Ciara working from home

Ciara writes:

I want to share my personal thoughts on what is happening at the moment.

COVID-19 is affecting everyone, with various levels of severity. A close family member has recently recovered from coronavirus; a number of staff have had symptoms but are on the mend. My thoughts and prayers are with all those who are suffering.

The effects on the business and VGC people

Our senior management team meets regularly to monitor and respond to the challenges that we face.

COVID-19 is having an enormous impact on the business. Our sales will be below our 2020 budget. We have furloughed over 500 site and office staff. Staff and contractors have taken temporary pay reductions to help support VGC during this time. We are truly grateful for the support that everyone is giving.

Some green shoots of recovery

Following an initial industry shutdown, we are seeing some green shoots.

A number of ‘above the ground’ projects are continuing to operate. Sites which are still open have adopted the new CLC site operating procedures. Others are discussing a return to work. These look likely to start in May 2020 and continue throughout the summer. Clients have already begun asking us about our rapid recovery plans – how we can get people back to site quickly and safely.

We were very pleased to hear last week that the government has given HS2 notice to proceed. That means that our forward order book is looking positive.

Cole Hire is facing challenging times in the van rental market. However we are optimistic that with an increase in the requirements for home delivery, we may see an increase in sales towards the end of May.

Teamwork

I am so impressed with how everyone has pulled together. It is hard to mention everyone who is overcoming challenges. Within group services alone, stand-outs for me include

  • the IT team implementing MS Teams and issuing working from home equipment to everyone
  • payroll being operated from living and dining rooms
  • HR establishing new processes to communicate with staff
  • the continued cash collection by our commercial and credit control teams
  • materials continue to be procured and delivered to sites
  • invoices are processed and paid and the accounts continued to be produced
  • marketing issuing daily update emails to staff
  • HSQE delivering our RISQS and ELS audits remotely

and at the same time our operational delivery teams continue to deliver projects on site, undertake recruitment and support our workforce.

Working from home

While all this is going on we have had to embrace a new way of working. We’re working from home – and to be clear, this is not normal working from home. This is working from home during a crisis.

Ciara supervising maths
Supervising maths while trying to work

We all face challenges doing this. My husband and I are home-schooling our two children while also holding down full-time jobs. This is not easy – and I can confirm that I did not miss my calling as a teacher. Jumping from a meeting with our accountants and lawyers about furlough pay and contractual requirements, to delivering a Spanish class on animals, is not an easy feat!

As we work from home we need to establish new ways of working. It’s important to have a clear starting and finishing time, and take a lunch break. It’s OK to take a coffee break, and if you need to, go for a run during the day.

Please speak to your line manager if you are struggling with working from home, especially the schooling or caring elements of your other ‘full-time job’ and we can try to work around it.

Our furloughed colleagues

As you are aware a number of head office staff have been furloughed.

It was not easy to decide how we did this. All of these roles are still key within the business, and we look forward to welcoming them all back to work as soon as we possibly can.

Those who are furloughed have access to our MS Teams systems for keeping in contact socially with colleagues. They can also use the Supply Chain Sustainability School portal to continue with their CPD and learning during this time. (Please speak to the HSQE team if you need support to access this.)

We are working to ensure we have regular communications with all staff, to keep everyone up-to-date with what is happening.

Positives

On a more positive note, the coronavirus has changed that way we work. This is something that we need to embrace going forward. Positives include the following:

  • Staff are using the innovations portal to share ideas on how we can do things differently – these include using video communications, as well as ideas to support our rapid recovery plans.
  • The use of Microsoft Teams has enabled better and more regular communication with staff. In future this tool will allow us to reduce traveling for meetings, and foster closer relationships. My own personal experience is that meetings are more focused and quicker. We will be able to enable more flexible and agile working across the company. This is a tool that we must also use with our clients – face-to-face contact and relationships will always get better results than a faceless email. Please speak to IT if you need help using MS Teams with clients.
  • I have reduced my commute time, have taken up running again – and am able to wear ‘active wear’ to work!

We will get through this

When we did a business risks register at the end of 2019, a health pandemic did not even come up as a possible risk!

We need to be mindful of how things can happen in life or in business that we don’t see coming – and they can change everything.

We are lucky because our business is financially stable and is full of great and hardworking people. Our people, whether they are still working or furloughed, have totally surpassed my expectations in the way they have performed, embraced change and their overall resilience to the situation that we are facing.

I thank you all for this, and for the way you are living the VGC values, at what is one of the business’s most challenging times ever.

We will get through this, and we will be stronger as a business and as people, as a result of it.

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