From Neil McDougall, Wednesday 18 March

We have said that our primary concern is for the well-being of our people.  I’m pleased to say that, as of this morning, we have a group of 300 high priority people in our UK business who may wish to work from home transitioning to that arrangement over the next day or so.  I’ll come back to how we intend to extend the scope of working from home in a moment, but the changes in working arrangements prompts another issue that we now need to manage as a priority.

Staff from this group who were working from a client site must engage with their line manager, Business Manager and customer to ensure that we can still meet their customer’s requirements.  In some cases this will require us to negotiate remote support arrangements, in others it may require continued presence at a client site, but perhaps with different arrangements in place, or a mix.  For those from the group who were working from a Frazer-Nash office, they must engage with their line manager to discuss how the tasks they were completing may be discharged (which might involve, for example, a split working arrangement part-time working from home and reduced time in the office).

Our main concern has been to look after vulnerable people first.  Now those measures are being enacted we can take a more measured approach over the coming days, with some consideration for protecting the business and the commercial realities of ensuring that we continue to support and deliver to our customers remain.  The cash that they pay us for our services is the life-blood of the business.  It must continue to flow.

For the remainder of us in the UK my objective is that we all transition in an orderly fashion to being able to work from home from the middle of next week.  Those of us that can work from the office should continue to do so to minimise the strain on our IT systems.  In this interim period you might consider staggering your start and finish times to avoid travelling at peak times on public transport.  We want to ramp up the number of people working remotely, not a step change.  We’ll be in touch with the next tranche of people to be offered the option of working from home in the next day or so.

In preparation for any change in working arrangements, we need to take steps to discuss with our customers how any new arrangement might work, and continue to support them.  A key feature of the next ten working days will be the completion of work and invoicing customers.  This would normally be a busy time for us and nothing has changed, we are busy with the added complexity of engineering a shift in working arrangements.

For our colleagues in Australia the situation is a little different, but our priorities are the same, protecting our people.  We therefore plan to test our remote working systems there in anticipation of the situation following a similar path to the UK.  I’m hoping the trial will be as successful as the UK trial last week – we are arranging additional IT support from the UK to help make sure that this is the case.  In preparation for anticipated changes in our working arrangements, I am aware that we are engaging with customers to ensure continuity of support and that this has been appreciated by all.