Coronavirus Tales - Corona and KFC
When I was first asked to write the first of what we hope will be a series of Coronavirus Tales authored by a variety of people, I was a bit lost as to where to start. Being asked to write about such a large subject with a limited number of words was daunting to say the least.
The Coronavirus pandemic is an enormous subject and so to try and cover things like personal lockdown circumstances, impact on physical and mental health, furlough, observing physical altercations over toilet roll purchase, global environmental change, government actions and responses, key worker appreciation, home schooling, the stresses of securing a supermarket delivery, PPE, removal of physical access to loved ones, Black Lives Matter, the rise of video calls and home quizzes or the pure unadulterated joy of collecting and consuming a KFC family bucket to name but a few all in one article would be folly to say the least.
So I thought it might be worth giving a brief insight into how we dealt with a couple of the challenges we faced as a recruitment business when the lockdown was first introduced. From a professional point of view I would say that for me there were two key priorities once the Prime Minister announced the lockdown. Can we continue to operate efficiently as a business and how can we best support our workers and clients?
Although we operate nationally and internationally, our hub office is based in Central London and predominantly our staff were office based and there was no significant culture of home working. Thankfully we had the majority of IT infrastructure in place to transfer to a “Work From Home” operation, although it was untested in terms of the capacity that was required.
Obviously there were teething problems, not least the initial reliance on colleagues own laptops, tablets and home PCs with what felt like the immediate drought of laptops available under the price of £1000 each. Added to that the fact that nobody’s home internet was used to the sort of volume usage that can come from having 4 or 5 family members all trying to use it at the same time.
Luckily for us, not only did the team appreciate this, they knew that these challenges were unanticipated and unavoidable and so bore their frustrations unbelievably well for the most part. I say for the most part because we can’t forget we are all human beings and so the odd major league meltdown and occasion of hardware abuse was only to be expected although I am not aware of any criminal damage being caused despite the regular image freezes and loss of connection.
We also had to adapt both our ways of working and our expectations of each other. We quickly realised you could not expect people to do what they did usually within the office environment with the same outcomes when they were working from home in a much affected market. Like everything in business, these adaptations are continuing to evolve and will undoubtedly continue to do so.
In terms of our temporary workers, we tried to keep them as informed as we could both in the run up to the lockdown and in the early stages. We circulated regular emails around government guidance on matters such as self isolation, vulnerability, symptom identification, reporting of international travel as well as more specific information we gathered from clients in relation to their own response to the pandemic in terms of working practices and related matters.
In those early weeks, as we did later in the lockdown as well, we drew our workers attention to support structures in place regarding mental health and wellbeing for them as well as thanked them for their continued work during and response to the pandemic. In one of our volume recruitment contracts in conjunction with the client we introduced a recognition scheme which allowed line managers to highlight the efforts of our workers and for us to reward them with online food delivery vouchers on a weekly basis.
SRS is in a privileged position in that the majority of temporary workers we supply are classed as Key Workers, providing law enforcement, rehabilitation and resettlement skills to organisations at the heart of our society. This also comes with a great deal of responsibility and so it was incumbent upon us to make sure we did all we could to minimise as much potential negative impact upon our client’s operational capability as we could. Although we saw some workers furloughed or have their contracts terminated, well over 90% of our temporary workers continued to undertake their duties, working from home or as was the case for many, still attending offices or work based activities out in the community.
I’m not saying that the way we did any of these things were brilliant and there will no doubt be numerous examples of them being done much better, but I do have to say on reflection I’m not unhappy with the way we as a business tried to address the challenges we were faced with and am happy and proud of the way colleagues and workers responded to the situation. The fact that we have had so many messages of thanks for what we tried to do is truly gratifying.
As with all businesses I would suggest, we have learnt and continue to learn a number of lessons due to the pandemic, many of which will affect our approach to numerous aspects of our working practices both outside and inside of any future similar occurrence.
I would like to finish this piece by taking the opportunity to again thank our workers, our clients and my team for what they have done and continue to do and hope that if they have not yet done so, they soon get to experience the levels of happiness I was lucky enough to, whether for the same reasons or otherwise, as I did when the lid came off that first lockdown bucket of KFC.
John Wood is the Managing Director of Servoca Resourcing Solutions
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We are also looking for future contributors to this series so if you would be interested in writing about and sharing any aspect of your pandemic esperience with us please drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get in touch.