I write this sat at my makeshift desk in my kitchen. I have a “proper” desk in my lounge but the sun doesn’t get there until later in the day and I prefer to work where it’s light and bright.
My son is sat beside me doing maths probability homework and I am encouragingly supporting this while quietly wondering at the probability that I can keep sane through another 6 weeks of this.
My colleagues are sat in their various homes across the Bristol area and each morning we dial in via Zoom or Google Hangouts to catch up. We try different methods of communicating to see which ones work best so we can use them with clients, and last night conducted an AGM via Zoom at the resident’s request. We take it in turn to set up the meetings so we all find our way around the new software and all share skills. The morning catch up is informal. Sometimes the amount of business things to discuss is minimal and the discussions are the type we might have over a coffee and donuts if we were sat together in the office. The routine of this helps us keep grounded and together and, I hope, helps motivation as if anyone struggling then others recognise this and stay online after the group meeting to support them.
Overnight Covid-19 has made its way into 90% of the calls and emails we get from people in their homes. We have always placed high value on people’s homes and keeping them safe and happy in this important environment. Now more than ever people need this comfort and security as their homes have become the venue of their work life, social life and family time. It’s really important to us at Bloq that we don’t shut down and we don’t stop offering the care and attention that we are known for. For some, the contact with us is one of the few forms of communication they will have in a day and when we can fix problems within the boundaries of what’s allowed, we do so, promptly and efficiently. Where we can’t we explain and support and find ways to work round the issue until we can take steps back to “normal”.
Some services we can’t offer at all due to them being non-essential, and other services are needed more frequently or urgently than ever, and our team being accessible as well as great support from our out of hours team, Adiuvo, means we are agile enough to redirect funds where needed to respond quickly to urgent issues.
We do our best to strike the balance between over communication and yet letting people know and feel reassured that we are there and what we are doing. Our emails out to residents and leaseholders are personal and informal while being factual and calm. Feedback so far suggests we are getting this right and so it’s something we will continue with for as long as these unusual times continue.
Technically working from home was an easy step for us. With support a couple of years ago from PC Dial, we are set up to hold all our documents on a Google Drive, we use an internet based phone system, our block management software is cloud-based as is our accounting software, and we do our banking online. Every employee is set up to work from home with ease to enable them to provide childcare or wait in for a delivery where required. The main challenge we have to work on is keeping people motivated and together. The mental well-being of staff is important wherever they are working from and there is no doubt that the huge restrictions on our lives inside and outside of work are challenging even for the mentally strongest. We encourage people to work their hours and then switch off, take exercise and keep talking to each other. We are a close-knit team and we don’t want to lose the sense of community we have with each other and with the buildings we care for.
And yes, that is an empty cup of tea on my desk…my new 14 year old colleague is not as good at tea making as some of my very much missed co-workers, but at least there are less tempting donuts!