When COVID-19 hit in the spring of 2020, LCB Construction, and their 200 strong workforce, were faced with an unprecedented challenge: that of helping their local authority and housing association clients house the homeless as well as continuing to carry out emergency repairs to their clients’ homes.
The scale of the job was like no other that the company had experienced and, in the words of managing director, Liam Bevan, “our backs were against the wall”.
Overnight, the LCB team at the Cardiff-based construction, repair and maintenance company upped sticks from their office in order for their staff, who support the trade operatives, to work mainly from home.
“Until then, all we knew was the office. When a call came in for a job which needed a manager’s input, the person staffing our help-desk would walk into the next room to speak to a contract manager and they would sort it out.
“The need to change was massively urgent because we obviously couldn’t do that anymore. We had the same pressures as everyone else and scrambled around trying to buy laptops and phones.
"In the end, lots of staff literally took their desks and PCs from the office and set them up at home. However, we were ahead of the game on PPE and quickly set up our own direct supply chain – and we were actually able to provide masks to a lot of our clients as well.
“While our office-based team had some experience of Teams and Zoom, many of our operatives working in the field did not. They hadn’t needed to, but suddenly, because we were all working remotely, they had to get to grips with it – even if it meant dialling in from the van. They were great, though, and because they had 4G, they could be online with the rest of us.
While the first few weeks were trying times logistically, the company’s key performance indicators never slipped.
“We were assigned essential worker status, and this helped us do our job. It meant we could respond without any hassle to those who needed us. You can’t let vulnerable people go without something like hot water or heating in a pandemic. The team spirit was brilliant. We were all in it together and trust played a really important part.
Once the dust settled and the team at LCB Construction became more comfortable with remote working, it enabled Liam, who in his own words “aged 10 years”, to press a reset button.
“During the first few months, we put a pop-up message on our website saying “we’re keeping on keeping on.” This gave our clients comfort that we were working to very strict COVID-19 Health and Safety protocols, prioritising the safety of their residents and our employees while still getting essential work done to people’s homes and to empty properties.
“As the dust settled, we could take a step back and re-evaluate our procedures. We invested in a new cloud-based telephony system that enabled our switchboard to reach operatives when they were out anywhere on site, and we quickly digitalised a number of other management systems too, such as timesheets and holiday requests.
The LCB Construction management team in Cardiff made an effort to communicate with staff regularly through lockdown and initiated several surveys that have helped the company decide a way forward post-pandemic.
“Our people are our priority, and it was important to us that they knew we were doing our best to look after them. I think it’s made us stronger. A recent survey with staff showed that the vast majority would recommend us as an employer. After the year we’ve had, that’s great to see.
Liam believes the lessons they have learned through COVID-19 have transformed the company. He said:
“We are going back better after this and agile working will be a part of the plan. We know that people want choice and we’ve proved that we can all trust each other to get on with the job. In fact, I think people respond even better when you give them flexibility.
“It’s also the right thing to do for quality of life.
"Now, if someone needs to attend a personal appointment during the working day, they don’t need to take annual leave. They can work at home and just nip out.
"That doesn’t make a jot of difference to me – I know we are engaged as a team and the quality of their work is not in question. You’ve got to look at the positives and that’s something the pandemic has taught us all.