Beyond the potent life-threatening impact of COVID-19, the pandemic has been the biggest challenge to business continuity our housing community has faced.

We saw this coming early and began testing our strategies for full remote working weeks before the Government announced lockdown. With our systems in place, our entire team were encouraged to work remotely a week before the Government lockdown order. Business as usual monitoring was closely carried out over the first week to ensure everything we do could be done and done smoothly. We already had Microsoft Teams, Slack and GoToMeeting in place but were surprised with the take-up of Zoom and have now incorporated Zoom across our operations.

At ROCC, we upscaled our IT support teams for the housing providers we work alongside, recognising that during this crisis IT teams need extra levels of cohesive support. As part of adapting our new levels of service to assist our customers, we included complete integration of our staff into customer teams, helping customers who’ve had to furlough staff with additional resource. As integral members of these new teams, we’ve adopted regular team get togethers and meetings with a focus on video conferencing to ensure face-to-face communication is strong.

We also kept a very close eye on the health and wellbeing of our own team. We operate a flexible working policy anyway; one of the big benefits of flexible working we’ve found is that colleagues are far more productive at home than they are in an office environment, taking away the stresses of commuting and further enabling the drive to achieve targets without distractions. With everyone, including our customers, being home based over recent months and potentially taking this forward into the future, we quickly found our teams were actually working much longer hours coupled with being much more productive. Management have had to take ensure that teams are taking regular breaks and adopting healthy strategies for maintaining their physical and mental wellbeing. Our focus at ROCC has always been on people before profits and over the years we’ve adopted many strategies to ensure our teams are not only happy and productive at work but also at home and this has been more critical than ever.

We are proud of how our team at ROCC has stepped up to combat this crisis together and how they are emerging from it even stronger than before; they’ve remained calm and determined to deliver results for our customers. From the earliest signs of the pandemic our team wanted to help and be involved with supporting their communities and the country to contribute to the COVID-19 fight. Colleagues are have been and still are making a positive difference by volunteering to make washable scrubs bags and gowns for the NHS, building face shields using 3D printer technology, supporting local GP services by delivering essential medicines to those shielding or isolating and also staffing food banks.

We also decided to adapt our marketing and sales massively as a result of the crisis. We recognised there were and still are bigger challenges facing our customers and so we shifted our marketing to be one of quiet support; letting people know we are there to help if they need us, but not jamming our message down their throats. I’ve been hugely disappointed with how some suppliers have reacted to these challenges, seeing it as an opportunity to make more money from their clients. We took completely the opposite approach, maintaining our core values of being long-term strategic partners and critical friends to our clients and potential clients.

The first week of the lockdown we contacted all our customers to let them know that we would help them with their software or their data challenges completely free of charge if they needed support, for example, in pausing non-critical housing maintenance and repairs and the subsequent recovery of that service now lockdown is easing. Within the first few weeks of lockdown, we were operating at such a level that our ISO quality team were able to pass our first ISO audit remotely, which was a good indicator for us that we have the right systems in place.

The next steps for us are as always to stay ahead of the Government advice. We didn’t wait for them to tell us to take our operations to fully remote working and we won’t wait again for them to tell us what the new normal is. Our management teams are now putting together their visions for what ‘our new normal’ should be and we will begin implementing this over the coming weeks. The entire ROCC team are determined to introduce this vision with a renewed emphasis on productivity and wellbeing, coupled with a resilient and agile business that will continue to cope and adapt to any challenges the world puts our way.