Connells Group reports the market springing back to life in the immediate aftermath of ‘lockdown’, with portal enquiries at pre-lockdown levels for both sales and lettings, and 80% of buyers and sellers in the ‘pre-lockdown’ SSTC pipeline indicating they are still intending upon proceeding with their house move as soon as possible.
Connells Group say that their branches have been quick off the mark to capitalise on pent-up demand as soon as the announcement was made that the property market could reopen in England.
Its estate agency and lettings branch management teams swiftly and safely returned to branches, albeit initially behind closed doors, to implement their ‘Covid-19 Secure’ safe working plans to ensure readiness and safe working environments to protect colleagues’ return to work and in order to welcome customers from this coming Monday.
There followed the immediate unfurloughing of an initial 2,000+ staff across sales, lettings and mortgage services, the roll out of comprehensive health, safety and welfare training to communicate the new ways of working, expectations for a ‘Covid-19 Secure’ workplace, to give confidence at this challenging time and provide an opportunity for colleagues to raise any concerns, the delivery of an initial £500k worth of PPE to enable safe appointments including screens, facemasks for all colleagues, overshoes, signage, floor graphics highlighting the 2m rule throughout buildings and branches, and safe waiting areas:
“Whilst the Government announcement was sudden, we were already well advanced with our planning for the return from lockdown,” says Connells Group Estate Agency Chief Executive David Plumtree.
“There can sometimes be a misconception that ‘corporates’ are slow moving, less agile, but we have leapt straight into action following weeks of meticulous planning by our business continuity team”.
“Every step of our planning for our new working norms has been guided by doing what is right for our colleagues, right for our customers and right for society,” continues Plumtree.
“Our business continuity team has ‘met’ daily ensuring our return to work plans are aligned with the Government’s guidelines on being ‘Covid-19 Secure’ and all health and safety advice available, and our locations confirm to social distancing measures.
“The team has produced a ‘toolkit’ for colleagues covering everything from our new ‘workplace rules’ to guidance on how to use any PPE equipment and safe appointments as well as producing, from scratch, our ‘blueprint’ on our new ways of working together.
This is essentially a collection of over 50 scenarios covering everything from how we conduct market appraisals and mortgage appointments, carry out surveys and viewings, to manning new homes marketing suites, training and key handling, and with a joined-up approach so that all support and Head Office functions are choreographed in step with our front end businesses.
This sets out our ‘gold standards’ in the workplace, step by step safe working practices and our approach to be the safe agent of choice for customers and leaders in the industry,” added Plumtree.
Through lockdown, communication has been key to keeping all colleagues – whether furloughed or not – connected, receiving consistent communications from across the business to keep them fully engaged and in the loop on developments.
Connells Group’s monthly internal newsletter ‘In House’ was adapted to a weekly bulletin called ‘In YOUR House’ where colleagues received market insights, planning updates, government announcements as well as providing a way to keep sociable while social distancing.
Colleagues also have access to a 24 hour confidential employee assistance helpline offering specialist support if needed during this challenging time.
“Our people are our most important asset and their safety and wellbeing is of paramount importance.
We are incredibly grateful and proud of how they have adapted to and supported the new ways of working together and the sense of unity from everyone to get through the challenge of the pandemic,” said David Plumtree.
“Naturally, we very much want everyone back to work, but many colleagues remain on temporary furlough as we gradually return to normal.
“They will return in phases and as business increases.
“During this period, we went above and beyond the Government support, committing to paying all of our 5000+ furloughed colleagues 100% of their full basic salary and their commission throughout April, May and June.
“This is a multi-million pound undertaking, but tangibly demonstrates our commitment to our people.
“In addition, we have not made any redundancies and not closed any branches.”
Customers will be greeted with very different looking branches from Monday – desk layouts will have changed to enable social distancing, clear signage will be in place, hand sanitiser available, in person appointments to take place behind screens – just some of the new measures set in place.
“Colleagues have welcomed all the efforts from the business to guarantee their health and safety but, of course, it’s only natural that there will be some anxieties as we all look to adapt.
“Although we are ready to act and there is lots of catching up to do, we are taking this slowly and steadily as we become accustomed to the updated processes and additional safety measures.”
“There is no doubting that we are well placed to survive and thrive in these conditions.
“I believe the way in which we have navigated ourselves through this crisis has been simply fantastic and an incredible team effort.”