Tees Talk: are businesses heading back to the workplace?

Back in the workplace or working from home? Tees business leaders tell us what their staff are doing and what Covid precautions they’ve taken.

Sharon Lane, managing director, Tees Components

Tees Components’ site closed for three weeks in early April but the majority of staff are now back on site. As we’re heavy machinists, there are limited roles that can be done from home but we’ve been able to put processes in place to ensure that shifts in the machine shop can operate as normal in safe conditions.

Even office-based staff who could work from home have generally chosen to return to the office. We are lucky that we have lots of buildings and space across our six-acre site and have been able to create individual work areas.

Our work is very collaborative in nature and it’s important we continue to meet to discuss technical issues as a team, with drawings and components in front of us. We have had a mandatory face covering policy in place since April for whenever we are outside of our individual areas, as well as continuing use of our pop-up handwash stations.

We’ve minimised sharing of equipment or tools unless necessary and we all self-clean our areas and equipment. This has enabled us to continue providing a reliable service to our clients, but we’ve also found our team works better together in person and there’s more enjoyment and reward for us from our machining projects when we are physically present on site.

Bob Makin, managing director, SockMonkey Studios

We’ve opened the doors to the studio in August for staff that want to come back, especially those who live alone, to help get some normality back into their lives.

We’ll continue to introduce more of us who want to return and carefully monitor the infection numbers in the area. We’ve worked hard to meet safety guidelines and precautions and know that we could return to lockdown at any moment.

If it ends up being just a few weeks, it’s great for people’s mental wellbeing to be leaving their house and seeing friends and colleagues in the office.

Keith Miller, managing director, Ecco Finishing Supplies

We have two of the staff here who are still doing a few days a week working from home but the rest of the team have been back for weeks now. It suits both of them to do it and it means fewer people in our buildings so it’s helping us maintain social distancing too.

We introduced different policies for customers coming into our trade counter area, we have sanitizer available and are wiping counters down frequently.

Business is very unpredictable for us at the moment. I just want to get this year out of the way in one piece, then look to next year and start again. These challenges are not what I expected in our 25th year of business. We’ve seen two competitors fall by the wayside and managed to pick up some new customers on the back of that. Now it’s a time to refocus, and try to do some things differently.

Carla Keegans, director, Ethical Lettings Agency

We have a mixed system at the moment, whereby our office is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm, with a rota of staff in. Thereafter, staff are only in for appointments with customers. As such the team still have mobile IT equipment at home, as per lockdown.

We have sufficient space in our office for staff distancing and a designated area for customers. As we open onto a busy street, we have a barrier at our front door that means we can still speak to people from our reception desk without them entering the office. We also have cleaning regimes in place.

Elaine McLaine-Wood, managing partner, Punch Robson Solicitors

Most of our people are now back in the office after a full Covid-19 risk assessment was taken and procedures put in place to ensure the safety of staff and clients when attending the office.

Some are working remotely at home due to childcare issues but, come September, we are hopeful that those that can work in the office do return. Whilst remote working is useful, it can be smoother for the services we provide and better for staff morale to come into the office and work as part of the team. Some staff prefer to be in the office for this very reason.

Katy Parkinson, founder director, Lexonik

Adapting quickly, seven of my Lexonik team initially worked from home. Determined to continue to deliver our teacher training, alongside planning our post-Covid strategy, they worked tirelessly to transform programmes so they could be offered remotely.

Part of the strategy has been to embrace flexible home and office working whilst opening up the office again with deep cleaning, redecorating and a reconfiguration which supports social distancing to ensure a safe environment.

Being flexible and agile has helped us adapt; it has been challenging with a lot of hard work but we have remained 100 per cent positive about the future. I have the most wonderful team.

Danielle Croce, director, Intasite

We have recently moved offices, but we are working approximately 70 per cent in the office and 30 per centre home based. As we’re in the digital sector, all of our staff could work from home if required. It is a little easier for specific roles, such as business development and project management. Technical and production roles operate slightly better when they can meet and work in the office from time to time. This allows working on large files which need high internet speed can be accessed quickly and worked on in a more efficient timeframe.

We are taking precautions when working from the office and following government guidelines. This includes our desks located at least 2m apart, hand sanitizer is available for all staff and utilising video conferencing for the majority of meetings when we can.