Navigating turbulent waters COVID-19

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The last three weeks have been amongst the most challenging of my time with Tribeca.  The COVID-19 pandemic is challenging every business in the UK and beyond – some much more than others, however every business is being asked questions and having to react accordingly.  We wanted to share the story so far from within our own business… 

We started planning for the inevitable disruption in late February, constituting our Crisis Management Team (CMT) which now meets daily, during the most turbulent days earlier this month that schedule was increased to twice daily. 

We started by trying to assess the potential impact to both Tribeca, our team and our clients, we did this by creating a list of potential scenarios, what impact they would have and what actions would need to be taken to mitigate the impact. 

We spent a large amount of time role playing those scenarios and trying to assess the most meaningful actions we could take as a business.  I have to say, of all the meetings we have had during this pandemic, they were some of the most productive.  Once we had defined the actions we would take, we started to prepare the communication plans – both internal (to our team) and external (to clients).  Draft emails were prepared which communicated the core messaging we would need during that time (although these were often subsequently changed or adapted) having them prepared saved a huge amount of time when they were needed.

I have to say that during late February, some of the scenarios seemed like a remote possibility – when the news was reporting less than 50 cases of COVID-19 in the UK, a full scale lockdown of the population wasn’t something we envisaged happening just a few weeks later – however we had prepared for it.  We understood the impact to our business, who we needed to communicate with and when and what we wanted to communicate.

Between Thursday 12th of March and Friday 20th of March, the number of tickets logged with our Service Desk team doubled from normal levels, as our clients moved to a working from home model en-masse.  As you can imagine this placed considerable strain on certain teams within the business – however due to our CMT scenarios, we were prepared for this, and allocated resource from other teams to assist with the increased inflow of requests.   This meant that we were able to answer all of those additional requests from clients without a significant impact on our average response times. 

Currently, our workload is around 30% above normal levels most of which is related to people adjusting to working from home.

This increased workload came at a time when we were also enacting our own BCP plans.  Initially that began with a percentage of the team being asked to work from home.  We made this decision in the second week of March, to safeguard the availability of our teams – so personnel within each team were sent to work offsite.  As the days passed, we moved more and more of our teams to working from home as government advice began to change and further social distancing was recommended. We also monitored the effectiveness of the teams already working remotely and compared that to the teams that remained in the office.  It was clear after just a week that there was no meaningful productivity impact and therefore it was an easy to decision to transfer more resource to working from home.

One of the biggest challenges for ourselves and our clients with the COVID-19 pandemic is the estimated length of time it will affect us all.  Most of us have worked from home before, indeed we have enacted our BCP plans before and the entire firm has worked from home for a 2-3 day period.  However, with a view that the impact from this pandemic is likely to last months rather than weeks, we have needed to improve our remote working capabilities.  The main areas of improvement have been providing staff with additional hardware such as multi-monitor setups, headsets and webcams to work from home more effectively.  One surprise has been the number of chairs that have been taken home from our office!  It turns out they are not so bad after all and actually quite popular as opposed to sitting on a kitchen stool! 

A key focus of the management team during this time has been communication.  Both within our team and with our clients.  Our Managing Director has recorded a daily Video Blog which he shares with the entire team, explaining what our next steps will be and reacting to the latest government advice – these have proved really popular and something that we will likely carry on (albeit perhaps weekly) after the crisis is over.  The use of video conferencing within the business has increased significantly to bring teams together.  We already had a desktop-based VC solution in place but the use of that and other VC systems has increased significantly.

Another area of the business where we have witnessed an increased workload is within our procurement team.  Request for additional hardware from our clients has increased significantly for the same reasons as I detailed above, every business is trying to make the remote working environment as close to the office as possible.  We are seeing shortages of some stock within our supply chain – laptops, monitors and webcams seem to be the most affected items, although our suppliers are still able to source them, these are not in large quantities.  The latest news we have is that stock levels should increase by the end of the first week in April.

We understand that there are businesses who have been affected far more severely than our own.  We all have friends and relatives running businesses or working for firms within many sectors that have been forced to close their doors, having been part of Tribeca for almost 13 years, I can’t imagine how that must feel for them.  We are fortunate to work within an industry that we can work from home and continue to provide the service to our clients. 

We also understand that the worst of this crisis is almost certainly yet to come, so far we have largely managed to avoid anyone within our business becoming ill, something which we hope will continue.  We are always reinforcing the messaging from the UK government around the need for social distancing to try and reduce this risk, but if there does come a  time when that happens, it will be another challenge that needs to be overcome. 

Finally, at this time we all feel it’s important to give something back wherever possible and help those less fortunate than ourselves.  This is an effort our Managing Director has been spearheading personally and will be the subject of a blog in the coming days.  Suffice to say that is just another reason I feel incredibly proud of working for this company and being part of this team.  As a service based business, we really are only the sum of the people within it, it’s been great to see the whole team respond to this crisis in the way we hoped and expected – with hard work, determination, resilience and where possible – humour. 

Ian Rimmer
Operations Director


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