A leading manufacturer of aluminium doors and windows is experiencing its busiest month on record as a result of a backlog of building projects caused by the first lockdown.
But High Wycombe-based Origin, now faces the challenge of keeping its teams motivated to work harder than ever, following months of downtime.
Victoria Brocklesby, Founder and COO at Origin, said: “Back in March when the first lockdown was announced, Origin’s business virtually stopped overnight. So, just like many other businesses across the country, we went into ‘survival mode’ and focussed on what we needed to do just to get through the months ahead. For us, this meant a company-wide shut down, with almost all our staff on furlough for a few weeks.”
And staff were inevitably worried about job security, at a time when everyone’s personal finances were already becoming an increasing concern.
Fortunately for Origin, this period didn’t last very long and the business was one of the first manufacturers to reopen.
Luckily, Origin holds quite a lot of stock in order to be able to deliver to its customers’ project timeline, and that enabled the team to weather issues within the supply chain and start operating quickly when the company was allowed to reopen.
Victoria added: “As a result, we gained a lot of new customers who needed product for their building projects fast and knew we could deliver. This, coupled with the fact that the autumn is always our busiest sales period, means that we are currently experiencing unprecedented demand and are busier than we could ever have imagined.”
And she says its not the only businesses experiencing this surge in demand. There are a host of industries that were forced to close during lockdown 1.0 that are now permitted to reopen and are faced with a huge backlog of orders to fulfil.
While this is a nice problem to have, it comes with its own challenges. “Keeping staff morale and productivity levels at an all-time-high after such a turbulent year can be difficult,” added Victoria.
“When we began bringing our staff back from furlough after our shutdown during the spring, we found that motivation levels shot up quickly. Our team were relieved and enthusiastic to be back in the workplace and many found they had missed their work and their team. We know that people come together during times of adversity and as our workload began to increase, our team did just this, with everyone digging in and working together to fulfil the huge demand we were experiencing. In fact, in the months following our shutdown, morale was at an all-time high.
However, staff can only sustain working at 100 percent effort and capacity for so long, and we are now noticing our team is starting to find the maintained momentum difficult.
“With no sign of the busy period quietening down until Christmas, we, like many businesses across the country, are faced with the important task of keeping our employees feeling valued, supported and motivated for the final push before we close for Christmas.”
So Origin has begun rewarding staff with seasonal treats to demonstrate its appreciation.
Victoria said: “We recently sent the whole company vouchers for a Marks & Spencer dine-in for two meal, and everyone received Halloween-themed brownies in October. We are also continuing to present our regular staff awards virtually and are making a conscious effort to ensure we are recognising all individuals who are going the extra mile to support our business at this time.”
Communication is incredibly important for morale during busy periods. open communication and transparency is appreciated by staff who want to know what’s going on during this uncertain time.
Victoria added that supporting staff’s mental health is even more vital now and the company’s managers are making a conscious effort to check-in with their team regularly, and genuinely. “This is particularly important for those members of staff who are still working from home, as managers no longer have the opportunity to have the informal chats around the office which can help them to grasp how each individual is doing.”
She went on: “It is important to understand everyone’s individual circumstances and tailor support for them accordingly. At Origin, we sent out a whole company survey about remote working. The survey was anonymous, but many employees were happy to identify themselves and this gave us a much deeper understanding of everyone’s personal set-up and allowed us to cater for them as individuals.
“While we are likely to live with uncertainty around Brexit and the pandemic for a while longer, it is those businesses that make a conscious effort to motivate and support their workers during this time that will be able to grab the market share and grow as a business. We will come out of the other side of this, and businesses must be ready and armed with a workforce that is loyal, supported and productive.”