When people ask what Mears did during the coronavirus outbreak, most of us will be able to say proudly that we carried on doing our jobs to ensure that those who are vulnerable could stay in their homes. As a business we have never had a more challenging time and we wanted to set out the importance and impact in the application of our goals when taking decisions that affect all our colleagues, says Alan Long, Executive Director at Mears Group. Here Alan discusses the organisation’s six guiding principles.
Safety of our colleagues is our number one priority. We are following strict and clear government guidelines on maintaining social distancing and the use of PPE. Following a public call, we have established good procurement networks for all PPE. We ask all colleagues to follow Government advice rather than follow noise and rumour about risks from non-official sources.
During this crisis we received the Order of Distinction Award from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). This will be the 18th consecutive gold we have won and demonstrates how respected our health and safety colleagues are in our sector. Have confidence that all approaches to Health and Safety have been drawn up by our own award-winning experts.
We have seen a huge change in how we all communicate across the business. From the start our aim was to ensure that all colleagues had timely, informative and up-to-date information cascaded down to them. The need for information has been clear — all users of Connect have gone up by 73% and those accessing Connect via mobiles, PDAs and tablets up from 38% to 65%. We hope that you’ve found our information useful and we will continue to adapt as the business needs us to. The Communications team have been greatly assisted by a robust IT infrastructure and a HR team who are having to respond to changes — sometimes daily — in Government policy.
We hope that also after this crisis we all communicate with one another a lot better. Colleagues need to keep talking about their wellbeing and how they are. Line managers, I am sure, understand that they are the most important factor in cascading down often-complex information and in ensuring we hear back from front line colleagues.
Service to Our Communities
Every Thursday our nation applauds our NHS and Care workers. Most people now recognise the importance of all staff that are helping people in one way or another during this difficult time, either in the front line or supporting those in the front line.
We have some amazing people that have been doing some amazing things, some of which being recognised through #mearsamazingpeople. Many of us our proud to be working for such a great Company, with great people that have such a positive impact.
We are seeing stories day in and day out that make us so proud. A giving and positive culture isn’t something that can be created — it needs a special type of person and we have them in bucket loads. We will now be awarding the best entries for #mearsamazingpeople posted on Connect with a top up to your Mears Rewards account — just a little way of saying thank you.
The work our teams do is essential to our communities. We of course can’t leave people without heating, gas, electricity or water. We know however that “essential” goes much further than this. Fixing a broken light switch in an elderly person’s home will reduce the chance of that person having an accident at home. Supporting isolated asylum seekers with food parcels and laptops, has a massive impact and so the list goes on.
We have all worked hard of course to stop doing work that cannot be labelled essential, which is why it is pleasing to see that non-emergency work is 80% down on normal levels. Indeed, the vast amount of jobs that we may designate as non-emergency, due to the way our systems work, are for that individual, because of their personal circumstances, absolutely essential. Even the work we have done in void properties, has enabled many people who would otherwise be homeless, to get into a safe environment.
For asylum seekers, we have had to increase the usage of hotels because of the obvious difficulty in finding new property now. Here though we have worked hard to ensure that the hotel provides a good service including 24-hour reception staff on duty in case of an emergency, Wi-Fi and television and of course provision for social distancing.
Backing Britain’s Effort
In our early talks with government we immediately offered the services of our company to help the national effort. We felt that this was the right thing to do and we hope you agree.
We have been getting requests for help from around the country and we have so many examples now of staff helping out locally in support of their communities. As a national provider and a company who works closely with central and local government, we are ready to do what is needed of us.
Building a Resilient Business
Our messaging over the last weeks has tried to reassure colleagues that we are a strong business — that we will still be here after the crisis has passed. We remain very confident that is absolutely that case and it is our way of working, built over more than 25 years, that is allowing that to happen. We are grateful to those clients who have done their bit in supporting us.
Of course, our revenue and profit will be down this year and our share price has gone down also. Our priority has been safety, which is why for example we have focused on only carrying out works that are essential.
We are working night and day to ensure that we do the right things now and we hope that the energy and direction we have shown will be recognised by our clients when it comes to signing new contracts and extensions. We have also found many new and innovative ways of working — necessity is the mother of all invention.
So, our aim is not just to survive but also to be a better business at the end of this.
Going Above and Beyond for Our Workforce
We have always tried to do things differently at Mears. We want to be a workplace that brings people on and stands by them when things are tough. At the start of the pandemic we immediately agreed to pay sick pay from day one, which went against Government guidelines that stated that it should be paid from day 4. That was just the beginning.
We took an early decision to create the Mears hardship fund, which has a ring-fenced budget for colleagues to apply to. For those who have been furloughed we have removed the Government cap of £2,500 (which would have affected anyone earning over £30k p.a.) and are supporting our lowest paid by paying 100% to those earning under £20k p.a.
We created a central Covid management group to receive and process new guidance from the Government and to ensure that the guidance was quickly turned into new policy for Mears and communicated and understood, amongst our workforce.
There have been a small number of potential redundancies and contract closures, where for a variety of reasons it has been impossible to see a sustainable future, but we will do everything we can to support those individuals impacted.
We are trying to address the well being of all our staff through regular communication and signposting them to services that can help them. Mears have a huge package of commitments, including training over 1,000 members of staff on how to support people’s mental health and wellbeing, but there is no better time to show #mearsamazingpeople and support one another than right now.
We are also now setting up an employer portal for us to request COVID-19 testing to those who qualify under the Government scheme.
Many companies are not providing any or very little support — we of course decided that that is the wrong approach for our Mears family.
All these factors will underpin everything we do. They aren’t new, nor especially very innovative but they are drawn from our culture and they are what we live by.
Stay safe and keep talking to us.
Header image ©ihorzigor/AdobeStock.
Earlier this year Mears commissioned think tank Localis to review the Social Value Act and to recommend ways in which a level the playing field can be created when commissioning social value. To read this article and find out more bout the report click here: https://labmonline.co.uk/news/ensuring-accountability-to-residents-tenants-and-local-people/