Novus Blog

lady working from home


Here are our top tips to help remain healthy, happy, and productive whilst you are working from home. Like many businesses across the UK (and indeed globally), Novus closed their offices on Monday 23rd March in an effort to help halt the spread of coronavirus. Since then, working from home has become a new normal for many office-based colleagues up and down the country. For some who had previously worked this way on a regular basis, the situation was almost "business as usual" but for many, this proved somewhat unchartered waters that took a period of adjustment. Increasing infection rate With increasing coronavirus infection rates observed throughout September 2020, the Government once again recommended that people should work from home where possible. To help stay healthy, happy, and productive whilst working from home, we have compiled some top tips for colleagues and management. 1. Maintain regular hours of work Creating a healthy work life balance whilst working remotely can sometimes be hard, as there is the danger of the days becoming (at least to begin with) a little unstructured; starting earlier and finishing later due to getting caught up in work tasks. However, it is important to still that you structure your day like you would in an office, give yourself a start time, lunch time, and finishing time. And, make sure you stick to them! 2. Schedule breaks Again, structure and routine are important when working from home. It is very easy to get caught up in your work, extending your working times, not taking any breaks, and even working through your lunch. Regular breaks are an ideal way of keeping your mind fresh and maintaining productivity levels. Therefore, we suggest you schedule breaks in the same way that you would when working in the office. Get up and make yourself a cup of tea/coffee every so often and do ensure that you take a proper lunch break - eat, re-hydrate, and stay away from your emails! Maybe you could sit in the garden (weather permitting) for half an hour for a change of scenery? 3. Have a dedicated workspace No, you don't have to sit at a chair and a desk, it could just be your kitchen table! But just because you aren't in the office doesn’t mean you can't bring the office to your home, just set up camp somewhere you feel comfortable, won't get too distracted and (preferably) a place with a decent amount of sunlight. Dedicating a specific space adds familiarity, structure, and a sense of routine to a potentially unfamiliar situation. Why not tweet us a picture of your working from home space? @_NovusSolutions 4. Plan your work list Take 15 minutes at the end of each day to plan what you will be working on the following day. We've found that this will helps us to prioritise your job list, hit the ground running, and really focus on your work tasks.  5. Stay connected Whilst working from home can initially help you focus on work in the short term, it can become quite lonely in the long term, with one of the main complaints from remote workers being the feeling of social isolation. For the benefit of your own mental health and the quality of your work output, it is important to stay connected with your colleagues. Make use of technologies that enable video conferencing and instant messaging to stay in touch with your peers and always remember that you are part of a team contributing to a bigger picture. Managing a remote team: top tips for managers Along with the change in 'normal' office working comes a change in the way that we manage colleagues remotely. 6. Schedule monthly one-to-one meetings with each team member Staying connected with your team is crucial to maintaining a positive relationship with them. Host meetings from a distraction-free environment and minimise background noise where you can. Here is the opportunity to discuss colleague concerns, reinforce team wins and successes, and generally just have a chat - never underestimate the power of asking someone "how are you?" Be sure to focus your discussions on colleague welfare, setting SMART objectives that benefit not the only the business objectives but personal development. 7. Recognise that everyone is different Some colleagues may be perfectly happy working from home but for others, nothing could be further from the truth. Take the time to understand your team member's views and individual circumstances. 8. Trust your team You must trust that your team will work diligently towards their objectives without you controlling every aspect of how they carry out their work. We have seen over lockdown that performance has been as consistent as it was when we were all working in the office. Trusting your team to work conscientiously when you cannot see them is fundamental to the success or otherwise of flexible working in your team. Focus on the objectives you have set your team and if they are achieving them, and how you can support if not. 9. Watch for signs of burnout Research has shown that flexible and remote working carries a potential risk of colleagues working too many hours, resulting in early burnout and harm to a colleague’s wellbeing. Burnout often causes people to feel drained and tired, lacking the energy and motivation to complete their work. Burnout may also present physical symptons such as headaches or even stomach aches. A prolonged drop in normal performance levels should raise a red flag and warrant a conversation around colleague burnout. 10. Look after yourself! Make sure you look after yourself and the people around you by understanding and complying with all health and safety information. Things are changing all the time and it’s really important to keep up to date with Government COVID-19 guidelines. Claim tax back for working from home Not really a top tip but worth knowing, you can claim tax back while working from home.  Head to this page on the Government website to find out more. Have some working from home tips of your own? We hope you have found these tips useful and thank you for your support during this time. If you would like to contribute your own ideas to these tips, please share them via our social media channels. We can be found on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
fire door maintenance


This week marks the eighth annual Fire Door Safety Week, where those across the construction and built environment industries come together to raise awareness of the critical role of fire doors and the importance of their correct installation and maintenance. Why do we need fire doors? Fire doors play a crucial role as a first line of defence against fire and smoke in containing their spread is vital. Fire doors protect evacuation points so that building occupants can safely leave the building. They also protect the contents of the building to mitigate the financial and asset loss associated with fire damage. Furthermore, fire doors afford greater time to firefighters in successfully tackling and quelling the blaze. Where are fire doors found? Fire doors are located inside the building and are designed to resist the spread of fire internally. As opposed to fire exits that are installed onto external walls in order to allow people to escape the building in the event of a fire emergency. Can fire doors be left open? No. Fire doors must remain closed at all times to prevent the spread of fire and smoke. Additionally, fire doors should carry a clear sign indicating that the fire door should be kept shut or locked shut. Where the fire door has an automatic closing feature, this information should be clearly displayed also. The importance of installing, inspecting and maintaining fire doors It is important to note that having a fire door isn’t a shortcut to a safer dwelling. Last year, the London Fire Brigade’s assistant commissioner Dan Daly said that of 177 care homes inspected across the capital, a third had inadequate or poorly maintained fire doors. So, what can those charged with keeping tenants safe do to minimise the risk posed by fire? Fire door installation It is important to remember that installing a fire door isn’t the same as a regular door and must be fitted by a competent installer. Although legal certification is not required to install fire doors, if they are not properly fitted, the fire resistance capabilities of the door can be compromised and even rendered useless. BM Trada offer the Q-Mark Fire Door Installation scheme for installers interested in becoming accredited. What steps should a fire door installer follow? First, they need to make sure they’re installing a fire door with the correct certification for the space. These vary from building to building, but they’ll always come with a certification mark veryifing the level of protection they offer.   Once they’ve put the door up they’ll then need to check the gaps around the top and sides have consistently gap of 2-4mm when the door’s closed. While the gap at the bottom can be no bigger than 10mm for FD30/60 and no bigger than 3mm for FD30/60S in line with the manufacturers installation guidelines and the BS 8214 2016 code of practice.   After that it’s time to check the intumescent seals around the door to ensure they’re intact – these expand in the event of a fire, preventing it from spreading through the gaps on the outer edges. All fire doors also need to be fixed with at least three hinges with no missed or broken screws to ensure it will perform properly under strain.   Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the door needs to close properly when installed. A fire door only works correctly when shut, so any door that is wedged open or doesn’t close fully is rendered useless.   Once a door is installed it still needs to be regularly inspected and maintained properly. Tenants and landlords should create a maintenance log for checking all doors regularly in a building, and ensure that any parts that are replaced are done so on a like-for-like basis. Article 17 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO/FSO) mandates that fire resisting doors should be correctly installed and properly maintained so that they remain effective and fit-for-purpose.  How often should a fire door be inspected? Fire doors should be inspected every six months for damage and to ensure they are still compliant. If the building is a particularly busy one or where the fire door is located in a heavily trafficked area, checking the fire door every 3 months might be prudent. It is important however to continually monitor the condition of internal fire doors, reporting any damage as soon as it becomes apparent. Who should inspect a fire door? It is essential that a competent person be entrusted with the inspection of fire doors. We would recommend a BM Trada Q-Mark trained Fire Door maintainer, FDIS (Fire Door Inspection Scheme) trained and registered individual carry out the inspection of fire doors. These individuals carry a diploma in fire doors and/or are Certified Fire Door Inspectors. Novus also offer this service and we encourage you to contact us if this service is of interest to you >> What should be checked when inspecting a fire door? 1.    Check the Fire Door Certification All fire doors must be certified (CE Marked) so make sure to check for a label or plug on the top or at the side of the door. 2.    Signs of Damage Check for obvious signs of damage to the door itself – making sure to check for cracks in the door or in the glass (if glazed). 3.    Check the gaps As when installing the fire door, ensure that there is a gap less than 4mm from the frame and less than2-4mm when the door’s closed. While the gap at the bottom can be no bigger than 10mm for FD30/60 and no bigger than 3mm for FD30/60S 4.    The Fire Door Closer Make sure the fire door closer is still properly attached and not damaged. 5.    Door frame and seals Ensure that the fire door frame is securely attached to the wall and undamaged with the intumescent seals in tact inside the frame. The seal must also be unbroken and undamaged. 6.    Hinges Fire doors need at least 3 hinges with a melting point above 800 degrees centigrade. The screws fixing the hinges into place should all be the correct size, taking care to make certain there are no broken screws as the door could become loose and ineffective. Maintaining and inspecting for future use We’re really proud of the work we’ve recently done to carry out fire door refurbishments across the length and breadth of the country in recent months, but there’s still a long way to go to ensure that both new and existing homes are as safe as possible. Following these processes will go a long way to achieving this. You can get in touch with us on 01782 237 249 or email us at to discuss your fire door project in detail.
agile working speaker session


"Agile working is about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology together" At Housing 2020 Sophie Seddon and John Palfreyman spoke about the benefits of Agile working for housing associations and tenants. Now they answer your questions: What's the biggest barrier to agile working in your opinion? Culture!  If the people in an organisation are reluctant to accept change in its many forms, the benefits of agile won’t be realised. Leaders ‘walking the talk’ is the best way to overcome this barrier. Do you have any examples of case studies in housing? Yes, you can find examples by visiting the Our Work section of the website. How would you approach stubborn staff who do not want to change? Very carefully! As in a previous answer, if the staff can see that leadership at all levels are embracing change, it’s likely that they will too.  In addition, staff need to understand what’s in it for them and how their actions help the whole organisation be successful.  It needs to be OK to try things and make mistakes - giving them the courage to come out of their comfort zone and into the learning zone. Have you found Agile is affected by working online rather than face to face meetings? I’ve found that people at all levels can be amazingly agile when faced with a shock change (global pandemic). Refer to our recent blog post for a more thorough answer to this question. How do you deal with cultural blockages? These are – without a doubt – the hardest and take the longest to fix.  Specific understanding and resolution of the blockages combined with clear cultural ‘headlights’ (such as our Novus Shield) and of course leadership behaviour are good things to start with. And clearly leadership behaviour is a vital component. Can agile working make a real difference for the people in our properties, as well as the way we work with them? Tenants can benefit considerably from their housing association adopting an agile approach. This can include ready access to information about their property and planned changes to it, the availability of ‘friction free’ self-service, bureaucracy busting business processes, Amazon-like service delivery – the list is endless.  How important is a 'top-down' approach? Absolutely vital, I’d say!  Without the leaders ‘walking the talk’ organisational agility in any of its guises is unlikely to yield significant benefit. (To John) As a non-executive director how can you encourage organisational agility? A non-executive director (NED) provides external context and challenge to the executive board. By explaining to the board (and shareholders) what is possible based on agility in other organisations the NED can encourage and inspire the board to move towards an agile way of operating. Taking into account the different generations within an organization, how does agile transformation approach need to be tailored? Agile offers exciting potential to all generations within an organisation. It also offers exciting potential for ‘inverse mentoring’ where younger employees can offer the older generation useful advice. In the end, agile should apply to all – irrespective of age! I grew up with waterfall development, but (clearly) see that agile can be a powerful way to attaining competitive advantage. If you missed the speaker session, the video recording is available to watch below:
speaker sessions preview CIH


In 2020 and for one year only, the Chartered Institute of Housing's annual conference is going virtual. As always, the agenda looks to be jam packed with a host of industry expert speakers, here are sessions we cannot wait to see. 1.       Martina Lees and Sonia Sodha - 2020 reflections and looking to the future with leading commentators Straight out of the gate on day 1, the 9-10am Keynote session features two of the most prominent journalists writing about the housing sector today. Martina Lees is the Senior Property Writer at Times and Sonia, Chief Leader Write and Columnist at The Observer. Their session will “reflect over one of the most tumultuous years in recent memory” as “the expert panel of political commentators will work through what these unprecedented challenges mean for the sector and our communities going forward.” The hour-long slot will also discuss uncertainty created around Brexit and the current transition period and its implications to the housing sector and its wider impacts. This session is only open to delegates, so do ensure you register as a delegate should you wish to join us in attending. 2.       Rt Hon Christopher Pincher MP - Keynote address from the Housing Minister Undoubtedly, one of the standout speaking sessions at Housing this year is the address from the Minister of State (Housing Minister). Christopher Pincher was appointed Minister of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on 13 February 2020. Although specifics of the speaking session haven’t been released just yet, this session will be a must-attend for delegates concerned with how government policies are informing the activities of the sector now and into the future. Join the Minister of State at 1pm on Monday 7th September. 3.       Fusion 21 and Tpas - Involving tenants in procurement and asset management As this is an important subject for many of our clients, it is one that close to our hearts too. Tenant engagement has been a hot topic for some time now and in this Innovation Hub session, Fusion 21 and Tpas present their findings of a joint research project on the matter. In what is likely to be an insightful session, colleagues from both organisations will be joined by real tenants and housing provider procurement team members to outline “ways in which tenants can shape asset management and procurement at a strategic level.” Alongside this, how ongoing tenant field testing and dialogue drives improvements in the products and services purchased by landlords.After all, the tenants are those who live with the results of their landlords’ procurement decisions, therefore their input is warranted and should be valued. The sessions takes place on Monday 7th September at 14.45 and is available to all conference goers. 4.       Sophie Seddon and John Palfreyman – How Housing Associations Can Benefit from Agile Working Of course, we are slightly biased with our next selection as Sophie and John are Novus directors. However, if you are working for a Housing Association or Contractor, this one will be well worth a watch. Taking place in Housing’s now famous Fringe arena, the session will focus on how “Agile working is about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology together, to find the most appropriate and effective way of working. Sophie and John will discuss what agile working truly means in our sector, the benefits of agile working practices for housing associations, and by extension, how it ultimately benefits tenants. We hope you can make the speaker session; it takes place on Tuesday at 11.45am in the Fringe. 5.       Juha Kaakinen and Steve Douglas - Identifying new and innovative ways to tackle homelessness Much of the social value work that Novus has done over the recent years has addressed homelessness in some way. That’s why we’re really keen to hear what Juha Kakkinen and Steve Douglas have to say about innovations in tackling homelessness in their Keynote session on Tuesday. ‘Home’ means more than a roof over our heads they explain in their preview. Their speaking event will discuss what it means to have a home and question whether we lose more than merely a place to sleep if we do become homeless. We are hoping that their session will identify opportunities where the sector might make radical changes to benefit the homeless and inspire action to help tackle this issue. Delegates can catch this session on Tuesday 8th at 10.30am. 6.       Chyrel Brown, Natalia Rogaczewska, and Joe Lane - Supporting tenants and communities through the COVID-19 recovery How the sector recovers from the Covid-19 crisis is going to be a critical topic in the coming 12 months and beyond. This is a significant challenge particularly in the face of the deepest recession on record. Shelter, the housing and homeless charity estimates that around 1.7 million renters expect to lose their job and Citizens Advice estimates that 2.6 million renters expect to fall behind on rent. This speaker session discusses what can be done to support those people at risk. Exploring the government’s interventions and welfare reforms required in supporting vulnerable tenants through the recovery, the speakers will explore practical strategies for landlords and what learnings can we acquire from other countries? This session will take place on Wednesday 9th at 10.30am in the Fringe. 7.       The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP - Keynote address from the Secretary of State for Housing Although there are no specifics as to what the Secretary of State for Housing will be covering in his session, it is sure to be a highlight of Housing 2020. We are hoping that the session provides insight into the Government’s latest position and perhaps outline initiatives that are going to shape and influence how the sector behaves going forward. Robert Jenrick was appointed Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on 24 July 2019 and is is responsible for the overall leadership and strategic direction of the ministry. You can join the Secretary of State for Housing on Thursday 10th at 10.30am in the Keynote arena. You will need to be a delegate to view the speaking event. You can register here >> 8.       Miles Attenborough, Colin Hall, Tara Gbolade, and Dr Ahsan Khan - Innovative and practical solutions to achieving sustainable homes and communities Sustainability in construction and housing has been a key focus for a long time now but never has the issue been in such sharp relief. The session will look at how we can transform the way we design, construct, and consume energy in new homes to enable a more sustainable future. As experts in the field, the 4 strong panel will discuss practical examples of the available innovations and how they can be used to overcome the barriers to sustainability in homes. Join us at Housing 2020 There is still time to register for the event >> Novus are one of the main sponsors of CIH Housing this year and are exhibiting all week. We hope that you can stop-by our virtual stand and take the time to have a chat with a member of the team. See you on 7th September!
Hannah O'Brien
Telephone: 07854 781631


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