After two weeks of ‘behind-the-scenes’ preparation and teamwork across Crawford to ensure transition to effective home working as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, it was time to inform all 1,300 Crawford employees in the UK to stay at home and work remotely.
There was a sense of huge responsibility felt by everyone – not just in terms of issuing this momentous announcement, but also the realisation that, with employees desperate for information in a time of real uncertainty regarding the impact of the virus, constant communication would be critical. While I certainly felt the pressure this created, I was committed to doing everything possible to keep the information flowing no matter what.
Lisa Bartlett, president, UK & Ireland, was a driving force from the off, and on 18 March we had already sent out our first UK-wide daily update. In fact, we sent out daily updates for the next 100 days, as we fed the insatiable demand for information. And of course, it was not just about communicating with employees, but also informing our clients about the steps we were taking to ensure we could continue to service them.
I realised from the start that to keep the communications momentum going, I had to apply the same type of rigour to the working day that I did in the office environment. That meant sticking to a clear daily routine and ensuring I maintained the same work ethic I had in the office environment. Although, I need not have worried about losing work focus. From the get-go, the days were jam-packed as we managed both internal and external communications, as well as a huge media appetite for Crawford’s perspective on the potential insurance- implications of the spread of COVID-19.
However, working from home provided a much more productive environment. Without the general day-to-day disruptions of the office, I was able to focus on the myriad tasks in front of me. There is no doubt that the working day has often been longer – particularly as the use of Microsoft Teams meant you could have eight or nine meetings in the time it might have taken to do half that in the office – but it needed to be as the demand for information has remained incredibly high.
What quickly also became apparent was just how important the communications team would become as a means of bringing the 1,300 remote-working employees together. It wasn’t just about providing information, but also connecting people and helping them continue to feel like part of the Crawford family. In fact, one thing that I realised very quickly during lockdown was what an incredible family this is.
We were keen to promote the amazing work that people were doing to keep the adjusting lights on during lockdown as part of this. And there were so many phenomenal stories that we were able to share. One that stands out for me was of an adjuster in Scotland who lived in a camper van as they travelled around the country helping individuals, businesses and communities that needed us – but that was just one of many stories that for me verged on heroic during lockdown.
It also became clear that through our communications tools we could sense how the wider team was coping with the strains of lockdown – and help direct support when needed. Through the interaction, we could see how the various lockdowns were having a different effect in people, with the most recent lockdown proving the most trying for everyone.
As we now move towards a new normal and the potential end of lockdown, I can say without any hesitation that I am incredibly proud of what Crawford has achieved. As a team, we had put in months of work around internal communications, tone of voice and sending the right messages prior to the pandemic – and it was that hard work that has enabled us to create profound and meaningful content through our intranet platform, virtual events, Microsoft Teams, social media and our employee engagement app.
What we have experienced will undoubtedly change us as individuals and will reshape the working environment as we transition once again. The pandemic has acted as a timely catalyst for real change in how we relate to our people and despite being physically separated by remote working, our regular communication through a variety of channels has helped everyone to always feel connected.