By Kim Gray, Head of Diversity and Inclusion at NTT DATA UK
Social activities ground to a halt and many employees suddenly found themselves working from home. The Covid-19 pandemic had a dramatic effect on all our lives, but for some, the consequences were far more profound. Many families who lost their livelihoods overnight found themselves struggling to put food on the table.
As some families faced this frightening prospect, others found themselves fortunate enough to be able to continue working and earning a living. This contrast was stark and pushed many organisations that were able to transition to remote working to consider how local communities could be supported through the crisis. The result was an outpouring of generous initiatives set up by businesses around the country, ranging from supplying equipment to support online learning through to donations to foodbanks and homeless shelters.
Organisations have a responsibility to do their best for their local communities. This has always been the case, but the pandemic heightened the business community’s awareness of the need to help others, especially when workers in different sectors were impacted disproportionately.
Employees at organisations that were able to transition into remote working had an advantage over those who were unable to shift their work online. At NTT DATA UK, we were able to continue working, but many of the City of London’s vital service workers, from those in hospitality and retail through to those in transport, lost their livelihoods due to office workers no longer commuting into the City.
Early on in the pandemic, I met with my friend Pete Pentecost, a City A.M. worker who lost his job handing out free newspapers when the pandemic hit. We discussed how the office workers of the City could support the service sector and others in need, and we came up with The City Gives Back Project. This was an ambitious initiative aiming to raise at least £10,000 for the foodbank run by Christ Church Spitalfields (CCSPITS) in Tower Hamlets.
Having started with the ambition to raise £10,000, The City Gives Back initiative has so far raised nearly £50,000 with individual donations from NTT DATA UK’s staff, a generous donation from NTT DATA UK and from some of our clients such as Tokio Marine Kiln and Ascot Group. Together with volunteers from our staff and Insurance clients we have been visiting the CCSPITS food bank every Wednesday to pack food boxes for distribution to families on Thursdays.
As well as providing much-needed support to families in the Tower Hamlets area, The City Gives Back initiative has had other unforeseen benefits. Employees who volunteered felt grateful to be putting their energy into a good cause and to be helping those who had fallen on hard times. Volunteers enjoyed coming together to pack the boxes and felt a real sense of community and positivity in giving back to people, many of whom used to support us in our daily working lives before the pandemic began. Involvement in this cause helped maintain good mental wellbeing during the most challenging months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Organisations can learn important lessons from such initiatives implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic. These projects show what businesses can do when they push the boundaries of their expectations. One initial idea can blossom into something far bigger than expected, providing help to many more people than anticipated – including those involved as volunteers.
Initiatives to support local communities need not be limited to times of national crisis. Drawing on the sense of community that brought us together during the first lockdown, and expanding on the initiatives started as a result of the pandemic, we can continue to build a generous UK business community that remains committed to helping those in need.
Two years on from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK is facing a looming cost-of-living crisis. With cost rises already affecting over 80% of households, many families will be wondering how they will continue to feed their families in the coming months. As communities face new challenges, organisations must continue to provide support where possible, whether it be through donations, volunteering, or other services.
With over 40 years’ worth of experience in the financial services sector and within consulting firms, Kim leads the Insurance Business Unit at NTT DATA UK and is a member of the Insurance Global Committee of NTT DATA Group. She is also Head of Diversity & Inclusion for NTT DATA UK, which includes overseeing the Women’s Business Network, Mental Wellbeing Forum, the LGBT+ and Allies Network, and the Culture & Ethnicity Network.