Stepping up during a pandemic – a professional development opportunity like no other #HRtogether

Alicia Bedford is HR Executive for Cambridge Commodities, based in the UK.

For me personally, the start of 2020 meant continuing my professional development as I was covering for our Head of HR while she was on maternity. It was the year that I could show what I was made of and what I could accomplish. Little did I know that my biggest challenge during this time would be one of the biggest challenges that the company, even most people around the world had ever experienced in their lifetime!

A whirlwind of preventative measures to protect our people

The coronavirus pandemic threw Cambridge Commodities into a whirlwind of preventative actions in order to best protect our employees. Improving wellbeing worldwide is part of our mission and this is something that we’ve strived to maintain during this very difficult period. Even before we were told to work from home, we were trialling and setting up members of the office staff to work in their homes, so we and our employees felt ready when we were given the guidance to work from home.

As a food and nutritional ingredients company, we knew we were staying open and this meant our cleanroom, warehouse and certain members of the office staff had to continue coming to work on a daily basis. We knew that our employees would be scared, confused and anxious so we over-communicated with complete transparency of our plans and strategy throughout these uncertain times. 

Keeping teams working effectively

We have strived to keep teams working effectively and inclusively together while continuing to achieve our goals. As a HR team, we’ve worked closely with the Board, Senior Managers, IT and Marketing team to come up with a COVID-19 strategy, with the main focus on keeping our employees safe, informed and happy. Our IT department had introduced Microsoft Teams not too long ago, and this has helped us immensely to stay connected virtually.

I am so proud of what we have achieved in the past few months and we’ve found that it’s the smaller things that have made the biggest difference for our employees.

The need for our employees to be able to work more flexibly has never been more crucial, with some trying to juggle being a parent, teacher, carer and employee all at once. Many have struggled with differentiating between ‘home’ and ‘work’ and so we have done our best to provide advice and support on how to work from home successfully. We’ve told them that we understand, we are all in this together and it’s ok that you may not feel you are working to the best of your ability!

Communication has been the key to our success

Communication has been the key to our success, with a CEO led group call every two weeks for all office staff from across the globe, providing key updates and spreading positive vibes like singing happy birthday. We have also held smaller group calls and one to ones, allowing employees to voice the good, the bad and the ugly and how the company could help them.

We were hearing from some of our employees that as a company we have done so much to support them and they were very grateful, it was actually their personal time in evenings and weekends they were struggling with. Quite a few said they were bored and felt trapped in their homes. So we decided to host a fun quiz night that went down extremely well and have been pressed for a second quiz!

Mental health and wellbeing is at the top of our agenda

We have made sure that mental health and wellbeing is at the top of our agendas, providing emotional support to employees and reminding them of our employee assistance programme if they feel they may want to use it. We’ve encouraged all employees to take time out during work to call someone or do a good deed like shopping for a vulnerable person.

So many businesses have gone above and beyond for their employees and I have found information and inspiration from so many different places. For me, the combined skills, knowledge and innovation from the team around me has been second-to-none and the only way we have been able to get through, and keep thriving through, this pandemic is together – socially distant – but together.

#HRtogether #InternationalHRDay # teamCC #oneteam

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