Posted on 1st of April, 2020

KS Catch-up: How to run an office during a pandemic

In the 'KS Catch-up' blog posts we will interview Bricks and ask them to give us a glimpse into their work life, particular projects, or goals at a given point in time. To kick off this series, we interviewed the team member who keeps the office running and the team’s spirits high, no matter the circumstances. If you have been following us, you know that this description fits none other than our Office Manager, Wilma!

Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, Wilma has been faced with unprecedented challenges. We interviewed her (online, of course) to check in on how she continues to run an office in the midst of this outbreak.

Without spoiling much, Wilma, of course, has risen to the challenge, adopting new creative solutions which she has shared with us. Additionally, Wilma has just completed a whole year of working at SALTO KS and in that time, she has been our rock and proven to be the Brick who is undoubtedly always online, turns every borrel into a party, and has moved the team into a brand new office space; a project singlehandedly led by her. Read on, to find out more about how she runs an office during a pandemic in her own words.

KS Catch-up: How to run an office during a pandemic 1

KS Catch-up: How to run an office during a pandemic 2

Hi Wilma! On our website team page, you are known to be the tea connoisseur of the office, but could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

People say I sound Australian sometimes, but I am English, 100%. I come from a navy town based on the south coast of the UK, but moved away 11 years ago and now find myself living in Amsterdam.

Last year I became the Office Manager at KS, and in danger of sounding a bit cheesy, it was a dream job offer for me. What I enjoy most about our office is the incredible mix of personalities, cultures and intellects, it shouldn’t work but it does and it has given me the opportunity to share commonalities with people I would usually never encounter.

In my own time, I love to host, I’m a terrible cook but I can make a mean espresso martini and am known for my amazing (pretty average) floating card party trick!

It wasn’t long after the office move, that the COVID-19 pandemic began to escalate in Europe; The Netherlands, being one of the affected countries. What has been your role in the wake of the situation?

No one could have predicted such an unusual and difficult time was coming our way. On one hand, I am sad to see the office empty and the team separated, but I also feel very proud to be part of such an agile and well-equipped organization. With only a few hours notice, our whole team was set up and WFH, business as usual! During this time I helped staff set up at home and worked with the landlord and vendors to adjust safety measures and services to the building for example; our cleaners have changed their responsibilities to ensure surfaces and handles are cleaned fastidiously and any unnecessary deliveries have been postponed until further notice.

How have your daily work activities been impacted since the outbreak of the virus?

Even though I am not meeting with colleagues in person, I think the people aspect of my role is more important than ever right now. I’ve been checking up on everyone, including our new hires that have joined during such unusual times and thinking of ways we can all stay connected. It’s important to stay collaborated and focused despite the worries of COVID-19.

What are the ways in which you try to sustain the normal routine for the office?

I continue to attend the office each day, it is important there is someone BHV (Emergency Response) trained on the premises in case any staff need to come by, and that deliveries and maintenance are monitored. Truthfully, I am a creature of habit, so like always I come in early, walk around the office to make sure everything is ok, water the plants, clean the coffee machine and set to work. I am also more inclined to pick up the phone and talk than instant message which also keeps the human aspect of the job.

Are there any creative solutions you have had to brainstorm in response to the changes brought upon by COVID-19?

We are so lucky to have past the time of the written letter and carrier pigeon! Each week we’ve been meeting on a Friday afternoon using Zoom to raise a glass and check in with our colleagues, so far this has proven both entertaining and ridiculous.

On Wednesday we are planning a virtual Yoga session hosted by our company yoga guru Irem, and the 60-minute session is the perfect opportunity to enjoy some physical activity as a group.

I am also using this time to work on improvement projects, such as revamping and automating some of our admin processes ready for future growth, working with HR and Marketing to update forms and templates with new branding and ISO categories, and working with accounts to refine ordering processes and vendor lists.

How do you believe the team is coping with the situation? Has the company culture played a role in this?

Honestly, I have been blown away at how adaptive everyone has been at KS and I am not ashamed to admit I have probably struggled more than most with the change of dynamic.

Naturally, everyone is worried about their health, the economy and what COVID-19 might mean for the country's future, but everyone is still pretty positive and motivated to concentrate on the task in hand rather than be unproductive.

What are three words you would use to describe your role at SALTO KS?

Diverse, hands-on, evolving.

As we shared to our readers last month, you supervised the project of the SALTO KS Office Move to the new office space in Schipluidenlaan, Amsterdam! Tell us about the resolution of this process and how did you find the culmination of finally settling into the new space?

Watching the entire team gather on the custom-built stage for the first Sprint Review, was such a rewarding moment for me! You hope that you’ve made the right choices on how the space will fit the business but it’s difficult to really understand how an office will be used until you see bums in seats. Since moving we’ve opened up a snagging list so Bricks can make their comments on how things can be improved or ideas that would really put the icing on the office shaped cake. You also need to remember that packing boxes is one thing but unpacking on the other side is quite another! It’s been over a month and we are still having Eureka moments when we find that ‘thing’ we’ve been looking for. Anyone who has managed an office will also know it’s a continuous process to keep everything clean, well maintained and organised so from that perspective my job never ends.

What are the next steps for you? Are there any upcoming projects you look forward to?

I can’t wait to organise the next KS Borrel! On the last Friday of the month, we hold an open house company event which ranges from rock climbing, plastic fishing or simply hitting a summer terrace for some 'biertjes'. Unfortunately, it’s looking like we’ll miss the next company event but when we are able to meet safely in person again, I am so looking forward to rolling out the red carpet for everyone to celebrate together.

Thank you, Wilma, for all that you do to keep this office and team in the best shape possible. We look forward to the next company event, whenever that may be possible, and to celebrate your one-year anniversary at SALTO KS!

Stay informed about the latest Covid-19 updates from Salto by clicking here.

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