Supporting Changes in the

Work Environment

Economic Changes

Well, there could be economic changes that your business will experience at different points. Today, more than ever, sees many economic changes with the Bank of England warning us that we will plunge into the largest and longest recession experienced in 100 years (The Guardian, 3/11/2022). The effects of this recession could be catastrophic for many businesses, not only will they lose many customers, but they could also face interest increases on their mortgage and/or loans too.

If You Saw The Future...

Time To Try The Lean Way?

Take a good look at your business – is it healthy? Will it survive a recession? Or do you need to make some drastic changes to bring it into shape? Before deciding to cut staff, product sizes or anything else, it is important to analyse the company’s waste first. As I’ve discussed in many of my blogs before, implementing the Lean Management Techniques in Business is the best way to start and continue. An earlier blog post examines that the best way to begin is to conduct a Productivity Needs Analysis to analyse what forms of waste your business is accumulating.  

What If A Supplier Raises Their Prices?

Consult The Experts

Although Martin gives advice for the home environment, some of his instructions can be transferred to the office environment. For example, many offices prefer blinds up on their windows because they look modern and professional. However, Martin suggests the use of ‘Tactical and fleece-lined curtains’ could save you up to £30 a year on energy bills (Utilities Team 2022). He also suggests another way to combat the draughts is by implementing the good old draught excluders. I’m sure we all remember the old sausage dog draught excluders when we were younger, well these are definitely making a comeback for sure. You want to keep as much heat in the office/rooms as possible, so lay those sausage dogs underneath the space between your door and the floor. If you feel like the curtains aren’t enough, he also suggests fixing “…cling film onto windows when it gets really cold”. Also, if you have a combi boiler in your building, set the flow rate to 60°C, instead of the usual higher settings, you could save over £100 a year. The office kitchen fridge/freezer could also save you money as “Martin advises a fridge to be 5C while a freezer should be -18C.If it’s colder you are wasting more than is needed”. If you have any empty offices/rooms, Martin recommends turning off the heating in those rooms, as this could save you a massive £70 a year (Singh.E., Fanders.J. 2022). As you read through his recommendations on the article, you will find other radiator tricks involving foil which can also save £25 a year!

Everyone loves a good coffee, not always restricted to the designated coffee breaks either. Remember, the more water you boil, the more energy you use. For example, if you and a colleague are the only ones having a coffee/Tea, then make sure you only fill the kettle to the 2 cup mark (slightly more for mugs). By doing so, you could save up to £13 a year. This may not sound a lot, but when you add it to the other savings, it soon mounts up. Martin also reveals that it could save even more money by boiling a large kettle at the beginning of the day and filling a large flask for hot beverages during the day.

Offices have lots of technology, but if you leave them all on standby, the costs can mount up. Try and get into the habit of switching everything off at the end of the day and you could start saving around £65 a year! (Utilities Team, 08/11/2022). If you’re not sure where to start convincing your employees to start turning everything off, then leave little reminders near the switches and at the door leaving the offices/rooms.

Technological Changes

As technology and processes improve, we can find ways to implement improvements to the business. This might include streamlining supplier relationships; providing quicker, simpler purchasing for customers and improving business listings. Because the world of technology is a fast-changing place, things are having to be improved all the time so we can complete tasks easier and keep the customer happy. If you find that staff are unwilling or unable to learn more about the new technologies that come into the workplace, they will be unable to complete their role effectively. This could result in unnecessary delays and customers becoming dissatisfied with the service. If the staff are unable to learn about the new technologies, you need to find out why and examine how they can overcome any barriers they may have in the way. These obstacles can be overcome by implementing extra training options to cater for all abilities. If they purely refuse to learn the new technologies, the company must try to encourage them to understand that it not only helps the business, but it would also help them to fulfil their job role easily and quickly. Team meetings would be a good place to encourage everyone to participate in the conversations regarding the new technology and discuss the training methods and what goals the company is striving to achieve. With all discussions focussed mainly on the training and new technologies, this will hopefully encourage the non-participants to join in.

So, How Do We Support Change?

When the business needs to go through a change, it is necessary that all members of staff are given the opportunity to have their say and participate fully in the change. They will need to know why the changes are taking place, what we expect the outcome of the change to be and how long we expect the change to take before we start seeing improvements. Speaking with staff members can also uncover potential problems or improvements that may have been overlooked. By providing all staff with the relevant training and support, the staff members can feel supported and confident with the changes that are taking place. It is important that all staff receive the practical, emotional support and guidance on how to adapt to the latest changes and the reassurance that they are doing an excellent job.

In the first instance, it is good practice to gather every staff member together and discuss the changes as part of a team. It’s never good practice to mention changes in passing and then having rumours circulating (Change Models – Kotter, 2014). This would make team members feel devalued and start worrying about their role in the company after the changes. Ideally, changes should be agreed and implemented over a certain length of time. This is to enable all members of staff to be introduced to the changes and enable them to adapt to the changes without any unnecessary stress. For those that don’t adapt well to change (and there are a lot of us!) in the work environment, as well as the general support, guidance and reassurance, some staff members may need coaching and counselling to enable them to accept change more effectively. There needs to be plenty of time given for staff to be able to ask questions and to understand what’s happening each step of the way. For the introverts (again there are many of us) who don’t feel confident speaking up in the team meetings, it would be helpful for them to be able to discuss anything they are unsure about after the meeting. Therefore, the person who held the team meeting should hold back a few minutes after the meeting for this purpose. If, for example, this is not possible, then the least that should be done is hold an open door policy to their office. It may be helpful to have team meetings more often while going through the changes, so concerns can be raised, and management can provide clarity and reassurance during each step of the process.

Benefits Of Working With Others Through Change

The benefits of working with others, is the valuable support you are able to give to each other during challenging times. And, no matter how much preparation you do beforehand, change CAN be very challenging at times. If some members can’t really grasp the need for the changes, the rest of the team can not only help them understand the need for it, but can also play an active role in  helping them to take part fully in the changes (Change Models – Kotter, 2014). An example of a rather substantial, and immediate, change was in an ice cream shop we used to frequent in a small village in Cornwall. As Covid-19 swept through, businesses had to close, or go solely online to succeed the long lockdowns. The ice cream shop was run by a lovely family from Thailand. They were affected by the lack of tourism to the village and decided to change the ice cream shop into a Thai takeaway. They had obviously realised that takeaways were still open and functioning more than ever, so they decided to make that change to meet customer demand. Then, when the restrictions were lifted, they returned to being an ice cream shop during the day in the summer months, keeping the Thai Takeaway service for the evenings and winter months. The key here is that the owner saw an opportunity to work through the covid restrictions and his family/staff were all on board with the plans. They managed to become versatile and adapt to change to suit their customer’s needs. If the staff were unwilling to adapt to change in the business’ needs, the owner may have needed to close the shop completely until the restrictions had lifted. This would mean a large loss of profits and the staff being furloughed. Instead, they were able to continue serving their community and give them an extra service once the restrictions had been lifted.

Work Together

Responding Positively

We’ve discussed that we must try to embrace change wholeheartedly, but how do we respond physically to the changes? There are several ways that this can be achieved, and these can include:

  1. Keeping a positive outlook – Try to keep a positive outlook on the situation, then others may feel able to follow suit. For example: if a manager walked around with a worried expression on their face, this may make everyone around them feel like they should be anxious about the change too. However, if the manager had a smile on their face, then it could send the message to other staff members that change is not a thing to fear but a thing to embrace and take part in. By smiling, everyone can brighten up their own outlook on the situation that they face too.
  2. Enjoying the chance to change and adapt – try seeing the changes as a positive. By examining what benefits the changes can bring to our organisation and our job role, we are able to accept the changes more easily. If we concentrate on examining the negative aspects of the changes, we are less likely to want to participate.
  3. A willingness to learn – it can be so easy to stagnate in a job role, therefore it’s important to have the willingness to learn new things, new processes and skills to stave off the stagnation.
  4. A willingness to teach – after applying what you have learnt into your daily job, it’s good practice to make sure that everyone understands what is expected of them during the changes. For example, if a staff member took part in the same training as you did, but they didn’t completely understand, then you would be able to guide them with your knowledge. Or if someone was unable to attend due to absence, then you would be able to update them on what the training entailed and guide them to fulfil their role in the changing business environment.
  5. A willingness to solve problems – when taking part in the changes, there may be various issues that arise. By tackling these issues as soon as they occur the change process can continue effectively. If the issues weren’t resolved and were left to fester, the consequences would have a detrimental impact on the roll out of the changes.

So, as we’ve seen, it’s not only important that changes do occur for a business to thrive, it’s also key that all parties involved are participating fully in the process. It is important that the changes are embraced fully by all involved and that everyone responds with a positive outlook to these changes. Therefore, as a senior member of staff it is important that you have no doubts or if for any reason you harbour some, try and resolve them as soon as possible either in supervision time or by organsing a meeting with your manager. Try not to carry any doubts forward onto your team. These doubts can quickly fester and take away your teams motivation and trust. Everyone must be on board.

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