How Our Team Are Coping With The Coronavirus Pandemic

Cartoon of PassMeFast team members under article title

No one is going to forget the year 2020 in a hurry. The coronavirus pandemic has turned everyday life completely upside-down and it’s unclear if things will ever return to what we once thought of as ‘normal’. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. If there’s one ray of light breaking through the dark cloud that is COVID-19, it’s that we really are all in this together! Now is the time to appreciate how much we have in common and focus on the important things in life. Honestly, we’re this close to whipping out a guitar and having a little Kum By Ya moment.

Instead, though, (probably to your great relief!) we thought we’d check in with some PassMeFast team members to see how they’re coping with the pandemic on a personal level. We conducted some interviews and sent out surveys and the results turned out to be very interesting. We’re sure you’ll be able to empathise with a lot of what they have to say, so let’s get into it!

Lockdown life

Pink weights, block and towel on an exercise mat
Image source: Elena Kloppenburg via Unsplash

We don’t know about you, but since pubs, clubs, restaurants, shops, cinemas, and any other venue worth visiting were closed, our thumbs were soon well and truly twiddled-out. One thing we’re super curious about, therefore, is how other people filled their time during the lockdown.

With the PassMeFast team, this varied a lot depending on whether they had been furloughed or not. For some, it was a case of, “I worked throughout lockdown—no rest for the wicked!”

The pandemic pastimes of others ranged from the wholesome: “Lots of reading and gardening and walks!”, to the slightly, err, worrying: “Exercised and cried”*.

White circular box of tissues
Image source: Julian Paolo Dayag via Unsplash

For one lucky individual, the pandemic turned out to be the catalyst that brought them into the PassMeFast fold: “I spent time applying for jobs as I was made redundant and landed my position here at PassMeFast!” Welcome aboard!

Did you find a better way to pass the time during lockdown? Let us know in the comments!

*The pandemic has had a serious impact on many people’s mental health. If you’re struggling to cope, you can find some really useful resources via Mind. (We have since checked on this individual’s wellbeing and they are fine.)

Our specialist subject

Being the driving geeks that we are, we had to squeeze in a quick question about hitting the road! The optimists among you may have noted that a positive result of lockdown was that there were fewer cars around. This is certainly what our staff found: “The roads were a lot quieter throughout the lockdown.

When the government announced that we could use our cars for some non-essential journeys, the perks only increased: “The roads were dead mate. [I] was able to drive to [my favourite take-away] in 4 minutes.” That kind of convenience could be dangerous!

How do you relax?

Take my dog for a walk, make food with my sister and watch my favourite shows on Netflix! ????????????
Cooking and catching up on Netflix. ????????
Go to the gym—I got back into fitness during lockdown. ????️
Take the dog for a walk, sleep, watch TV, and chat to mates. ????????????????
I would typically go to the gym before work but during lock down I did home workouts after my shift. I like to relax by catching up on my TV series! ????️????
Make and listen to music; relax with housemates. ????????

Working through a pandemic

Close up of cooker and kettle in kitchen
Being steps away from the kitchen is a definite perk of working from home! Image source: Beazy via Unsplash

Like many of you, the PassMeFast team had to make the major adjustment of working from home. In the interest of being completely transparent, a lot of people initially struggled with this change. Some found their tasks more daunting: “[It] increased [the] intensity of workload and pressure”, while others were forced into a more independent style of working: “I had to pick up a lot more of what to do on my own”, and many missed the motivating influence of the workplace: “[It] was harder to complete tasks that would seem easy in the office.”

With driving lessons and tests put on hold for a significant period of time, some of our staff members found that their day-to-day roles became much more relaxed. As we’re quite a productive and enthusiastic bunch, this wasn’t necessarily seen as a positive: “I like being busy and there were many periods where it was not busy which made the day drag out!” One person, though, did highlight an aspect of working from home that we definitely think of as positive: “[I was] closer to the kitchen to eat food and make tea!” 

The home office

Perhaps you’re reading this article from your very own home office set-up. These bedroom-based business coves we’ve been forced to create for ourselves can usually be split into two camps. There’s the people who go the whole hog and have multiple monitors set up on a nice, sturdy desk, and those who tap out emails from the living room couch on a laptop that is precariously balanced on their pyjama-clad knees. Hey, we ain’t judging—you do you, boo!

Some of our staff were very honest about the fact that they found setting up an office space at home hard: “[I] didn’t really manage to do so successfully.” Others pointed out the downsides of working at home, from feeling, “very isolated”, to finding it, “quite tricky to separate office and home life.” 

“I had a desk space that I kept quite tidy and carried on getting dressed and ready for work so I kept a good routine.”

We did have a couple of people who dropped us some great home office advice, though: “I made sure I had a desk space that I kept quite tidy and carried on getting dressed and ready for work so I kept a good routine.” This is a tip we really rate! Getting dressed for the office can really change your mindset and put you in the mood to get your head down and work. Try it for yourself!

Pie chart showing the methods by which the PassMeFast team kept in contact
WhatsApp was by far the most popular method of communication for our staff members during the pandemic.

The elusive work/life balance

Collage of PassMeFast staff members completing charity walks
One way our staff members kept busy was by getting involved in PassMeFast’s charity walks!

It’s an oft-talked about issue that when working from home it can be extra tough to switch off and call it a day once your shift is over. We actually had quite a mixed bag of responses when we asked the staff about this, though, and heard everything from, “I felt like I didn’t have that break from work as I was [still] in the same environment”, to, “As soon as I clocked off I was out of work mode.” 

Another staff member explained, “One could almost say the balance wasn’t there as we couldn’t do much.” That being said, they did their best to get involved in some positive tasks: “I joined in with the 5ks, Zoom calls and learning new skills.” The 5ks they’re referring to relates to PassMeFast’s charity fundraiser for the Manchester Children’s Hospital. Our team embarked upon runs, walks and cycles in 5km increments, all in aid of this very worthy charity. We’re thrilled to say that we ended up smashing our target of £1,000!

Returning to the office

Empty desks and chairs in PassMeFast's brand new office
The PassMeFast team had a brand-spanking new office space waiting for them in MediaCityUK!

Despite the various downsides of working from home that many of us have now discovered, not everyone is eager to return to the office. When asked how they felt about switching back, one staff member told us: “Nervous—it’s easy to forget there’s a pandemic.” This is a very good point. Thankfully, at PassMeFast, we’ve introduced lots of new safety measures, including mandatory temperature checks and rigorous cleaning schedules, to keep the team safe.

For a majority of staff, though, there was a strong desire to get back to a proper workspace and be reconnected with the team. A majority of people responded, “Great!”, to our question, with some elaborating: “[I] love working in an office environment—much better than working from home alone” and, “[I’m] excited to be around the team again.” 

Note: The PassMeFast team only returned to the office following confirmation from the government that it was safe to do so. The company continues to adjust to the official UK guidelines as and when they change.

Helping our customers through the crisis

White question mark painted on brick wall
Image source: Matt Walsh via Unsplash

As our customers are at the very heart of what we do here at PassMeFast, a major concern for our staff was how we were going to continue to offer a superior service through such uncertain times. When the lockdown was implemented, there was a period of time when all driving lessons and tests were on hold. On top of this, there was no information on how long this might last or how tests would work in the future. As a driving school that prides itself on helping learners earn a licence as soon as possible, this put us in a bit of a predicament!

Understandably, when asked about the most common questions learners were asking during lockdown, these were the most popular answers:

  • “When can I expect to have my driving test?”
  • “Why is my theory test cancelled? When can I start my lessons?”
  • “When will my test be booked?”
  • “Why can’t you just get me a test?”

This is a really tough time for everyone, and we’re so thankful that our customers are now able to get their hands on the test dates they have been waiting for. If you are one of these people, thank you for your patience and understanding during these turbulent times!

Currently waiting for driving lessons or a test date to be scheduled? We asked our experienced staff for the best advice they would give to students whose driving journey has been impacted by the coronavirus. Here’s what they had to say:

⭐Be patient.⭐

⭐ Try to think of the positives. Even though there has been a delay things are getting started again so they won’t have to wait much longer.⭐

⭐We’re all in this together!⭐

⭐Understand that there will be delays.⭐

⭐Everybody is a priority to us and we are trying our very best to get everybody on their way with their courses as quickly as we can.⭐

⭐Don’t let it stop you!⭐

Looking on the bright side

Balloon shaped like a sunshine with a happy face lying in the grass
Image source: Laura Pratt via Unsplash

Despite the hardships of lockdown for both staff and customers, there were some positive moments to celebrate. When asked about any standout lockdown memories, one of our newest team members came straight back with, “My first pass!” Ahhh, we all remember our first pass with pride!

Another staff member told us about this lockdown highlight: “I’ve had a really nice customer experience. A student’s mum is dealing with the booking [and] she has recommended PassMeFast and me as a CX Adviser to her boss who is looking for a driving school for her son!” Great stuff! It truly means so much to our staff members when customers are nice enough to leave positive feedback.

What was your greatest source of support, comfort or inspiration?

My family—they were there to support me throughout my redundancy and also whilst looking for jobs! ????
My partner—cheesy! ????
Probably food. Or family. ????????
My dog! ????
Friends and family! ????????
Music ????

Every cloud…

And, finally, the optimists in us couldn’t end the interviews without asking about any unexpected positive outcomes of the lockdown. We’re pleased to say that we were not short of responses!

Some people used the extra downtime to focus on their fitness: “I actually started to exercise a lot more than I used to. [I] took my dog for more walks, which did lift my mood.” One inspiring chap was very enthusiastic about changes they’d made, explaining, “I’ve stopped smoking and have never exercised so much!” Well done you!

Other staff members pointed to the newfound time to focus on themselves, saying, “Yes! [There was] loads more time to relax without feeling like there was something you should be doing.” Another person reeled off a trifecta of positive outcomes: “I learnt new skills, saved tons of money and just enjoyed the me time.”

We hope you enjoyed this deep dive into how the PassMeFast team is handling life under the pandemic. It’s a great reminder that no matter how hard things get, we’re all in the same boat. With a little bit of teamwork and compassion we can get through this! If you’re curious as to how instructors have been handling things, check out our post covering how PassMeFast ADIs are coping with the pandemic.

Interested in finding out more slightly unexpected and occasionally positive consequences of lockdown? Keep your eyes fixed on the PassMeFast blog!

By Isobel Robb

Isobel enjoys the freedom of the open road and loves driving to new places. She's here to offer helpful hints and tips to improve your motoring skills. When not keeping up to date with the latest driving info you can find her discovering new restaurants or exhausting her Netflix subscription.

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