Everything done with social distancing in mind

Michel Bomer is an all-round operator coordinator in Lochem (NL). His current role gives him responsibility for the feed mill planning and he also serves as the point of contact for his shift team. Depending on which shift he is working, the team consists of 3 to 5 colleagues.


Michel Bomer in the control room
Michel Bomer in the control room

And then suddenly you find yourselves having to deal with a corona crisis. Whilst ‘office colleagues’ all need to work from home wherever possible, Michel Bomer simply needs to get on with the job on site. As a vital sector, it’s imperative for the production of feed to continue and that’s simply something which must be done in the mill.

What’s working in these extraordinary times like for him? Michel: “Going into work did feel quite different to start with. You knew you were in the midst of the corona crisis and that you needed to keep distance, but what this meant in practical terms wasn’t all that obvious to start with. But we have all gotten used to it by now. You are constantly having to think about social distancing, so I even give any oncoming cyclists a wide berth when I’m on my way into work.”

Shift handover via the computer

The social distancing is something Michel and his colleagues are constantly working on. “So we’re now obviously trying to make sure all contact moments with colleagues are either avoided, or we abide by social distancing rule. Take the shift handover, for example; before the coronavirus hit us, the two different shift teams used to sit down in the canteen together and discuss what the next shift needed to get on with. This is now done via the computer. The new shift team therefore reads about what needs to be done on the computer. And any possible questions are asked in the group app. We are doing everything we can to keep the different teams completely separate, so no physical contact. Fortunately my colleagues are all level-headed and sensible people, they simply accept the current situation for what it is and take all the measures seriously.”

“The site manager keeps us informed of the latest developments. He participates with a so-called ‘corona update call’ with all the other site managers once a week. He also keeps us updated on how the other ForFarmers locations are doing and what initiatives have been introduced there: after all, these are definitely times when we need to learn from each other.”

Quick to adapt

It goes without saying he has a great deal of contact with colleagues as a coordinator, but fortunately that's easy to organise for Michel, even in corona-time. He explains: “Fortunately there is plenty of space to keep social distance at my workplace in the control room. It’s actually great to see how quickly we can adapt. You won’t hear anyone say ‘is that really necessary’ when a new measure is introduced. Everyone fully realises the coronavirus has put us in a very serious situation. There have been plenty of colleagues who have come up with good ideas themselves too. For example, the lift in Lochem’s mill is usually used by around 4 to 5 people at the same time. The team took the initiative and said: we’re not doing that anymore. So for now only one person can use the lift at any one time. And we naturally have all the required extra hygiene measures in place too: a cleaning company is carrying out extra cleaning activities and is also disinfecting rooms and furniture. Plus everyone is responsible for cleaning their own workplace with disinfectants after each shift too and we pay a great deal of attention to hand washing.”

Maintenance activities

“Another thing which we do differently as a result of the crisis is that any maintenance in the mill is now carried out by our own technical services department wherever possible. And anything we can’t do ourselves will be postponed, if at all possible. This is to avoid any external parties needing to come on site. We actually barely see our technical service colleagues at the moment. We are also doing our utmost to have as little physical contact with them as possible. They therefore now have their lunch in another room and we use the company canteen. But... obviously always whilst keeping social distancing in mind”, according to Michel.

Juggling act

Michel has two young children aged 6 and 8. His wife works too, so getting everything organised at home can be quite a juggling act, especially considering his shift work. Michel: “Fortunately my wife has a bit of flexibility where her work is concerned. My mother-in-law would usually be the one in charge of the kids, but of course that’s not possible right now. So far we’ve managed to work it all out. But it’s going to get quite complicated if we’re going to have to do this for much longer. Certainly where the home-schooling is concerned too.”

Being and staying healthy is naturally of the utmost importance for everyone, especially now. “I go to bed on time, get plenty of rest, eat healthily. It’s just a shame I can’t go to the gym at the moment. But taking plenty of time to rest and relax is definitely most important”, Michel laughs.