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.
painting at manchester grammar school


After the end of a turbulent academic year severely disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, it’s business as usual for Novus as our school refurbishments commence. Instead of putting our feet up or heading to the beach (at a safe social distance of course), Novus will be beginning their annual schedule of refurbishment and renovation works, moving into schools, colleges, and universities up and down the country. With tight deadlines in place, our teams are refurbishing classrooms, repainting building exteriors, and replacing flooring (to name just a few services), ready to welcome students back in September. When do the schools close for Summer 2020? There are small differences depending on the individual school and your location, but the summer break officially begins on 20th July or 22nd July. Our previous work with schools, colleges, and universities Novus have held a number of long-standing partnerships with academic institutions throughout the UK, for many years. Our work streams are varied and diverse, encompassing building refurbishment, property maintenance, construction, and painting & decorating services. 1. George Heriot’s School – Classroom Refurbishment Strong relationships and a positive local reputation with independent schools in the Edinburgh area led to Novus being called in to refurbish 2 classrooms at one of Scotland’s most successful and historic schools. Taking place over the course of the summer holidays, the refurbishments were extensive and involved the removal of fixtures, fittings, and flooring. Novus installed new storage units and created bespoke joinery to produce new shelving and hockey stick holders. The project was unique due to the careful logistical planning required owing to the classrooms being housed within a turret with a winding staircase. Read more about this project here. If your school classrooms are in need of refurbishment, contact us >> 2. Manchester Grammar School - Memorial Hall Redecoration To mark the 500th anniversary of the school, Novus were appointed to paint and decorate Manchester Grammar School’s Memorial Hall. Novus completed the intricate internal redecoration carefully, honouring a school tradition of leaving one decorative leaf on the 12-metre high ceiling unfinished, while painting the rest. The colour scheme selected for the Memorial Hall was supplied by Crown Paints and the Novus painters and decorators carried out the work with the utmost consideration and respect. The work was later recognised and commended by the Painting and Decorating Association, stating that: “The company should be proud of their workforce and the craftsmanship demonstrated.” Which of course, we are. Read more about this project via the Our Work page. Can we help with your painting and decorating this summer? >> 3. Ferncumbe Primary School - Construction of a new classroom Novus were selected to construct a 125m² single-storey extension at Ferncumbe Primary School in Hatton, Warwickshire, over a 17-week period. The new classroom was built with a traditional cut roof with exposed glulam beams, toilet facilities, and an additional group room. Our team had to also make alterations to existing mechanical and electrical services in order to accommodate the new build. Ferncumbe Primary school now benefits from an extra classroom and brand-new toilet facilities. Throughout the construction, the school pupils took an interest and the teachers were able to use it as a learning opportunity, with a focus week on buildings. Students participated in digging, learned how to use a spirit level and even how to lay bricks. We hope that some of the youngsters were inspired to take up a career in construction one day! Read more about this project here. Does your school need a new classroom or bathroom facilities? Contact us >> 4. Unite Student Residencies – almost 1000-bedroom refurbishments Over the course of a summer, Novus refurbished student accommodation on almost 1000 bedrooms across 3 cities, in extensive redecoration and flooring works. Alongside the bedrooms, shared and communal areas within Unite’s buildings across Portsmouth, Bournemouth, and Bristol. The refurbishments on the James Watson Halls in Portsmouth, Marketgate accommodation in Bristol, and Purbeck House in Bournemouth took place over the peak summer period to ensure students were not disrupted during exam season. With students due back to resume their studies between September and October, Novus faced extremely tight timescales to complete the project on time. The project was delivered on-time and in-full. Unite’s project manager said: “We hope to build on our relationship with Novus and look forward to working with the team in the future.” Read more about this project via the Our Work section of the Novus website. Are your student halls in need of refurbishments? Contact Novus today >> 5. Keele University Walter Moberly Building – Minor Demolition and Internal Building Refurbishments Working on the Walter Moberly building at Keele University in Staffordshire, Novus were asked remodel the existing structure and demolish part of the first floor. Our teams installed a new floor construction at a higher level, thereby increasing the floor-to-ceiling height on the ground floor. The team also provided full mechanical and electrical upgrades and a major refurbishment to the building, creating brand new teaching facilities. Additionally, new toilet facilities were installed. This was made possible by the modifications to the existing drainage system carried out by Novus. Whilst the works were carried out, the University and its academic buildings remained operational, with minimal disruption to the campus as a whole. Read more about this project >> We will be returning to Keele University this summer to undertake more refurbishment works, watch this space for updates. 6. Combined Refurbishments Working with IQ, last year Novus completed refurbished a total of 290 Ensuite Bedrooms, 186 Studios, 54 Shared Kitchens and all the associated communal areas across the five projects at educational institutions. All in a total period of 12 weeks, with each project averaging just 6 weeks. Add to these the refurbishments carried out for UPP and Lancaster University, the number of refurbishments become over 500 bedrooms and 100 shared kitchens. 7. Middlesex University - Platt Hall Building Refurbishments Working with our client Optivo, Novus were instructed to complete bedroom refurbishments on a large number of units and the adjoining bathrooms within the Platt Hall at Middlesex University in London. Novus successfully completed 48 bedrooms in 2019 and 36 additional units were refurbished on-time and in-full in just 8 weeks, in time for the students returning to their halls of residence. The final phase of the contract is due for completion in the summer of 2021. Alongside all the bedroom refurbishments, the corridors within Platt Hall were also redecorated and re-painted. Further details about this project are available here >> Busy summers Every year, Novus are faced with a busy summer as the schools reopen in the first week of September. But, no matter the challenge or the tightness of the deadline, we pride ourselves on getting the job done on-time and right first time. Further examples of our work in education can be found on the "Our Work" section of the Novus website. If you are interested in finding out more about how Novus can help your school, college, or university, please get in touch with us today >>
clothes at a store


The announcements made by Boris Johnson at the end of May were perhaps the most far reaching to date. Amongst them, the news that those retailers deemed ‘non-essential’ could reopen their doors on 15th June 2020. No doubt welcome news to business owners but what measures will they be implementing to keep their staff and customers safe from Covid-19? Readjusting the wheel, not reinventing it Although these non-essential stores are reopening their doors on 15th June, supermarkets and DIY retailers have been open throughout the lockdown period. As such retail owners aren’t really starting from a blank canvas when considering what measures to put in place. After an initial deep clean to make the space suitable for human occupation, common adaptations that have so quickly become part of our everyday lives: the 2 metre distance* markings on the floor, the clear plastic screens at the checkouts, the one-way systems around the store, sanitisation stations, and more frequent cleaning regimes etc. will readily transfer into almost any retail environment.  Careful planning into the reconfiguration of their premises to accommodate these systems might however present the first significant challenge. Considering that the majority of retail units in the UK are under 1000 square feet, the supermarket model will need to be miniaturised down from the (typically) 20,000 – 60,000 square foot system. Need help with your retail space adjustments? Give Novus a call or email us >> Controlling occupancy In accordance with social distancing rules at present, where practically possible, each person in the store will always need to be 2 metres* apart. When you factor in merchandise, display units, and only one route around the shop, the available space might become rather tight. Marks & Spencer and Ikea have already said that they will impose restrictions on the numbers of customers entering their stores and we can expect to see very tight controls on the amount of people allowed in the shop at any given time across the board. Perhaps the one-in-one-out policy that we’ve seen from smaller retailers during lockdown, would be adopted at entrances to shops and shopping centres. As everyone else will have to wait their turn outside the store (socially distanced of course), this presents an issue for passing foot traffic. Councils such as Cardiff City are considering extending pavements and removing pavement furniture to help pedestrians stay the 2 metre* distance away from the people queuing to get into shops. It may also be worthy of note that there is increasing pressure to move from the 2 metre* separation to a 1 metre gap, which mirrors the guidance from WHO and the approach adopted by other countries. The calls to adopt this change are currently loudest from the hospitality and leisure sectors, and would almost certainly be welcomed by those retailers struggling for floor space. Clarification on this matter may well be forthcoming from the government before the 15th June. Virutal queuing Could technology provide an answer to the issue of street overcrowding outside stores in the form of virtual queuing? If you’ve ever visited Disney World on a peak day or walked into a restaurant without a reservation on a Saturday evening and been handed a buzzer, you’ve probably already been part of a virtual queue. How does it work? Well, instead of customers waiting in long queues, they would be given their position in a virtual queue and alongside a wait time estimate. Depending on the sophistication of the system, they might be able to track their position in the queue in real-time on a mobile phone app. This way, the customer can run other errands or visit different stores whilst they wait their turn. Supermarket giant Asda has already launched such a system. Customers login to the queue via their mobile phone and wait in their cars to enter stores. Will my temperature be checked? Many businesses that have returned to work following the easing of lockdown measures have mandating temperature checking for their employees (Novus have done this on their construction sites already) Whilst retailers are set to implement the same controls on their workforce, are some even considering testing customers before allowing them to enter their premises? The answer is yes. Two weeks ago (at time of writing), global technology giant Apple became the first major retailer in America to require customers to have their temperature checked before entry and it is reported that other retailers are considering the move. With the 15th June reopening date fast approaching, it remains to be seen whether UK retailers will opt to include this in their own covid-secure safeguards. Click and collect Of course, online shopping and click & collect has been on the rise for some time before the Covid-19 outbreak. And, there is a feeling that this method of shopping might see an increase as consumers might opt for click and collect to reduce their potential exposure to Covid-19. For this method to be a safe and appealing option to the customer, there would need to be a contactless way of collecting their items without having to wait in line. This might therefore see increased usage of facilities such as the Amazon locker either outside the store or with a separate entrance. Don't try before you buy In the interest of getting customers back through the door, there seems likely to be an unavoidable trade-off in customer experience. For the most part, the notion of ‘try before you buy’ is temporarily suspended as clothes shops close their changing rooms and close contact areas such as make-up booths in department stores remain closed. Other retailers are attempting to find ways around the problem. Shoe retailer Kurt Geiger are planning to quarantine all shoes that have been tried-on for a period of 24 hours and similarly, books that have been touched and unpurchased from Waterstones will also undergo quarantine for 72 hours. Novus in retail As a business, we are trusted by some of the biggest names in retail to carry out their in-store works. Novus are well equipped to help your business navigate these uncertain times with our range of Covid-Secure services and adaptations, as well our usual plethora of retail services. Contact us today to see how we can help you >> *Update: Since this article was written, the 2 metre social distancing rule was relaxed to a 1 metre+, which came into effect on 4th July.
laptop working from home


When workers to return to offices, ‘Business as Usual’ is undoubtedly set to take on a different form. In the short term, working from home has become the ‘new normal’, but is remote working actually here to stay? Working from home 20 years ago, the prospect of office workers being able to work from home effectively and still communicate with colleagues would have been challenging and highly inefficient at best. However with the rise of the internet and the massive developments in communication infrastructure over the past two decades, remote working has become a natural and almost taken-for-granted part of many office-based roles.   In recent times, the discussion around the proportion of working from home vs. office based working has been well debated and in many ways, the recent Covid-19 climate has thrown this issue into even sharper relief. Amongst the many questions that businesses are facing at the moment is whether remote working is a viable permanent option for them. Engaging with our people at Novus Throughout the lockdown, Novus engaged and continually communicating with colleagues to reinforce a sense of community. One of the common bugbears of remote workers is the feeling of isolation from their friends and colleagues within the workplace. From the outset, we were keen to ensure that didn't happen.   One of the ways in which Novus achieved this was through the “Helping Hand”, our weekly internal newsletter that (to name just a few features) provides motivational tips, updates from our people around the business, and useful updates.     In addition to the newsletter, we surveyed our colleagues via our ‘Pulse Survey’ to gain a measure on how our people were coping with lockdown life. As part of the survey we asked our colleagues who are working from home: “Coronavirus resulted in some of us having to work from home and working differently than we normally do. How did this impact the way you worked?” 1.       I felt I worked more effectively at home than when I’m in the office 2.       I felt I worked less effectively at home than when I’m in the office 3.       I felt that there was no difference   The results were quite conclusive. Nearly one third (31%) of the colleagues surveyed indicated that they were more productive when working from home. Just over half (55%) of the respondents felt that there was no difference and 14% suggested they were more productive in the office. These outcomes suggest that in terms of personal perception, 86% of Novus colleagues felt that they were at least as productive working from home compared to working in the office. An increasing trend It is clear that even before the Covid-19 outbreak that working from home was on the rise in the UK, with numbers increasingly sharply over the last decade. Facilitated by improving technology, effective video conferencing software, faster internet speeds, and generally an ever more digitally connected population, the conditions have never been better for remote working. And, this interconnectivity looks set to continually develop as new technologies are implemented. Elon Musk's Starlink for instance aims to blanket the planet with high-speed WiFi, accessible from anywhere in the World. Productivity and working from home The 31% of Novus colleagues who felt they worked more effectively at home, are amongst a growing number. Increasingly, there is a consensus that working from home does seem to improve productivity where effective remote working strategies are adopted (see our top 5 tips for working from home article). Advocates cite the reduction in stress, fewer distractions, and relaxed environment as potential sources of their productivity level output. Of course, Individual differences and approaches to work are always going to play a significant part. As one source suggests, “If you are an unproductive person in the office, then it’s unlikely to change when you work from home” (Regus) and vice versa. From a cost perspective In light of the costs associated with making Covid-secure adaptations to offices, one can easily make an argument for the financial benefit. Investments in temperature checking devices, desk partitioning, and additional hygienic facilities will be certainly be required in the immediate term, that’s without mentioning the overheads of heating, water, and electricity. (You can read about what the post-lockdown office might look like here) To a small business (or certainly to one that is suffering financially), these cost savings could make a big difference. Additionally, there are the significant changes to the daily routine to consider. Compliance with social distancing measures might involve movement restrictions, staggered break times, and reduced capacity – all of which are new policies that will require some time to become habit. In that same vein, in small offices where social distancing is going to present a significant challenge, allowing at least a portion of the workforce to work from home on a consistent basis, will help to alleviate spacing issues. A blow to company culture? A healthy organisational culture is all about its people and the way they interact, collaborate, and communicate with each other. It is potentially one of the areas that might suffer if working from home was to become a permanent fixture of the ‘new normal. Particularly where close working relationships or friendships are concerned, there has been a considerable amount of research to suggest that face-to-face interaction is important for maintaining relationships. Thus the sense of community within an organisation might be diminished and an even greater effort to maintain those ties over virtual media will be needed. Technology giants making their move In recent weeks, Twitter and Facebook have announced that they will allow their employees to work from home permanently (should they wish to). In July, Google confirmed that it would allow its employees work from home for at least another 12 months and potentially beyond. As is often the case, big players within “technology” have been quick to move on this issue; keen to uphold their brand image as innovators and forward thinkers. One size never fits all Whatever business leaders ultimately decide to do post-Covid-19, it can be certain that there will be vast differences between individual organisations and sectors. It should be recognised that some people cannot work from home by the nature of the job or their access to/familiarity with technology, others (like our 14%) would not be in favour. It remains to be seen whether a consensus can be reached on the matter in our industry and as a business. What we can be sure of though, is our continuing effort to engage our colleagues in order to find our ‘new normal’. Watch this space. Join the conversation Do you have a view on the discussion? We’d love to hear it. Please leave a comment on our social media post on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Hannah O'Brien
Telephone: 07854 781631


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