HPL at Home:

Transition and Baby Steps

Adapting to change is essential. Housing Partners, like thousands of businesses, had to re-think how they continue to support customers. Here, our HR adviser Olivia Hill goes behind the scenes to show us how the HPL family is keeping its culture and values alive from a distance.

HPL at Home:

Transition and Baby Steps

Over the last decade our working style has changed dramatically; that lone coffee drinker tapping away on a laptop has quietly paved the way for the remote working, networked structures that many companies have found themselves plunged into during the strange times we find ourselves in. At Housing Partners, we are perhaps in a more fortunate position than many other businesses in terms of our ability to remote work. But what about the other factors at play? Managing families with young children, our mental health, daily exercise and indeed, play. At Housing Partners, we live and breathe our values of ‘working together – we can – do the right thing’, so six of our brilliant team have volunteered to show us how they are still able to keep our culture alive. They’ve been tracking their experiences of the new normal and how they’ve been managing their daily lives, showing that it’s not just having one roof over our heads that keeps us together, but the strong community we’ve built up.

The Super Six are:

Greg Andrews – Head of Customer Operations

Jack Palmer – User Experience Designer

Lesley Westwood – Director of Finance

Lynn Darling – Sales and Customer Operations Manager

Ben Stott – Quality Assurance Manager

Dan Jones – Lead Developer

The UK has been under lockdown restrictions for a month now, the novelty – or shock for some – of working, playing, cooking, exercising and socialising from home is starting to become routine. At Housing Partners, our operations and products all use cloud-based systems, which has meant that we were in good stead for this great change. I chatted to our Sales and Customer Operations Manager, Lynn, who personally has found the practical switch pretty easy: “We worked off a laptop in the office anyway, so the transition was quite smooth.  IT have been an amazing support to us all.” The major difference our team have found is in communication; Microsoft Teams is now the main tool for us to meet, chat and of course, have our after-work drinks.

With the practicalities of working from home prepared for, the major difference we’ve all noticed is the free time we suddenly have without the commute! For my colleague, Jack this has – excitingly – meant cooked breakfasts: “I’ve eaten so many fried eggs lately it’s obscene.” My manager, Lesley on the other hand, has deservedly “replaced driving with sleeping.” The only person who doesn’t seem pleased with the loss of commute is our – perhaps slightly mad – Head of Customer Operations, Greg, who is missing “not travelling around the country visiting our customers. I know it might sound strange, but I really miss the buzz of getting up at 5:30am, heading up the motorway, grabbing a coffee and then having a productive meeting.”

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As Lesley points out, we are all getting to know new ‘colleagues’; partners, housemates, children and pets are now integrated into the work environment. Dan’s new team head enjoys over-the-shoulder micro-managing (see above!). Lesley also told me: “Customers, partners and supplier communication has not really been dramatically affected, it has just changed and in some ways moved to a more personal level. On one call last week one partner’s dog joined us on the call at which point we all introduced our dogs to the audience. I think this shows how the current situation has actually humanised some of the relationships which I truly believe is a positive outcome.”

The social distancing situation that we’re all living through has put some of our customers under extreme pressure as their day-to-day has significantly changed. Greg’s been supporting them – as ever! – through this: “Our customers have obviously been extremely busy during this unprecedented time. Some customers have told me that the transition to working from home for all staff has been challenging, but overall, they’ve managed it well. Jo Wykes, Housing Options Manager at Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council, told me: ‘On a bright note we are very glad we have Housing Jigsaw at this challenging time, as it has meant that we have good resilience and have been able to easily keep the service going from home, keeping our officers safe as we do so.’”

Our teams have also been making the effort to connect with each other more, both professionally and socially to tighten our bond and help us to continue delivering as we would normally. Dan and the rest of the development team have been trying to make things a little more transparent: “We’re trying to make sure all work related chat takes place in group channels, rather than direct messages, so that the whole team can see progress or chip in to help if they can.”

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Lynn and her team have been brilliant, making a particular effort to support each other closely through this strange new set-up. Lynn told me, “My team are extremely close, and are used to being together, working alongside and with each other, so it has been more of a change for them.  I call them twice a week individually for a personal check-in; this started as daily, then went to every other day.”  Still daily, at 4pm the whole team join in for a call: “We talk a little about work but have a bit of fun and banter at the same time; this seems to work quite well.  At the moment, we have been doing ‘joke of the day’ for some giggles.  When a member of the team is feeling down, we bring each other back up. This is a challenging time for all of us.”

And as for the ‘play’ aspect? We’ve been keeping the morale up with the QA and Development team holding pub quizzes and Greg organising “Wet Wednesdays” for the Implementation and Sales teams.

HPL’s Wet Wednesday Pub Quiz

All coming together keeps some normality in our lives and, while I can only speak for myself, stops me missing my colleagues quite so much! It’s also been making sure that we remain cohesive as an organisation – after all, what is an organisation without its staff? (I should point out that I am the HR Advisor at Housing Partners!) Over the coming weeks we’ll keep up these check-ins, jokes and meet-ups to support ourselves and our customers as the boredom and fatigue of lockdown sets in. My colleague, Ben puts it perfectly: “The communication loops may have gotten longer as you wait for responses and don’t always have everyone in one room, but we call to ensure we are doing the right thing, and everyone has a clear understanding of the tasks at hand. We have the right team and we are working to the same goals as we always have.” Our values at Housing Partners, are after all: ‘Working together – we can – do the right thing’.

Olivia Hill is the HR adviser at Housing Partners

– by Olivia Hill