What leadership means in testing times

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The greatest challenge is uncertainty about how Covid-19 will develop and its impact.

The situation was, and is, developing rapidly and we need to manage that uncertainty for our people.

We are doing that by stepping up our communications and engagement, sharing what actions have been taken and what ongoing preparations are being made.

We are all altering our way of working and in addition to those caring for children, there are others who care for relatives. ACCA (Association Chartered Certified Accountants) is offering complete flexibility to its people so they can work from home in the best way.

This includes working outside normal working hours and at weekends or using annual leave at short notice and as flexibly as required so everyone can find creative solutions.

We’ve also reassured everyone that life is going on around us for those who are working from home and that’s ok. Hearing children in the background or in the shot of a video call is becoming the norm and that is not something to worry about.

Equally, we do appreciate that working from home and dealing with caring responsibilities can take its toll. Therefore, we’re encouraging people to really consider their wellbeing.

Our key message is that the health, safety and wellbeing of our people, members, students and partners is our overriding concern and will guide our actions.

We’re also ensuring everyone can see that we’re making well thought through but quick decisions in this ever-changing situation.

As far as possible, we are aiming to have consistency in the approach that we take globally. We are also consistent in listening to and following government advice in each of the countries we work in, albeit advice from each government may be different.

However, it is reassuring for people to know that we’re taking that approach and that we’re very closely listening to our people, our customers and our partners.

Generally, we are adapting well working from home. ACCA has had people working from home in parts of the world since January and we are sharing what’s been learned using their advice to help others.

They have especially talked about the importance of maintaining connections in a period where people are spending a significant amount of time on their own. Leaders are taking the time to check in with their people to keep in touch.

Equally, teams and individuals are creating their own ways to stay connected to each other. We are also using our internal intranet to contribute advice on wellbeing and to share creative solutions from around the world.

We are recommending that all our employees follow a few simple guidelines:

  • Separate work from home life. This may include agreeing boundaries with your household and closing the laptop at the end of the working day.
  • Make a working space. This guidance is as much about health and safety as it is about wellbeing and feeling like there is some way to leave work when your day is done.
  • Talk to your manager about priorities and deliverables. There is no doubt that priorities are likely to change and it’s important that we discuss these so as not to add additional pressure in these changing times.
  • Don’t be a stranger. Think about maintaining connections. Use video calls and think about virtual ways to replace valuable interaction that we have with others at work.
  • Make some time for health and fitness. Take breaks, stay active and build this into your daily routine where possible.

For me, good leadership is characterised by clarity, empowering teams to make decisions, and last, but not least visible leadership.

ACCA just held a Global Virtual Conference where we talked about our response to the crisis by holding an open virtual Q&A with the executive team to discuss our plans for the future.

Julie Hotchkiss is executive director, people, at global accountancy body ACCA.

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