Whitepaper 1.1 – Collaborator Perspectives Part 2
Laura Desert, Internal Communications Manager, CityFibre
CityFibre is the UK’s largest alternative provider of wholesale fibre network infrastructure and the builder of Gigabit Cities. Due to the foresight of their CEO, the internal comms team at CityFibre were already preparing for the possibility of a lockdown and developing a plan of action.
“Our CEO was aware of things early on. We were mindful that we needed to get ready and we were preparing ahead of many of the government guidelines. Our CEO had already asked us to set up a team to address any business continuity risks in relation to the situation. In this week we were already having daily calls with the dedicated team, that included members from HR, Internal Comms, IT, and Compliance, and was led by a member of the Executive Team.”
Preparing for the Crisis
“We ran a simulation as a drill for lockdown. We developed a hypothetical scenario where one of our employees had tested positive, meaning a confirmed case in an office. We asked people from three of our offices to work from home. We were planning this exercise and had an agile team leading the simulation, which meant we were able to make decisions quickly and prepare for what was becoming a very likely real-life scenario.
“The purpose of the simulation was really to test our ability to respond to a crisis and gain feed back from employees to determine how they would be impacted if this was a real-life scenario. For example, we asked people to think about how their productivity would be impacted and if they might have issues with equipment and home set-up.”
To begin the first simulation, an email was sent to all applicable employees at 6:30 am which included instructions on how they should proceed.
“It explained that we were monitoring the COVID-19 situation very closely and as part of our precautionary measures we had decided to run a business continuity exercise. We were conducting this exercise to evaluate our business continuity plans in the event of a major viral outbreak. We created a hypothetical scenario to follow, and employees received communications throughout the day, telling them to read instructions carefully and take action when required.”
Following the simulation, we collected feedback from participating employees and found that, understandably, most of them did not access their work email before getting into the office, so they had missed the first email. In the following weeks, the response team ran a second simulation where they applied the lessons learned from this first drill.
“We actually ran a second simulation the following week. For this one, we trialled an SMS service which allowed us to text employees on their personal phones. Due to the character limit, this was a short message telling them to check their emails before coming into the office, but it was enough to reach more people in time.”
Jeremy Albert, Operations Manager, Tour Operator
At this point, the possibility of going abroad was becoming very slim, with many locations already off limits. This instantly put immense pressure on the travel sector to both react to the changes and co-ordinate them to the customers who were jamming the phone lines.
“It was a difficult time, as soon as you put a strategy in place, it would change again. The strategy was changing on a daily basis. It was difficult to predict what to do next and it was becoming frustrating as we weren’t able to offer real concrete advice.”
“We were not even entertaining new business; we were purely dealing with existing bookings trying to refund or rearrange. Then we had the added complication of customers who were stuck in various destinations, the repatriation operation was as complicated as it was urgent. Then it was a case of availability on flights.”
Jeremy was communicating with suppliers to understand what their new procedures were in order to make strategic decisions on behalf of the business and relay the information back to the staff.
“It was a mixture of trying to keep staff as informed as possible whilst looking after their welfare. On the welfare side, it was letting them know the managers were there to support them. It isn’t nice dealing with customers shouting at you and around 40/50 calls waiting in line, so when they are dealing with a problematic call, they can assign it to their manager, helping to take the sting out of those difficult conversations.”
The following mediums were used to relay the specific messaging chosen for each region.
- Email – The predominant form of contact was via email. Jeremy emailed employees regarding any recent changes andredirected them back to the COVID-19 folder.
- COVID-19 Folder – This was a dedicated folder that was created to host all the latest policy documents from airlines so staff had the most up to date information at all times that they could relay back to the customers.
- Debrief Sessions – At the start of every day, the team began with a quick debrief to run through the activities for the day and ensure everyone was prepared.