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A message from Steve – the new norm

Hi String Friends,

Like you, I have found running my business over the last 2 months both interesting and challenging. I would like to say I am starting to look at what life after lock down looks like, but if the truth be known, I have been looking towards this day from day one.

I have certainly found myself busy. In fact, very busy doing stuff that was simply not on my radar 8 weeks ago. Business plans then marketing plans went out of the window in favour of the new normal – whatever that looks like – and thank goodness for cash flow forecasts.

It was 14:15 on the 24th March when I finally packed anything with wires on my desk and headed home to make camp in what was, then, going to become my new office for the forceable future. Paul and I had a conversation as we left the office the day before. Neither of us were relishing the thought of home working. Sure, we had both worked from home before, but this was different. The buzz of the office worked for both of us and we knew this was going to be hard to replace.

This is an obvious one, but I have never been prouder of my team, all of which by this point were now settling into the new working from home mode. Along with getting ourselves up and running in this new remote environment; we were also handling a 400% increase in call volume, whilst all our clients were coming to terms with the same. We have had some fantastic feedback from clients thanking us for all our help during this craziness.

As the days and weeks went by, with all the days starting to blur into one, I found comfort in certain regular articles that dropped into my inbox. These weren’t sales pitches, rather more informative emails keeping me up to date with the daily government briefings – which was a major challenge in itself. And now, as I write this blog on the 12th May 2020; I have a new document to read. The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy (all 60 pages of it – you can download it here). I have lots of questions going round my head, and my team are adding more questions on a daily basis, with one big question sitting right at the top of my list: “Just what does our organisation need to look like in order to provide a safe environment allowing the team to return to work?”

I will start with the basics….

  • We created COVID-19 Pandemic team – these team members are responsible for their specific areas. One for each area of our business
  • We have removed all towels from the kitchen and toilets areas in favour of centre feed disposable solutions
  • Suitable bins to handle the wastepaper from the above
  • We have invested in an infrared thermometer so we can take an individual’s temperature without the process being invasive. If you have a temperature, you don’t enter the building
  • 70% Alcohol hand gel everywhere – specifically at entry / exit doors
  • We are looking at staggered start times
  • Increased cleaning regimes
  • New contactless door access control systems

And of course, a more complicated question: “Do we carry on working from home post COVID-19?”

Well, I would say that “not everyone is built for home working.”

This big one for us, was working from home. If you have seen the film “Brewster’s Millions”, it’s about a guy called Monty Brewster (Richard Pryor) who inherits $30 Million. He must spend all of it within 30-days to inherit the remaining $250 million. The idea being, he gets so sick of spending money that he will manage the $250 million far better after his 30-day spending experience.

This is where our team have found themselves during lockdown. Initially it was a novelty, but ultimately something unplanned happened. Without distractions from the office, people became more focused, more efficient. I don’t believe this would have happened as effectively, if we all had not been forced to work at home, all at once, for a sustained period of time. And, just like Monty Brewster, I believe that this will stick; home working for most, if not all the team will be more effective. So, does home working play a part in String’s future? Absolutely it does, and we are now formulating plans on how this will work.

Of course, having the right technology in place has made a huge difference, and Microsoft Teams has played a very big part in this. The ability to transfer calls to home workers, even have home workers answer outside lines, means that everyone in String can work from home. We have not had to divert a single line coming into our office. I guess if we could not get this bit right, then who can…

So, to summarise, we will follow all the above Government guidelines, and expect our team to do the same whether based in the office, at home, or working with you on your site. But the world has changed, changed for the better, we are about to see technology used in ways we have not seen before. Welcome, to the new normal.

As always, please stay safe and please stay in touch.

Regards

Steve