One year ago, on 17th March 2020, we packed up our laptops, monitors and notebooks and, within 24 hours, on 18th March, began working remotely from home. It was a drastic, but necessary, change in the fight against Covid, and none of us could have predicted at the time that this would be our way of life one year on.
Colleagues worked frenetically over the next several of weeks to adapt our face-to-face projects, including Southampton Healthy Homes and Hitting the Cold Spots, into virtual offers; reroute incoming phone calls to our work mobiles and, eventually, Teams calls; and purchase essential IT kit and office furniture to allow us all to work remotely from home. This would not have been possible without additional funding that we bid for and secured in the early stages of the pandemic. We also relied heavily on the collaborative efforts of our team to ensure a smooth transition to these strange new work practices.
Once the dust settled a bit, and we realised that the virus was going to be with us for the long haul, we turned our attention to new ways we could support our most vulnerable clients as well as new projects that could shape our communities now and into the future. We began working with Portsmouth City Council to deliver their Switched On Portsmouth Freephone advice line; supported Hampshire residents to reduce their carbon emissions as part of a county-wide response to the climate emergency; and partnered with Southampton City Council, Eastleigh Borough Council, New Forest District Council and Winchester City Council to engage residents about the health impacts of wood burning.
In order to continue delivering our contracted services and projects in addition to these new ones, we welcomed 5 new team members last year. Virtual training proved difficult initially but we finally cracked the secret using a combination of video chat/call technologies and the occasional socially-distanced, Covid-safe visit to the office to shadow an experienced team member.
tEC upped its social media game in 2020 as well by finally taking the plunge and creating an Instagram account. We’re still learning how to best use our platforms but hope to use this new outlet as another way to to inspire action on carbon emissions, sustainability, air quality and affordable warmth.
To throw more madness into the mix, we moved offices over the summer! (Don’t worry, we only moved one floor down.) We downsized when our tenancy came to an end, which meant countless hours spent sifting through old equipment and paperwork and repurposing/donating/recycling those items that weren’t going to make it into the new space. (Yes, some items did eventually end up in the skip despite our best efforts.) The new office, when we finally return there one day, is bright and airy, and Citizens Advice Southampton – one of our Advice in Southampton partners – is now just a flight of stairs away.
The whole building & surrounds got a facelift in the process, which means improved bicycle parking out front – music to the ears of many of our colleagues who used to commute to work by bike every day. It’s also an opportunity to consider a cargo bike for future home visits within the local area.
July marked another milestone in tEC history – we bid farewell to our dirty old petrol van! With all our projects now being offered virtually, we have time to carefully think through what the charity’s transport will look going forward. Watch this space.
July wasn’t just a green milestone for us – the government announced a new funding scheme called the Green Homes Grant to support households with energy efficiency improvements to their homes. Our call centre and inboxes were inundated overnight with enquiries about this new scheme, demonstrating the extent to which people are interested in “going green”. We ran our first webinars in the following months explaining what we knew about the scheme and how to access the vouchers.
As we started to offer sustainability advice to Hampshire residents, we also launched a new website on 1 October that aims to reflect a person’s potential sustainability journey. This website, thanks to our host Kualo, is run on 100% renewable energy.
It’s been an unprecedented year for us all. In this time, we’ve
Everyone at tEC had a hand in making this year one to remember thanks to their extraordinary hard work. We know that whatever the challenges ahead, we’ll face them with confidence.