A year like no other

This has been a year like no other in living memory. Nobody having a job interview five years ago would have accurately answered the standard question “Where do you see yourself in five years time?” correctly.

Many industries have been decimated – hospitality, entertainment, and travel being just three. But for many it has been an opportunity.

When lockdown was announced on 23 March 2020, my business was just 2 ½ years old. As the Prime Minister spoke, I could think of nothing but “that’s it, my dream is over, I will never recover from this”.

I slept on it, and the next day I thought, “no, this is an opportunity. This virus can help my business.” How right I was.

My first job was to contact all of my major clients. I told them that throughout I am there for them, at the end of the phone. Any support I can give, I would. And the same answer kept coming back.

You could help now, Kevin. We have a new workplace. What do we need to do? That workplace was the home.

Under health and safety law, employers have to provide a safe place of work for its employees to operate from. Now, where possible, people were being asked to work from home. How on earth do you ensure someone’s home is safe? The hazards of children, the kitchen table or dressing table, electrical overloading (due to lack of sockets), and poor posture. This was an opportunity. And I took it.

I issued a home working self assessment form, which was distributed to staff by my clients. I received these back and, where there were issues (such as people sitting at the end of the bed working from a dressing table), I set up a zoom call to work with them individually to resolve their issues. In many cases, chairs were sent from the empty offices. Flexible working became common place. And I also did a video, in my slippers for authenticity, of exercises and stretches you could do from home. I also wrote a blog post – one of many, on tips for being safe in the new workplace.

As time wore on, people settled into a new routine. Some managers started using the time to update policies and procedures, and needed my help. These were things I could easily do from home for people. One company, who made equipment used in the NHS, asked me to do an inspection – via video conferencing of his factory. Although probably not as thorough as if I had been there, it worked,, and allowed them to make the improvements they needed to continue their essential work.

While doing all this, I had established a coronavirus page of useful information on my web site, and given advice and tips out regularly on social media.

When the Prime Minister announced that some businesses would be allowed to reopen, provided they were COVID-19 secure, the phone started ringing that same night. “Can you help us with our COVID-19 risk assessment please?” I gave two presentations on the subject via Zoom to members of St Helens Chamber on safely reopening business premises. Over the next two months, I estimate I helped at least 350 businesses to reopen. Somehow I had become an expert on the subject. And many of these businesses have asked me to do other health and safety work too.

With England now going into different tiers depending on the level of COVID-19 in their area, things have steadied a little, but I am still extremely busy. No doubt as more restrictions come and go, my business will need to adapt again, but as a whole, the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has been good for me, and I see no reason why this will not continue.

So my tips for businesses struggling:

  • Think outside the box. What can you do differently that allows you to bring at least some income in?
  • Try new things. If it doesn’t work, you’ve at least tried. If it works, it’s a new income source.
  • Promote what you do, on social media, directory platforms such as Mancheshare or Yell.
  • Most important of all: Stay positive. We are all in this together. We will all come out of this together. Demand will return.

Good luck, and stay safe.

Kevin Heywood