Lockdown Team Blog - Series 2: Alan Hayes
09 March 2021
3 minutes to read.
Last year, our teams produced a series of blogs written by colleagues across multiple divisions of the company. They provided a small insight into our evolving working practices and values as we all adjusted to our new post-COVID19 world. Now we're back with our second series!
Here is the ninth in our 2nd series of posts from Chief Legal Officer, Alan Hayes.
"Roll on the "New Normal"
The one thing that has struck me about COVID, is how similar everybody’s experience has been.
Early last March, we could see COVID coming, and most businesses were in a similar position to Carpenters Group. There was a huge effort to move to home-working where possible, before lockdown kicked-in in earnest. Laptops and IT kit of all descriptions were in short supply, and new processes for remote working were set up. We all had the opportunity to test our business continuity plans!
The sudden strain of placing business requirements-on domestic Wi-Fi systems presented various challenges, particularly with home schooling thrown into the mix.
The team at Carpenters Group did a remarkable job of getting everybody switched to home-working extremely quickly, save for key roles that only be performed in the office. It was highly impressive how everybody pulled together, improvising where necessary, to ensure that we could continue to operate without any degradation of service. Carpenters had the benefit of working collaboratively with insurers, whether clients or not, to maintain business as usual.
I know from discussions with colleagues in other businesses that most organisations faced similar challenges, and have been through a similar process. There are some notable exceptions who continued to require all staff to physically attend the office, rather than put in place an effective home-working solution. Fortunately these examples are rare, and most organisations have prioritised the well-being of their teams.
I also believe that the experience of lockdown is similar for many individuals. My expectation back in March was that homeworking would last for a few weeks, or maybe months. Instead, the temporary home workstations have become permanent, and many of us have become used to a new way of working.
There are benefits to the “new normal”, and the greater flexibility of remote working is likely to be retained - to an extent - post-COVID. As time moves on however, I think it is increasingly apparent that working alone is not sustainable in the long term. I read somewhere that humans are the most sociable of all species, and telephone and video calls cannot provide the same benefits of being in the same room as our colleagues. There is less informal interaction, and less banter. It is also more difficult to innovate and to achieve the benefits of ad hoc "water-cooler" conversations.
It has been equally difficult for those who continue to attend the workplace, either because the role requires physical attendance, or because connectivity or practical complications mean remote working is not possible. Like most responsible organisations, Carpenters Group has throughout offered the option of office working for those who need it, but that is an equally strange environment with social distancing and other health and safety measures.
While we have all had enough, there are some benefits that will come from this experience. I do believe that retaining an element of home-working, where that works for the individual and the business will produce greater flexibility in working arrangements and service provision. It should give us all some time back, as we will spend less time than previously stuck in traffic jams or on crowded buses and trains on the commute.
Hopefully that better balanced working life is not too far away."
About the author
Alan Hayes, Chief Legal Officer
Having joined Carpenters Group as a Solicitor in 2000, Alan has been part of the Executive Team since 2004. Over that period Alan has worked with Carpenters’ insurance partners to provide an efficient, high quality service to both commercial and individual clients. His focus has been on delivering innovative and effective solutions to the challenges faced by the industry, ensuring that the individual customer remains at the centre of the process and that the insurer’s brand is protected.