In light of COVID-19 many of our employees are adapting to new working practices and settings. We caught up with a few of our Darwen based Customer Service Team members; Lisa McDonald, Julie Lindsay, John Brown and Lisa Thomas to find out how they are settling in their home offices.
Customer Support Administrator
I work in our Customer Services Team. My role is to liaise with our valued customers and the rest of the business. I am relatively new to the role and am used to having my colleagues around me for support.
Working from home is a totally new experience for me. It’s had its ups and downs, from the initial IT teething problems at the start whilst trying to entertain a hyperactive 6 year old at the same time. Instead of face to face conversations regarding different scenarios I make use of Avaya for calls, TEAMS and emails to get the information and help I need.
My current workspace is my converted dining room table. One thing I try to do daily is to pack my work station away in the evenings as this helps separate my work life and home life. My son has his own work space next to me so I am still available to help with his school work. I initially found it difficult to balance both without feeling guilty about letting him or work down by focusing too much on one or the other. I have since adjusted my working hours thanks to the organisation to help suit my family life more. What I’ve found is that the agile working offered by Energy Assets enables me to start earlier so that I can get a lot done while my son is still in bed. This also gives me time in the afternoons to take him outside for our daily walks and fresh air. One new way of working I’ve set up is to ensure that I am organised with enough activities to keep my little one busy and set myself a daily schedule, taking regular breaks and moving up and away from my desk.
The highlight of my working day is staying in touch with my colleagues through regular Zoom meetings. We have quizzes and games. Some of my personal favourites so far have been ‘Through the Keyhole’ and picture drawings. These meetings give me a time in the day to reconnect with others allowing me time to get some important work information as well as have a well needed break from the isolation of being at home. I think these meetings have helped me to cope and are a well needed distraction. I have also introduced my family to Zoom and we hold family quiz nights now via the App to stay in touch in the evenings.
The experience of isolation has been a challenge at times, however I am surprised and proud how as a family we have managed to adapt.
Customer Support Administrator
My normal office role as a Customer Service Administrator (CSA) involves preparing/collating all information sent to Energy Assets for Power project work. A project is classified by a Group Customer Name having 25 or more MPANS with the same point of contact. I reply to supplier queries and liaise with our planning team, customer contacts and suppliers via email and conference calls. I produce daily and weekly reports for my managers and also suppliers.
Moving to home working meant that I had to find a quiet space to work in the house which would not affect the other members of my family but also ensure the minimum disturbances. Once this was decided then it has been quite easy to adapt to my new routine.
Due to the pandemic my usual line of work has altered in as much as no new sites are currently coming in to be worked upon so I have turned my attention to assisting other CSA’s where possible and maximising the opportunity to improve some of our processes.
One of the main challenges in my new working from home arrangements is keeping myself motivated, and not getting distracted by anything happening in my home. To overcome this, I set myself daily work targets and timescales e.g. at the moment I am involved in working on previously aborted jobs, re-classifying and re-wording them to make it easier for the suppliers and customers to understand what action is required, either by Energy Assets or by themselves, to be able to move the MPAN on to installation stage. I am setting myself goals of achieving a certain number by lunch and then by close of day. This differs dependant on what else I have as naturally any customer queries take priority.
My second biggest challenge is not being able to ask immediate questions of people in the office, our team knowledge pool is not as readily accessible. I’m glad to say there are ways around this. We speak more on the telephone and use the group TEAMS chat site where we can communicate with everyone. Teamwork more than ever is important to us all.
My third challenge is managing the family expectations while I am working. I get the occasional Interruption from my teenage daughter regarding computer queries when she is doing her homework but on the whole she just gets on with it so I am left in peace. Energy Assets has enabled flexible working from home which allows me time to focus on the family and my job to ensure a better work-life balance is achieved.
My team have organised quizzes which help break up the day and help my stress levels. Still seeing everyone makes you feel part of the team so staying social has helped me to work from home effectively.
Customer Support Administrator
Although this is a difficult and unpredictable time for us all, for me personally it’s given me the chance to reflect on how busy and none stop life was previously.
Life now is very different to how it was before - in so many ways. For example very rarely did we have the opportunity to spend so much time together or even dine at the same time. Having 3 children it was difficult at first to adapt them to their new routine while working from home and managing the challenges of home schooling. You can imagine - 3 children, all at different age groups, all have different needs. Thankfully they soon accepted the new routine and it became more natural for them and less of a chore. One thing I’m really appreciative of is not having to set the alarm and contend with the morning madness of getting three children ready and out of the house on time to then be faced with the joys of rush hour traffic and the worry one of them has forgotten their lunch or even to put their shoes on!
Having my morning coffee once I’ve leisurely risen from my bed because the sun has woke me and not my alarm is a much welcome change, as is the weather we’ve been blessed with. I also feel that as a team we’ve handled this change very well when you consider many of our colleagues have been furloughed, but their work hasn’t. Through our daily video calls and with the introduction of quizzes we’re interacting much more on a casual basis and discussing how we’ve spent our time and what our plans are for the evening and less about work and work related challenges we happen to have faced that day. The same kind of group interaction would be difficult to replicate on a casual level in the office without someone using their teacher voice and asking if the discussion was “work related”.
My work to support our customers continues – just in a slightly different way – and I remain upbeat and optimistic.
Team Leader Customer Service
I am a team leader within the Customer Service Team, predominantly overseeing gas customer service activities. My role involves: ensuring all our customers receive timely updates to all enquiries and supporting the team in achieving this; creating process documents and reviewing existing processes to look for opportunities to improve; liaising with other departments to ensure a smooth end-to-end customer journey; dealing with escalations; assisting the development of the team through training and empowerment; and holding regular meetings to provide a forum for the team.
The transition to home working has presented a number of challenges, one of the biggest has been trying to keep everyone motivated and upbeat over a number of changes in a short time. With half of the team being furloughed, we have all had to take on additional tasks from both within and outside the department to ensure we can support each other and enable the business to continue to run smoothly without any impact to our customers. I have tried to empower our team as much as possible whilst also providing my full support and back up where needed. Surprisingly, work volumes have not reduced significantly and we all seem busier than ever.
I have found the support from my colleagues and manager has been the biggest help to coping with this transition. We have scheduled regular virtual catch ups to ensure we don’t feel isolated. I have also found that continuing to wear my ‘workwear’ whilst working has helped maintain some consistency and allows me to differentiate between ‘home’ and ‘work’. I am proud of the dedication and hard work shown by our team during these unprecedented times which has meant that we have been able to continue the same high-level of support for our customers in our ‘new normal’.
A note from Pauline Bryon, Customer Services Manager:
I have been fortunate enough to attend training to support me in my role as Mental Health First Aider, this has helped me grow my practical skills to help spot the signs of someone who is struggling with their own mental health and given me the confidence to support them and point them in the right direction to get help in a supportive none judgemental way.
This to me is why our virtual coffee breaks are so important, lots of people will not actively ask for help, our calls help me pick up on the emotional wellbeing of my team and spot the early signs if someone is struggling. Helping them can be as simple as taking time out to talk on a 121 basis, letting them know you are there to listen whilst they talk through their struggles to guiding colleagues to get the appropriate professional support if they require it.
There clearly is no one size fits all and it is also important when supporting my colleagues I also look after my own health and well-being. Throughout the lock down I have made sure I am keeping physically active and have maintained a well-balanced diet.