Over the past 12 months, working life has changed unrecognisably for so many of us.

As we mark the anniversary of the first lockdown and the start of home working for millions, we’re examining how the pandemic has shifted attitudes, practices and processes for thousands of businesses.

On reflection: a year in lockdown

On Friday, 13th March 2020, life as we knew it changed dramatically when Tier 1 took the decision to send all office based personnel home. We took this decision ten days ahead of the UK lockdown as we felt it was better to reduce risk and implement our business continuity programme whilst still having the time to amend and adjust our programme as we headed towards full lockdown. These ten days were critical and made a huge difference to our COVID-19 implementation plan. On 23rd March, government advice was to work from home where possible to quell the spread of COVID-19.

At Tier 1, we were ready for business! Spare rooms became offices, Zoom became our boardroom, and a lunchtime walk became the highlight of our days.

Many of us welcome the newfound flexibility into our lives, embracing the chance to fit work more harmoniously around our home lives. For others, remote working was a challenge as they struggled to separate professional commitments from personal duties, missed human interactions or lacked the room to create a dedicated workspace.

It was particularly hard for those members of our team with young children. Mixing work, home-schooling and general parenting became a juggling act. We overcame this by insisting the children came first and work could follow. The result – the work got done, but often outside normal business hours.

Our warehouse staff were incredible. After consultation with our Operational management group, we agreed to split our Ops team into two separate groups with a seven day on / seven day off shift pattern. This allowed for safe social distancing as well as building resilience into our process. If a member of one of the teams caught the virus we could isolate that team and bring the other team in to cover. Thankfully, this never materialised, and everyone stayed safe.

A year on, how did we do?

A digital revolution

At the start of lockdown 1.0 in March 2020, remote working wasn’t commonplace for most UK businesses.

Despite the technology existing, many business owners felt compelled to stick to the traditional office hours and habits of the past. Hence, the standard 9 to 5 reigned supreme up and down the country; Tier 1 were no different

However, the pandemic has encouraged businesses of all kinds to embrace technology to change the way they work for the better and Tier 1 is embracing this digital transformation.

While many were undoubtedly apprehensive in the beginning, the results speak for themselves. Teams have stayed connected, time has been saved cutting out the commute, and meetings have become more efficient than ever in our new digital workplace.

As such, the culture of work has changed forever.

What are the significant changes in the way we work?

Below, we’ve detailed some of the main ways technology has changed how we work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity has been paramount as we switch to home working, with IT departments flexing to connect and protect remote devices. Secure home working setups are crucial to safeguard sensitive data and business procedures, with the rush to switch to remote working, leaving many companies vulnerable to a cyber attack. The investment we had made over the past few years in our cloud based systems and cybersecurity made the switch to homeworking an easy technical step although it was a huge cultural shift!

Mental health

Workplace wellbeing is vital, but how can you help preserve your teams’ mental health when they’re geographically spread out? Fortunately, we’ve seen companies go to great lengths to maintain connections and nurture mental wellbeing in the absence of face-to-face contact.

At Tier 1 we setup small co-working groups so that nobody was isolated and regular communication was maintained. There is more work to be done around mental health wellbeing and we are currently exploring how we can introduce this critical topic into our normal working week; watch this space!

Remote recruitment and onboarding

The process of recruiting and onboarding new members of staff has changed drastically in a COVID world. Virtual interviews and onboarding sessions are now commonplace, with many HR teams and recruitment firms left wondering if they’ll ever return to pre-COVID practices. I am still not convinced we have got remote onboarding right, but with no rulebook to guide us this is something still in the development stage. We would welcome any advice from organisations who feel they have got a working blueprint in this area.

IT disposal

Naturally, we’ve seen a shift in IT disposal practices. Many companies paused their refresh plans as supply of new equipment was hampered by the COVID restrictions. This saw demand surge for our refurbished laptops as companies scrambled to equip their teams for homeworking almost overnight. Coroprates who would give Tier 1 their old IT to dispose of were desperate for us to supply them with more of the same and as a result “refurb” has established itself as a credible source of low-cost IT within a corporate environment.

As business start to return to normal operations, it’s vital that we continue to prioritise the environment. It’s never been more critical to ethically and sustainably dispose of unwanted IT equipment. Tier 1’s remote wiping service makes the IT disposal process simple, whether you have returned to the office or you’re still working remotely.

Businesses that donate old IT kit to IT disposal experts tap into a wealth of benefits. As well as ensuring all equipment is handled securely, they have the opportunity to access high-quality refurnished kit through corporate ICT redeployment schemes.  Initiatives like this contribute to a more circular economy, as well as saving business owners money and helping to hit sustainability targets.

Corporate acts of kindness

One significant benefit we’ve seen play out during the pandemic is the rise in corporate acts of kindness.

Tier 1 customers have donated thousands of unwanted laptops to schools during the pandemic, helping teachers and pupils navigate the challenges of home schooling.

We have also seen corporates use the funds Tier 1 has generated for them, used to purchase even more equipment to help disadvantaged school children.

If Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was a tick box before the pandemic, let’s hope it is now an established theme on all boardroom agendas!

Key takeaways

Looking back on the past year, what are your key takeaways from the pandemic?

For us, the positives are the increase in flexible working, the “can do” attitude and support of all of our people and heightened environmental awareness among businesses.

If we can look to the future with a newfound trust and reliance on technology for the possibilities it offers us, as well as striving to tread more and more lightly on our planet, we can look forward to a bright future.

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