Bill Banks: A year on from the first lockdown, a personal reflection
It’s been a year this month since we entered lockdown for the first time in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and I’m sure none of us imagined this would be the case when we left our offices to work from home in March 2020. Many of us who are able to are still working from home.
At Kingdom, we were fortunate that we had been developing our Digital strategy and investing in our infrastructure for a few years and it was a relatively seamless move from working in the office one day and shifting to home working the next.
The thing I miss most about being out of the office is the physical interaction and informal social exchanges. In my job, I enjoyed the opportunity to wander around the office at times, speaking to others and finding out what’s happening. Not only the work-related issues but also the relaxed more personal views and the friendly banter. We introduced daily virtual coffee breaks at Kingdom and this has been a good chance for people to meet up with others who they may not engage with through the day-to-day business virtual meetings. Our Intranet has also been really well used over the last year with staff sharing updates and good news stories.
At Kingdom, we play badminton on a Wednesday evening and missing these regular games has definitely not helped my lockdown weight. I’m not sure I’ll be able to play very well when we do return, however some would say that’s no different to the pre-Covid situation!
In the past, we have managed to introduce lots of initiatives through the blue-sky thinking and conversations that come out of some informal chats and this has continued throughout the pandemic. The office exchanges also provide the opportunity to find out first hand what pressures and challenges others are facing and gives a much better appreciation of how we could do things differently. Supporting health and wellbeing has been a real focus for us over the last year and hopefully this has helped staff deal with the many challenges.
On a personal level, I feel the lockdown restrictions have been felt most in respect of personal connections with friends and family. During the pandemic, some of us have lost loved ones, or been unable to meet up to celebrate occasions. This has been very difficult and makes us all value what we have even more. I also love my holidays and I’m really looking forward to these returning, however for this year I think I’ll be exploring Scotland, which is a positive given I have always felt I didn’t make the most of exploring our fantastic country.
It hasn’t all been negative though and it’s good to focus on the positives. As I said we moved to home working very quickly and the main learning curve for me was adapting to virtual meetings. Prior to lockdown you could count on one hand the number of times I had used video conferencing, however like most people I have now become very familiar with Zoom, Google Meet, Catch Up, Teams and Remo. “You’re on Mute!” has probably become one of the most used terms for 2020, I just wish there was a default standard platform that we all used.
Virtual meetings have allowed us to continue meeting up with people and this has been a bonus. We have reduced the non productive time travelling to and from meetings, however I also miss some of the journeys which gave me the chance to wind down.
The greatest benefit we have experienced is the introduction of new and innovative ways of doing things, this has really enhanced how we do our day jobs, improved our effectiveness and we are more efficient. The best part though is that we have managed to introduce new services for our customers which has helped them sustain their tenancies and assisted people in a whole range of ways.
We have a great team at Kingdom and the pandemic has really demonstrated how good they are. I have been really impressed by how the staff at Kingdom have rallied together to help tenants through phone calls, visits and support to tenants, which has helped them throughout the last year. Our mission at Kingdom is to provide ‘more than a home’ and the last year has demonstrated that it’s also ‘more than a job’.
Prior to lockdown we tried to encourage staff to work more remotely and work from home on occasion. This was always met with a bit of reluctance and the view that ‘it just wouldn’t work for us’, or ‘we can’t do our job if we are not working from the office’. One thing that this situation has taught us is that we can! When we do return to office working it will be different, most people now appear to enjoy the flexibility that home and remote working brings and there is no doubt that a blended approach will be the new norm.
Some of the staff can’t work from home however and I’d like to also acknowledge the great work that our maintenance operatives and care staff have done over the last year. They have continued to deliver services to customers and for many this has been a challenging and uncertain period.
As a sector I feel we have all demonstrated that we are agile and resilient and the added value RSLs can deliver to tenants and our communities has been one of the main benefits we have been able to reinforce over the last year.
Kingdom Group Chief Executive