20 October 2020

To quote Charles Dickens, it may not be the best of times nor the worst of times but I think we can agree that 2020 has brought us the strangest of times. This year has without a doubt issued in some of the greatest changes to housing associations and the workplace that we have ever seen.

I sit on the board at Bolton at Home, and we’ve seen plans for mobile working, which we envisaged implementing in our long term strategy, actioned almost overnight. We’ve also seen the impact of reducing staff physically at work by 75%, closing down many buildings during the height of lockdown and the challenge of ensuring staff were adequately equipped with PPE when going into residents homes. However just as importantly, we have had to place high priority on making sure staff and the senior leadership team were supported, whilst being assured that the organisation is compliant in all aspects of governance.

So as a board, we need to identify the key issues that we need to be involved in to ensure that changes not only leave minimum risk to the organisation but so that we can see where opportunities lie. Our people strategy is more important than ever, ensuring that messages are clear and easy to understand. We’ve taken extra time to recognise and acknowledge the hard work that staff are doing adapting to this very new way of working. At Bolton at Home we believed that it was especially important that recognition be as personal as possible with video messages from the Group Chair and regular noting at board meetings of support from the board.

Regular updates to the board of contingency plans, the impact of the pandemic on the people strategy and how we as an organisation have been taking staff along with us on this journey, including the extra measures we’ve put in place to make ensure staff wellbeing, are now part of the new norm. Although the world has become much more distant, the need for connectivity has never been more important. It’s vital that we learn from this new way of working to see what in the future post-pandemic we continue with and what might no longer be required.

Everybody is experimenting, especially in the north and even more so in Bolton where we have seen the situation changing even more rapidly. We’ve had to be fluid and we’ve had to be responsive. Life as we knew it will probably never be the same again but with the right balance of learning and action providing support for the whole organisation and the workplace we can get through this very challenging time and enter into a brave new workplace.

Ibrahim Ismail

Ibby is Deputy Chair at Bolton at Home

My name is Ibrahim Ali Ismail but everyone calls me Ibby. I am the Development Manager at Bolton Solidarity Community Association a charity that works mainly but not exclusively with new communities in Bolton and Deputy Chair of Bolton at Home since 2019 as well as being a non exec director since 2014, both are organisations I am immensely proud of being a part of. Another thing I am hugely proud of is my voluntary role as Chair of Bolton Council for Voluntary Service. I am a social housing tenant and have been all of my life and I am very passionate that social housing is seen as something that we are proud of in Britain. We are more than just a landlord in so many ways.

Finally in my spare time I love three things. Those things are sports especially Everton FC, spending time with family and friends. I also enjoy writing poetry and short stories.

A brave new workplace