who does? Ask for their input as appropriate, if you work together you are more likely to be able to solve some of the problems. Ask them what they are most concerned about – it may be whether they can carry forward some holiday; or how they are going to get to the office as they usually use public transport at rush hour; or will they be safe at work, are colleagues they will be working with respecting social distancing rules.

Communicate, communicate, communicate…

Whilst you communicate with your team – remember your clients, customers. How are you engaging with them, what is your message? We all want to get back to a new, less lock-downed norm as quickly as possible. Most of us recognise the challenges that business has and are facing and want to support those we usually interact with.

How can you continue to engage with your clients / customers? How best should you keep them informed as to ongoing changes? Have you client advocates that you could involve/consult as you consider your plans? Again, have confidence in your own knowledge of your business and your customers.

And finally – remember You.

Whilst the above is sensible and logical – “individual you” has also lived this period. You may well be facing one or several of the aforementioned challenges. Alongside these personal challenges, You as the business owner will, possibly along with a partner, or senior colleague(s), have had the pressure of making significant business decisions – often reactively, without the usual planning cycle. Ensure that you are kind to yourself, are mindful as to your wellness and seek support as appropriate.

This may look like giving yourself permission to take time out each day to exercise; it may be turning to a trusted critical friend, or finding a group of likeminded Business Owners that you can bounce ideas off; or it may be giving consideration to the impact the business change has, may or will have on your personal finances and future plans.


Henwood Court Financial Planning can work with you as your personal finance director and as you would for your business, review the impact of this pandemic on your personal finances – providing you and your family expert planning and guidance. To book an initial ‘virtual’ meeting with a Chartered Financial Planner where we can answer any practical questions you may have about your own affairs or how we work please telephone the office on 0121 313 1370.

For the opportunity to join with other Business Owners in a supportive environment watch this space as Henwood Court Financial Planning looks to extend the Businesssense® support for Business Owners from the current Businesssense® expert articles on practical business matters and the “Guidance for Business” webinars to, as face to face meetings once again become possible, launching the Businesssense® networking meetings.

Meantime reflect on this quote from Reinhold Niebuhr:

“…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”


Be brave, be wise, be kind.




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