Powering through Lockdown

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“I am immensely proud of the OnlineDIRECT team” proclaims our CEO, David Coombs, in a scheduled weekly Zoom catch up with the marketing team.  “Since March, when the first national Lockdown came into force we have all been working remotely.  It was a dramatic and instant change for most staff members which understandably took some time to adjust to.  However, I’ve been so impressed by the speed at which the teams have rallied together to ensure that our ongoing support and services have not been compromised. Most importantly, it’s been genuinely humbling to see colleagues look after one another, and managers adapting to best support their teams.”  

OnlineDIRECT has evolved and adapted in many ways during this period.  Not only in response to the pandemic but we’ve also forged ahead with our strategic plans, that were set in motion many months before Lockdown hit.  An integral part of this is our continued efforts to bring new technology and improved services to our Brokers.  To that end, we recently launched our brilliant new Energy Analytics service which has seen a lot of interest from our Brokers and the wider market – find out more here.  Additionally, our recently announced team restructures have proven to be a great success, our exceptional back office support teams are now streamlined to provide faster response times for Brokers and our SRM’s are now better positioned to identify opportunities and strengthen relationships with Brokers.

Despite having to furlough staff members at the start (100% of staff have now returned to work), we have not held back on our plans. And having such a supportive and courageous team has meant that it has been ‘business as usual’ at OnlineDIRECT – despite being 100% remote!

But of course, some things have changed, specifically the lives we’ve been living outside of work. With our personal lives, restricted due to COVID rules, many of our staff have explored new interests or rekindled old ones.  As we’ve dug into this deeper, we’ve been blown away by what our colleagues have been getting up to outside of their normal day-to-day…  Handmade cards, embellished resin products, crochet, and some very proud new puppy owners!

When people first started to share their stories Head of Sales, Nicky Wilson-Everett became intrigued, “When I ask what inspired them to start this new hobby or interest, the response I get is that it’s given them an ‘escape’, some time to themselves to express themselves through their creations and to give back, or do something positive.  It’s been brilliant and genuinely inspiring to see.”

Amy Clarke, Quality Assurance Executive says “Lockdown was tough for me as it was for everyone else. My Husband struggled with severe depression due to losing his job and as I am a ‘fixer’ and couldn’t help him, I decided to do something positive and turn my childhood hobby into a little business”.

These real-world insights from our team members really highlight just how important mental health awareness and personal well-being is. It can be easy to become complacent about the needs of our colleagues.  As the novelty of working from home begins to wane, it can feel quite isolating. We have a unique culture at OnlineDIRECT and our team members are encouraged to collaborate and share ideas to help shape the way we operate. Working from home adds another dimension, and in some ways, a hurdle to overcome.

Emily Hickford, Supplier Relationship & Broker Support Manager reflects on lockdown from her perspective as a manager, “Well-being of my team members is something I am acutely aware of. Working from home has meant that I am conscious about making time for regular catch-ups and where I can, meeting up with team members for a coffee.  Although we have not had the opportunity to meet face to face very often, the few occasions that we have has been wonderful.  We are a close team, and we all miss the regular office banter.  Over lockdown we have encouraged Zoom quiz nights… the latest being the Halloween Quiz, which was a lot of fun. But let’s face it – Zoom gets tiring. I think we are all looking forward to a real get together!”

 

Our teams went ALL out with their fantastic costumes for our Halloween team quiz.

Using Lockdown as an opportunity, not a punishment

It’s been refreshing to see our team members nurture new hobbies.  We have a broad range of skills coming to light through lockdown, and we would like to share a couple of these inspiring stories with you…

Emily has launched a side business she’s aptly named Embellished Designs.  Emily has created a small studio/office for herself at home and in her spare time, she gets lost in her resin creations.  From coasters to key rings to wine glass holders and even decorative trays! These designs are simply breath-taking. Great effort, Emily!

Emily explains how she felt during the lockdown and how she found her escape, “Adjusting to working from home and the lack of separation between being at work and at home, combined with being limited with our choice of social activities, was difficult for me.  This need for a new dimension got me thinking about reigniting my creative side and it was just by chance that I came across resin products. It kept me sane and occupied in my own little world during the lockdown.  I was looking for a distraction but when people started to become interested in my products, I decided to start my small business, Embellished Designs.”

Amy Clarke remembers the special bond she formed with her Grandmother while making cards and small crafts.  She decided to rekindle this childhood passion and as someone who is also passionate about sustainability, Amy came up with the concept of combining her love for the planet with bringing smiles to people’s faces… and so her journey in making handmade plantable greeting cards began.  Not only are these cards individually handmade and wrapped in a protective 100% biodegradable vegetable starch film but they will also bloom into beautiful wildflowers if they are planted in the garden. This has us feeling inspired!

 

Amy Clarke rekindled a childhood passion and turned this into a business to spread more love during the pandemic, while also thinking about the planet with these beautiful handmade cards that bloom into wildflowers in the garden.

Amy speaks openly about why she started this journey, “My husband sadly lost his job during the lockdown and this took a massive toll on his mental health. Being unable to really help him was difficult for me, so I naturally turned to crafts and card making as my escape.  I realised just how much a handmade card can really put a smile on someone’s face and coupled with the separation from loved ones during the lockdown, the idea to send my cards to friends and family to let them know I was thinking of them, was formed.  With the positive feedback I received, I thought this was something I could take further and spread more love during these difficult times.”

Previously we have celebrated the news about Joseph Corkram, Account Manager being able to restart his live gigs.  Joseph explains how he felt about the quick pivot he had to make, from live gigs to online streaming, “Having to live stream online was a very weird feeling for me, taking away the vibe musicians’ feed from during performances. So, it was brilliant to be able to return to live gigs again, and I look forward to going back out before Christmas.”

The takeaway from this blog is to appreciate your team members, each person has their own individual interests outside of work.  It is important to acknowledge these interests, more so now than ever, and encourage this exploration of creativity.  A diverse and multitalented team can only mean good things for any business.  Who knows what ideas it may lead to…? We look forward to collaborating further with our team!

Thank you to our team for your unrelenting support and hard work during one of our most trying periods.  And most importantly, for being there for each other – what an incredible unit we have proven to be?!

Stay safe, stay happy, and stay stress-free.

OnlineDIRECT Marketing Team