At Penman Consulting, all our employees are still under various degrees of lockdown and working from home. Here are four ways that Penman Consulting has dealt with the challenges of lockdown.
2020 Exceptional is a new timesheet line for all Penman employees. The directors understand that we are in extraordinary times and that due to volunteering or family commitments, sometimes employees will not be able to complete a full working week (there are no salary reductions for using this).
I spoke to Tim, our General Manager about the policy.
“At Penman, we have a full workload with new client projects coming in all the time. We needed visibility about where time was being allocated so that tasks could be allocated correctly without overloading any of the team. Our priority is the safety and health, both physical and mental of our employees, and we hope we can provide the right support during these difficult times. I would like to commend our employees on all the work they have accomplished during these last few weeks. I know it’s not easy working from home with distractions all around, but the effort and commitment amazes me day after day.”
Many company social events are no longer possible during lockdown; there are no meals out, catered lunches or poetry slams in the office. The Pint and Byte is a virtual pub (on Discord) created by two of our employees, James Dunn and James Radcliffe. Games nights and virtual pub quizzes are frequently hosted there.
We also have an ongoing music swap, still going strong at week 19. An employee picks a theme for the week, people submit their song choices, and then a Spotify playlist is created. Past themes include things like “Rivers”, “Dance” and in one particularly memorable case “Bees”!
At Penman Consulting, we are still hiring. Since lockdown we have two new members of the team, Gurkeerat Attwal and Ali Blevins. They have both joined as Scientific Regulatory Assistants, to help our science team manage studies. The hiring process has been entirely online, including interview, induction, and technical setup. This is a big change from our usual process which usually involves a tour of the office and regular tea/coffee breaks with biscuits!
Gurkeerat is a recent University of Aston graduate, with a BEng in Biomedical Engineering. With her interest in regulatory affairs within the chemical industry, she joins Penman Consulting as her first step in her career. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family and plays recreational sports.
Ali graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2014 with her bachelor’s degree in Biology, and a minor in Chemistry. The following 4 years, she tried a different career, working in the accounting field. Wanting to return to science, she attended the University of Birmingham, obtaining her master’s degree in Toxicology in 2019. She joins Penman Consulting with interests in general toxicology, eco-toxicology, and reducing animal use for toxicological endpoints.
We count ourselves lucky to have a great IT department and the move to entirely home working went extremely smoothly, despite the short notice. All the technology we would need was already in use, from online shared working, meeting systems, and hardware.
One of the main challenges in the first few weeks was getting the right physical equipment to the right people. That involved moving screens, and larger items, like desks and chairs to help mitigate the challenges of home working as much as possible.
Environment is still an ongoing challenge for many employees. Many of our employees never planned on working from home full time, and do not have dedicated office space at home. Our employees are working from their bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, and in one case, from their conservatory. While in some ways this provides benefits (you get to hang out with your cats all day) it can be a big challenge, both for those sharing space with other family members, and for those who are completely isolated.