The idea has always been for our colleagues to work in a more remote way, with our CEO Nick coining the phrase ‘work is something that you do, not somewhere that you go’. Then along came COVID-19. Our three-year plan to do this went right out the window and we upped and left our offices and sites that day.
What we did next
Our ICT team have probably never been busier. They moved mountains to get the right kit to us so we could carry on doing our jobs, wherever we were and whatever job we did. But, our site gates were closed and it didn’t feel good. So, we worked with our contractors (Engie, Vistry and Esh to name a few) to get the sites back open safely – social distancing and extra measures (things that feel so normal now!) meant that we could carry on building new homes.
We limited site visits to project managers, and everyone used Microsoft Teams video chats to do our usual real-time chats about the site. We relied more on photos too which really helped those at home. Doing what we normally do, but remotely, took a bit of adjusting to but it does work. And, knowing that we can progress sites in this way means we can now fully embrace our hub, home, roam approach so that colleagues can choose where they work.
Challenges and champions
As most businesses probably did at one point or another, covid meant that we had some supply issues. First off, it was timber and external doors. Then it was windows. Quite a few of our sites were affected but thankfully, supply picked up and our teams did really well to turn it around and complete the developments on time.
Our extra measures to keep everyone safe:
Only one trade/1 person allowed in properties at a time
One way walkways
Changed our sign in process so no-one had to enter the cabin or share pens etc
Wearing masks internally
Another area where we paused to take stock (no pun intended) was on land buying. We wanted to keep an eye on the market but we’re now back to placing bids as the market is still strong and we’ve got homes to build!
So at a time where furlough was the norm and recruitment paused for most, we set about expanding our teams. In the last year we’ve recruited an aftercare lead and a land manager. We’ve also made one of our part time roles a full–time role. We’re really not slowing down!
This year we’re set to complete another 610 homes. Before the pandemic, we wanted to deliver 8,000 new homes by 2030 and we’re well on the way to do that. And I’m sure that we will with the commitment from the teams on the ground, our partners and our board.
Gail Culshaw, Development project manager