20 lessons learned during lockdown for prospering amid the new normal

Jo Francis
Thursday, July 23, 2020

While some print firms were shuttered during lockdown, others have kept going throughout. Dr Adrian Steele, managing director at Staffordshire-based Mercian Labels shares some of the changed workplace practices the business has adopted and that have become its ‘new normal’, as the label specialist continued to operate 24/5.

Steele: Measures must take company values and culture into account
Steele: Measures must take company values and culture into account
  1. Your company values and culture dominate the natural behaviour of people, and what you came into this crisis with will dictate how your teams respond and adapt to it. Anything that conflicts with your culture and values will fail within days.
  2. Nobody is allowed into the building unless they are essential visitors. If you can prevent anyone other than essential members of staff entering that’s the new norm. Routine maintenance, engineering, customers, auditors, suppliers, stakeholders, all are told they are not welcome to visit unless it’s essential, ie in our case manufacturing will stop unless it’s allowed. Visitors are politely turned away before they enter via intercom. Since lockdown eased we have instigated a ‘by appointment’ system for site visits, with visitors required to complete a health declaration prior to entry.
  3. Alcohol gel hand cleaning is mandatory when coming and going into the building, and when moving between floors, with gel stations on every floor.
  4. Teams are split across floors for infection control reasons, so if one room/floor goes down, the rest of the business can continue. No team stays together in the same place.
  5. Those who self-identify as more vulnerable to infection are prioritised for sole worker offices. At one stage, I reallocated my MD office for someone who needed it more than me.
  6. People who are compulsory homeworkers because they can work from home ask/crave/beg to be allowed to return to work after a surprisingly short time!
  7. All spare offices are used for single person occupancy for key functions.
  8. You are not allowed into other people’s offices unless essential, and not allowed to enter any canteen other than your own.
  9. Daily self-measurement of body temperature is mandatory before you start work. Preferably at home, but if not then on arrival for work using a pool non-contact medical IR thermometer at the entrance door (warning – it can take 30 minutes for forehead temperature to stabilise from extreme sunlight/wind on arrival into the building).
  10. Every routine physical meeting is cancelled, and all done via Microsoft Teams sat at your desk if possible, or stand up meetings in reception or the biggest space you have, two metre distant, and very short meetings.
  11. Get used to people self-isolating during the working day out of caution, and immediate deep cleaning of their workspace area on departure for everybody else’s safety and reassurance.
  12. Get used to people coming back to work after a period of Covid-19 illness with a residual cough, and welcome them back, they are not infectious and are desperate to resume their place in the team and get back to work.
  13. To keep two metre distance in the building at all times odd corridor manoeuvres are allowed!
  14. Provide cleaning sprays and cloths for every office worker to clean their own area.
  15. Increase the frequency of cleaning of communal banisters, handles, door push plates, etc to multiple times a day.
  16. Get used to video meetings with staff, customers and suppliers as the new default meeting method.
  17. Lead times for normal consumables and devices are erratic and extended as the global supply chain is out of routine. For example getting webcams and speakers setup for every desk is now expensive and challenging!
  18. Your diary becomes very empty, but strangely productive.
  19. Quarantining incoming post/boxes/courier bags is normal, as the virus can live for 24 hours for cardboard and three days for plastic. As couriers are high risk by the nature of their job, incoming deliveries are treated carefully.
  20. The rules change often as government policy develops, so be prepared to act quickly. Honest and transparent communication is vital.


BPIF The federation has produced a ‘Covid-Secure roadmap’, a simple eight-step guide to help print firms become Covid-secure amid a mass of government guidance. Visit www.britishprint.com for details.

HSE The Health & Safety Executive published two guides following the government’s Covid-secure workplace advice, to help employers keep workers safe during the outbreak: Working safely during the coronavirus outbreak – a short guide and guidance on consulting your workers. Visit www.hse.gov.uk

Government advice At the time of writing 14 different government guides for different types of workplace (in England) are available here: www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19



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