A Matter of Choice is a business consultancy founded in 2011 by twins Lesley Heath and Karen Powell in a bid to empower and equip females in male-dominated corporate environments, working with both men and women to make a change.
The consultancy now includes a varied portfolio of programmes, delivered to clients across the UK covering subject matters such as mental health and wellbeing, safety culture and behaviour, coaching and mentoring, leadership, management and talent development to name a few.
With uncertainty building and organisations left in the dark over issues surrounding staffing and finances, among other things, the pair have an important message for business owners as the world endures an unprecedented health pandemic with wellbeing at the forefront.
Karen said: “As a family-run business, we appreciate that this is a turbulent time for small businesses and independents. At times like this, it’s more important than ever to keep the best interest of our staff and clients in mind but given the social circumstances, it may feel like you’re balancing plates.
“One of the key programmes that we deliver to our clients centres around the topic of mental wellbeing. This is one of the most difficult societal responses to the current pandemic and is something that small businesses need to be mindful of in their management. We’ve seen that employees can be triggered by the ongoing media hysteria, which sets this pandemic apart from other national and global events in the past. In 2020, social media is more powerful than ever before with information being shared freely across the world. Unlike traditional media methods, social content cannot always be monitored and it’s not uncommon for misinformation to be passed around to thousands, if not millions of people. Employers need to be considerate about their employee’s personal responses to this information as fear can hinder productivity massively.
“From a practical standpoint, businesses need to take this opportunity to focus on their employee’s needs, with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs offering an insightful view into our priorities as a society. Whilst many are taking a positive approach in terms of their attitude, this is not enough. A more pragmatic strategy is to focus on what you can actually do as an employer to gratify your employee’s safety and physiological needs. At this time, people will be worried about their weekly shop, or whether they will be able to afford their next mortgage repayment. Be honest in asking for help as a business owner and encourage your staff to do the same, as pride can often be a barrier.
“We would encourage business owners to refer to the HMRC website for official guidance in this particular situation and share this with their network, friends and colleagues as much as they can to help raise general awareness. It’s a confusing time, so hold sessions with your staff to help them with any questions they have. One option is to get professionals to come in and offer some informative advice including a representative from the bank or HR, for example. The most important thing to take away is that people need practical help not just empathy.”
Lesley added: “Many of our young workers are vulnerable in the current climate as they haven’t experienced anything like this before in their lifetimes. It’s the duty of eldership to offer a rational viewpoint in these kinds of situations rather than impose or heighten any sense of panic that already exists. Many businesses are facing uncertainty, but employers have a duty of care to their staff that should be upheld in the first instance.
“As self-isolation and working from home become more prevalent as the days go by, staff working remotely can feel isolated. Whilst, numerous studies have shown that working in isolation for continuous periods can result in higher levels of stress and a decrease in motivation and general work performance, we are thankfully more equipped than ever to deal with this. We have an abundance of technology available at our fingertips that we can use to continue our workflow seamlessly and with as little disruption as possible. If your team are averse to new styles of working, factor in this learning period when it comes to setting deadlines and managing workloads. Things may take a little longer and that’s to be expected.
“Just because you’re working in isolation, doesn’t mean you cannot stay connected with your colleagues or your customers. Regularly touching base with your employees and co-workers throughout the day, whether it’s via a conference call or a group text is essential not just for productivity, but for each other’s mental health.
“It’s vital that as a business owner you trust your employees to complete their work and deliver measurable outputs but be realistic about what they can achieve given the barriers in place. Set up a system to measure deliverables at the end of each day without micro-managing which can lower morale.
“Whilst your team are working away from the office environment, it’s also a chance to focus on new priorities. Without the distraction of meetings, phone calls and the occasional tea break, your staff may be able to focus on getting projects finished or thinking of new concepts to better the business in the longer term. Now is the time to build your business behind closed doors and emerge stronger than ever once operations resume as normal.”
For more information, visit www.amatterofchoice.co.uk