Name: Kira Davidson
Job title: Customer Service Advisor
Years of OIC employment: 2.5 years
Duties: Within Customer Services we do a wide variety of jobs from processing Blue Badges, taking in payments for the Council, dealing with repairs for Council properties, first point of contact for reporting issues with roads or waste, potholes, winter issues and many more.
Your lockdown experiences at work: I began lockdown as a modern apprentice in Business and Administration, finishing my college course just before lockdown struck. In hindsight this was incredibly lucky as I ended up with suspected covid. Sadly, tests were not available in Orkney, but I had great support from the NHS and my manager. After what felt like the longest 4 weeks ill at home, on my return to work I was asked if I wanted to join the temporary Covid hub to support those shielded and vulnerable. This was a fantastic opportunity where I could meet different people from other departments who I would not have normally seen. I really enjoyed getting to know fellow colleagues and speaking to people on the phone. Most of the people we spoke to were shielded and we could chat with them for up to half an hour in our catch-up calls. We dealt with the food boxes and any help they may need, such as organising volunteers to collect prescriptions, walk dogs, do little bits of shopping and so on. The hub was a unique opportunity which I am very thankful to have experienced. It showed me the Orkney community spirit, gave me the opportunity to face new challenges and meet new people.
Once I returned to my normal job, a lot had changed such as the number of incoming calls we received skyrocketed, we were also having to conform to many other departments' new way of working, many choosing the working from home option if they could do. In customer services we were unable to work from home due to the nature of our jobs and being the first point of contact for the whole Council. We had a duty of care to the public to continue a bit of normality for them to pay bills or report any issues or even help to give guidance.
How do you feel the public dealt with the changes? Some calls became incredibly challenging as customers phoned in asking for a department who were only contactable by email. Customers were not used to this and did not find email to be the best way of communication and some may not have the facilities to email, which would make things uncomfortable for us and the customers, causing a lot of frustration. As things progressed some departments would trial having people in the office, some finding a way to work and some finding it better to work from home. We managed to adapt for safe working following Government guidance in Customer Services, to continue to provide a service. Amongst the frustration from both the public and people in the Council, due to the changes, I feel so lucky that we have been able to continue to work and have a feeling of normality. I know personally for myself, being able to go to work and see my colleagues every day has been a blessing mentally and makes me appreciate what a supportive and loyal team I am in.
How has the past year affected you personally? Since the start of lockdown, life has been a bit of a stand still. My partner and I are due to get married in August 2021, so to be a year on and still have worries about the number of loved ones who can attend is a bit scary and we have not been able to plan as much as we would like. I have missed my brother’s wedding due to him living south which has been a huge miss but hopefully we will get down to celebrate with them once restrictions have lifted. I have missed watching my nieces and nephew grow up as they also live south. My parents moved south a few years ago and to not be able to see them as regularly as we want has been exceedingly difficult. I feel the thing that has been hardest to deal with is watching family members and friend’s mental wellbeing deteriorate due to the isolation, and not being allowed to do anything to help or even just giving them a hug. Obviously, with having family all over the country it has made me realise how lucky we have been to be in Orkney due to the number of cases we have had and having the ability to move around more than other areas.
We have found other ways to keep ourselves busy and healthy if possible. Some people have taken up new hobbies or adapted their knowledge of technology to communicate safely with family and friends. My partner and I have spent a lot of our free time walking with our dog or doing DIY projects in our house.
What are you looking forward to most when restrictions end? I cannot wait for restrictions to be lifted, to visit my family, spend time with friends and continue with life, as we have been on pause for what seems like forever. Covid has shown me how life is too short, to say no less, to appreciate time with loved ones and not take anything for granted. I cannot wait for some sort of normality to resume, for businesses in Orkney to reopen and to continue living life again.