Corona cabin fever: Your household provides a real life example of how teams respond to change

6 weeks into isolation and in our house we have reached, not quite a routine, but a way of operating, which has been honed through a balance of listening and negotiating through countless tears and tantrums.  In many ways it has been the most odd and challenging but equally fascinating and positive month of our family life.

It reminds me a bit of the chaos which unfolded when our first baby arrived. The first few weeks were a mixture of joy – being at home and special time with the family, with intermittent bouts of bewilderment and sleep deprivation.

Now, we are trying to combine work and home schooling. The same levels of joy, bewilderment and sleep deprivation as a general restlessness descended upon us all at night time.

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During these initial weeks, there was much disbelief and denial about how long this change would carry on for.  Could it really be as serious as we were being told? Surely the kids will be back at school soon? Moving to a general feeling of annoyance, from both me and the children about the concept of not being at school, but receiving an avalanche of school work to complete each week.  After this first fairly united reaction from the family unit, we have now each moved into displaying our own very personal and different reactions to this enforced change.  Ladies and gentlemen – yes, you’ve guessed it… We are all riding the infamous change curve!

The antics in my own house, and no doubt in countless houses up and down the country, are somewhat similar to those we experience in the workplace during so many of our projects.  In my personal microcosm, my kids have received the same communications from me and what they hear on the news about the situation, they have had equal access to fresh air, food, exercise and chats about what can and can’t do, but their reactions have been starkly different and are changing on a daily, or more accurately hourly basis.  One is very happy the majority of the time, but then is close to tears within a second. Another has morphed from a gregarious, highly motivated team player to be withdrawn and unmotivated at times and in need of much comfort than normal and my other child has found a new sense of purpose and strength in this crisis, which has astounded me.

I too have been on an emotional rollercoaster. The overriding feeling being one of responsibility.   Being a mother, who must keep her children safe.   Being an (untrained) educator for my children, whilst continuing to work.  Being an employer, who must keep our team safe, well and employed! And also feeling concern for my wider family and aging parents.  There is a lot going on in our heads!!

So what lessons can we learn from this to take back to the workplace and use when we are delivering or experiencing periods of change?

  1. Everyone goes through a reaction to change – each will be different.  Some may be quicker to accept change than others. This includes our leaders and managers. They need particular support as they will face the difficult questions from the teams and will need to provide answers whilst there is still ambiguity and uncertainty.  Having regular forums for leaders and managers to ask questions and share answers is key.
  2. The importance of listening – taking the time to understand personal circumstances and reactions to change.  A blanket approach rarely works.  Different types and levels of support will be required to meet the majority of needs.
  3. People react in different ways under stress – Your most reliable team member may be the one who needs the most support during times of change. You can’t assume your team will continue to function in the same way.  Watch out for those who withdraw or become quiet.
  4. Leaders emerge – you don’t need to have a senior title to be a leader during times of change.  Leaders lead by doing. Stepping up. Role modelling. Listening.  Usually in every team natural leaders emerge during periods of uncertainty and change.   They need to be quickly identified, encouraged and supported as they can help smooth the transition for others.

If you need help with riding the change curve in your business, please contact and we will set up a free consultation with a member of our team.

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