Well, it’s finally happened – we’ve tentatively re-opened the Registry Trust office following the Covid-19 'lockdown'. No parades, no big announcements, just four volunteers working in the same (socially-distanced) space.
At the Registry Trust we maintain the register of Judgments, Orders and Fines for England & Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, ROI, IOM and Jersey. This data is intrinsic to responsible lending and informed business decisions in the UK - and is not something that can just stop happening, even if there is a global pandemic! As well as analysing and sharing this data for public good, we operate TrustOnline; the only service that provides members of the public and businesses with immediate access to the UK's official statutory Registers of Judgments, Orders and Fines, and provide a range of services to credit reference agencies, government bodies, charities, regulators and other organisations to help promote transparency and accountability in commerce and trade, and support consumers in financial difficulty. It's a diverse and complex job and one we've worked hard to continue doing to the same standard remotely while keeping on top of changes within the court service and to the enforcement process which may impact the number and type of records we receive.
However, with urgent post to be opened and dealt with, and a 'new normal' to adapt to, we felt it was important to bring at least some team members back into the physical office to get the ball rolling and try to revive the office plants who've suffered in our absence! I was one of the four volunteers who braved London’s still-quiet streets to return to the office. With me, was Timeea, our office administrator and internal auditor - the maestro who keeps us all organised and everything running smoothly!
Our office is a slightly awkward physical space. Normally, we’re all seated over three floors, in six different departments with a number of different needs and requirements. While managing the needs of these groups, Timeea, along with her fellow internal auditor and our HR and Compliance Officer, Nina, ensure we maintain our ISO27001:2017 and data protection standards. They report on this directly to the senior management team, so it can be an extremely high pressure workload.
In this week’s blog, I chatted to Timi about how she manages the office in regular, full capacity times, and how she has adapted to a new way of working where some people are in the office but the majority are still working remotely from home.
Merrill: Firstly, can you give me a bit of an insight into your daily routine – what's the first thing you do and last thing you do?
Timi: Well I can tell you what I start my day with, which is checking emails and having a look at my to-do lists. But beyond this I have no set routine. My role is dynamic and covers so many different areas every day, that there is just no such thing as a set daily routine. I do have a set approach, which is to understand the urgency and priority of everything on my to-do list that day, and then I can adjust it as I go.
Merrill: It is clear that you have to be very adaptable, how do you manage this across the entire scope of your role?
Timi: My role has a broad scope. It ranges from compliance, to PA, to facilities, management support, health & safety, the list goes on. I took on some new work responsibilities when a colleague went on sabbatical late last year, and have maintained them even after they returned. Basically I can do anything, and if I don’t know, I am always keen to learn. (Merrill: I can vouch for that!) So I have learned how to tackle and approach ad hoc tasks in order to be prepared for whatever the next challenge might be. I have come to learn that to-do lists have to change!
Merrill: Each of our departments have very different needs, how do you prioritise different work?
Timi: It all depends on what it is. If there is a deadline I have to meet then I stick with that. If more tasks come my way, I can either make time for both tasks, re-prioritise, or delegate. But, most importantly, whenever anyone asks me to help them on a task, I always ask when it is needed by, whether it is urgent or whether it can wait. I do not prioritise management or specific departments over others - it all depends on the task at hand. With the likelihood of the combination of people working both in the office and remotely continuing, it's important that I make sure I'm easily accessible to everyone, even if they're not physically in the office.
Merrill: Sounds like you have your time management skills down to a ‘T’. Is there any particular technique you find most effective?
Timi: The most effective thing for me is lists. Different lists for different responsibilities. I put all my tasks in my Outlook calendar and a ‘notebook’ [essentially a stack of paper). I also use the website Asana for different departments and projects. If it is something that needs concentration and focus, I let others know not to disturb me.
Merrill: Ok let us into a secret – how many to-do lists do you currently have on the go?
Timi: Let me see… Like I say, I have the tasks in Outlook, I actually do have a notebook and I have [busy counting] 3 A4 scrap paper lists. I find myself thinking about my lists on the tube and in bed and if I think of something not on them, I quickly add them to my reminders on my phone. The secret is, as soon as you think about it… get it on a list!
Merrill: Quite often I notice you will have a task interrupted due to the phone or door buzzing. How do you get yourself back into tasks?
Timi: It is quite difficult to do that. I would probably need 5 minutes to read over what I was doing before I get back into it because it can be very disruptive. In all honesty, if it’s something complicated, and I realise that I am not back in the zone, I will take a break and come back to it later.
(At this point Timi’s phone rings, it was so beautifully ironic)
Merrill: In the Covid-19 era, where extra health related regulation and guidance at the workplace has become so important, how have you stayed on top of the government’s advice? And what measures have you implemented in our office to ensure it is Covid-19 secure?
Timi: Obviously prior to even returning to the office, we put a lot of thought into what measures we would need to take, not just to be compliant, but also to make sure we all felt as safe as possible. We have done risk and work station assessments for everyone – whether they are working in the office, or still working from home. We instructed a deep clean of the office prior to re-opening, and still have daily cleaning at the end of each day. We’ve got newly installed hand sanitiser stations, and posted a huge number of stickers and posters around the office to remind people of ‘hands, face, and space’. We’re also careful to record everyone who comes to the office (although it’s just us four at the moment) and we keep a thermometer here, so we can check each other every day. We’ve also scheduled our usage of communal areas, like the kitchen, so we don’t have too many people meeting on the stairs or gathering in the kitchen. In the everyday sense, the four of us are able to distance easily in the office because of the amount of space we have on the floors.
Merrill: So have you found it easy to comply with or has it been quite a technical process?
Timi: It has been easier than I thought it would, but this may be because there are only a few people in and it is easier to manage. We wouldn’t have been able to have everyone back at once – we kind of needed a few people to test it out. Even now I am planning to do a lot of cleaning to make sure it is ready if and when everyone comes back. But it is one of those things, that when you think about it, it seems a lot but actually is a lot more manageable once the ball is rolling. Aside from just the technical aspects, I think they key thing is that we keep adapting to new ways of working and keep everyone motivated and engaged so that we can continue to deliver on our aims as a not-for-profit and work towards our mission of providing ‘public data for public good’ as one team.
As we gradually return to the office, we are always looking at new ways of working to be as flexible and agile as possible and to ensure that we can continue delivering our services as efficiently as possible. ‘Lockdown’ has given us the opportunity to look at things like the volume of post we receive and think outside the box about how some processes and systems can be streamlined and we'll be keeping you updated with how we're adapting. It’s also forced us to challenge our data more and look at it with more of a long term view in what is unprecedented times and this is something we intend to continue doing even as we begin to return to some level of ‘normality’.
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