Covid-19: A statement from Ron Moody, CEO
The Covid-19 lockdown is an unprecedented situation.
Here at Connect Assist, employees are working remotely to maintain our helplines, which are now busier than ever. We are also starting a new call centre for the NHS 111 line – a Category 1 frontline service.
Our ability to do so is thanks to our robust business continuity planning, the dedication of our 380 staff, and the leadership of our management team.
I’d like to share how we are operating throughout this lockdown period and beyond.
Planning for business continuity
Secure home working has long been in our business continuity plan. We have thought through operations in detail, and put telecommunications technology in place.
Our plan was invoked during the “Beast from the East” snowstorms of February 2018. All staff switched to homeworking and kept our helplines running.
Then in February 2020, flooding hit Nantgarw. We provided employees whose homes were flooded with paid time off and financial support.
Callers to our helplines, however, would not have noticed any disruption.
Our Covid-19 preparations
In January 2020, when the news broke that the virus had spread beyond China, we put together a Covid-19 team which has put us ahead of the curve.
It drew up plans with three main stages: 1) Prevention; 2) Containment; and 3) Isolation.
In stage one, we ordered supplies of hand sanitisers, wipes, and digital thermometers. We identified which staff did not have broadband internet at home, and bought WiFi hubs in preparation.
We stuck handwashing posters above every sink, and even composed our own 20-second hand-washing song!
As the situation grew more serious, we arranged for a daily deep clean of our buildings. We restricted visits, and stopped handshaking.
Throughout, we communicated our approach to staff and customers – many of whom were inspired to follow suit.
Maintaining our vital services
As the disease emerged in the UK, we identified all staff with underlying health conditions, or who lived with somebody at risk, and moved them to home working.
When the first cases appeared in Wales, we moved more staff to home working – a total of 70%.The final 30% switched when the government announced the lockdown.
Not only are we maintaining our usual service, but demand has shot up.
People are calling our helplines with mental health issues, for advice about losing their jobs, and with enquiries about grants and support. One helpline for the hospitality industry is receiving 10 times the usual volume of enquiries.
Our advisors are doing an incredible job, even while coping with their own worries and distractions at home. Although advisors are considered key workers, many are keeping their children at home to reduce strain on schools.
Expanding our frontline work
We have also responded to the call to action for extra advisors on the NHS 111 helpline.
We are taking on 80 staff from Monday 6 April to answer thousands of 111 calls.
It’s classified as a Category 1 frontline service, and we’re proud to be contributing to the outstanding work of the NHS at this time.
Looking after each other
Early in our planning, we identified that home working would necessitate keeping morale high and staff connected.
We set up Microsoft Teams groups, with leaders running photo competitions and quizzes (I’ve come up with a version of ‘Where’s Wally?’ called ‘Where’s Molly?’, starring my cat) and prizes such as a six-pack of toilet roll!
We also have video coffee breaks to chat about non-work issues.
Team leaders have a video meeting together every morning to catch up and identify anybody who might need extra support. We call them for chats and to check they’re coping, particularly if they live on their own.
Even with 380 staff, you have to be a mindful employer. A big chunk of leadership time must be invested in the wellbeing of your people.
Adapting to new regulations
With new rules coming into place with regards to social distancing in the workplace – the regulations state that the 2-metre rule must also be maintained in the office – we also need to be constantly mindful of those still working or entering Connect Assist HQ.
With that in mind, we have placed tape markers on the floor to act as a guide when it comes to keeping a 2-metre distance – this will be useful for when members of our team are in the office training for new contracts or picking up equipment such as their laptops.
We do not yet know whether lockdown will last three months, six months or more, but we are on a firm footing to operate as normal.
Our planning has proven essential not only to safeguard jobs and our business, but also to help the public in these uncertain and unprecedented times.