Renfrewshire Council

Fraser Carlin

Our Head of Planning and Housing Services, Fraser Carlin, reflects on the challenges of the last seven months through the lens of Our Values for #WorldValuesDay 2020.

Fraser's Blog

"Renfrewshire House is closing, and it might be three weeks till we are back in the building"

This whole coronavirus thing suddenly got serious! I had only had my first Skype conversation the week before (with Mary - who sits right behind me) so how on earth would we be able to work if we didn't have access to all our stuff. How would we all meet? How would we get anything done? How would we know what's going on? How would we deliver our Service?

So, here's the first surprise: we did!

Yes there were challenges - but through all of this I was struck by the fact that so many of my colleagues remained positive despite the challenges they we all faced; and over and above this I was struck by how our people supported each other in what were, to be honest, bizarre and bewildering times.

Renfrewshire Council has values and the ones that we all share about being Fair, Helpful, Collaborative and Learning have been so important over the last few months. Living and working with these values resulted in so many amazing acts of professionalism and displays of kindness which highlighted a clear respect for all the people of Renfrewshire from people in my own service and right across the Council.

The challenge we faced to just keep going and to meet every new issue, daily problem and insurmountable hurdle, was difficult for all of us. But supporting each other in a way that recognised that we were all having good days and bad days and different worries and challenges was so vital.

During lockdown I was amazed at how positively and willingly the people who work for Renfrewshire Council responded to the massive problems and issues that we faced every day and while we are still not out of the woods, we are still meeting those challenges and supporting each other and our communities.

Things changed over the months, the world was quieter, wee birds were noisier and having no football was horrible - but in the working lives of Renfrewshire Council's staff, and for public servants across the country, there is no denying that it was difficult.

Working in an environment were people, customers, tenants, pupils, clients, communities needed the Council more than ever has been intense for our staff. Whether they were juggling home schooling and working on the computer, helping to distribute food parcels, or delivering lifesaving assistance to people who were homeless or suffering trauma, grief or abuse - our staff were there - being Fair, Helpful, Collaborative and Learning every day.

So, looking back if I knew someone else would walk in our shoes, what advice would I give them?

First of all, I would say - Be kind to your colleagues, the people and the communities that you work for. But over and above this I would say be kind to yourself.

These were not normal times at work or in our home life. My advice would be don't let this overwhelm you. Take time to consider what you have achieved at work and the difference that you make every day.

Take time to appreciate the support of those around you and how as workers we remained positive and continued to deliver services and support despite the challenging times.

Make time to ensure that you maintain a good home and work life balance and see if you need to ask for help, or even just a break, don't be afraid to do so.

Everyone is in the same position; but you will get through these strange times if you work together and support each other.  And even though you may be working harder than ever, make sure you give yourself time to have a laugh.

A final piece of advice is that you should be prepared to be totally unprepared but don't worry about that!

Mistakes will be made, and in times like this that is unavoidable, but if the values of being fair and helpful guide your working life then that will ensure that you can take pride in the role that you deliver as a public servant and council worker.