Leading from the Home Front

Like many CEOs right now, I’m running my company from my home. After more than twenty years working from our headquarters in Carlow, Ireland, it’s been quite the change.

In March, when Ireland first went into Covid-19 lockdown, I converted my kids’ playroom into an office, creating a business hub within the house. It worked well, at least initially, as I reclaimed a lot of time previously spent travelling between our international offices. My family was happy too — previously I was away 30-50% of the time, whereas now I was based downstairs, focusing on managing and adapting Delmec’s operations across 40 countries.

As time progressed, though, the lack of social interaction began to take its toll. Delmec is a lively place, bringing together engineers and executives from all over the world to strategise solutions: I missed the energy of the office, and the day-to-day conversations with my colleagues. I knew I’d need to put a plan in place to help me cope with the transition, mentally as well physically.

The solution came with establishing a rigid routine: I’d start the day with a 5km run at 6am, followed by a good breakfast. To mimic my old commute, I’d drive for a take-away coffee at 7:15, and be back at my desk for 8am. Once there, I’d dive into regular phone calls with my management team and close clients — I’m a hands-on leader, and I like to be involved.

My stomach starts rumbling by 12:30, and I usually leave home again to grab some lunch. After that, it’s onto reviewing plans, discussing strategies and checking in with overseas sites. As a company, Delmec adapted quickly to the change in circumstances because all our systems are online. We deliberately designed them that way, so our international offices can work together seamlessly, while thousands of miles apart. I try to call it a day by 6pm GMT, and head out for a brisk walk or a game of tennis to wind down and clear my head.

We’re fortunate to be able to continue our work from home, but it’s not without its challenges. Just as before, leadership is about care as well as guidance. I soon realised that like me, our staff were missing the social interaction of the office, and I needed to support them through this change. We launched policies and initiatives to keep people connected as well as safe: our teams meet once a week and each person spends two days physically in the office. For newer staff members, we have extra support, with on-site training and induction with a designated supervisor. Our hope is that this new framework will help us to foster more workplace flexibility once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

The initiatives have been well-received; we had predicted some hiccups, but were surprised by a few softer issues too. We’ve worked hard to build a culture of support and encouragement at Delmec, and we understand the need to evolve as we all adjust to a new working environment. We don’t know what the coming months or even years will hold for us in our industry, but adapting is something we’re good at in Delmec. Whether it’s from a mast 500 feet in the air or at the desk in my kids’ playroom, I’m proud to be leading an incredible team into a bright future, whatever it might look like.