I am annoying. For those who know me, it probably isn’t for the reasons you might think, well not on this occasion anyway, for this is the view of my teenage daughter.
It’s not unusual for daughters to think this of their mothers, and certainly not for mine to think it of me but I feel I am being judged a little harshly on this occasion – the reason I am annoying is because apparently I always try to find the positive in a situation. So I can only apologise in advance if what I’m about to say annoys you too – feel free to let me know if it does, my teenage daughter would love to know, she likes to be right.
So, deep breath and here goes, I can see some positives in our industry coming from the coronavirus. There, I’ve said it. I’ll go further and say also that , whilst it’s early days, we are already seeing some great changes taking place (albeit they are born from necessity) which support the need for inclusive workplaces I have been highlighting for some time now.
The unprecedented situation we find ourselves in with respect to coronavirus is affecting us all and is something we cannot escape from nor can anyone know what the coming days, weeks or months are going to look like. We are all in this together and that is creating a strong sense of community and empathy. We are all talking more freely across all departments and across all levels of seniority than we have done before because these daunting and unnerving times are hanging over every single one of us. I have seen changes in the way my own employees are interacting and the way they are pulling together in these adverse times and, when I have been brave enough to venture to the supermarket (I promise I’m not buying all the toilet roll), strangers who would normally be stony faced and quiet are interacting in a really positive way. Obviously that’s not exclusive to the shipping industry but from speaking with various managers and business owners lately, teams are really pulling together in ways they have not had to before and it is fantastic to see.
Various measures have been implemented by shipping and maritime employers from staggered working hours to workplace rotations and, for the first time in our industry’s history, we are encouraging, and even demanding, our employees work from home on a global scale.
The research we have been undertaking within our Diversity in Shipping study shows that only 6.5% of our employees have had the opportunity to work from home historically but that has changed dramatically and suddenly. Business continuity plans have necessitated the option of working from home and it is going to have to be effective, we have no choice. As more and more countries introduce tougher restrictions, the only way we can navigate these challenging times is by empowering our employees and trusting them to work at home. This will cause challenges because we are not geared up for it but with good communication and objective setting and clear reporting requirements, it is doable.
Millennials and Generation-Z are looking for more progressive workplaces which, as part of their offering, demonstrate themselves to embrace technology and to provide flexible working in a trusting working relationship that provides a better work-life balance than we presently have in shipping. Not only that, those who are seeking to make their workplaces more diverse need to encourage more women into the workplace, and to encourage parents to return after maternity or paternity leave and our working environments, and those who dictate the practices within it, are often not conducive to this.
Coronavirus has forced shipping to take a leap forward with respect to its employees that is long overdue. It will also encourage individuals who have been reluctant to consider any form of flexible working to experience it first hand and understand that it can work. There may be bumps along the way but I’m taking the positive view that once the hardship of this situation is behind us, we will reap the benefits of some of the measures we have had to take and choose to incorporate them into our ongoing working practices.