The People Behind the Front Lines at Brunel: Europe & Africa

Thursday, May 14, 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.  

Charlotte van Wyk, Europe & Africa Operations Manager: “Our main priority at the moment has been to make sure all contractors are safe, well and home.” 


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

“It hasn’t stopped... Every day goes way too fast. There aren't enough hours in the day.”


What’s been particularly challenging during this time?

“Other than the lack of contact with colleagues, one of the more challenging things is to stop. It is easy to keep going, and I don’t think we have ever been so busy. It doesn’t help that clients are extending projects for shorter terms, so the extensions (and work behind them) are more frequent. 


Our main priority at the moment (and biggest challenge) has been to make sure all contractors are safe, well and home. With contractors mobilised throughout Europe and Africa, the travel restrictions and national lockdowns are a bit of a puzzle. And now that they’ve been home, they are wanting to get back into the field, so we are trying to figure out how it’s safely and logistically possible.” 


What’s been positive, motivating or uplifting?

“Speaking with the contractors is always a good moment, especially when things are so busy. It’s often a moment to stop and gain some perspective. Some of these contractors are hundreds of miles from their families, on their own, and they seem to find the bright side or still crack a joke.” 


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

“I am using my phone (Teams / Whatsapp call) more than ever, mostly because you need to keep real contact with people, otherwise you are sitting at your computer and not talking to other humans outside your household.” 


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

“After a couple of days settling into our new ‘office’ environments, I have had daily team meetings and regular check-ins using Teams video so we can see each other to keep the comradery going. Ensuring a smooth handover between departments, especially with onboarding new starters, was a priority to ensure the physical ‘walk around’ or ‘handover’ still continued on a virtual level and didn’t interrupt the process. Mostly, I think everything seems to have gone smoothly.”


Any advice for contractors in your region? 

“Remember we are not stuck at home, we are safe at home. Be sure to have your favorite drink in stock for a virtual get together with friends/family on a social app. Try to keep to a daily route (separating weekdays from the weekend). Call us for anything – don’t feel alone.”