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Safety is the key to lifting us out of lockdown

Liberty’s Managing Director of Gas Maintenance, Karen Sloan, discusses how the business is helping staff, clients and their customers manage the impact of COVID-19, while also planning for the future.

The COVID-19 outbreak has presented organisations across the country – and all over the world – with challenges at massive scale.

During the initial crisis, we worked closely with clients to ensure that we adapted quickly and created the stability to enable us to continue to deliver our vital services safely during the lockdown period.

With careful planning we remained in control and ensured that essential work was able to be carried out in people’s homes. We steadied our workload while prioritising the safety of staff, clients and customers as we always do.

As workloads reduced and to ensure we protected jobs, we utilised the Governments Job Retention Scheme to reduce our staffing levels in line with workload. This not only reduced costs and supported the financial position of the business in the short term, but meant we retained a highly skilled workforce, ready to return in line with our client and contract requirements.

Maintaining our commitment to the highest standards and keeping a keen eye on the future to ensure we can pick up where we left off once it is safe to do so, has been paramount.

Communication is key

Continuing the straightforward approach to handling of the lockdown that we have demonstrated so far will be vital to us achieve this goal – as will communication.

We have already received great feedback for the way we have communicated with customers, whether in person or by phone.

For each piece of work, we took steps to identify the customers’ circumstances before each visit to set out the most suitable ways of delivering the work whilst keeping everyone safe. We are also telephoning ahead to confirm appointments, which has allowed us to maintain high levels of access and productivity despite the challenges of the lockdown.

In some cases, the circumstances presented their own challenges. We have worked to soothe concerns over our visits, ensuring customers understand the importance of annual gas servicing, while assuring them that we are following all relevant Government guidelines to ensure we’re working safely.

We have led the way and been sensible about the use of protective equipment, treating this as a valuable resource to be used only where it is appropriate, as guided by official advice, and ensuring the safety measures we take are communicated right through the business.

Our strong relationships with clients have never been as important and the benefits of strengthened communication, flexible working, online meetings and team communications are all practices we believe will change us for the better.

Safety first

Most clients have asked us to only complete essential works at the moment, with routine or planned works halted for the time being.

We are working with clients to keep this closely under review following the Government’s latest advice and will only make changes when we believe it is safe to do so.

As with many businesses, the slowdown in workload has enabled us to review our ways of working and plan for the future. It may be that some working practices established during the lockdown become the new normal as we discover different ways to be effective and efficient.

Understandably, our workload has been impacted across many areas. Servicing jobs have remained the same, but repair and installation works have reduced. We expect these to be short-term impacts and we’re ready to get back to full capacity when our clients are.

Preparing for winter

Now that we have established a stable and smart way of working, our goal for the coming months is being ready to put in place our usual winter planning processes, which always get underway during the summer period.

Summer is always a crucial time to prepare for the spike in demand for repairs and maintenance works that comes in winter. So it’s important that we work to minimise the backlog of repairs and installation works which have been postponed during lockdown, so that we don’t carry this workload into the winter period.

It may be that we need to expand resources to manage this. The flexible and agile working methods, and the working from home set-up for office staff we have put into practice during this time will make it possible for us to support demand as required.

There will continue to be challenges as we lift ourselves out of lockdown, but we believe Liberty has done everything possible to enable us to help staff, clients and customers feel safe and secure for whatever the future may hold.