Novus Blog

a helping hand from novus


  25 NOVEMBER, 2020      CORE VALUES
As the construction sector remains open, Novus have been working through the latest lockdown. For those colleagues working from home at the moment, the importance of keeping morale high and maintaining the feeling of community cannot be overstated. In this article, we would like to share some of the initiatives that Novus have introduced to offer a ‘Helping Hand’ to colleagues during periods of lockdown this year. Before the virus Although working remotely has become the new normal amongst office workers in the UK and indeed our own business service departments, feelings of loneliness can be associated with this way of working. It is understandable, in a pre-covid world, it was estimated that people spent around 10 years of their life at work - in the office. During that time, it is only natural that strong working relationships and indeed friendships are formed and maintained by regular face-to-face contact. This daily face-to-face social interaction unquestionably aids in building the strong team that underpins organisational culture. And by extension, one could make the argument that the same strength simply cannot be achieved remotely, negatively affecting the culture within the business as a consequence. Smells like team spirit With this in mind, the first lockdown in March 2020 posed the challenge of maintaining the team spirit remotely, as one of our key values at Novus is to “create great teams.” It was quickly identified that this was a crucial area for support during lockdown, making sure our people still feel part of a team was a priority. A Helping Hand from Novus Regular communication is key and to that end, every week our communications team issue an internal newsletter called the “Helping Hand” to all colleagues in Novus. This weekly emailer features a wealth of helpful articles, videos, and tips, and company updates designed at helping everyone in the Novus community survive and thrive during lockdown. Under the categories A Time to Talk, A Time to Learn, A Time to Celebrate, A Time to Share, and A Time to Have Fun, colleagues will find help on improving physical wellbeing and mental health, strategies to manage finances, and even activities to try with the kids during half term. Originally introduced during the March lockdown, the Helping Hand was well received and experienced a high level of engagement. As such, the newsletter has been revived for the latest second lockdown. Finger on the pulse Our way of asking the people within Novus, “How are you doing?” In essence keeping our ‘finger on the pulse’ of the business. It is well established that feedback from colleagues is really important, after all they are the life blood of any organisation. In this time of change and flux, it feels like the perfect time to ask the people within the Novus community how the business can change to make working life better. That’s why we release a Pulse survey on a quarterly basis, as we believe that all colleagues should have something valuable to contribute and their voices and opinions should be heard. We’ve asked colleagues a whole host of questions this year - their opinions on remote working, what they’ve been up to during lockdown, their goals and aspirations, their concerns, and if there are any training requirements (to name just a few). Saying thanks and being visible Our CEO Alan Nixon and senior management team have remained visible over the course of 2020, providing video updates to the business and giving thanks for the hard work of colleagues. As with a lot of communications at Novus, we believe that putting a face/name/real person to a message really helps ground a piece of communication in reality and adds credibility. Additionally, in the absence of face-to-face contact, this is the next best thing to being spoken to directly. The current situation has encouraged our management team to innovate and adopt a more digital approach in daily activities. An example of this is found in our Head of Operations Charlie Cooley (Scotland and North East) who provides a weekly video update to his team via YouTube – giving that visible and personal touch to his leadership. Highlighting success and positive news The compliments and positive feedback that Novus receive from customers and tenants really are a testament to the hard work, dedication, and care that Novus colleagues put into their work on a daily basis. Particularly in 2020, we have increased the frequency of posting compliments via our social media channels as it gives everyone within Novus a lift, demonstrating and celebrating the high standard of service that our colleagues are providing – at the same time, this serves as another avenue of recognition for our hard working people.
working in a kitchen in a mask


Supporting and liaising with tenants has always been a primary pillar on which we’ve based our business – kindness, respect, and good service should be a given, not an added ‘nice-to-have’. Working in homes during the pandemic During the coronavirus crisis, showing respect and kindness has rung true more than any other time. The safety and wellbeing of the people whose homes we work in has always been of paramount importance – but perhaps never more so than now. Our specialist customer care team always lead from the front and they’ve taken the crisis in their stride. Dedicated customer liaison officers are responsible for considering and helping meet the needs of everyone we work around, as well as being a helpful single point of contact for residents. Collaborating with our supply chain It’s always important to be collaborative, but the past few months have required additional togetherness right through the supply chain to ensure that we’re operating as safely as possible. As we’ve come to recognise over 2020, Covid-19 has generated significant confusion, with changing guidelines and grey areas creating a worrying level of uncertainty. That’s why the very first thing we do on any project is communicate clearly and open a dialogue with all tenants. It’s vital that residents are fully informed about the works, what we do and how we’ll work with them. This ensures safety of residents and workers, as well as everyone’s peace of mind. Working tidily and cleanly Once we’re working in the home, we’ve gone to another level of the quality service that comes as standard. We’re still as tidy as ever, cleaning as we go. Only this time, we’re armed with more anti-bacterial wipes to clean down every surface and extra bottles of hand sanitiser at our side. Also, our operatives are working only with their own tools where possible, as well as travelling separately to ensure that contact is to a minimum. We’re always two metres away from the tenants, but try not to lose any of our personal style. It’s our priority to make sure that residents feel at ease when we’re working in their home, and even though we’re taking extra care in everyone’s home, it’s important that we don’t dawdle. Being punctual and prompt Making home improvements can sometimes be inconvenient for a short while, so we always make sure we’re punctual, prompt with our work and prepared to hit the ground running on every job. The sooner we get the job done, the sooner tenants can enjoy the improvements. Homes are our safe haven, particularly during times of crises, and so our work is just as important as it ever has been. While these are strange times, all of us are coming together to keep everything as normal as we can – no matter how ‘new’ it is. Repairs since lockdown Novus have been working inside customers' homes throughout the national lockdowns. 34 weeks on since the first national lockdown in March 2020 and we have repaired almost 50,000 homes (at the time of writing). That equates to 292 per (working) day, 36 per (working) hour, and approximately 1 home every 2 minutes. It's testament to the confidence that tenants have shown in Novus and our operatives to conduct themselves safely, efficiently and, respectfully.
kettering council refurbishment to properties


Tenants of Kettering Borough Council’s homes are set to benefit from newly refurbished properties after the council awarded Novus a contract to complete the works. Over the coming months, Novus will carry out refurbishments to a number of the council’s properties with houses in the Desborough and Rothwell areas benefitting from the upgrades. What services will Novus provide? As part of the extensive refurbishments, Novus will provide: Plumbing, electrical and heating upgrades Install of new heating systems Refurbishment works on the kitchens, bathrooms and staircases New carpet installation Installation of windows and doors Maintenance to walls and gardens. These works will also see Novus pre-refurbishment activities that include assisting the Kettering Borough Council prepare for the removal and storage of their belongings, clearing the houses and cleaning. House maintenance is crucial James Devlin, capital & investment works manager at Kettering Borough Council, said: “While the building of new houses rightly occupies many people’s minds, it’s vital to remember that maintaining those already in circulation is also crucial to a resident’s wellbeing and the lifespan of a property." “We’re committed to investing in our stock of houses but we also need to make sure it’s done to the very highest standard." "We’ve worked with Novus in the past and the effort they go to to ensure work is carried out professionally while always putting tenants’ needs first, is exemplary.” A strong relationship Tony Ronayne, operations manager at Novus, said: “We’ve built a strong relationship with Kettering Borough Council over the years that has enabled us to develop a unique understanding of what their tenants want and how we approach every project." "We’re looking forward to seeing the properties when completed and the difference upgraded living spaces make to their residents.” "The value of the project will take place across an initial 12 properties in Desborough and Rothwell." Working with local councils Novus have a long history of working with local councils on projects big and small. You can see examples of our previous work by visiting the Our Work section of the website. Do you have a project Novus can help with? Make an enquiry here and we'll be in touch.
top view of radiator


At least in the short term, it looks like many of us are going to be working from home over the winter period and spending much more time indoors. So perhaps this year more than any year previously, it is important that your home is warm and comfortable. With a hot summer seemingly now a distant memory, you might have noticed your heating switching on recently. If not, it might be time to test whether your central heating is working ahead of the temperature dropping outside. After a summer of neglect and under use, issues with central heating are quite common in autumn when the system begins to be called upon once more. Before you call the landlord or a Gas Safe Registered Engineer, there are some common issues with radiators and central heating that you can check and potentially fix yourself: My heating hasn’t come on and the radiators are cold The heating is off, and the radiators are cold. There are numerous things that could be causing your heating to have gone off but the first check might seem fairly obvious; make sure that your thermostat is on and calling for heat by adjusting the settings above the current room temperature. Then wait to see if that makes a difference... Check that your thermostat is not on a timer that you don’t recognise, especially the case if you have moved into a new house. Changes in the clocks going forward/backwards at different times of year might throw some people too. A second check is to make sure that central heating and hot water settings are selected on programmer or boiler. All fine? If this doesn’t work, you can check the supplies to your heating system - Electricity – check your heating system has power by making sure the display screen on your thermostat, programmer or boiler is lit up (if they have them). If they aren’t, there is usually a switch in the surrounding area of the boiler which controls the power supply, make sure it is on and has not been switched off accidently. Gas – You can make sure you have gas to your property by checking other gas appliances such as the gas cooker, try lighting one of the hobs. If there is no gas at the cooker and you have a prepayment meter, ensure you have sufficient funds on it. Any issues with the gas supply to the property will need to be rectified by your gas supplier. If you have gas and electric and the heating system controls are correctly set the next two most common problems should be checked – Central heating water pressure Blocked or frozen condensate pipe My central heating has low pressure If you have a combination boiler, low pressure in the system can cause the heating to not work effectively or even switch off altogether. As with most of the issues raised here, there are once again numerous reasons why your heating system may have lost pressure; water leakage or the removal of air through radiator bleeding are the common ones. You can check your system's pressure by taking a quick look at the pressure gauge on the boiler (if it has one). Even when you haven’t necessarily noticed an issue, we recommend that you check the pressure approximately once a month as good practice. On a digital gauge if the reading is lower than 1 bar, then this is considered to be low pressure. If the boiler is slightly older with a hydraulic gauge and a dial, there will be upper and lower limits marked out by red and green sections on the face of the dial. How to repressurise your boiler In the case of a low pressure reading, repressurising is something that you can without the assistance of a professional. However, if you are not confident, don’t attempt it. Although most boilers are quite similar, there will be slight variations between each depending on the manufacturer. Before you start, we recommend that you read and understand the manufacturer’s user instructions first. Repressurising with a filling loop Switch off your boiler and leave the system to cool down fully. Locate the filling loop and check to make sure that both ends are securely attached. Open the two valves and listen for the mains cold water entering the system. Keep a close eye on the pressure gauge until the pressure reaches 1.5 bar. Close both valves one at a time when it reaches this pressure. Turn the boiler back on and press the reset button on the boiler (if it has one). Undo the filling loop and catch any excess water. If you find yourself having to repressurise the central heating system on a regular basis, there may be a water leak and it is important to address this issue as soon as possible to prevent damage to your property. Your condensate pipe may be blocked or frozen Check the condensate pipe is not blocked where is enters the drain, if the water has no where to drain it can back up which will stop the boiler from working. At really cold times, condensate pipes situated in exposed locations can freeze, again causing the water to back up. This can be readily rectified by defrosting the pipe using warm water. If you have tried all of these and still have no heating, it is time to call in a Gas Safe registered Engineer to further investigate.   My radiators are warm at the bottom but cold at the top This is a very common complaint and is sure sign that there is air trapped inside the radiator that has risen to the top, therefore displacing the hot water. To fix this issue, the radiators will require bleeding. How do you bleed a radiator? It’s actually pretty straight forward but you will need a radiator bleed key or with newer radiators, a small flat head screwdriver. Switch off the heating and wait for the radiators to cool down completely. Find the bleed value, which you will find at the top of the radiator on one of its ends (it looks like a round hole with a square inside it). Place a container directly beneath the valve on the floor to catch any spillages when the radiator is being bled. Also, have on old kitchen towel or rag ready. Attach the radiator key to the square bit in the centre of the bleed valve or insert the screwdriver into the groove of the valve screw. Turn it anti-clockwise; one quarter to a half turn will be fine (not fully!). A hissing noise should indicate that the trapped air is escaping from the radiator. Hold the rag or kitchen towel over the hissing to avoid any excess water splashing up the wall. Once all the air has been released, the valve will start to trickle water (hence why you put a container to protect the floor). Wait until there is a steady stream of water and any sputtering has stopped to ensure all the air has gone. Finally, tighten the bleed screw (clockwise) ensuring that you do not tighten it too much as this could damage the valve. Wipe down any spillages and turn your heating back on. Some of my radiators are not getting warm? This is a common problem and is usually caused by a minor blockage or an unbalanced system where the water in the pipework follows the easiest route. There are a few things we can check – Ensure the radiator valves are open on the faulty radiator and the TRV is on its highest setting. If it doesn’t warm up you can force the water in the heating system through the pipework by closing the lock shield valves on all other radiators, leaving the faulty one open. If this works and the faulty radiator heats up you can reopen all other valves by half a turn. This will restrict the amount of water they are taking and ensure the faulty radiator stays warm. If this doesn’t work, it’s time to call in a professional as your heating system may need flushing. Your safety is the priority As always, your safety is the number 1 priority here. Please do not attempt any of the fixes mentioned in this article unless you are absolutely confident that you can complete them safely and, if you are renting, within the boundaries of your rental agreement with your landlord.
Hannah O'Brien
Telephone: 07854 781631


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