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Close the door on your way out, 2020 – Principle One is ready for ‘new normal’

It goes without saying that here at Principle One we are glad to see the back of 2020. This ‘unprecedented’ year has affected all of us in one way or another; we are grateful that the nature of our work and the fact that our customers have been able to collaborate with us remotely has enabled us to find our stride in the ‘new normal’, but we know that many have not been so lucky. As a company we have managed to grow both in size and in spirit (usually a gin) and have seen some positive changes that we want to keep building on next year.

With an uncertain path into the new year, we've been mulling over some resolutions to keep us on track in 2021:

Resolution #1: Keep building a diverse workforce

In 2020 we have improved the gender balance at Principle One as well as recruiting from a more diverse range of backgrounds. We are committed to building on this further in 2021: we want Principle One to be as inclusive a company as possible, where everybody has a voice, and everybody is heard. Diversity of thought and experience sparks creativity and innovation and helps us deliver more effectively – creating real world, inclusive solutions to our customers’ challenges. Looking forward, we are excited to welcome our first recruit through our partnership with the Coding Black Females network and will continue to support their Black CodHer bootcamp in 2021.

Resolution #2: Maintain work-life balance/avoid digital presenteeism

One downside we have seen with remote working is that it has bred a new form of presenteeism: an expectation that staff need to be online and contactable at all times – available from ‘eight till late’. We jump from call to call, taking fewer breaks than we would in the office – and the pressure to be constantly available can become overwhelming. As we move into 2021, many of us will be returning to home schooling, this time with the novelty having well and truly worn off for all concerned. We will look carefully at how we can support flexible working and create a culture where staff can talk openly about the challenges they face and feel supported in putting wellbeing first.

Resolution #3: More partnership working

As well as our ongoing partnership with Coding Black Females, 2020 has also been characterised by stronger partnership working with Police Care and a new partnership with TRAFFIC. These partnerships are not only a great opportunity to support causes that we care about but also help us broaden our perspective, skills and experience. They have also provided some of the glue that has kept Principle One working together as a team in 2020, onboarding new starters and ensuring we collaborate outside day-to-day customer delivery. We have made new connections and learnt a great deal from our partners and are particularly looking forward to reviving our partnership with Police Now in 2021 as they tackle the post Covid reality of front-line policing.

Resolution #4: Keep company camaraderie but don’t force fun

Much like everybody else the thing we have missed the most in 2020 is being able to spend time together, both in the office and outside of it. We have had to find ways to maintain the sense of camaraderie that is so central to our ethos without it feeling forced. We spend enough time together online during working hours not to need even more screen time for a Zoom pub quiz to run late into the evening. As an alternative, we have run weekly ‘gin and learn’ sessions to replace our weekly office happy hour, covering topics that range from engineering tooling through to mental health first aid. We’ve also got more creative about finding ways to meet and work face to face – whether it’s sprint reviews in the park or socially distanced team bubbles meeting in person. While remote working will dominate the first few months of 2021, we will continue to adapt as a team and look forward to getting back to the office as soon as possible.

Resolution #5 – Mentoring has never been more important

Our career mentors have been an essential element of our personal support system at Principle One in 2020. With many of our new staff only having the chance to spend a handful of days in our office and yet to meet all their new colleagues, the role of the mentor has become even more important. Often it’s not about career advice, but is simply about taking time to listen. A new job should mean a new beginning and a new set of working relationships, and that feeling has been lacking for many this year – especially when entering the workplace for the first time. Our mentors have been instrumental in bringing our culture and ways of working to life – and we’ve seen this repaid in turn in the energy and commitment that our new starters have brought to us. A final resolution then – to keep listening to our staff and giving the support they need as we move into 2021 and figure out whatever the ‘new normal’ means.


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