On 23rd March 2020, the country went into its first lockdown in response to Covid-19. The disruption and challenges we have all had to navigate are like nothing any of us have experienced before.
For Sir Robert McAlpine, it has been a period which has served to highlight perhaps our greatest strength: our phenomenal family of colleagues. Their problem-solving skills, engineering expertise, willingness to go above and beyond, and most of all, their big hearts have been what has got us through.
As a values-led family business, we were determined to put the safety and wellbeing of our people and those we work with first. We were also determined to support the nation’s effort to overcome Covid-19 and to do what we could to help those on the NHS front line.
A Covid-19 Operations Group made up of senior leaders within the business was quickly established to ensure agile and decisive leadership. The group met daily throughout the crisis, keeping our people informed.
With safety an absolute priority, within days of lockdown the vast majority of our sites were closed to all but essential colleagues and security.
Where we could continue to work safely, whilst abiding by Public Health England and Government Guidance, we did so. This included our teams working as essential workers making sure major strategic routes like the sections of the A19 and M6 remained open and accessible for key workers and emergency services.
By the start of April, it was evident that the situation was not going to improve quickly and, in order to safeguard the long term future of our business and our people, we had to make the difficult decision to place some of our colleagues on furlough. Our people reacted with dignity and professionalism, despite the added pressures this brought to bear on both them and our people who remained active in the business.
Our People & Infrastructure Team were quick to swing into action, developing and sharing a host of resources designed to support our people through this difficult time whether from a financial or emotional perspective.
With many of our team’s working lives on hold, numerous colleagues showed their true colours, volunteering to help with NHS teams around the country. In addition to individual contributions, our Kettering Plant Department team worked with our Healthcare sector colleagues to donate and set up special temporary Covid facilities at Kettering General Hospital and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool.
The expertise and collaborative instincts of our healthcare team found their greatest expression in the Nightingale Hospitals they helped establish in Manchester and Jersey, as well as through operations in Preston and Bangor, projects and teams the company is extremely proud of.
During a time where everyone had to remain apart, bringing our people together was never more important. We introduced a series of virtual Call & Connect sessions with were instrumental in sharing knowledge, best practice and innovative ideas within the business.
This supported our Health and Safety team to produce an updated set of Covid-19 Specific Controls Plan to reflect the Construction Leadership Council’s Site Operating Procedures and Government guidance. Mandatory at all our workplaces, and updated whenever necessary, these plans were vital in ensuring were able to get back to work safely and efficiently as soon as we could.
Our family culture has played a vital role, our people recognising the need to look out for each other as well as themselves and working to accommodate the needs of team members when the demands get too much.
By May, nearly all of our sites were back up and running as our remobilisation operation got into full swing. As the summer went on, our people steadily returned from furlough as more and more of our sites were able to return safely to operation, so that by August some 98 per cent of projects were up and running with productivity back to pre-Covid levels, all thanks to the amazing efforts of our people and our supply chain.
And with many of our people working from home, Covid has brought to a head an issue we have been championing for some time as part of our drive to become the Best Place to Work: flexible working. We believe that flexible working can be an agent of building back better after the pandemic, and we are committed to finding sustainable flexible working solutions for everyone.
The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us a lot about who we are and where we are going as a business but perhaps more importantly it has reminded us of what a repository of skill, expertise and passion we have in our people.