Coping with a Covid-inspired demand surge

Coping with a Covid-inspired demand surge

Covid-19 has had a huge impact on businesses all over the world, and Essex is no exception.

Whilst most businesses are well versed in fire evacuation plans and the importance of having insurance to cover unexpected events, very few business owners would have ever thought to plan for a global pandemic.

Following the government’s announcement of a lockdown in March, businesses were forced to react quickly, changing, adapting, and closing their doors, without knowing when – or if – they would be able to re-open.

2020 has been a challenge for Essex businesses, to say the least. But it has also brought out a sense of community. Customers have shown their support, allowing businesses to test out new services and ways of working, and amidst the worrying headlines, there have also been some inspirational stories.

Whilst some businesses experienced a drop in demand for their products and services, others faced the task of being able to meet a sudden increase in demand as well as operating in new ways and under new restrictions.

Local company Water Direct experienced just that. Faced with the challenge of meeting a sudden, substantial influx in demand for their services during lockdown, they had to act quickly.

As government guidelines urged people to stay at home, household water usage had increased significantly.

With the nation making the switch to working from home, many workplaces were closed. Every hot drink, glass of water, and toilet flush that would normally happen at these workplaces moved to household properties, which placed a considerable strain on residential water supplies.

On top of this, May saw a prolonged period of hot, dry weather, with the Met Office citing it as the UK’s sunniest calendar month on record. This, combined with the increased numbers of people staying at home, led to a 50% spike in household water usage. And with just 17% of the average rainfall for the time of year, it was set to be England’s driest May yet.

Whilst there is never really a convenient time to have your water unexpectedly cut off, being stuck at home in hot weather during a global pandemic has to be one of the worst. Water utility companies needed assistance to deal with the issue before it got worse. Keen to avoid service interruptions and protect their vulnerable customers, Water Direct were called in to help.

With key workers adapting to new social distancing measures and office staff working remotely from home, clear communication and flexibility was vital.

Quickly scaling up their operations, Water Direct delivered 17 million litres of quality assured drinking water to where it was needed, ready to be injected directly into the network to keep the water flowing as household taps turned.

In addition, they set up socially distanced drive-through bottled water handout stations to distribute courtesy water to local residents in a safe, compliant way.

Socially distanced doorstep deliveries were made to vulnerable customers at 20,000 properties, as well as 4 prisons and around 100 care homes, all in the space of just 4 days.

Rob Allan, Senior Contract Manager at Water Direct, said “We had to be flexible. We quickly evolved our bottled water handout stations to become socially distanced drive-through collection points. Our office staff moved seamlessly to working from home, and we delivered bottled water to vulnerable customers at over 20,000 properties over just 4 days, using socially distanced doorstep deliveries. I am really proud of our team; it has shown what we can achieve with robust business continuity plans and a flexible approach.”

Covid-19 has had a huge impact across all sectors, bringing all manner of unexpected changes to the ways we work.

For those fortunate enough to re-open their doors after lockdown, it has also provided an opportunity to test their business continuity plans, learn from the experience, and develop processes to help them navigate through unexpected events in the future.