If working from home isn’t an option… what do you do?

Heidy Brusse in the half-empty lab

Work from home, if at all possible. But what to do as a team if this is not possible? Like our colleagues in Lochem’s laboratory (NL), for example. They conduct dozens of (quality) analyses for products and raw materials every day, which subsequently provides important input for, to name but a few, Formulation, the production sites, the Nutrition Innovation Centre and the sales teams. It’s therefore of the utmost importance that these analyses continue as normal. And this obviously means the team needs to be in the lab, as this is home to all the analysis equipment. How did they manage to resolve this? We asked Heidy Brusse, the laboratory’s Manager.

How did you manage to organise this with your team?

“Yes, that did indeed take a little bit of working out”, Heidy explains. “We work in an area which is already quite tight in normal circumstances, without having to consider the current social distancing. So it quickly became clear to us that we needed to start working in shifts. This is the only way we would be able to work in accordance with the regulations and avoid the entire group becoming infected. We therefore now have one early shift, who work until a quarter to two. Then the second shift starts at a quarter past two. One week you’ll form part of the early shift and the next week you’ll be in the late one.”

We took great care to ensure the various different analyses can be conducted during both shifts when compiling the teams. Two colleagues always work together in the front office. Heidi: “It goes without saying we took people’s private situations into account too. Colleagues needed to be able to effectively organise things at home as well. We have now been working like this for two weeks.”

And the handover, how does that work?

“Any required handover is certainly an important focus point, as the teams really don’t see each other. One colleague from the early shift will stay on a little longer and makes sure all the surfaces and equipment are disinfected. This person will also be responsible for verbally - naturally at the required distance– handing over any matters to a colleague from the late shift, who arrives a little early for this purpose. These are always the same colleagues. Any other required handover can also partially be done via our group app.”

And now, two weeks on. How is this new way of working going?

“It definitely took a little bit of getting used to for everyone, but you can see that it’s working. And just as well really, as we’ll need to continue like this for quite some time. One small advantage: we now literally have more space to work. One thing that has to be said: I have the utmost respect for my colleagues for how they are all doing this together and how everyone has found their own individual way of making it work. One of my colleagues told me this shift working is actually quite convenient at the moment; it frees up time to help the children with their homework when you’re not at work. Another one said: one week I can enjoy breakfast with my wife and the next week I’m home early and have plenty of time to get things done at home.”

And finally: how have you personally experienced this period?

“It’s truly inspiring to see how well this works, how the two teams stay in touch and how they make sure everyone effectively works together. And that the use of various different means of communication has been spontaneously picked up. It goes without saying it’s all incredibly intensive, with a huge amount of organisation, but it’s certainly also a challenge to make it all work. But above all else, I hope the team stays healthy. That applies to everyone around us. The motto is therefore to stay fit. I live near a forest myself, so I put on my walking shoes, grab the kids and go!”