The People Behind the Front Lines at Brunel: Middle East

Monday, April 27, 2020

In the midst of global instability, projects, companies and contractors worldwide are learning to improvise. So is Brunel. Our operations teams are working harder than ever to bring a sense of stability to the lives of our clients and contractors caught in the crossfire.

How can I go into work if I’m quarantined? Will I still get paid? Do I have to use my holiday days? What if my project gets cancelled? What happens if I contract COVID-19? Will my health insurance cover it? How can I get back to my home country with closed borders?

These questions are keeping Brunel’s global operations teams busy. But with it comes the satisfaction of helping keep their contractors safe, healthy and sane when it’s needed the most — all while helping clients keep project operations running as smoothly as possible. 

Those braving the front lines are the regional Operation Managers themselves. We’ve sat down to (virtually) hear from each of them. What we learned: Brunel doesn’t sleep until our people are taken care of. 

Ruby and Sylvie, Middle East Operations Managers: “We've taken a calm positive approach and ensure all our conversations are reassuring and optimistic that this, too, shall pass.” 


As the regional Operations Managers, how has your week been in a nutshell?

 

“Due to the sudden rise of the COVID-19 cases across the world and the immediate roll out of our business continuity mechanism, it was a hectic week juggling multiple items at the same time to ensure we don’t end up pressing the panic button for our clients and contractors.


In line with our strategy to implement a Business Continuity Plan, we embarked on the work from home regime (alternating between two teams – when one works in office, the other works from home and vice versa). Hence, it took a bit of initial effort to sort out the priority lists, the items that can be addressed from the office and from home, and so on.


All teams – Account Managers facing clients, Operations personnel, and Recruitment teams facing contractors – are working on a war footing to ensure panic calls from clients and contractors are dealt with effectively. They all needed the confidence that Brunel has a plan of action to deal with the situation. The teams worked long hours and spent considerable time counselling contractors, assuring them of our preparedness to handle the situation – in terms of our coordination with clients, planning of rotations, visa applications, sending out COVID-19 awareness communication and other preparatory documentation to brace for the situation.


We had to be prepared to explain to the contractors how they will be taken care of in case any turn out to be COVID positive and needs immediate health care, treatment and attention.”

 

What’s been particularly challenging during this time?  

 

“Working remotely without physically being in office was an initial challenge. However it was really heartening that the team was very optimistic and eager to make this arrangement work 100% without any compromise on our deliverables. Counselling panic stricken consultants was the next challenge, including building the clients’ confidence in Brunel being equipped to support in such times.”


What’s been positive or uplifting?

 

“Contractors felt reassured about the situation, that Brunel will support them in all manners possible. Especially in matters including health care, reaching out to families, etc. — contractors and clients felt assured that we would go the extra mile and leave no stone unturned to ensure the comfort and convenience of the contractor personnel.” 


How is the Brunel team in your region working hard to ensure essential projects stay on track?

 

“Team members are working hand-in-hand across departments to support each other. They are happy to put in extra time to ensure that critical deliverables are met to the satisfaction of the clients and contractors. The AMs / BDMs are taking extra effort to be in continuous communication with clients to assure them of our deliverables and business continuity.


We are ensuring the timelines set by the client are being met diligently regardless of our physical presence in office — for example, CV submissions, Tender submissions, demob notifications to be catered to at short notice due to exigency situations, suspension notifications to be issued and so on.


In parallel, work continues to be executed for contract extensions, amendments, visa renewals, interfaces for timely payroll and so on.” 


How has your team managed to stay connected to your clients/contractors during this situation?  

 

“We have taken a calm positive approach and ensure all our mails and conversations are reassuring and optimistic that this, too, shall pass. Since no physical meetings are possible, we connect via Whatsapp, mail or phone with contractors and clients.”


Which services are now more critical than ever in your region?

 

“Externally, the travel sector is critical – since we only can start with mobilizations if the travel restrictions are lifted. In parallel, Immigration services, Application of visas, etc. have to resume in full capacity. Currently these departments are also taking a bit of a restrained approach towards visa issuance.”


Anything else you’d like to add?

 

They acknowledge that preparedness in times of crisis is truly a global team effort: “It is commendable of our Head office to have taken such proactive measures well in time to deal with the impending and inevitable crisis looming ahead. There was absolute clarity of thought on how we are to face this situation. The foresight is truly noteworthy and not something that many organizations can boast of. We had enough information and literature to share with our contractors and clients giving a complete overview of how we care for their well being and our preparedness to do so.


This also gave us enough time to gear up for the situation when it actually hits the peak. When the reality bit and the most companies grappled somehow to rise to the situation, we already had a BCP at Brunel. Clients and contractors were communicated on our readiness to deal with the situation, and the teams were briefed on how we are going to sail this tide. The tone at the top has always been ‘safety first of our employees.’”