Connect Derby steps up for tenants during pandemic

Published: 23 November 2020

Friar Gate Studios

Friar Gate Studios is one of Connect Derby's managed workspaces.

Over the past eight months, the team at Connect Derby, Derby City Council’s managed workspace provider, has faced one of the biggest challenges in its 13 year history – supporting its 200 plus tenants as they navigate their way through the coronavirus crisis and the changes it has brought to the way we do business.

Throughout the pandemic, the Connect Derby management team has gone the extra mile to offer help and support – putting plans in place for lockdown, then communicating with tenants about the financial support available to them, addressing their queries and helping them to stay open for business.

As lockdown measures eased in the summer, the Connect Derby team pulled out all the stops to make each building Covid secure and ensure tenants and visitors could return to their buildings with confidence.

Now we’ve entered another lockdown, the team are back to communicating with tenants about the Covid-19 procedures in place and supporting them through the next 28 days and beyond.

Ann Bhatti, head of Connect Derby, highlights the work of the Connect Derby team and their role in supporting tenants throughout the pandemic:

When lockdown began, we took action immediately. We have more than 200 businesses across our seven buildings, so our main priority was to ensure the safety of our tenants and keep them fully informed about the changes that would affect their businesses.

The working from home process was initially challenging for us, mainly because so many people rely on our team. We rose to the challenge though and changed our working practices to enable our tenants to work remotely and stay open for business wherever possible.

Ann was the key decision maker in negotiations that took place during lockdown and managed the lockdown of all Connect Derby Buildings in line with government guidelines. She also implemented a quick decision-making forum and communications strategy with the Connect Derby management team, which acted swiftly to address tenants’ concerns.

Towards the end of lockdown, Ann implemented Connect Derby’s Covid-19 risk assessment and personally oversaw the implementation of health and safety measures across all seven buildings. She also introduced a Covid-19 induction programme for staff and tenants.

Connect Derby’s Covid-19 risk assessment was audited by Derby City Council’s H&S team on 28 July and achieved a rating of ‘Outstanding’, with a score of 92%.

Ann is now leading the team as they navigate their way through the second national lockdown.

Business Support services
Pauline Roessler, Connect Derby’s business support manager, changed the way she assists businesses during the pandemic.

Pauline has supported 187 of Derby’s small businesses during the first lockdown, answering calls and enquiries. In her role as the city’s D2N2 business adviser, Pauline also held 73 virtual meetings to check on the well-being of existing D2N2 clients and is continuing to support them during the latest lockdown.

At the start of lockdown, it was clear to Pauline that maintaining communication with businesses would enable them to act quickly to ensure their financial viability through grant and financial schemes being introduced by the government.

Though it has been a challenging time, by communicating directly with businesses through phone calls, virtual meetings and regular news and information bulletins, Pauline has been able to address their concerns quickly and effectively.

The Customer Support team
The customer support team took on a whole host of new responsibilities during the first lockdown. This included working with tenants to grant them emergency access to their workspaces and supporting the compliance team by carrying out the required statutory checks of all Connect Derby buildings.

The customer support team also ensured that mail delivered to the Connect Derby buildings was forwarded to tenants’ home addresses on a weekly basis.

Because of how quickly things changed during the first lockdown, the customer support team built a real rapport with tenants, which gave them the confidence to return to their workspaces. 

The team is working hard to stay in contact with tenants during the latest lockdown.

Operations Facilities Management team
The operations facilities management team continued liaising with Connect Derby’s security firm to enable contractors to enter the buildings and ensuring any necessary planned and reactive maintenance could be carried out. This ensured the buildings were safe for tenants to return to as quickly as possible.

Manjit Modare and her colleagues Emily and Alex were also responsible for negotiating with building surveyors to enable any emergency repairs to be carried out. At the end of lockdown one, they also managed Connect Derby’s cleaning company who carried out regular deep cleans of every area of our buildings. This team led on undertaking a team stress risk assessment and ensured appropriate measures were implemented for their health and wellbeing.

Operations Tenancies team
Operations manager Sonia Kang and operations officer Janine Booth’s principal role during the first lockdown was to reach out to both existing and potential new tenants and to provide help and support ready for their return to their workspaces.

They also discussed lease arrangements with tenants and provided them with options to downsize or upsize once the Connect Derby buildings reopened.

The health of the rest of the Connect Derby team has also been a priority for Ann and her management team. Since the start of the first lockdown, they have kept in regular contact with staff and carried out regular mental health and wellbeing checks.

Second national lockdown
Ann and the Connect Derby team have been able to keep businesses open safely during the latest lockdown, with the necessary precautions in place.

Ann continues: 

Our team has worked consistently through both lockdowns, maintaining the high standards of service we delivered before the pandemic hit. Since the Connect Derby buildings reopened on 8 June, we’ve implemented new ways of working, introducing a Covid-19 induction programme for all tenants and offered larger workspaces to tenants who need more space to support social distancing.

We are now devising new packages to support businesses with their workspace requirements going forward. Thanks to the work we did in the summer, we have been able to keep our buildings open to tenants during the latest lockdown, although visitors are not currently permitted to visit. I’m beyond proud of the Connect Derby team and everything we have accomplished during what has been such a challenging time for everyone.

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