In this blog, Carolyn Hicks, Director at Deloitte MCS Ltd considers the challenge that COVID-19 has brought to how we work and explore how they adapted their working practices to ensure business continuity.
COVID-19 brought with it a unique set of challenges to businesses around the world, in every sector, large and small. Since mid-March, we have all had to navigate our way through varying levels of restrictions to limit transmission of the virus, which has transformed the business environment in a manner never previously seen.
With closure of offices, public spaces and other non-essential environments, remote working has become the norm and we have all had to adapt a new level of flexibility – never before have working and personal lives been closer together. Meetings have gone from boardrooms to home offices and kitchen tables, work attire has been substituted for casual clothes, and office background noise has been replaced by demands from children and pets. It’s no doubt been a difficult time, but we’ve all inadvertently seen a more human side to each other.
At Deloitte, the health and safety of our colleagues, community and clients is the priority, and we have had to adapt, react and innovative accordingly to the threat of COVID-19 so as to ensure business continuity as best we can. Thanks to the hard work of everyone at the firm, our teams have reacted in a remarkable manner; maintaining high levels of productivity, delivering on the high standards we have set for clients and remaining positive in the face of a challenging 2020.
Reacting and innovating quickly
When lockdown began, we enacted a series of resilience and business continuity plans to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 across our operations. Keeping in-line with government guidance, we successfully moved 800 people to remote working in the North West and put a hold on travelling to client sites. People could only travel to a client location where the site has been agreed as COVID-secure, and the required work could not be effectively delivered from home.
To support our people, Deloitte implemented a wide range of support throughout the pandemic, our overall strategy has been led by three key priorities:
1. Provision of advice and support - Support and advice are vital to maintaining the sense of community at the business. It’s absolutely vital that staff feel supported and in-the-loop with what is going on in their team and the wider business for their own mental wellbeing and to ensure productivity.
2. Development of response plans - Planning for the future has been no easy task, but frequent review of response plans in tandem with government advice allows for a smoother transition between remote and in-office working.
3. Upgrades to IT infrastructure - this is a must for all businesses in the current climate and underpins business continuity across the board – it is the crux of effective internal and external communication, delivery of work and staff flexibility.
Other steps Deloitte has taken this year to support its workforce and clients have included:
- Launch of a dedicated COVID-19 hub on the Deloitte website with important information and useful insights relating to the pandemic, guides for senior executives, updates on the government response and sectorial analysis (Accessible here)
- Launch of a Build Back Better webinar series by Deloitte’s North West teams, centred around COVID-19, with advice on helping businesses navigate through the crisis
- Provision of an allowance to staff, to be spent on desks and chairs, ensuring they have a comfortable home office setup that provides a healthy working environment and prevents injury
- Partnering with the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce on several member webinars updating on developments to the Job Retention Scheme
- Regular check-ins with team members, so as to ensure they have support tailored to their individual needs
- Encouraging staff to make the most of a ‘daylight hour’ mid-day, to help manage wellbeing
Even since some of the restrictions were lifted in July and August, we have remained fully supportive of agile working, ensuring the technology is in place to enable our people to work remotely and securely should they wish to. For those who would prefer to work in the office, in July we opened several offices across the UK with reduced capacity and social distancing measures. We introduced a colour coded system so as to ensure the office was not overloaded at any one time, with each team given a designated colour that granted access on alternating weeks.
Many of the business steps we have taken during this global health crisis were originally designed to be temporary, however there have been many learnings that will set Deloitte and its partners in good stead for many years to come. Particularly as the business community has become far more tech-enabled, this has been a real enabler of levelling up in the regions. Video-conferencing and remote working so much more widely accepted; people are far better equipped to work from a diverse range of locations across the country.
Just recently it was announced Deloitte are set to move its 800 city-based staff in Manchester to a new two-storey base at The Hanover Building on Corporation Street, a co-working space in the NOMA regeneration area. From this new city centre base, Deloitte aims to embrace all positive elements of flexible working culture, providing our people with more choice in their daily working lives.
However, successful implementation of new systems, provision of digital and physical tools, and integration of safety measures only tell half a story. By far and above our greatest success this year has been with our people. Despite the challenges thrown at them, both personally and professionally, with the right support they have adapted brilliantly.
Going above and beyond
On top of delivery of big projects and results, our people have gone above and beyond to support each other and the local community. Through the One Million Futures initiative, our regional teams have continued to fundraise and provide pro-bono support to those most in-need. Rallying behind charitable organisations such as Depaul UK, the Caritas conversation club and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, they continue to make a difference in the North West and beyond.
Following introduction of the Government’s ‘Everyone In’ campaign in Mid-March, our partner charity Depaul UK provided placement in hotels and other temporary accommodation for more than 200 vulnerable people throughout lockdown. The team reached out to us at the start of the project to help the 80+ homeless people in their hotels who were engaged and willing to work with us to find employment.
The partnership saw 20 volunteers from our Manchester team support with all aspects of employability to secure future stability for these individuals, with the ultimate goal of helping them reach a stage where they aren’t homeless. The support provided included taking the profile of each individual and sourcing new roles to meet their specific needs and recommending an appropriate route to upskilling.
Since lockdown first began, we have been on a transformative journey that has been difficult to predict – to this day we still don’t know what the final outcomes will be. What has shined through however, is that flexibility, choice and opportunity will last well beyond this global health crisis. The most successful businesses post-COVID will be those that are best able to adapt and suit people, business and the environment.
Deloitte will continue to embrace change long beyond this year – working closely with our people to ensure a working environment that is inclusive of everyone.
For the latest guidance on COVID-secure workplaces visit www/businessgrowthhub.com/coronavirus
For more information about Deloitte MCS Ltd please visit their website.
Carolyn Hicks, Director, Deloitte MCS Limited
Carolyn is a Director in Deloitte’s Consulting business, in the Human Capital Practice, based in Manchester and
has been with Deloitte for 11 years. A Transformational change specialist, Carolyn has worked with organisations for over 20 years to architect and deliver the people side
of Transformational change. She regularly engages businesses to help them think about the Future of Work
for their organisations. Carolyn is passionate about: the human experience of change; whatever the change driver, carving out new career pathways, talent attraction and retention in support of Diversity and Inclusion. Key
interests include: the human in the context of tech driven change. The evolution of collaboration in the context of competition and capitalism