Managing and motivating during challenging times

In this blog, some of our GGS managers reflect on how they approached managing and motivating staff during the challenging Covid period.

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In this blog, some of our GGS managers reflect on how they approached managing and motivating staff during the challenging Covid period.

Get in touch

Reflecting on a challenging year

We all know how challenging the last year has been for everyone. The pandemic has made balancing our personal and professional lives even more complex than usual. And remaining positive and motivated hasn’t always been easy. Managing and motivating staff to ensure they felt both supported and valued has been a challenge for all line managers.

Here, four of our GGS managers share their experiences of managing and motivating staff during this difficult period. We imagine many of our experiences will resonate with many of you. And we hope sharing these experiences helps to support on-going conversations about how we take care of our staff and support them professionally and personally.


Heather Rutter

Senior Geo-Environmental Consultant

“Before the pandemic hit back in March 2020, I was relatively new to the world of line management. So I was quickly thrown into the role of managing staff members during an exceedingly turbulent time.

My approach involved trying to always keep ‘an open door policy’ with other staff members. My hope was to try and ease the increased isolation. I tried hard to make up for the loss of physical communication that normally happens in an office environment.”

Heather Rutter - sharing tips on motivating and managing during challenging times

“I particularly stressed the importance of staff attending to their physical and mental health. For example, I routinely encouraged staff to get outside and away from their desks.

As new and unfamiliar schemes came into fruition, such as furlough, I needed to display a heightened level of empathy and understanding. Whilst also coping with staff members nerves about potentially being off work for extended periods of time, as well as job security.

I endeavoured to always make it clear how much we value our staff at GGS. And that the primary goal was keeping our staff’s jobs and futures secure.”


“Remain empathetic and remember we are all going through the same changes together.”


Photograph of Matt Askin - GGS manager sharing experiences of managing and motivating

Matt Askin

Technical Manager

“At the beginning of the pandemic, it was clear that significant change and challenge was immediately facing my team.

My aim at the time was to try to make sure my staff were as informed, reassured and prepared as possible. To do this, I set aside any sense of hierarchy and just spoke with my colleagues as people.

We discussed available preparations and made immediate plans for remote working. We discussed likely impacts on us, our friends and families and our company.”

“As the first wave developed, I continued with regular formal and informal check ups using virtual face-to-faces wherever possible.  My main aim throughout this very unsettling period was to try to be an approachable and accessible colleague. I aimed to help my team manage the various practical challenges we faced through a rapidly changing and challenging period.”


“Be a person first, a manager second”


Caroline Howarth

Communications and Marketing Manager

“Before joining GGS, I was in a team leader role during the early stages of the pandemic. During this time, I had to manage my team’s changing working practices (like moving to home-working) and shifting work programme priorities.

Key to my approach was ensuring I created sufficient time and space for my team to talk to me, and each other, about what was happening and how we could best support them through these challenging circumstances.

I focused on helping my team set realistic and achievable expectations for themselves, and ensuring we continued to celebrate our successes.”

Photograph of Caroline Howarth - Communications and Marketing Manager

“What became clear to me was that the time and effort I had put into building strong, trusting relationships within my team helped us to come together and support one another during this difficult time.

By putting the effort into developing these relationships during the ‘good times’, it meant that my team felt they could trust me, and each other, to be able to speak openly and ask for the support they needed.”


“Develop strong, supportive team relationships built on trust that you can draw on during difficult times”


Photograph of Joao Dyer - Operations Manager

Joao Dyer (JM)

Operations Manager

The last 18 months have been challenging for all of us. The pandemic posed threats that few of us could have predicted or even imagined.

Each staff member had unique circumstances in their personal life which the pandemic exposed and caused a degree of anxiety during this period of significant change – from paying the mortgage or rent, balancing care commits for young and elderly relatives, or looking after their mental health.”

“Understanding each member of staff’s needs and concerns was vital to providing the support they needed. Listening to them through regular conversations and taking clear action on issues they highlighted was key to reassuring them throughout periods of uncertainty.

GGS is a close-knit business, and the beauty of this was that from our most recent graduate to the managing director, we were all in this together as a big family.  Each of us trying to do our best to make a meaningful impact that would help the business survive, protect our jobs and in turn, bring stability and security to our personal lives.

Despite a turbulent year, the result has been stronger relationships and more confident staff, who can thrive as we move past this pandemic and beyond.”


Get to know your staff, consider their needs, and treat them how you would like to be treated under the same circumstances.”


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