Restricted, isolated, overwhelmed? These are not the only words that sum up what lockdown is all about. Our colleagues have seen the silver lining in these uncertain times, and it turns out there are some very special characteristics that have emerged during lockdown.
Karin Mungla, Claims
“Efficiency and resourcefulness”
Even though the roads are deserted, the Motor Claims department remains on duty. A few days ago, we assisted a doctor. “Despite multiple obstacles, we were able to get this client, whose mobility is essential, back on the road after his accident.” We performed this task with same efficiency we deliver out of lockdown, adds Karin Mungal, head of the department since 2020.
This effective response was most probably due to the technical support established during the first lockdown. IT systems, applications, laptops, cellphones… These tools were immediately made available, avoiding all disruptions to operations. On a human level too, our staff are better equipped. “We are in familiar territory; we know how to organise ourselves. This allows us to collaborate in a more spontaneous and proactive way.”
Karin acknowledges the progress made by her team in the past year. “The 2020 lockdown revealed talents. Some colleagues were brought in to interact with clients when they previously worked in the back office. They demonstrated an easy communication style and resourcefulness in their relationships with our clients. The team spirit has been further strengthened during this new lockdown. Everyone is aware of what their colleagues are dealing with and we help each other.” She admits to even having welcomed this new lockdown. It has reduced the volume of claims, making it possible to concentrate on new projects or to resume those which had been put aside.
With an unchanged meeting schedule and daily WhatsApp exchanges, it's “work as usual” for the department. For Karin, a mother of two, certain events structure her day. "The morning meeting with my team is essential because it helps me 'get into' work. Then, my husband and I coordinate our Zoom meeting schedules so that one of us can take care of our children while the other works.”
Gaëtan Jacques, Logistics
“Respect and courage”
It is not unpleasant to be in the Logistics Department during a lockdown. “We feel a bit more important than in normal times because we have the responsibility to move and make things move so that others can stay home,” confides Gaëtan.
He remembers the first lockdown in a much less positive light. “I found myself alone on a completely deserted Léoville L’Homme Street, without a single noise or activity.. A bit like in the ghost towns of the old Westerns…”. In this strange silence, there was the fear of the unknown, the fear of being exposed to contamination.
Today, Gaëtan is confident when he’s out and about. He knows what precautions to take, since he is responsible for enforcing the health protocol and all the safety measures. In addition, he knows the procedures to be followed to accomplish his tasks: managing the movement of those who have to go to the office, organising work permits, coordinating service providers...
“The work doesn't change, the conditions change. But since we were well prepared with the first lockdown, this new mode of operation is not as restrictive," says Gaëtan. In some ways, it's even nicer than normal because, he adds, it places more emphasis on human relationships.
In “normal” daily life, requests to the Logistics Department are made by email, sometimes by telephone. Today, we take the time to talk to each other, to explain how to collect a particular document left in the office. “I feel a lot of kindness and respect from my colleagues. They are sensitive to the risks we take by going out, and they are particularly respectful and supportive.”
Gaëtan also acknowledges that he sees his own team differently. He admires the dedication of his Office Attendants, mobilised from the very start of the lockdown. “It’s a job that is really valuable in these difficult times. They move with ease, courageously, without hesitating or balking at the task. They give regular feedback and take the right initiatives,” he says. “We are part of those heroic frontliners too!"
Nathalie André, HR
“Confidence and Resilience”
Ensure that the measures put in place by management are well communicated to staff, that everyone can adapt to them, reassure... This is the HR department’s primary focus, in addition to all the usual tasks they perform, including recruitment, payroll and training. For Nathalie André, these two lockdowns have transformed labour relations, and HR is called upon to support these human resources, themselves transformed by this new reality.
“Working from home is a reality for 90% of our staff whereas, at the start of 2020, very few of us were connected outside of the office. We have succeeded in being fully operational with the majority of our staff working remotely. But the biggest change is in our management style. We are moving from a visual management, where the person we are supporting is right in front of us, to a results-oriented approach. At the end of the first lockdown, we saw how our colleagues thrived in an environment of trust, when they were given the freedom to express their creativity and explore their potential outside of “normal” expectations. Our mission is to keep up this momentum.”
"Work from home" improves efficiency in many ways. It also creates stronger relationships. “After the first lockdown, we were fortunate to be able to organise team building activities and we saw how the experience of the first lockdown brought the teams and their management closer together. The relationships were enriched by the mutual trust forged during these moments of solidarity, because we were going through the same ordeal or simply sharing moments of humour online ... "
The staff seemed to enjoy the change in management style experienced during these lockdowns. “We had to learn to be flexible in trying out new ideas and finding others when they didn't work. Constantly adjusting to new situations makes one agile. Knowing how to bounce back and start over makes one resilient. These are valuable qualities that we have all developed,” she said, citing the challenge that the HR department had to manage last year. “Several colleagues had been in contact with a Covid-19-positive client. It taught us to stay calm and act in a reassuring manner, which is vitally important."
Nathalie is working on welcoming staff in the best possible conditions when lockdown ends. The next stage will hold new challenges: living with the virus, encouraging vaccination ... The team, resilient and agile, is prepared for what comes next.