One family in County Durham have taken home working to extreme to help customers of believe housing.
A rural home near Tow Law has become an unlikely nerve centre of operations for believe housing. Thanks to Katharine Hedges and her family who are able to provide vital services on behalf of the Seaham-based organisation to ensure that essential services are still being delivered.
believe housing moved quickly to ensure everyone who could work from home was able to do so by using a variety of remote working technologies.
A significant number of services offered to 18,000 tenants are now being delivered, at least in part, digitally as well as key workers who continue to make house calls where necessary, in line with government guidance and social distancing rules.
Katharine is a building surveyor, who is currently staying safe at home with her two children Nick, an apprentice plumber, and Eleanor, an apprentice joiner, all of who work for believe housing. Eleanor’s boyfriend, apprentice plumber Daniel Bainbridge, has also been staying at Katherine’s home since before the current coronavirus situation emerged.
Katharine has been able to carry on with some elements of her role, which includes checking information and providing advice on property alterations.
“I’ve also been part of the team contacting vulnerable tenants. I’ve been calling to see if they need any extra help, or if we can help them access help to get essential things like medicines delivered.” Katharine said.
With all but essential repairs to homes suspended, the three apprentices are unable to carry on with their normal ‘hands on’ learning. The trio have been using their skills to help customers in alternative and creative ways instead.
Eleanor and Nick have both taken to calling believe housing customers to rearrange non-essential appointments and help people understand why it’s non-essential. But they’ve also been able to identify calls that were more urgent than customers had perhaps thought.
“I had to prioritise one repair as an emergency because it turned out a handrail in an elderly tenants’ home was loose. We had someone go around as soon as possible to fix it.” Said Eleanor.
Daniel has been instrumental in using his experience of working on heating systems to identify faults over the phone, and in some cases help customers to resolve the issue safely themselves, where possible.
“There was a job where I was able to identify exactly what parts were needed to fix the boiler, so the engineer was able to turn up with exactly what was needed and get the job done quicker and with less contact.” Said Daniel.
“Most tenants understand that we’re really looking after their safety by minimising contact wherever possible.” Said Nick.
With all four working from home under the same roof, they’ve picked up lots of tips for other home workers in a short period of time.
“If you’re constantly sat working at a desk, take your daily walk at lunch time. Don’t just sit at the computer all day. You need to have a break for half an hour.” Eleanor said.
“We have lunchtime video call meet ups with the rest of the team a couple of times a week, so we still get to communicate with each other and pick up on any gossip.” Katharine added.
believe housing People Experience Leader, Michelle Brown, said: “These are challenging times for us all. But our people are being incredibly flexible and doing everything they can for customers while minimising risk as much as physically possible. We ensure that our people work safely and in line with government guidance on personal hygiene and” social distancing. Katharine and the team are just some of our great team at believe housing who, along with many others, have been showing real dedication and commitment to doing the right thing for our business, for our people and for our customers. They’re a great example of how we can still deliver services while remaining safe.”