CEO Roundup: Difficult Decisions and a Sense of Solidarity
Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home Interim CEO, Lindsay Fyffe-Jardine, shares the highs and lows of a very difficult week for the Home.
Monday 23rd March
Just like the Monday before there is a strange atmosphere in the air, perhaps it’s because this isn’t a normal Monday again as I speak with the team on our daily sitrep morning calls. As the day goes on it’s not that and I think it’s the growing sense of something is about to change again. There’s chatter of the prime minister’s speech tonight and what will happen. Could there be a public lockdown? How far will this go? What does this mean for us? These are all questions racing through my head and burning into my brain for answers. After a day of prepping everyone for what was to come as best I could I got home that night and found myself walking for two hours at pace down by the coastline of Edinburgh knowing it would likely be the last time I would be able to move with freedom in this way for a while. I couldn’t tell if my legs were like jelly from the walk or from what I was hearing when I watched the address that night, but I knew it was going to change everything.
Tuesday 24th March
I woke up this morning to a sense of knowing that the toughest of decisions and actions lay before me. How it felt to be the first CEO, albeit interim, to have to close the Home to the public in its 137 years in response to a global pandemic is hard to describe. I spent the day with a heavy heart but knew that I wanted the team to know we would get through this. I held another virtual team meeting today to talk to everyone about the closure and what services we would be keeping open. Yet again I’m blown away by the team atmosphere and drive to do best by the animals and our community. That gives me the boost that I need to make sure we have everything in place to be able to keep essential services open. I know though at the back of my mind that we would now have to access the government’s employee retention scheme. I spent that night dreaming of furlough and trying to process what that would mean for our team. Another day and another challenge lies ahead for tomorrow.
Wednesday 25th March
Today became the day where the new normal of being closed set in. I felt really proud that we had worked to keep our essential lifeline services open along with our care for the dogs and cats. The fact that the public can reach out to us, can access our foodbank, bring a dog or cat to us that they can no longer look after and the police and council can still access their stray services is something I know that remains essential. Our phones are still buzzing away, and the team are aware of what’s happened in European countries before us with the influx of dogs and cats into their shelters. I know that we need to get through this crisis to be there for those who will need us in the coming months. As a society we are all longing for normality but we will definitely be caught in the pandemic’s vicious after affects long after we return to walking our streets. We need to be there to do what we do best and that’s deliver our mission. Today is the day though where furlough plans are underway and key managers across the organisation are part of the planning and agreements. Its tough going, a delicate tightrope of protecting the organisation and people’s jobs along with our culture. Tomorrow I address the team directly in a virtual team meeting to ensure that I do my utmost to keep that critical culture intact as we move forward on this plan.
Thursday 26th March
All of those going on this special leave for us to access government support know now. I’m blown away by the graciousness and positivity that has been shown by the team but I know it’s hard on them-they want to do their job, they want to help our animals and support our community, they don’t want this crisis to be happening. This crisis has taken away the ability for us to have control over so much but as I sit on another virtual team meeting and see people’s reactions to my updates, I know that the team are pulling together even more. These are the little moments that boost me like a battery pack, they make me know that our team and our organisation has to be okay-we’ve got too much good happening here for it not to. On a personal level now that life has also changed my husband and I are splitting the care and working day between each other for our rambunctious two-year-old who thinks we’re all on an extended holiday together. So, I go from my virtual team meeting and constant calls with the team across the organisation to learning some new moves on a virtual toddler hip hop class. While I’m jumping around my living room with my daughter, I’m reminded that there’s a need to build in time for life to be lived in its odd limited way right now. So, before the next calls come in, I’ll keep jumping around with her to remind me to live!
Friday 27th March
Well I feel like I have lived enough change this week to last me three lifetimes and I know there is more to come. I’ve sort of adjusted myself the best I can to this new reality of virtual working but this all still feels very temporary and not real. I’ve spent the day settling the team into our new world order with some of them being on furlough from Monday and some remaining front line. A number of them have asked-how long will this go on for? Getting that balance between positivity and reality matters a great deal to people during such uncertain times and I do my best to navigate those conversations. It’s hard for the team to know we go into our first weekend not rehoming. It’s hard to fathom that there are dogs and cats with us who can’t get new homes and second chances until this lifts. I find that reality causes me a little heartache when I think about it. I know though that the team are spending every moment that would have been spent on rehoming spending time with them. They are being fussed over, given treats and a good run around with their favourite toys. They’re at home with us for now and that will be good enough under the difficult circumstances we face. Perhaps next week will bring more calm under our new regime-tune in to find out.