Engineering a response in challenging times

16th June 2020

Covid 19 response

Stirling’s Head of Engineering, Trajan Seymour, looks at how the company has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and considers what is next.

As well as the tragic human cost, the Covid-19 pandemic has affected businesses all around the world with over a third of the world’s population living and working under lockdown. So how has it changed things for us here at Stirling and what have been the major changes in the interactions between Stirling and its customers and amongst the Stirling staff?

Quick to Adapt

Stirling’s business model has always been built on efficiently delivering packages of work away from our customers’ sites, so when the UK went into lockdown over 12 weeks ago, we were able to continue supporting our ongoing projects without too much disruption and also carry on discussions with potential customers about starting new projects. One example of this adaptability includes a recent contract award to provide landing gear requirements management training to an international customer. Originally, the plan was for three of Stirling’s engineers to provide the training at the customer’s site overseas but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have adopted a digital classroom approach. The virtual course will now be delivered to the customer via video conference in the Summer 2020.

Flexible and Fast-Moving

The nature of Stirling’s business has meant we have always been flexible and fast-moving, so this has been a good test of our ability to carry on supporting our customers under the most of unusual and difficult circumstances. Where it has been possible, Stirling staff were asked to work from home and fortunately, the IT infrastructure was already in place to achieve this and keep communication channels open for project teams, managers, and customers. When we moved to our new office at the end of 2019, we made a major investment in our IT infrastructure to enable collaborative working on and offsite. So, we were in a good position early on to enable our office staff to work from home and still maintain access to all our IT infrastructure. A lot of credit must go to our IT manager and business continuity team, who ensured the company was resilient enough to cope with a worst-case scenario and made the transition to mass home working easier for the rest of us.

“The nature of Stirling’s business has meant we have always been flexible and fast-moving, so this has been a good test of our ability to carry on supporting our customers under the most of unusual and difficult circumstances”.

In instances where it wasn’t possible for staff to work on customer sites or at home, due to working on essential Government projects, our Covid-19 response team created a safe working space for Stirling staff which included reconfiguring our office layout; the implementation of social distancing practices; focussed cleaning and the installation of hand sanitisation stations. This ensured that all our staff have been able to carry out their work and deliver to customers.

WE UNDERSTAND LOCKDOWN CAN TAKE ITS TOLL

Ensuring staff welfare on and offsite has been our primary concern throughout this period. We have maintained regular communication with employees, keeping them up to date on any changes and measures that we have put in place. We recognise the challenges that some of our employees continue to face working from home, whilst juggling childcare and any other responsibilities they may have, so we have offered increased flexible or reduced working hours where needed. Our employees also have 1:1 check-ins with their Line Managers at least once a week to see how they are getting on and offer additional support where needed.

Our Private Medical Insurance provider, Vitality, has also provided some great resources and mental health support. Additionally, our Employee Assistance Programme also offers confidential support 24/7 to our employees and their partner/dependents. Earlier this month, we also offered our employees the opportunity to join a “Lunch and Learn” session on ‘Regulating Anxiety’. This informative session was run by a leading provider of mental and physical wellbeing services for workplaces and provided our employees with coping mechanisms to support them during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) period as well as for the future.

We also know the importance of social interaction for mental health and wellbeing, so the use of online video conferencing platforms has allowed employees to maintain the Stirling team spirit through company-wide quizzes, team chats and Friday night drinks. Whilst we look forward to seeing each other in the Bristol office again soon, it has been great to see how well everyone has adapted and supported each other.

Have Working Practices Changed Forever?

In terms of working practices, will the UK’s enforced current switch to home working result in a permanent change in working practices across our industries? We’ve certainly all become more comfortable with working from home and effective at collaborating remotely, so perhaps the days of everyone spending five days a week at their desk in the office have gone forever? As Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, of Microsoft said, “we have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” This is in addition to a recent nationwide survey conducted by OnePoll that found that 9 in 10 people across the UK would prefer the option of working from home at least once a week.

Hopefully, we will all get through this soon and we will see what the ‘new normal’ looks like.

Stay safe everyone.

Trajan Seymour

Trajan Seymour

As the Head of Engineering, Trajan leads the engineering, production and quality functions within the organisation.