This week’s title is, of course, a quotation from the Bible: possibly the first one I’ve used. It’s Luke 6:31 – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
But, as always, I’m talking about business – not what I can vaguely remember of Dr McKenzie’s RE lessons…
I was talking to a friend of mine earlier this week. “We went out on Friday night,” he said. “One of our favourite restaurants. We haven’t been for sixteen months, so with things getting back to normal we wanted to support them. And eat out…”
So far, so predictable. But I’ve given what he said next a lot of thought.
“We were served by three or four different people. Someone took the order. Someone brought the drinks. Someone else brought the food. The owner came over to ask if everything was alright. None of them were wearing masks. And the longer the meal went on, the more uneasy I became. And I started to think, ‘You know, when I rang up and booked, you might have mentioned that no-one would be wearing a mask…’”
We talked about it. He and his wife have both had their second jab. As most of us do, they wore masks to go into the restaurant and then took them off when they sat down at the table.
As you all know, ‘Freedom Day’ was on July 19th. Yes, we’re going to be paying the bill for Covid for years and years to come. But as I’ve written many times, the only way we are going to do that is with a vibrant and growing economy. And so far all the signs are promising. The infection rate appears to be falling; consumer confidence is up and the forecasts for UK growth have been revised upwards – again.
It seems to me, though, that the gradual ‘return to normal’ is going to present employers and business owners with a challenge, relating to customers/clients and the people you employ. The simple challenge of doing the right thing.
And that’s where Dr McKenzie’s RE lessons are important.
Let me go back to my pal and the restaurant. Imagine if the conversation had gone something like this:
Hi. I’d like to book a table for two on Friday night
OK, that’s fine. But I need to tell you, sir, that none of our staff will be wearing masks
At that point he has a choice. He can go ahead with the booking, or he can say, ‘OK, thanks. I feel a bit uncomfortable with that, so maybe we’ll wait until the virus is firmly under control.’
I’d suggest to you that while that approach – in the short term – might have lost the restaurant a booking, being open and upfront about your staff not wearing masks is a far better, and more profitable, long term strategy.
“I felt really uncomfortable,” he said again. “I felt the restaurant didn’t take my health seriously.”
Is he overreacting? I don’t think so. It’s such a simple thing to say to someone – and could instantly create goodwill.
Ed, don’t forget that Nick is coming in for that meeting this afternoon.
Thanks, I’ll just give him a ring.
Nick? It’s Ed. Really looking forward to seeing you this afternoon, but I just wanted to give you a call. We’re still maintaining social distancing in the office and we’ve a lifetime’s supply of hand-sanitiser. So we don’t wear masks in the office. But if you’d prefer that we did, we’ll very happily do that.
What’s that last sentence? A dozen words. Five seconds to say it. It’s another of the changes we never anticipated in March 2020. But in the summer of 2021 ‘doing unto others’ can only benefit your business.
Hand-in-hand with the sensitivities of your customers or clients is the wellness of the people you work with. ‘Wellness’ as a term was first coined in 1950: it’s fair to say, though, that when I started this blog ten years ago 95% of people in business would have responded to the word with a blank stare.
Now wellness is front and centre, and rightly so. According to the ONS around 1 in 5 adults experienced some form of depression in early 2021. More than half of us have reported deteriorating mental health during lockdown.
Employers should be concerned about mental health for two very simple reasons: one, they’re good people so they care about the people they work with and two – very bluntly – it impacts the bottom line. Poor mental health leads to time off and loss of productivity.
But this is TAB UK: the first reason is the most important. We invest in the mental health of the people we work with – whether that’s delivering plants, virtual fitness classes or re-designing the office ready for when they come back – because it’s the right thing to do. Because, like one simple sentence about a mask, it is doing unto others exactly as you’d want them to do unto you.
‘It’s no use gazing out of the window thinking about football, Reid. You won’t learn anything that way.’
You know what, sir? I learned a lot more than I realised…