How to get through lockdown with a strong team and positive reputation

team high fiving after lockdownMark Topley explains how you can come out of lockdown with a cohesive, motivated and purposeful team.

Are you starting to feel the effects of lockdown? How are your team faring? It’s seems to be a tough time on every front. Although there are promising signs that the pandemic curve is flattening, there is still a long way to go. We are losing thousands of lives. Each one of them is a person who is gone before their time, and leaves behind a family who are devastated. Our frontline NHS teams and thousands of other key workers are fighting a battle that we all support. And the best way to support them is to stay at home.

We’re now through the ‘reaction’ phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. And we’re in the midst of what will be several weeks of ‘waiting’ before we can start the return to work. Are you concerned about the effect on your team’s cohesion and wellbeing at this time? Are you worried about losing ground in the relationship with your patients and your community?

If you are aiming to come out of this period of lockdown with a cohesive, motivated and purposeful team, and an even greater level of visibility and trust with your patients, there are four things that you need to pay attention to now to ensure that you manage the lockdown period successfully. This post will explain these as well as offering you a couple of free resources to help you implement the ideas.

An internal communications plan

One of the greatest risks to team cohesion is disconnection. Make sure you have a structured plan for how and when you will communicate with your team, and how they will communicate with each other as a bare minimum. Your plan needs to include daily contact with you, shared update times all together, a social element and a wellbeing aspect.

Get the team to share pictures and video of what they’re doing. It encourages the others as well as providing some good stories for social media.

If your plan isn’t comprehensive then you risk people making up their own narrative about the business and the situation. This weakens the emotional ties that you’ll need to be strong in the rebuilding phase. People need to feel they belong. It’s critical that you work to connect and build up the team regularly.

An external communications plan

Your patients, their families and your community are watching to see how businesses in their area are responding. Businesses that fail in this area are either saying nothing, or the wrong thing. Any good external communications plan will be consistently sharing information, news and human interest stories.

Make sure you communicate what you have done so far to respond and why, what you are planning to do to help your patients, team and community, and encourage your audience with some positive and encouraging messages. Otherwise you risk being judged unfairly by people who will interpret your silence as a lack of action or commitment.

For some great examples of what practices are doing in this area, take a look at my Facebook feed.

Consistent messages to your team

One of the challenges that clients are sharing with me is that they don’t know what to say when they talk to their teams. You need to remember just three things:

  • Sensitivity – your team’s emotions will be unpredictable at the moment. The impact of staying at home, uncertainty of the future and worries about health and money. So always communicate first with empathy and sensitivity
  • Positivity – this doesn’t mean ignoring the harsh realities of the pandemic, but it does mean giving your people the boost they might need. They need to believe that you have their back, and that you will get through the lockdown together
  • Long term – one of my mentors used to say that the job of the leader is to walk into work each morning and point people towards the horizon. You need to talk about life after COVID-19 and paint a picture for your team of a successful future. Although the path might be uncertain and the route unclear, the destination must be talked about. How are you planning to come out of this differently? Vision is paramount.

A way to keep your people purposeful

There’s a significant risk to people’s sense of purpose and wellbeing at this time. Depending on your NHS or private constitution, you’ll either have team furloughed or ready to redeploy. Either group can volunteer and this is the primary way to give people some purpose. It doesn’t have to be big things or take up a lot of time. But encouraging and celebrating volunteering will create stories that will be a critical component of the cultural glue that will hold you all together through lockdown.

Now that you are aware of these factors you can start to implement them and know that you’re doing the best you can to get through lockdown successfully. You’ll have a greater confidence that you’ve put the essential aspects in place to come through with a cohesive team and a positive reputation.


I’ve produced two free PDFs to help you implement the communications aspects. They include a social media CSR plan, and a CSR internal communications plan. Both are available from my website marktopley.co.uk/covid-19.

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