Whilst many people in our business are working from home, there are still team members whose roles require them to be physically present on site, such as at our Data Centre.
This week, we hear from Jan Benjamin, Operations and Compliance Manager, who is juggling both working from home, being in the Data Centre and managing her team who are in a multitude of locations.
In many ways, for me the current COVID-19 situation has brought changes mixed with a lot of normality.
Just as before life in lockdown, I get woken up very early by Bailey, my Border Collie (otherwise known as my fitness trainer!), who sits outside my bedroom door crying, so that I wake up. We then start the day with a walk, which is usually around 10-12 kilometres. Although getting up at 5.30am is an early start for a long walk, it means that we don’t bump into other dog walkers and I love getting out. I started walking a couple of years ago for fitness then discovered that I always feel better. In fact, everything feels better; it sorts my head out, we get to take in some fresh air and I get to see different wildlife – I even saw some herons this morning.
My commute also hasn’t changed, other than it now takes me around 20 minutes to drive to work – previously it would have taken over an hour. The roads are much quieter and so is our office. I’m based at Retail Assist’s Data Centre and because we physically need people in the office, we’ve been balancing having one or two people in at a time.
This a huge change for us, but a necessary one to keep everyone safe. Along with heavily reducing the numbers of people in the office at any one time, we’ve also moved the desks around so that we’re at least 2 metres apart at all times. It’s a bit fiddly but it has given people more space.
We’ve also had to change many processes as, for the Ops team, there’s a mixture of on-site and remote work. The idea of remote working terrified me: I just wasn’t sure how we’d make it work. The biggest challenge was working out how my team could work remotely in the first place. Whilst other Retail Assist teams lend themselves better to working from home, our roles are trickier to achieve remotely, especially given that each one of our customers has a different way of connecting into our network. However, given the current climate, we have team members who are at risk or have family who are at risk, so we had to make a decision that meant everyone was safe. Although it was presented as a difficult problem, sometimes the simplest answers are the best; rather than getting loads of different kit at everyone’s house, my team are now remoting into their work PCs, then servicing our customers from there. It’s working really well.
Another one of our challenges has been how to induct a new starter in this time. Before lockdown, we would normally sit next to them or have them shadow what we do, but we can’t do any of that – it’s all got to be from a distance. Our trainee started the week before we went into isolation, which was such bad timing! However, given all the challenges, he’s been absolutely brilliant and is picking up skills and knowledge really quickly.
I’m so proud of how the team’s responded and I think it’s brought us closer together; ultimately, we just had to work things out and find a way, and we’re a better team for it. Having to think outside of the box has given our quieter team members a chance to come out of themselves and it’s been a fantastic learning exercise for everyone involved.
But our work isn’t just about managing processes – it’s how we work together, too. Since lockdown began, we’ve been mega on Microsoft Teams! We’re always posting lots of silly stuff, sharing things and checking in with everyone. Some of our team are living on their own, so it’s more important than ever to keep in touch. I feel that talking to colleagues is a key part of our working roles now and I’m hoping that it continues post-lockdown: it’s a definite positive. I also genuinely believe that the world will be a better place after this – it’ll be hard, but I know we’ll pull through together.
Each week, we’re bringing you a new voice from the world of retail, hospitality and logistics.