It’s deeply admiring when you see someone with the strength to stick to their New Year’s resolutions for the whole twelve months. Whether it’s knuckling down with those piano lessons or training for a marathon, setting and keeping a challenging goal is one of the best ways to develop yourself.
And while 2020 may have been a particularly tough year for keeping resolutions — especially for businesses — it doesn’t mean 2021 has to be more of the same.
Andrew Cooke, Strategic Director at leading office space provider Bruntwood Works, believes that it’s possible for businesses to stay steadfast to their New Year’s ambitions.
“If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that success today comes in the form of adaptability,” says Andrew. “Companies can thrive in 2021, whatever is thrown at them if they put the time into creating a flexible strategy. In January last year, we didn’t know what we were facing: now, the world is more prepared, and businesses should be too.”
Bruntwood Works reached out to the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) to find out how businesses facing another unprecedented year can prepare themselves to achieve what they want to in 2021 — no matter what comes their way.
1) Assess the risks
“First of all, businesses will need to look ahead and assess all the risks in front of them,” says IOSH Health & Safety Business Partner Stephen Thomas.
“Now is the time to review goals and assess priorities, as well as any mitigations. Businesses should ask themselves whether their goals are achievable in the current business climate. How will they withstand the double challenge of COVID-19 and Brexit?”
Stephen asserts that surveying the landscape should be inwards as well as outwards. “This process of monitoring and reviewing should also include your business’s level of preparedness and ability to respond to these and any other changes.”
It’s not all bad, though. “Change can be both positive and negative,” says Stephen. “You’ll need to see not only the threats that lie ahead but also the opportunities. You’ll be surprised at how many can be found even in the most difficult circumstances.”
2) Keep your eyes on the prize
It’s not enough to outline your objectives at the beginning of the year. In a season where change is ever-present, reviewing your progress regularly is more important than ever.
“Horizon scanning is essential, so make it a regular facet of your business,” says Stephen. “Identify potential risks to your plan as early as possible so you can mitigate them.
“A risk register should be established and regularly reviewed by assigned owners with goals assessed at all levels to make sure they remain achievable.”
“Keep monitoring and reviewing things as you move forward, learning lessons along the way and putting that learning to best possible use.”
3) Invest into a team-based work environment
For millions of people, an enforced work-from-home year has exposed just how much we take for granted the natural collaboration that happens in shared workspaces. Working together will be essential for the survival of companies across the UK in 2021 — those lacklustre video calls aren’t going to cut it in the long-term.
“The challenge is to get all the different teams within a business working together,” says Stephen. “So HR, communications, line management — they should all play a part in keeping employees motivated, engaged, safe and healthy in their work.”
Stephen believes that new management practices are the key to unlocking effective collaboration. “Put good management systems in place and use them,” he says: “Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA).” Keeping staff focused on working together to achieve short-term goals means that those 12-month objectives are far more likely to stay within reach.
4) Nurture a positive culture
It’s easy to spot when someone isn’t themselves in an office. But when we have to speak through a screen, toxic negativity can go unnoticed until it’s too late.
Stephen says that businesses can address and manage negativity at all levels by extending support for employees who may feel they’ve fallen under the radar during the pandemic.
“Think about your people and the culture you are creating. It’s always important to support your employees and have the right arrangements and systems in place. This helps secure their engagement, productivity and compliance but also protects the bottom line.
“This support doesn’t always have to be financial or costly, but failure to act can have an impact on turnover,” says Stephen. “It can lead to litigation (either on the HR or health and safety front) and prosecution, cause lost time and productivity, and have a negative impact on corporate reputation.”
5) Promote good mental health from the top
One positive that’s come out of 2020 is that companies across the UK have seen just how important it is to prioritise mental health. But for those businesses whose workloads actually increased during the pandemic, burnout has been far too prevalent in senior staff.
Stephen asserts the need to model good mental health from the top down. “It’s vital that senior leaders support themselves, look after their own health, safety and wellbeing and be a leader and role model in this. Positive promotion of mental health support will be key [in 2021].”
Companies who put wellness plans together for their staff and emphasise that senior team members limit their overtime will reap the benefits in the later months. Senior managers who know how to take a break set a good example for junior team members, creating a positive work environment in which people feel cared for and motivated.
6) Put your staff first
The resounding message for businesses looking anxiously ahead at 2021 is that the best strategies to achieve their resolutions put people first.
“Never neglect the health, safety and wellbeing of your employees,” says Stephen. “Build employee support and resilience into your KPIs.”
Despite what the next year might have in store, companies today can take the lessons they’ve learned from 2020 and apply them from the outset to succeed despite the circumstances.