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Spotlight on Ellis at Vauxhall Finance
Ellis is on the Financial Services Programme and is on placement at Vauxhall Finance. He shares how his working life and perspective have changed over recent months and how the opportunity to work from home brought him closer to his family during a sad and difficult time.
Pre-COVID my working days were very much regimented and involved a commute of over two hours each day, which gave little time for anything else in my working week. My family and friends took a back seat.
One January evening after I returned home from work, Mum asked me to join her for a walk along the cliff tops. We are incredibly fortunate to live close to the Gower coast, yet I rarely took the opportunity to breath in the sea air after work. The reason she wanted me to join her was to tell with me that my Grandmother had terminal lung cancer and that 2020 was going to be difficult.
Not long after my Grandmother’s diagnoses my brother Jack returned home from China to spend time with her. Jack had no COVID symptoms but because he had travelled back from a highly infected country that was on lockdown and moved home with us, we were all required to isolate.
Fortunately, my employer Vauxhall Finance were understanding and enabled me to work remotely but it was really from this point that the need to be agile in how I worked became important.
There are 5 values at the core of the culture at Vauxhall Finance which are posted everywhere around the office and now, whilst we work at home they are on our desktops. These are: Customer Focus, Agility, Collaboration, Accountability and Integrity. These values were to become extremely important over the following months due to the immediate and long-lasting effect of the pandemic.
At first, like for most people isolation was a novelty. I started a new routine of walking the dog first thing in the morning before anyone else was around, having coffee on the beach and watching the waves. It was far more uplifting than sitting in the traffic on the M4.
My home became busy, with Mum and I both “WFH” and with Jack now staying for the foreseeable future, unable to return to China, there was an unusual bustle to our quiet home.
My desk became a hub of spreadsheets and I purchased an additional monitor to enable me to focus on work and emails with all the information I needed in front of me. We all stopped for lunch at the same time to break up the day and to ensure that we had interaction and support.
There were challenges as well as benefits as I moved through 4 different workplace departments in less than 2 months.
As part of the response to COVID, all employees were required to be adaptable and move around to support the areas of the business under the most pressure at any given time.
Asset Liability Management – which was my initial placement at Vauxhall finance based around treasury activities.
Collections – calling customers about payment holidays which I found most challenging with little experience in customer service.
Remarketing – organising of vehicles that where being handed back by customers and ensuring that this was being done efficiently with many of the usual avenues effected by COVID.
OPEX – central reporting of operational expenditure, which I have now settled into on a 3-month placement.
The company values become extremely important during this period with each proving to be more relevant, the more experience I gained as I switched across roles and departments. It felt good to be able to identify the purpose behind these values and applying them to my work.
As the pandemic gripped our country, my Grandmothers illness also took over. The choice of either a hospice on her own or spending her last weeks with family was an easy one. Therefore, in the last few weeks after work I have been able to support my family with the cooking and cwtches that were necessary as others took time off work to care for her.
My Grandmother passed away at the end of July and I was able to be with my family within minutes not hours.
I believe I am a resilient individual however, I am unsure how I would have been able to have concentrated fully in work without being able to have had the opportunity to support my family at a personal tragic time during a world pandemic.
2020 truly has been difficulty, however it has taught me that a balance is important and is achievable if we work together and embrace agility. I hope that we have all learnt how necessary that care and compassion is in the future if we are to get the best out of people.