Two weeks ago everything felt pretty normal, yes, it was Friday the 13th, but the World was ticking by, I had plans with my partner to meet my friends, I had play dates arranged, a chance for my son to run around and act like the dinosaur obsessed 4 year old he is.
There’d been talk in the World about Coronavirus and us being next, various jokes and memes shared across different platforms of social media made it all feel light-hearted, but little did I truly understand the impact of what was about to happen or what was about to unfold. At work senior management had been having various discussions throughout the week to sort our plans and at 3pm the business was called into a meeting to talk through the steps which had been taken for us to carry on business as usual. The decision had been made to split the company in two, two “office” based teams, one working on site, and the other working remotely from home, taking it in turns to be in the office, and two production shifts, with thorough clean downs in between shifts.
I was in the first group of people working from home that week, trying to catch up with the girls each day and find out what was happening in the office, grasping at some sense of normality, we had team phone calls to check in with each other and share any important news, but it didn’t feel quite right. However, it soon transpired, that as unusual as it was for me to be working from home every day, the team onsite were struggling with the first signs of what we are living through now... The phones weren’t ringing as much, signs were put up throughout the business dividing the work areas into green zones and red zones, it was getting a little real…. And scary.
It was during this week we heard the schools and nurseries would be closing, as a single working parent, panic set in, how could my 70-year-old high risk parents care for my son whilst I did my best to carry on working? How would work be going to the office on Monday? How at risk are we? When will I catch it? How will I look after my child if I’m ill? So many questions were racing through my mind.
I visited my parents last Friday, the 20th, joked with my Dad how they would never closer the pubs in our sleepy English middle-class village…. Then just gone 5pm the beginning of the end started… Pubs were to close, nationwide. We were doomed. Fortunately, I was treated to gin for Mother’s Day, so I could at least know that I could cope in some way shape or form with some “Mother’s Ruin” to get me through it all. I decided to do some “be kind” work in the local community, posting letters to my neighbours volunteering food shops, or pickups or jobs, anything to help, they all politely declined but appreciated the community spirit. “It was going to be alright really” I thought, “it won’t be that bad.”
Little did I realise how the rest of the week would turn out.
Day 1 - Monday 23rd March
I call it day 1, but I’m not sure if it’s actually day 0… As part of the second team I went to work as expected, light on the ground of people, and not having the girls in the office felt a little strange. But the day was relatively normal, although the phones were quiet, emails were still pinging through. Then towards the end of the day when we all anticipated the Prime Minsters address to the nation at 5pm, to hear it was delayed, made us all stop and think.
What was going to be said? We weren’t really going to be put on lockdown, were we?
We all know now what got said. And how it made us all feel.
Not many of you might realise how much of my Mother’s Ruin I drank that evening, but I shall keep that to myself.
Day 2 – Tuesday 24th March
Panic was starting to set in. Not only personally, my son was with his Dad, had been since Friday, the realisation that the arrangements we’d made meant I wouldn’t see my little nuisance and unofficial life alarm clock until the following Friday was tough to digest to say the least. With work, it became even more noticeable. Even more precautions made to protect the team and keep as many as we could safe. Might sound somewhat corny, but the team of people we have, mostly in production, are a fantastically niche bunch, each with their own skillset, that we would be lost without. Not only was I thinking of best steps to protect my family, the business I was working for was doing their best to protect their family.
Needless to say, I spent most of Tuesday uncontrollably weeping at the first opportunity, ending FaceTime calls because I had to “nip to the loo” or “the signal dropped”, but I would like to think that this was most of us, all in the same boat, the not knowing, the list of questions getting longer. When would I see my Mum and Dad again? When would work return to some type of normality? When will toilet rolls not become more valuable than gold? What if my son gets poorly and he’s not with me and I can’t see him for 2 more weeks?
The UK was changing, the World was changing, and, dare I say it, excitingly, Prime Group were also changing.
Unbeknownst to me, and my self-pity, the NHS were starting to struggle even more, friends and family members on the front line of the health service, putting their lives at risk to try and help those in greater need than me. With the spiralling numbers of cases it was becoming clearer that the bigger picture was even more scary.
I started to hear more and more about the horror stories, and I wasn’t the only one, a message from the wife of one our owners shook us to the core. They had no PPE face shield visors, they were literally facing this with nothing to protect them, and fortunately, for us, have the strength and bravery to do so without fear.
The brain boxes and innovative creative minds at Prime decided to do their best to do something about it.
Day 3 – Wednesday 25th March
Hump Day. Or was it? Days were rolling into each other and into the second week of working from home, with little interaction to the “outside World” it was taking its toll. More clients were putting jobs on hold, or holding their hands up and saying, “we don’t know”, we carried on as normal, as normal as normal can be right now, we plodded through, we got jobs done, and ready and packed.
For me personally, it was a case of, “sort your head out woman”, “this isn’t forever”, “deal with it” and luckily I managed to shake the grey clouds away, I fear for those who might not be so fortunate with mental health issues and how they might cope and survive through this, and it’s another reminder, “let’s be kind,” without each other we’ll all get lost in this, so let’s make steps to help one another. I think I had 4 “Houseparty’s” that evening, not only does this fabulous app take me back to my youth with its name, but it enabled me to reach out even more to loved ones, and old friends, who perhaps I don’t talk to often enough, to catch up, and sometimes even laugh, yes I cried, but yes I laughed too.
Even more fabulously on this hump day we managed to produce 100 face shields to NHS workers at a hospital in Leicester, thankful for having something to use to protect themselves, yes it wasn’t MDA protected, but at these times we are living in do we need a box to be ticked, or do we need a piece of equipment which might help save lives? (I know I’m no Doctor or scientist, but I think I know the right answer)
It started to feel like the mood was turning, for me personally, and for Prime.
Day 4 – Thursday 26th March
Friday eve. I think. Or was it? Seriously, my brain is feeling so pickled from stats and numbers and percentages that seem to be orbiting my World that finishing work at 5pm just means working out how many people might have to suffer with this awful killer virus. The team calls are more for an opportunity to hear a familiar voice, chat some nonsense and try to have a giggle. Work is still getting done, orders are still being despatched, and now the business must focus on the future.
Fortunately for our country we live in a well-off state, and one that can luckily help bail out the nation, should I chance it here and say could we still have offered such fantastic packages had we been a part of the EU…? (I actually have no idea, but always good to have a reminder about Brexit, because let’s be honest, that felt like it happened 8 years ago, never mind just under 8 weeks ago! Remember that panic we had about leaving the EU… Would we able to get medical supplies and prescriptions when we leave? Now we actually can’t buy toilet paper, bet no one saw that one coming!) Due to the opportunities being given by the government retention schemes like Furlough we are hoping that the measures we (and lots of other places) will be taking, will mean that when this is all over, and we can finally have a beer in a pub, or catch a bus without fear of contracting a deadly virus, or buy some flipping toilet paper, that we can continue our growth as a business and get back to what we do best, printing stuff.
Prime Group will be operating with business as usual, those staying on are making the same sacrifice as those taking Furlough, it’s a team effort, and one that could only happen if everyone was in it together. Fortunately for us, we thrive on that fact, we are like the 3 musketeers, “One for all and all for one. “
With the downward turn in fortune for some of our clients, it has meant that the crafty brains of some our team have already notched up a “v2” of the face shield. Since the social media pounced on what was achieved yesterday, as you would expect, the number of enquiries has not only gone through the roof, but it’s smashed it. We are fortunate enough to be able to work with some clients who have people on the front line that we can help immediately, people working with the elderly and most vulnerable, it’s great to know we can make a small difference to a huge Worldwide issue. And it left me with a nice humbling thought as the day ended, even so far if it’s only been 100 people that have been helped, how many more this could help, is flipping fab. To top off this warm and fuzzy feeling, come 8pm the windows were flung open so I could take part in the #clapforyourcarers campaign which was a fantastic example of our British comradery, all coming together to show our appreciation for the ace work which our frontline NSH staff are doing. A truly moving moment, and one I will never forget.
Day 5 – Friday 27th March
Friyay. That’s what the kids call it, I think? And it’s the day I will finally get my boy back home, I’m sure by bedtime I’ll be counting down until I have a break again, but right now, as I type this, the countdown is totally on. (not the TV show, it’s a tad early for that) A night of email exchanges happening with senior management and directors, showed the true nature of how the face shields are making and will continue to make a difference, it goes back my thoughts on Wednesday, and makes me think of the quote, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice”.
We are still working to despatch campaigns with one leaving today, and another two scheduled for next week, we are still developing web-to-print platforms for new clients, who aren’t seeing any downward spirals, we are still despatching personalised printed books, we are still doing all those things that we are known for. But the fact we can do this special work as well, and maybe make a small difference is super cool.
In the bigger picture it seems our PM has contracted Coronavirus, the USA has over taken China in the number of cases and I am still struggling to buy toilet paper (can you tell I am starting to run out… charitable offers gladly taken, unused preferably) the World is still evolving to what is happening around us, and I guess it’s important that we remember to evolve too, not just as businesses but as people too. I won’t preach, don’t worry, I’ve gone on for long enough as it stands, but I guess it’s a time for thinking about the small things and remembering their worth, when I get woken up at 6.30am with a demand for YouTube video of dinosaurs coming out the gates (yes, that is a thing) I’ll be a bit more thankful for it.
The questions are still going to keep coming too, they just change as well, when will lockdown be over? When will I have to start wearing make up again? Will we all be okay? How many will lose their lives? Will there be a recession? When is an acceptable time to start drinking? No one can really know the answers to any of these, if they do, send them my way, especially to answer the last question, but the main thing is that we are all in this big boat of unknowing together, and we’ll get through it, and who knows what this week might bring, something good might just come from all this bad.
Keep safe, happy and sane, it might be a tough ask at times, but remember if you’re working from home, or even on Furlough, at least you can have the temperature of the room at whatever you like!