By Sarah Mogford, RSK Environment and Planning Divisional Director
Small actions can have the power to make a difference, especially in challenging times. With Time to Talk Day coming up on 4 February, I reflected on the past year and how we have managed to stay afloat through the storm.
Nearly a year ago, at the beginning of March 2020, RSK was heading into its new financial year with ambitious plans. On 23 March, the UK entered into its first lockdown period and, like many businesses, we had to adapt quickly to keep our business going and to look after our employees.
Mental health has always been a priority for RSK, but as the pandemic developed, it became clear that our employees’ well-being was going to need to be at the top of our agenda. Morale and mental health were an increasing concern. Not seeing colleagues in person made it harder to know how to respond. We found ourselves in a situation that felt like a science fiction film and I think our responses were often based on gut instinct. Personally, I needed to know that I was not operating on my own and sensed that we all needed to feel connected and part of a team. As a leadership group we worked together and focused on collective action. For me, humour is important even in moments of stress so we encouraged some laughter too. For a while we all wore silly hats on our leadership Teams call – which helped to raise a smile. They do say that laughter is the best medicine.
Our divisional team of 400 plus people were now home-based when not on site. They were no longer seeing colleagues daily, and instead working from kitchen tables, the end of the bed, the spare room or sofa. It was difficult to find delineation between home and work. It was a really uncertain time and we wanted to provide reassurance if we could. Our CEO and I sent regular emails, which gave an overview of how the business was adapting – mine also provided an opportunity to share some of the domestic chaos that ensues in my house when you have a family living and working in the same four walls.
In these stressful times the positive feedback I got from these emails really cheered me up. It highlighted just how important our communications with each other are. An email keeping in touch, including details of my epic domestic disasters, was my way of sending the message that we were all floundering in these tricky times. These days it is no longer surprising if a colleague’s child makes an appearance in a virtual meeting. In fact, swapping Teams call blunders is now common practice and the term ‘RSK family’ has taken on a whole new meaning! They carry on in my house – a fellow director was surprised (so was I!) by the presentation of a tadpole in a pint glass and another day one of my team started our meeting with my son while I cut his bagel for him to avoid a full on melt down!
Over time our clients, and consequently our businesses, found ways to work and things started to pick up. We are not out of the woods yet, but I hope that the quick actions we took early on enabled us to weather the storm. We are now almost back at full capacity with most staff back at work. What is even better is that we are working smarter – with better business management practices and a really engaged team. Small actions, such as checking in with colleagues regularly, really can make a big difference. Take a moment to think about this tomorrow, 4 February, on Time to Talk Day, and reach out to your colleagues, friends and family.