After the immediacy of lockdown and the need to adopt widespread remote working, I’m pleased to see that things are now starting to settle down as we adapt to a new way of life.
As I highlighted a few months ago, we experienced an exceptionally busy period at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. We were inundated with enquiries from our customers to help them implement their own remote working strategies, while at the same time working hard to ensure the safety and security of our own team by actioning appropriate plans.
We’ve been delighted with the response from our team to the upheaval they’ve faced, not just during the initial rush, but in the many weeks and months since. We’ve had the usual ‘you are on mute’ Teams conversations, and we’ve seen some horrific working from home outfits and ‘tasty’ wallpaper designs, but on the whole, it’s worked better than I ever thought it would.
That said, as well as the team has responded to the new practices implemented in the first instance, we also understand that there is a need to establish longer-term plans. With that in mind, we initiated a larger return to the office this Monday morning, with breakfast from our friends @PJTaste and a general catch up with the staff to kick us off.
As a business we’ve always prioritised a team culture and for us that meant a focus on creating a vibrant office environment for people to be together and do their best. Our view has been that ‘togetherness’ supports productivity and speeds up access to knowledge and resources, while also promoting better team spirit.
Although prepared for the eventuality, we’ve always refrained from implementing a wider remote working policy. As such, the need to move towards remote working in response to the COVID-19 pandemic represented a significant sea change for the whole business. I’ll openly admit that working from home wasn’t something that I promoted during the ‘good old days’.
It took all of us a little time to adjust as we implemented new practices, and we weren’t sure at first what impact this may have on our culture, or how the team would respond. Thankfully, the experience has been very positive, with a lot of our team appearing to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that comes with home working while continuing to perform to their best. Like many other businesses, the technology has really delivered for us and enabled many of the practices we undertook in-person to continue in a virtual way.
That said, we have maintained a small office presence throughout the period. For some, working from home simply wasn’t a workable solution, so they were extremely grateful that we were able to offer a small group the choice to continue as usual, provided they could safely stay within the advised government guidelines.
Our team’s response to their new routines has given us the confidence that we can continue working in a bit of a ‘hybrid way’ for the long-term if necessary, while also looking to adjust our approach for good.
These uncertain times have understandably created some extra anxieties for workers across the country regarding the need to return to their old way of working. Recent research from Westfield Health revealed that although 71% of the workforce is still keen to return to a level of normality, 64% of those surveyed did not feel that it was safe to return at the present time.
That said, we also understand that, for a variety of reasons, working from home is not a viable long-term solution for some.
The feedback this week after our first return with larger numbers has been good. We’ve all enjoyed seeing each other again, and it’s been great to have face to face chats with colleagues to discuss not just all things work, but home and social lives, too.
The team has also welcomed the return of the drive to and from the office. The lack of rush hour traffic has meant journeys are not as long as they once were, while the commute has given us all more time to change from ‘work mode’ to ‘home mode’. Walking through the front door after a short drive has been much better than walking down the stairs after a day of working from the spare room, where it doesn’t feel like there is enough time at the end of the day to remove the ‘work head’.
This all shows that one thing is clear – we must adopt a more flexible approach as we continue to respond to an evolving situation.
We see this as a real opportunity to change the way our business works for the better. Those who have watched our new company video will know the important family values we hold dear, which is why we are looking at ways we can better support our team to provide the best environment for them.
We’re exploring a number of options to help our return to normality, while also taking stock of the lessons we’ve learned throughout lockdown.
Whether it’s allowing our team the freedom to combine remote and office working, or adjusting start times to avoid rush hour traffic, the needs of the people at the heart of our business will always be our main concern.
Of course, IT and new technologies are never too far from the top of our agenda, and we are keen to walk the walk when it comes to the adoption of new tools. This includes the integration of collaboration platforms, companion devices, and smart meeting room technology.
I’m sure that many of our customers nationwide, as well as those throughout Sheffield and Yorkshire, are faced with the same decisions as us. I wanted to remind you all that we are here to support you in any way we can, no matter how big or small the requirement. If you are in need of assistance, please get in touch with us.
Most importantly, we hope that our customers and suppliers can continue to prosper, or at the very least begin to re-build successfully. One thing that I, as I’m sure many of you, have taken pride in throughout this period has been the fantastic stories of people showing care and empathy to those around them. Whether that be with support for local suppliers, donating to charity, or showing that extra care to staff by listening to what they want for the future.
It has been a testing year for all of us, but I really believe there are changes that we can all make in the coming weeks and months to positively impact our lives.