Working Through COVID-19 At Midas Displays
Since the 1st of July, Midas employees have begun a phased return to the office after over 3 months of working from home, or being placed on furlough leave. Midas are deemed an essential business, providing displays to industries such as medical and food processing, so whilst the business had members of staff away from the office, some remained to ensure a continuity of supply. It has been wonderful to see colleagues happily interacting in the office once again, and this is an opportunity to share some key events that impacted Midas, along with some of the experiences from certain members of the team during such a strange, challenging period.
Monday 16th March 2020. The date that things began to change at Midas. As the pandemic continued to worsen, our Directors took the tough decision to ask members of the team to begin working from home. The selection process was a simple one; those whose jobs could be done 100% from home, and anyone who had existing health conditions and/or vulnerable dependents.
Tuesday 24th March 2020. More change. Furlough leave. Midas took the decision to place a number of the team on furlough leave, and generously advised that they would be topping these salaries up to 100%. The news came in the form of a phone call from Managing Director, Mike Halpin, who took the time to explain what this meant for those affected, reassuring anyone who had any concerns. He explains, “The COVID-19 pandemic was taking us to very worrying, uncharted waters. With our factories based in China and Taiwan, we were already suffering the effects of interrupted display supply, and now the UK was going into lockdown. With the business supplying displays to key customers in the fight against the pandemic, it was critical that we stayed open. However, we had a duty of care to our valued employees too. We made the decision to furlough some employees, and support others to continue to work from home where possible. Through the hard work, support, and dedication of the Midas team, we have been able to work through the worst of the pandemic, and are now starting the slow and careful path back to a more ‘normal’ way of doing business”.
Monday 11th May 2020. The news furlough staff had been waiting for. Information on an expected date to return to work. The team received an email from Mike Halpin, asking them to be ready to return to work from the 1st of July. Another email followed two weeks later, detailing the phased return to work, and explaining the benefits of the phased return: aiding social distancing, and re-adapting to the work routine. The consensus from those furloughed is that this email gave them a light at the end of the tunnel. Many people consider furlough to be an absolute luxury, a paid holiday from work, but the reality is that people have struggled over this period without the normality of a day at work, and nothing to focus on daily.
Wednesday 1st July 2020. Return to work. Staff began a phased return to work over the 1st and 2nd of July.
Paul Reader – Operations Manager
I wasn’t placed on furlough leave, but I did initially work from home. I must admit, I didn’t relish the time I spent working from home, I have three young, energetic children, and whilst spending more time at home was nice, trying to work in such a hectic household was quite difficult. I turned a corner of my bedroom into an office, but working from a laptop was difficult as I regularly compare reports over two screens, having tasks take up to three times longer was quite stressful. It was just a weird time for everyone, I had to come into the office once a week to do certain tasks, and it was just strange driving in on the empty roads. The only other time I got out of the house was for a daily walk, and to do a supermarket shop.
Aspects of my job were changing too. I work closely with our suppliers, and suddenly we were having to make sure certain orders were being treated as a priority, such as those for medical equipment.
After the decision was made to furlough staff, it was also decided that I would make a return to the office. As the Operations Manager, it is my responsibility to ensure that health and safety best practice is being carried out. We had already secured enough hand sanitiser, protective gloves, and masks to cover those members of the team who had been required to continue to work in the office and warehouse, so on my return, I continued to make improvements where possible to the organisation and cleanliness of the office. As time went on, and the government released more information on COVID secure workplaces, this became my priority, and I focused on ensuring we had a safe workplace for those furloughed and working from home to return to.
Personally, it wasn’t a great time for me. I’m a very sociable person, so being asked to work from home originally, and not really being able to leave the house, really wasn’t great. Just not having the daily conversations with work colleagues, and not being able to have a joke or discuss sports with friends at work, I found tough. I am quite glad I wasn’t placed on furlough leave, I know a lot of people consider it to be a luxury, but for me, being able to work and come into the office after the initial period working from home was really important for me.
Mark Wyer – Technical Sales Engineer
After an initial week or so working from home, I was placed on furlough leave. The period working from home was strange enough, suddenly my breakfast bar had become my office, as well as a workspace for an 8-year-old being homeschooled! The coffee machine and microwave being within arms reach may not have been the best thing for my waistline, and the usual 30 second chats in the office suddenly became 30 email long conversation chains.
On the 24th of March, I received a phone call from our Managing Director, Mike, explaining that I was to be placed on furlough leave. Mike explained what that meant from Midas perspective, which was great, I really felt like the company was looking after my best interests, and welfare. He explained that he knew it was going to be a tough time for us all, but the company were topping our salaries up to 100% to thank us for being so patient and understanding. I think we’ll all be forever grateful for such a gesture, and it just goes to show the brilliant family atmosphere that we have at Midas!
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the first few days of lay-ins, but this soon became boring. I missed the daily routine of work, and the light hearted fun atmosphere of our workplace. I didn’t really leave the house as my partner was pregnant, so we had our shopping delivered, and the daily hours exercise became repetitive and boring.
The unknown protocols of childbirth during a pandemic were extremely stressful, and work would usually have been my distraction from this as I always throw myself into my work when I have any other stresses. However, being furloughed once my son was born was a blessing. I got to spend much more time with my partner and our newborn child than any new parent usually would, even if that did mean I had to deal with a little more poo, milk, and sick than expected!
The lack of face to face interaction during lockdown was what I found the hardest, I missed my work colleagues and friends, and obviously we couldn’t introduce our new baby to his grandparents either. Whilst I am grateful for the extra time I have had with my family, I was relieved to get a return to work date, and I’m enjoying getting back into some form of routine again. The part-time return to work is good, it’s allowing us all to get used to being back, and giving us some more space in the office, but I am looking forward to having a full office again, hopefully sometime soon.
I’m really grateful to the core group of staff who have worked through the whole time to keep the business running, I really can’t thank them enough. Mike and the other directors have really supported us during this period, and that makes me proud to be part of the Midas family.