Action and preparation in response to Covid-19
11 May 2020
During these uncertain times we would like to take a moment to reflect on how as an organisation, ELM Group, has changed in recent weeks, and will continue to change and adapt as the current situation unfolds.
What we are going through is unprecedented and whilst we do not know what the next few weeks or months will bring, there are lessons to be learned and many positive outcomes we can take away from this experience.
In February 2020, the Leadership Team discussed and planned for the scenario of a lockdown. While at the time this seemed fairly unlikely, we looked at our processes within Head Office and considered the possibility of everyone having to work from home; what that would look like, what we would need and what impacts we needed to be aware of.
We then looked at solutions and the below provides a brief overview and timeline on what we have implemented to date: -
26 February 2020 – Discussed and identified risks to the business with regards to Covid-19 and planned how we would continue ‘business as usual’ in the event of a lockdown and working from home directive from the government.
9 March 2020 - We identified a list of vulnerable residents on our Estates so that Head Office could make reassurance calls in the event of the Estate Manager being unable to attend work and/or where Estate Manager absences reported.
Mid-March - We started to trial the use of DocuSign to enable remote sign off for all invoices. As a business we receive a large volume of invoices from our suppliers and contractors and these are usually moved around the office gaining the appropriate signatures. We also liaised with our IT and telephone suppliers to ensure everyone had a laptop and to configure the telephone system to divert and connect to mobile telephones enabling us to continue to answer calls and respond efficiently.
17 March 2020 - We sent an email to all Estate Managers advising on how to deal with Covid-19 with regards to communications with our leaseholders, ensuring the estate was safe and enhanced cleaning procedures. We also identified key residents on estates as our ‘go to’ contacts if our Estate Manager needed to self-isolate or where there wasn’t an Estate Manager.
HR also emailed an update from EAP with regards Coronavirus support to all employees.
18 March 2020 - We agreed on some new procedures as follows: -
• Notices were sent to all Estate Managers with Covid-19 information including procedures and precautions we were taking and asked them to put these up at their estates and discuss with leaseholders.
• Estates without an Estate Manager were handled separately to ensure the leaseholders received the same information.
• We cancelled any face to face meetings and asked that any queries be flagged to their Area Manager.
• Weekly MS Teams calls were scheduled between Area Managers and their Estate Managers to ensure flow of communication, answer any questions and deal with any queries.
• HR FAQs were put together and circulated to support our employees
• Communications to our leaseholders were sent out advising of actions we were taking.
• Daily Leadership Team calls to discuss plan, areas of concern and key actions
We received a Critical Communication Advice from ARMA which was great as it reassured us and confirmed that we were already ahead of the game and had actioned more than was suggested and considered all areas of our business.
23 March 2020 - Lockdown was confirmed. IT kit for those who used fixed PC's in the office were ordered. Our telephone system was tested to ensure that a seamless transfer to mobile telephones worked.
25 March 2020 - Laptops arrived and were given to those who required them and everyone who could work at home began to.
26 March 2020 - We sent out a wellbeing leaflet to our estates, to highlight to residents and staff useful resources, like the Silverline and local volunteer networks, as well as ideas for how to keep busy during lockdown.
3 April 2020 - HR sent an email to all employees advising that as of Friday 27 March 2020, the government passed the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 allowing leave to be carried over for up to two years immediately following the leave year in which the holiday was due to be taken. Also encouraged employees to take some of their annual leave so that they took regular breaks and not just worked during the lockdown.
9 April 2020 - A thank you communication to the organisation sent from Lorraine Collis on behalf of the Leadership Team and Board and wishing everyone a Happy Easter.
27 April 2020 - A ‘checking in’ email was sent to the Head office team to explore how we can best support each other as a team while we navigate this new way of working. If this gains a good response, we will roll this out to our Estate Managers. Since the lockdown we have worked hard to keep our website up to date, including good news stories and operational information for leaseholders and associates. We also added a banner to our website with Covid-19 updates and continue to update this daily.
7 May 2020 - The daily Leadership Team meeting discussed various impacts of the anticipated relaxing of lockdown rules and have already put some enquiries out to see what can be done in several different scenarios. Awaiting official update from the Prime Minister on Sunday 10 May 2020.
11 May 2020 - Following the Prime Ministers update on 10 May 2020, as a business we will continue as we have been and until manufacturers return to work no Section 20 works will take place. We will continue to review and update accordingly.
Our Leadership Team attend weekly ARMA virtual briefings with other members which gives advice, shares best practices, identifies issues for other members with solutions and acts as a support during this time. We review and communicate any changes suggested and continue to review our practices and take appropriate action as required.
We have shared positive stories from our estates and head office; ways our residents and staff have gone above and beyond during this time and are staying connected, including stories of socially distant gatherings, ‘food banks’ being set up in the communal areas for residents in need, even an estate manager leaving Easter eggs and well wishes outside her residents doors.
Throughout the organisation we have worked as a team, adapting working styles as business demands, whilst also dealing with the impact to our employees and their loved ones on a personal level.
We have learnt that social distancing doesn’t necessarily equal feeling disconnected, and, in many ways, this has brought us closer together as a team and with our leaseholders.
We are a community and all in this together.
Stay safe and well.