How has the pandemic affected workplace changes in the HE sector?

A relocation provider talks through the challenges faced and the solutions they have offered

In the last few months, the world has changed in ways we could not have anticipated this time last year, and we are having to learn how to live with a pandemic that has interfered with all aspects of our personal and professional lives.

As the operators of some of the largest estates in the UK, the higher education sector and universities, in particular, have not been immune to the pandemic. They are having to meet the challenges of making their premises safe for both their students and their staff, while continuing with upgrades within their departments, particularly in science and engineering.

Restore Harrow Green has a long-standing relationship with some of the biggest names in the higher education sector and never before have these relationships been more important.

As the UK’s market leader in commercial relocation with a specialist department in the relocation of libraries and laboratories, we have been working hard to help universities manage severe changes to their schedules as a result of the first lockdown. Our flexibility and proximity to key stakeholders has helped make sure that relocation and estate plans could go ahead as soon as they were ready, so that universities could get back to work as soon as it was possible. This was particularly important on significant library relocations for Scottish HE faculties whose plans had been halted by the first lockdown. As soon as they returned to work, we made sure we could pivot to the different deadlines, so that students could resume their studies.
As a result of our experience with laboratories and NHS trusts, we’ve always practised at the highest health and safety standards, and never before has this practice proven more necessary. As a result of the pandemic, we’ve implemented stringent procedures to make sure we continue to safely support our higher education clients during this period. We have had to react at very short notice to support universities that needed to change their furniture and asset footprints to accommodate social-distancing protocols, as well as offer off-site storage for however long they needed it. We have done this for many organisations including Exeter University and Leeds University.

Our specialist lab teams have also continued to work closely with university departments to make sure that any library or lab relocations that have been in planning for months have still been able to take place. It was critical that our services were available, as multiple contractors rely on our skilled relocation services to deliver their own projects. We have also been collaborating with specialist vendors to make sure that we can work around their availability, as they are often critical in relocating sensitive equipment.

An example of this was evident when relocating a lab for Liverpool University where, by having a great working relationship with the department team, a high number of valuable assets, chemicals and supporting equipment were managed around vendor schedules and enabled the team to continue their specialist services without delay.

By continuing our valuable support during this critical period, we’re also helping many university lab departments that are conducting Covid-19 research to remain operational, so that they can continue with their medical work.

Continuous communications with our university clients, either socially-distanced or remote, ensures planning can continue through the lockdown period and their critical work can go on uninterrupted, while staff and students remain out of risk. Finally, we’ve even delivered furniture to staff members’ homes from site to make sure that they have suitable working stations to work from, away from the office. This also enables us to decontaminate items before they’re delivered to ensure everyone’s safety as much as humanly possible.

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