Eight months on from COVID: How is life different at Rock?
2020 has undoubtedly shaken up the way we do things here at Rock Power Connections, and new procedures and working habits have had to be implemented to keep up with evolving regulations and Government guidance.
When lockdown was introduced, the Rock Team were faced with a quick evaluation of procedures to ensure that they could continue to work safely on the distribution network, construction sites and in the office.
We sat down with various members of the team (via Zoom and other virtual means) in different roles to find out how their working life has changed since the appearance of COVID-19.
How have things changed on site?
SHEQ Manager John, is responsible for ensuring that Health & Safety, Environment and Quality procedures are in place throughout the company and works closely with the site teams installing new electrical connections or working on the distribution network.
John is often on site, undertaking audits and mentioned how things are a little different for the team.
“As we work on sites with other contractors present, we have more regulations in place to keep us safe. We undertake a risk assessment for each site to ensure that we can allow for social distancing alongside other trades on site.
For example, we may be installing new electricity supplies for an apartment block. Pre-COVID, you could have many contractors onsite all working around each other and using the same corridor spaces to travel through the building. If we need to pull the cables through to the individual apartments, we need to ensure that we can have a dedicated working area.
“We also work on the distribution network for Western Power Distribution constructing and upgrading their substation assets. Luckily, they tend to be large, open areas giving us the space to easily social distance. Names and contact details are always taken for track and trace purposes and temperature checks are taken when arriving on the premises.”
Has there been big changes for the Rock Surveying team?
Darryl, a Senior Utility Surveyor who undertakes underground utility surveys explained “nothing much has really changed site-wise for Rock Surveying as we already naturally practice social distancing just by the nature of our work.
“We’re usually out in the open, so we’re not in confined spaces, meaning we can keep our distance from others.
“The majority of our work takes place in outside, rural areas and there’s usually two or three people onsite as a maximum. Of course, we record everyone who was present at the site for track and trace purposes, but we have not had to change the way we work too drastically.
“However, we are doing less surveys in town centres, where it would be harder for us to social distance, especially from the general public.”
Has it changed how Rock communicates with clients?
Electrical Connections Manager, Emma, has been liaising with clients and the rest of the team whilst working from home.
“Permanently working from home was something we all had to get used to at the start, but now it feels like second nature.
During the first lockdown, so many clients echoed being fed up of the same four walls, or the days blurring, having little distinction between work and personal time or the joys of juggling home-schooling.
“But at same time, our enquiry rate increased as clients were finding themselves more desk-based with less time on site. Our design team worked flat-out turning quotations around and it is great to see some of those projects now starting on site.
“We are using Zoom far more than we ever did when we were all working in the office, and it definitely makes the world feel smaller. I think, even when we are able to return to the office or client meetings, we will keep Zoom instead of phone calls as it is great to see client’s faces when discussing projects, it feels more personal.”
Whilst there have been easily-implemented changes for the site teams, how have the office-based team adapted?
Programme Manager Rich has had his work cut out overseeing the vast amount of organisation and administration behind site delivery. Rich explains that the past six months have certainly seen a change in everyone’s working patterns. “The biggest changes for me have been managing and engaging a team that is now working from home, where previously we were all in the same office five days a week.
“I need to make sure that they have all the support they need, whilst checking they are not feeling isolated, have enough work to get on with and are productive with their time.
“I have worked throughout the whole pandemic which has brought personal challenges in terms of managing workloads and having to multitask to undertake tasks that were previously completed by the whole team. It was also strange working alone in the office as part of a rota system to answer calls and take deliveries.
“Stakeholder engagement, such as liaising with Councils to secure road opening notices, has also had its challenges. Many Council departments work from home, the usual telephone lines are not working, so it has been a more arduous process. The biggest challenges were sites being closed, and having to rearrange with other contractors to work around their availabilities or to reschedule the required permits.”
On reflection, what positives have come out of the last six months?
John: “From the site perspective, limiting of the amount of people that can be present on a site has been a positive as it makes projects easier to complete when there aren’t multiple contractors on site.
“It has also made us look at the risk assessments in place and evaluate these, as well as outlining new guidelines and reviews of sites. We’ve always had impeccable safety standards, but now they are higher than ever.”
Rich: “There have definitely been some positives. It’s reassuring to know that Rock was fully prepared as a business, with the appropriate controls and processes in place, to transition smoothly into the new constrained ways of working associated with the pandemic.
“It has also provided people with the opportunity and thinking time to review employee roles and the activities they undertook, to look for better ways of doing things, and overall, we have become more efficient both as a business and within our individual roles.
“On a personal note, I now have more time at home with my family and I am spending less time travelling to and from work, which means I am able to work flexibly around family commitments.”