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Working on the front line during the pandemic

By 2nd October 2020Blog

Facilities management is the silent force that keeps the world clean, secure, fed and maintained. This support doesn’t stop while there is a global pandemic; many of our colleagues continued to work on the frontline putting themselves at risk. Equipped with PPE, our frontline colleagues, including cleaners, security guards, engineers and chefs, continued to go above and beyond every day to support our clients in challenging times.

Mind, one of our charities of the year has reported that the pandemic is having a significant impact on people’s mental health, particularly on frontline workers. Supporting our colleague’s mental health is a commitment we don’t take lightly, we have various mental health first aiders across the business including Alan Ives, Security Account Manager, we asked him what this entails.

“I guess I am not the stereotypical mental health first aider, I am a 6’2” 18 stone man, but everyone I work with knows they can approach me at any time and I will actively listen. Being in a male-dominated environment can often be challenging; mental health isn’t something that is typically discussed which, is why I lead by example by starting and facilitating conversations.”

Alan goes on to say, “I make a point of visiting my teams as often as possible, you can learn a lot about someone by just listening, never underestimate the power of being heard”.

We also asked Alan how his mental health was affected during the pandemic, and what he did to switch off after work, “Within my division, I am always around people with a positive mindset and people who can problem-solve, being able to lean on each other during difficult times has helped me feel well supported and I have maintained a positive outlook.”

Alan continued, “I think it is important to empower our teams to make the correct decisions; by doing so, it allows us to step back. During all of this, I have made sure I do take that step back which has allowed me to spend time doing the things I love; going to the gym, cycling with my daughters and just having quality family time to unwind.”

We also asked Jen Bates, Sector Managing Director, within our cleaning division on her experience on continuing to work on the front line. Due to the increased demand of the Atalian Servest Hygiene offering, we had to be both proactive and reactive in supporting our client sites that remained open, and those who were planning to re-open.

Reflecting on this busy time, Jen said “Continuing to work during the lockdown was certainly busy and stressful for myself and my team. The biggest challenge was keeping up with Government guidelines to ensure all our colleagues were protected and safe; my concern was ensuring that any communications and announcements were accurate and correct.”

Jen also explained how she switches off after a stressful day, “Luckily, I am a keen runner, which certainly helped me. My stress levels were higher than usual, but I managed to run off any stress I was feeling. It helped me clear my head and to think straight.”

Neil Hemmings, Group Manager within the education sector in our catering division explained to us why he was glad he worked during the pandemic, “Having family and friends around me that were out of work made me realise I was one of the lucky ones to continue working in a role I love. I have the most amazingly supportive bosses, and I am glad I worked during this time. I am proud of what I achieved; I supported and helped feed people when they most needed it.”

Like many others, Neil recalls the biggest challenge was to continue delivering excellence while adhering to Government and company guidelines. “Lockdown created a very reactive workplace, myself and my team wanted to ensure we were always going the extra mile for each client which, was challenging as there was always changes going on behind the scenes.”

Neil continues, “I truly believe that by going the extra mile, we demonstrate to our clients that we are more than just caterers, we truly care about helping and supporting them.”

Nick Dorgan, Regional Operations Director, within our cleaning division explained that his role vastly changed during the pandemic, “Due to the reduced workforce, the pandemic saw me going back to the front line and ‘on the tools’ as they say.”

Nick went onto explain that while there was clearly the worry of the pandemic itself and making sure all colleagues were working safe, there was also further challenges, “Firstly we had a lot of restrictions on deliveries from suppliers which presented many challenges as I was responsible for covering a huge area. There were also restrictions on public transport, so I had to ensure everyone in my teams could get to their place of work.”

We asked Nick how his mental health was affected with all of this going on, “Overall, I think my mental health remained exceptionally positive. Not only was my regional team fantastic, but I had daily COVID-19 calls with my senior management team where we would all bounce off each other, keeping the morale high and ensuring we were all supported.

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