One aspect of Liam Blackwell’s job involves helping people who are in the process of buying a house – this time last year, he never thought he’d be one of them.
The Customer Care Manager got his feet on the first step of the property ladder during the Covid pandemic and has used his extra spare time getting his home just right.
He shares his story of home improvements and how his team have also been keeping up morale.
Were you planning to buy your first house in 2020?
“It was totally unexpected, if I’m honest. It’s something that I planned to do eventually, but if you’d asked me this time last year, there’s no way I’d be considering it.
“I’d managed to save up a bit of money due to the lockdown and not being able to do much last year, so that made it possible with some help from my mum too.”
Has it been a good way to pass the time at home?
“I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so it’s certainly keeping me busy. I’ve been working in the office the whole time, but when I’ve not been working I haven’t had much else to do – I haven’t really been seeing family and friends, other than a friend who lives round the corner that I’ve managed to ‘bubble up’ with – so this has been a good project to have, and it’s given me a sense of accomplishment.”
How have you found working during the pandemic?
“Because of the restrictions and the need for social distancing, we’ve had to split into three hubs and move office a couple of times. I think the biggest challenge has been keeping up with all the changes, because just as you respond to one thing then something else happens and you’ve got to change what you’re doing. It feels like you’re constantly chasing your tail making sure you’re following the rules.”
What have you done to raise morale?
“We’ve done a lot of things on our internal social media groups, like when we were moving offices we got colleagues to film their own MTV Cribs-style videos walking us through their new work spaces.
“We also did things like film our own 30-second videos for The Cumberland, and another thing that worked really well was creating a story chain – one person would make up a few lines of a story and then pass it onto a colleague in a different office for them to carry on the story.
“It was a great way to get to know people that you wouldn’t normally talk to, and I think little morale boosters like that and getting people to connect could be really good to carry on after this is all over.”
What impact has it had on the way your team works?
“I think we’ve learned a ton of lessons, and I’ve noticed a massive cultural change where different teams are going out of their way to help each other.
“It feels like a different workplace because everyone now has an understanding and appreciation of what each other is doing, probably because we all feel like we’re going through it together. Everyone knows new people from different branches and has new contacts if they need help with something.”
What part does mental health play in your role?
“My team, and my colleagues across the business are facing unprecedented challenges at the moment, and we have a responsibility to support them as best we can.
“As a company, we’ve always been advocates of supporting the mental health of our colleagues, but it feels a lot more of an open environment now as we’ve been working over the last year to further improve the support we offer.
“We’ve introduced several ways colleagues can get support, from increasing the number of Mental Health & Wellbeing Champions we have, to additional Occupational Health Support and the provision of a 24/7 Employee Assistance Programme.
“We’ve introduced extra paid rest breaks so people can have a bit more time out, and we’ve also created a central hub, one place for all our mental health and wellbeing resources where colleagues can find and access support, resources, contact information and signposting should they need it for themselves or someone else they’re supporting.”