Debbie Barnes, LEP Director and CEO of Lincolnshire County Council, takes a look at what the council has seen over the last 12 months in her blog.

2021 has demanded new thinking and new approaches but there is no doubt that most of us have welcomed the gradual release from restrictions, with a strong desire to get back to doing things in-person. I cannot wait to shake hands, give hugs, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others, let alone visit friends and travel abroad. I know I am not alone in feeling this way, but I also know that not everyone feels similarly. 

At the council, we have a lot to be proud of what we have achieved over the past 12 months in very challenging circumstances. Perhaps what I am most proud of is the way that we, the LEP, and our partners have responded to Covid and to the needs of our communities and businesses. We have supported health in the roll out of the vaccination programme, and risen to the increased pressures facing the health and the care sector.  We continue to engage with schools to ensure they can effectively manage the health and safety of their pupils, and our staff tell us that they have felt supported throughout the pandemic. I am especially proud of our health and wellbeing, and communication ethos we have embedded in our workforce. The Public Health service has been exceptional and I would also like to use this opportunity to extend my appreciation to the team for providing reassurance and clear and consistent messages to our communities.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the return to the office. Many of the council’s services are relationship-based, and is the most influential factor to improve outcomes and promote independence, and there is now a strong need for face to face connections. There are countless articles and reports coming out about how to re-open offices and organisations, work remotely, and maintain positive culture. As I read, talk to other leaders, and digest the input from those around me, I want to acknowledge a few personal thoughts.

Flexible work arrangements for the future are desirable, resulting from many months of effective productive remote work. It will be essential though, to acknowledge and embrace the valuable benefits that come when we are in-person and together. Relationships matter and we need to recognise that face to face connections do contribute to strong connections.

Communication and enjoyment remain key for me. We will get through this time of readjustment stronger if we communicate well on expectations, parameters, and needs. Not all will be met at all times, but that’s OK too. We can find positives in the opportunities to reconnect and collaborate in-person again as well as in those silver linings discovered in remote work! I remain optimistic for the future whilst reflecting on the contribution and dedication of staff not only in my organisation, but across all sectors and businesses. I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and safe and healthy New Year.

Debbie Barnes