Mark Price, MD of Gloucestershire based Vitruvius Management Services, reflects on how the company’s robust project management processes, systems and communications have enabled the company to remain fully operational during the COVID-19 pandemic ‘lockdown’.
As the coronavirus alert level is lowered and life begins to return to a ‘new normal’, I felt it was a good time to reflect on our learnings over the past few months. Whilst the crisis has, of course, presented a number of challenges to many business owners, I am pleased and proud of how the team at Vitruvius has responded to the situation, and that there are some positive learnings that will continue to benefit our business and our clients in the future.
Keep calm and carry on
In March we stayed positive, and whilst missing out on an annual trip to Cheltenham’s Gold Cup, we had our own race to meet deadlines before face-to-face meetings were no longer available. Aware that our key contacts might also be facing disruption, we focused on completing paperwork and submissions ahead of schedule to avoid any potential delays.
Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives
Hopefully, it is no surprise that as experts in project management we could swiftly turn our hands to new ways of working. Working from home with the cloud-based document control processes and procedures we have in place set us in great stead, eliminating our worry of having to set-up new systems or re-train staff.
I am proud to say that we did not need to furlough any staff – it was business as usual, albeit at home.
Project management expertise
Our project management expertise allowed us to keep projects running, with the exception of on-site construction work.
We used our skills and experience to adapt to the changes and challenges being faced by our clients; to work in collaboration with those managing the new COVID-19 safety requirements, the subcontractors with limited resources and staff participating in the furlough job retention scheme.
Switching to virtual communications
We spend a lot of time in meetings, so this presented our biggest change to working practices. Like so many, we switched from face-to-face to virtual meetings via Zoom and Teams. We have found this to be extremely effective and will continue meeting with clients and partners in this way post-lockdown.
In early April, our annual management system audits including ISO 9001 (Quality), ISO 14001 (Environment) and OSHSAS 18001 (Health and Safety,) were all carried out via Zoom – a first for us and a first for the auditor. It went well, and we passed!
The coronavirus crisis is first and foremost a health crisis. Understanding that people matter most is key, and as we have shared our own homes on Zoom calls, we have also seen a great level of care and attention to wellbeing than ever before – and I truly welcome this. Personally, my wife is immune compromised and so has been in shielding throughout lockdown. Among our staff and their family units there are others we have with health issues, as well as young families with no additional childcare support, so work had to fit around these priorities.
If you are going to be in lockdown, there is no better place to be shielding than the beautiful Stroud valleys.
As many of you may know I do not often stop for long holiday breaks; I love being on the go. So it has been quite a change throughout lockdown – just me, the wife, the cat and the dog. It has been great having a laugh, enjoying wine and cider in the garden whilst watching the cows and deer in the field behind our house. I am looking forward to celebrating our 15-year wedding anniversary soon, and cannot wait to see my baby granddaughter. Oh, and to watch some local rugby!
Returning to the office
Our workspace in Gloucester is now COVID-19 secure and we are looking forward to returning to the office and having face-to-face (socially distanced) conversations! We will not be inviting visitors in for a while, or attending external meetings, so will continue to use online video calls.
Although all of our residential development sites were initially affected - Corse, Gloucester; Harvington, Evesham; Hereford; Cheltenham and Staunton, Gloucester - they are now all back up and running. We feel lucky that the timing of lockdown coincided with the pre-construction phase of many projects, so disruption was minimal. Our working processes proved to be as robust as we expected them to be.
We continue to focus on increased attention to wellbeing as the world has changed so much, and as the health and economic impacts remain with us.
As many planning applications were submitted before and during lockdown, we are waiting feedback and approvals and will then move on to the next stage(s) of some really exciting projects for the rest of 2020 and beyond! We will share some with you as soon as we can.
I'd love to hear your lockdown learnings?