When I joined Jacksons in September 2019 I knew that my role here was going to be very different from my previous roles and I was really looking forward to the change of industry and new team dynamic. What I did not expect however, was for the world to be turned upside down and the Coronavirus pandemic to completely change the way we work. Of the 10 months I have worked at Jacksons, 3 of them have been spent under ‘lockdown’.
It has been unprecedented times for all, not least for HR practitioners such as myself, who had the added pressure of trying to understand the governments Job Retention Scheme (furlough) which seemed to change from week to week. I am very fortunate that we have experienced employment lawyers here at Jacksons and I was able to tap into that expert advice.
During the uncertain times before lockdown, we were proactive and prepared for the worst. Within a few days and with the support of our IT partners we were able to get everyone set up ready to work from home. We regularly communicated our plans based on that days/weeks advice and with the support of our in house Health and Safety Consultant, we adapted accordingly from bringing in hand sanitiser and wipes, to closing off social spaces and arranging extra cleaning. Anyone who considered themselves vulnerable were sent to work from home. In short, we were ready!
When the instruction to work from home came, we all just packed up and went. Even though I knew we were ready, I was still impressed with the speed and efficiency at which this happened, one day we were in, the next day we were all at home.
As with many businesses, we did have to furlough some of our team, but it’s testament to the Jacksons team spirit how well this was received by those who were furloughed. Luckily for me, having expert advice on hand meant I was able to navigate the furlough scheme easily and this gave me the opportunity to focus more on the wellbeing of the team.
It’s easy to feel disconnected from work when you are not seeing familiar faces and having conversations with your colleagues. We knew from the start that keeping in touch was important, not just with those that were furloughed but also with those working remotely.
Our communications plan was simple: Communicate, a lot.
Our Managing Partner, Jane Armitage sent a daily bulletin giving updates on everything from what we were doing to follow the government advice to business performance to sharing funny stories from staff about the challenges of working from home.
On top of this we introduced a daily challenge, this was anything from photo or pop quizzes to last weeks ‘What is Jacksons’ Favourite Biscuit’ culminating in Jane buying everyone chocolate digestives.
We also held physical challenges where we asked people to submit their daily steps and we tried to climb the worlds’ tallest buildings as well as walk to 10 Downing Street.
Each Monday I reached out to all the people who were furloughed and checked in on their wellbeing. I ensured that important messages were passed on and everyone was invited to join in the challenges.
In addition, we hold regular communications meetings by Zoom which everyone is invited to join, we actually found that more questions were asked via the Zoom chat than we usually get in the face to face meetings!
A few weeks ago, we sent out a communication questionnaire and asked our staff how frequently they wanted to be communicated with and have acted on that feedback.
I’m still communicating with the furlough team weekly but I’m pleased to say that a lot of my discussions are now about when people can come back. The part time furlough option from 1st July is going to be a big help to us.
In terms of the office, we are certainly ready, the perspex screens between desks are up, we have floor markings, special visitors and reception procedures, to ensure that we can maintain a safe distance between people we re-organised our teams, moving people from one floor to another. We have been working more flexibly with different start times and shorter lunch breaks and some employees who have small children have been working evenings to fit in with their partners work.
Whilst I don’t think we will ever go back to ‘normal’ as we knew it, I am looking forward to being settled into the ‘new normal’ whatever that may be, and getting our last few people back from furlough. In the meantime, I am so very proud of all that we achieved during lock-down, from the way we handled the government guidelines to us remaining fully operational when others simply closed their doors.
Our team have shown great team spirit and I’d like to say a special thank you to our furloughed employees who have all made sacrifices which have enabled our business to get through this difficult time.
Thank you team Jacksons!