New CSR ideas should be generated from bottom-up, not top-down

  23 JULY, 2019      INDUSTRY INSIGHTS , CSR
A Novus Contract Liason Officer talking to a woman in the doorway

Kevin Rhone our Head of Social Value and Customer Service, discusses Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) partnerships between contractors and registered providers.

Now more than ever, contractors want to be bolder in their CSR efforts and the days of these initiatives being a tick-box exercise are over. Contractors recognise the commercial benefits and housing providers have an opportunity to make better use of this. Could landlords and their suppliers be bolder in creating initiatives together? The answer is: absolutely.

Being Bolder with CSR Efforts

If you are still of the mindset that contractors view CSR with cynicism, then you need to look at efforts by the sector outside of contractual obligations. The construction industry recognises that CSR’s benefits extend beyond just improving communities. For instance, CSR is a fantastic way of bringing staff together and building a positive workforce culture. As a result, it can help retain talent and inspire workforces.

CSR Initiatives Create Stronger Teams

We have seen CSR projects really drive home these positives in our own teams. Our charity initiative last year saw us invest £100,000 across five transformational projects around the UK – each nominated by local communities. The campaign, called the Novus Big Five, galvanised our workforce as well as engaging local people.

It united our colleagues up and down the country under a common goal while also supporting our values as a family-owned business. 

It’s also highlighted the benefits of working with communities themselves to generate ideas for CSR. The initiatives over the year included a range of projects from a refurbishment of a rehabilitation centre for military veterans struggling with addiction to a new ward at a hospital in Brighton for parents who had lost their child during labour, which gives them the space they need to grieve.

The range of worthy projects nominated far exceeded the ideas we would have had alone.

Creating CSR Partnerships

The learning is that landlords and housing associations should create open forums where contractors on the ground and communities feel empowered to generate their own ideas for CSR. Our workforces are often social landlords’ eyes and ears on the ground in their estates and people living there have an unmatched understanding of the area itself. Together they have a unique insight into where money could be best spent to solve issues.

In addition, getting early buy-in from the community and contractor workforces themselves can lead to a valuable initial groundswell of support for projects, including additional fundraising.

As partners, we should set ambitious targets too and put as much pressure on ourselves to generate bigger results. However, it isn’t necessarily about investing more time and money, it’s about making sure that, whatever we’re doing, that it can create a lasting difference.

By thinking about CSR from the bottom up and asking communities and contractor teams on the ground where they see the biggest issues in communities can help social landlords to make much bigger impacts in their communities.

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PLANNING THE POST-LOCKDOWN OFFICE: WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE?

For those of us working from home at the moment, going into the office every day may already seem like a distant memory. However, with lockdown measures seemingly beginning to ease, in this article we are turning our attention to what the post-lockdown office might look like. Empty buildings As a response to Government advice, on 23rd March 2020, many offices (including Novus) closed their doors and have been stood abandoned ever since. Whilst working from home for many businesses is proving to be effective in the short term, it may not be a viable long-term option. There is little doubt that the outbreak of Covid-19 has changed how we will work and interact with colleagues within the office environment for a long time to come (perhaps even permanently). And, when office workers do eventually return, the initial deep clean and physical adaptations of the building might just be the tip of the iceberg. Segregation of the workforce To comply with social distancing, semi-permanent measures to keep employees apart are going to be first and foremost in the thinking of office planners. In an ideal scenario, workstations will be reconfigured to ensure that the minimum 2 metre gap between colleagues is maintained and hot desking will be abandoned to limit potential spread. Clearly, this could present a challenge for a number of businesses who simply lack the office space or require extensive reconfiguration in order to implement such adaptations. In these circumstances 3 solutions spring to mind: 1. Provide physical barriers between colleagues in the form of Perspex (or similar) screens akin to those seen at the checkouts of any given UK supermarket at present. The reception area will certainly need to have this feature in place regardless. 2. Set up 2m workstations and rota the workforce so that only a fraction of colleagues have access to the office at any given time. The other colleagues will continue to work from home. 3. Continue the status quo of having the workforce work from home and only use the office when a face-to-face meeting is preferred or deemed essential. Novus have extensive experience in refitting, refurbishing, and reconfiguring working office environments. We can help create physical barriers between office workstations and assist with planning, contact us today to make an enquiry >> Monitoring body temperature Novus have already successfully implemented temperature checks on construction sites and this measure looks set to become a feature of the daily office routine post-lockdown. For good reason too, as one of the main symptoms of the Covid-19 infection is a body temperature greater than 37.8 degrees Celsius, this is a simple precaution to prevent potentially infected colleagues from entering the premises. Whilst our sites have been using infra-red guns to check temperatures on arrival, some larger offices and organisations have also been considering installing thermal cameras to monitor their workforce. Sanitising regularly Permanent sanitisation fixtures at all entrances and exits are likely to become a mainstay of the new office environment. The Covid-19 prevention strategy has always been centred around keeping hands as clean as possible through regular hand washing and sanitation, so having these dispensers installed throughout the building a relative ‘no-brainer’. Employers might choose to issue their employees with their own supply of hand sanitiser at the start of every week as further encouragement to keep those hands clean. Furthermore, we could see each desk issued with cleaning supplies so that regular sanitising of phones, keyboards, and mice takes place throughout the day. Plus, sharing of stationary is obviously big no-no (bad news for pen/pencil stealers). Touchless doors and facilities As door handles provide a potential surface touch point for the spread of coronavirus, office planners might opt to replace their doors with handleless or automatic solutions where possible. Pushing the door with your body rather than your hand, removes that touch point. Additionally and particularly in high traffic areas such as the bathrooms, adaptations such as sensor activated taps will be preferred over handled models, in addition to touchless soap dispensers and hand dryers. Cross-traffic reduction measures The restriction of movement throughout the building to minimise the occurrence of close interactions should be expected. This is particularly the case for offices with narrow corridors and stairwells. One-way systems and departmental isolation (i.e. no physical contact between colleagues sitting in different departments) are likely to be measures to be introduced in many offices. Even the way we eat at work will change. Set break/lunch times and socially distanced canteens (or even the complete closure of) are changes that minimise cross-traffic in the office environment. Bringing lunch and drinks from home will be encouraged and potentially enforced by new rules and communal hot drink stations, at least for the time-being, will likely disappear. Bring a flask with your hot drink to work instead. Tighter controls on visitors and meetings Mandatory site inductions and Covid-19 safety briefings akin to those seen on Novus construction sites, are almost certainly going to be a requirement for visitors to the office. Alongside the compulsory temperature checks for every person on-site, visitors will be required to call ahead and arrange allocated appointment times. It stands to reason that; tighter scheduling controls will assist in keeping offices at safe occupancy levels. Novus can help We are committed to helping businesses and offices reopen safely as lockdown measures begin to ease. For more information about the range of services we can provide, please contact us or visit our Covid-Secure web page.

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