Updated: Mar 13
We are delighted to introduce one of our two wonderful conference partners, Prepress Projects. A publishing services provider based in Perth, they have seen some huge challenges and changes over the past year, but that hasn’t prevented some landmark achievements as they celebrate their 30th year in business. Below, we ask them all about how recent times have affected them, and how they will ‘Ctrl Alt Refresh’ for the future.
To find out more about how Prepress began, what they do, and the fab internship opportunities they have on offer, pop over to our informational blog post here.
‘Unprecedented’ seems to sum up the past year fairly well. How has the pandemic and other recent challenges affected your organisation?
The pandemic caused major change: we moved from being almost exclusively office based to being entirely home based over a matter of days in March 2020. In all honesty, this wasn’t achieved without a good deal of paddling under the water and effort from colleagues, particularly in our technology team, to ensure that work could continue at home and service to clients wasn’t affected.
How have your team found the ‘working from home’ lifestyle?
It almost depends on who you ask, and when. People worked out their own rhythm and ways of working after the first few months, and especially when it became clear that working from home wasn’t going to go away after 3 or 4 months, as some expected. Over the past year everyone has found it hard at one time or another to work at home – we put on evening quizzes on MS Teams or photo competitions on the company intranet, and host virtual coffee breaks to help with the social side of things. These seem well liked.
Just under half of staff live on their own and the others live with a partner or family – it has been a challenge to accommodate everyone’s needs. I think it may be hardest for those on their own, although I may be wrong, and it is certainly demanding for our managers, even with all the assistance that technology provides.
What achievements (big or small) have been high points for your organisation in the past year?
After thinking we simply couldn’t recruit when working from home, we ended up recruiting three people during the autumn of 2020: a project editor and two publishing interns. I’m pleased to say that they are all still with us and both interns are now project editors. We chose wisely, and hope they feel similarly! In December we were re-awarded the Investors in Young People Award at Gold level: that was most encouraging, and I know just how much effort was applied by my colleagues on management team, and others, to make it happen.
We were all thrust into a difficult situation and we rose to the occasion. Colleagues were set up at home with workstations, we changed some working processes and invented new ones, and when, twice, some members of staff had to reduce working hours because of childcare needs when schools and nurseries closed, everyone who was able to volunteered to work extra hours to make up the difference. Our clients didn’t really notice: I'm so pleased to be able to say that.
If you ask for a specific achievement: no one was furloughed, no one suffered financially – everyone has been fully employed since the pandemic began.
And as for an ongoing high point, no one has contracted Covid-19 and I hope it remains that way.
What are some of the biggest lessons of 2020, and how are you planning to ‘Ctrl Alt Refresh’ to adapt and prepare for the future?
I think we have learned just how flexible, accommodating and adaptable that we can be as a company, and not just managers: every project editor and project leader helped, everyone has made compromises. The company will change as a result.
We ran a survey in January asking what changes to working people might like to see in future. It is already clear that, after returning to office-based working, more lasting change is ahead. About one-third of the colleagues definitely want to return to office-based working as we had before the pandemic, i.e., no change. About 40% of staff would like to see some form of hybrid working, part home and part office, with 2 days at home being the most popular option. Approximately a further quarter want to work exclusively at home (previously about 10% did so). We plan to address all of these in time.
What are some exciting events/projects that you are looking forward to in 2021?
Going back to the office will be the foundation for future change. We will probably create more home-based posts before moving on to address what hybrid working will entail. First, though, we need to attend to those who want to return to the office full time, to restore their normal contracted terms.
I think a lot may change in the 9 to 12 months after businesses can operate from offices again: there is much more to it than simply saying that some colleagues can work at home or partly in the office – we have to think about and develop new ways of delivering training and coaching, for example, or what little or no face-to-face contact may mean in the long term (most members of staff have never met our three new employees other than over an MS Teams call, and that doesn’t seem ideal). Office layout may be altered and/or future size may be reduced, and there are technology and software support changes to incorporate as well.
We’re open to change, although we probably have more investigation and consultation to complete before deciding what this will be, and when. I think change will be an ongoing process rather than an event.
Ultimately, everything will be driven by what clients want: the contracts we win in future will be what fund future change, so winning new tenders will be high on management team’s agenda.
And 2021 is our 30th year in business: that surely has to be marked with a celebration!