Embracing the 'virtual' world of working #HRtogether

By Ian Pettigrew of Kingfisher Coaching, based in Manchester, UK. 

The coronavirus pandemic initially had little impact on my work, other than switching to online, and I continued to be busy. Some of my work has always been online, so this was an easy switch for me. Then - in the space of a few days - some work was postponed and my schedule looked unusually light.

Over the last month, most of the postponed work has been re-booked and I’ve gained new client work with both existing and new clients. Personally, things have been mixed. I’ve enjoyed the gentler pace of work, helped by lack of travel and I’ve enjoyed having extra time for research. There have, however, been family pressures (including 85 and 90-year old parents-in-law both having COVID-19).

I’m proud of the work I do and this has continued unabated. Providing support to the NHS and helping front-line care workers have been particular highlights. I’m co-founder of Connecting HR Manchester, a friendly gathering of people who do people stuff; We normally meet four times a year, but I’ve been really pleased to be able to run this via Zoom on a weekly basis to provide a friendly and supportive space for people. Resilience can be developed and it helps us deal with challenges, both big and small. It is a particularly essential skill at the moment and I’ve continued to provide support to my clients on this, and I’ve also had several brilliant opportunities to speak about this at events. I’m really driven by the impact I make, and I’ve been delighted to continue to have these opportunities.

I’ve also been working on practicing what I preach, something that I don’t always live up to. I’ve been keeping a daily resilience and wellbeing journal and that has given me some powerful insights. I’ve always struggled with fitness and weight (the two are closely correlated for me) and I’ve never found a sustainable way to keep fit. Until now. I’ve been experimenting with different habits and working on my mindset around this, and I’m making brilliant progress!

I started my career in digital, and working ‘virtually’ has always been part of my work; I’ve worked in the Middle East where I’ve run face-to-face programmes and then provided coaching virtually, and I’ve also got other clients where all the work is ‘virtual’ and I’ve never met them in person. I believe the ‘virtual’ experience can be a really positive, impactful, and engaging one and I’ve tried to do my bit to spread the word. We’ve used Zoom breakout rooms at Connecting HR Manchester to show people what can be done, I’ve run some workshops for people to help them get familiar with the technology, and I’ve also intentionally shared feedback from some workshops about how well they’ve worked. I’ve seen many people embrace new ways of working that I’m sure will continue in the future.

I’ve continued to value the CIPD and Association for Coaching as sources of professional advice, and my personal network has been invaluable. During lockdown, I’ve been having hugely helpful regular catch-ups with Kelly Swingler, David Faulkner, Alastair Swindlehurst, and Katrina Collier. I’ve also loved my WhatsApp conversations with the fabulous Connecting HR for Justice team I was in Ethiopia with last year and the fabulous team that I’ll be in Cambodia with at some point.

During this pandemic, some companies have gone up in my estimation and some have gone down. I’ve been really impressed with everything I’ve seen from Morrisons (Supermarkets) in the way they’ve treated staff and customers, and in their charitable support. Their rapid innovation in food boxes has helped me personally, as I’ve been ordering them for family. I also think the way Reward Gateway (disclosure: they’re a client) have behaved is fantastic; their mission is to make the world a better place to work and they’ve been openly sharing really helpful resources and I’ve been really impressed with everything about the way they’ve reacted.

My biggest challenge over the next 6-12 months? Not to let myself get too busy again and to make sure I carry forward the things I’ve gained from having a gentler pace of work. And to continue to practice what I preach!

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