So, reflecting back on the Five Capitals model of Sustainability, we look at aspects of Human capital in this blog.  There is a strong link as well into the Social capital aspects of working together.

The impact of the Covid restrictions engaged quite suddenly when we were all advised to work from home if possible. With those of us in the consultancy world, it was possible (if not necessarily preferred).

So, within a week or so, we were all working from our home office, bedroom, kitchen table, etc.

We could implement this quite quickly because we had already set up BIM 360 and Sharepoint facilities that enabled people to link to project files via their web browser or synchronised files. (We’ll talk more about the digital side of this story in a future blog.)

I discussed our thinking and approach with our in-house Compliance Administrator Lynne Garfield.

Lynne navigates our way through ISO 19650 Digital Management, ISO 14001 Environmental Management, and ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems and is our qualified NEBOSH Health and Safety advisor.

Her role focuses very much on how we interact with each other, the working processes, and how that affects people’s wellbeing.

TEA AND CAKE

As soon as we set up at home, we introduced daily planning meetings in appropriate project planning teams.  Feedback from this was surprisingly good, the practice when we were all at the office was to have weekly planning meetings, and it was felt that the new practice of bringing everyone together for a quick review in the morning was better because it allowed taking account of “events” – changing requirements, delays, unforeseen problems and so on.

Lynne commented to me that, “At the beginning of lockdown, we implemented daily team meetings and a social tea and cake in the afternoon.

As home working continued, we developed our processes to best support staff in that situation, so the way we worked was changing, and we needed to support our staff with this.

Our afternoon tea and cake changed to afternoon cake and learn sessions. As our processes changed and we all embraced a new way of working, Steve presented new workflows and processes while we all had a slice of cake and a cup of tea.

This enabled staff to engage with the changes, learn new skills, and raise any issues. This also enabled staff on furlough to keep up to date with what was happening.  Not only keeping them engaged as part of the team but also informing them so that when they came back on board, they had not been left behind.”

We have also developed the morning planning meetings employing Agile project management philosophy utilising the Scrum / Sprint framework.  We have used Microsoft Teams to implement this approach because we were all familiar with using it for our meetings, and it includes the functionality to manage the projects in this way.  The outcome gives individual task lists that fit in with the team effort to achieve project outcomes and incorporates continual tracking of progress.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Keeping in touch with everyone regularly and making sure they felt part of the team, even though working from home, has been key in keeping up morale and keeping the technical dialogue going. Part of that is to keep staff reminded of good practice and provide guidance in their day-to-day work, visiting construction sites, and so on.  We have undertaken our health and safety toolbox talks online to address this.

Before lockdown, we signed up to the Building Mental Health Charter in line with our commitment to our staff’s mental health. We set up a link to the site and encouraged staff to seek confidential help if they felt that they need support and advice but were not comfortable discussing issues with work colleagues.

Finally, we had already subscribed to a service known as Perkbox, which includes several free employee workout classes, day and night online GP access, and gym discounts.  (not so useful at the moment, granted.)

For those of us who could not practically work from home, we did set the office up for a limited number of people to work in a Covid safe environment, with all the necessary hand sanitising, etc., procedures and facilities.  We also had several hot desks that were made bookable online to avoid any incidences of double booking. This was all facilitated through our online “Crofton Hub” of which more in future blogs.

So we’re keeping in touch and having some online space for socially communicating. What’s the next challenge?

CPD KEEPING UP TO DATE

An Important aspect for all of us is to keep up to date with our existing professional knowledge and have the opportunity to learn about new developments, acquire or improve our skills.  In the “old days” this was commonly achieved through attending external training courses or inviting suppliers and manufacturers to come into the office to give CPD sessions.  In-house “training” is commonly comprised of reading through pages of guidance notes.

In fact, Crofton had already made some serious inroads into making changes to this.  Lynne recalled that;

“In response to a need for a wide range of training topics, I researched option and proposed online training modules by Praxis 42.

So we took up the online H&S and procedural training, which enabled us to deliver a comprehensive and managed training platform. I could also track more easily who had completed their courses as they signed off on completion. “

So this worked perfectly for distribution to our teams working from home and was already set up.

We decided to expand on this with an offer of a wide range of technical and administrative online learning packages know as Pinnacle Series, by Eagle Point Software.  One of the clever aspects of this offer is that they include what is known as “knowledge smart” which in a nutshell tests one’s knowledge on a given subject and then proposes appropriate training elements to fill in the knowledge gaps. So you don’t waste time going through things you already know! Good eh? “

Chatting to Lynne about all the events of the last year, she reminded me of the recent “National Apprenticeship Week”  and being a founding member of the Technical Apprenticeship Consortium; she was taking a particular interest in how our Apprentices were finding working and studying in the Covid situation.

As part of the consortium, she compiled some case study feedback from our Apprentices about their experiences both in terms of how their Academic providers had performed and what they thought about Crofton’s response and support.  There was, of course, a mix of responses, but picking out some key areas of agreement:-

The team meets, and afternoon tea and cake were appreciated.  In fact, the Tea and Cake developed into “Cake and Learn” sessions where we would also talk about any new / developing Crofton Standards and procedures.

In terms of their Academic courses, the feedback was actually very positive:-

As a result of having the lecture material recorded and online in front of them and following from there, it was felt that the understanding of the lecture’s content improved.  This was because being online-enabled them to review lectures, re-watch anything they did not understand, take extra notes and work at their own pace.

They could also spend the extra time they would usually spend on the commute doing work and studying.

However, there was a general recognition that whilst there are benefits from working at home, there was also a realization that human interaction in day-to-day life is significant. Therefore going forwards, they would like to be able to work from home on a flexible basis. Sometimes in the office, sometimes from home.

IN CONCLUSION

There seems to be a consensus amongst my work and industry colleagues that the world of work has changed forever and will not go back to the traditional office model.  We have all found benefits and drawbacks in the remote working environment.

Certainly, the reduction in traveling to the office and indeed to meetings – now replaced with online meetings, has been a good thing, reducing our carbon footprint and saving valuable time on traveling.  However, as we have noted in this blog, the potential isolation of working remotely is definitely an issue – which on the other hand, it has to be said has been greatly alleviated by an online contact.

The future challenge will be to use lessons learnt to re-think the business model and find better ways of collaborating, both within and without one’s business organisation.

We feel optimistic, and indeed one of our future blogs will be about the future of collaboration.  There will be a return to the office, but intelligently to take advantage of the office and the home, just as our Apprentices have commented.

In many ways, the “online” life has forced improvements to the way we organise our interaction in business, in training, and socially. Whatever happens to the “office”  I think it can be said that developers are looking forward to many more office conversion opportunities!

Anon till next time!