Archive staff in Gloucestershire worked quickly, using their specialist professional archive skills to set up a system which enabled the scanning and sending of physical post to staff working from home.
“Thanks again for all you’re doing – we’d grind to a halt without your efforts.” Staff member, Gloucestershire County Council
Archive staff in Gloucestershire worked quickly, using their specialist professional archive skills to set up a system which enabled the scanning and sending of physical post to staff working from home. At the very beginning of lockdown, archives staff were asked by the silver command group within the County Council to set up a ‘scan and send’ postal service. The service which is now embedded in business as usual enables Gloucestershire County Council and Gloucester City Council colleagues to continue to work from home.
The key challenges facing the service were:
- How to deliver physical post from more than 90 different pigeon-holes to the correct contacts working at home
- How to do this promptly at financial year end with lots of invoices requiring payment.
- How to avoid security breaches with badly addressed envelopes and potential human errors
When first walking into the post room, the task looked enormous, but by the end of the first day the archive team had broken the back of it and could see precisely how to deliver a cost-effective service with minimal risks.
The team used their skills as archivists to set up the new service after one day of planning, using resources to hand. This included multi-functional devices (MFDs), flat pack boxes, and requisitioning office and storage space in Shire Hall – not the normal place of work.
Colleagues with a flexible ‘can-do’ attitude and customer focused approach, organisational skills, scanning experience and knowledge of data protection and security breaches proved invaluable.
With help from a well-connected colleague, communications to senior leaders, and permission to open mail, the team established an appropriate network of recipients for scanned mail from all pigeon-holes.*
The team prioritised stopping physical mail at source where feasible, to make the quantities more manageable, then started scanning.
Two separate teams were trained and instructions were developed to ensure resilience and succession planning from the outset. The archives customer services staff would be required to run the archives public service again once permission to re-open the service was given.
- Over 2000 colleagues were able to work at home and continue delivering the councils’ wide range of services.
- Special arrangements were made for the teams that required physical post, such as those in the legal department.
- The team themselves were proud of the service they developed and received a lot of positive feedback.
“Thank you and your teams for all your hard work so far. It has really meant that our team has been able to adapt to a new way of working without our service being seriously affected.” Staff member, Gloucestershire County Council
“I would just like to say that from my point of view you have completed your task amazingly. Considering the short turn around you had at the start of Pandemic, you and the rest of the Archive Team have really made our lives easier. Our success during these troubling times has been due in no small measure to all your support and for that I thank you! Much appreciated.” Staff member, Gloucestershire County Council
How is it being sustained?
The ‘scan and send’ service has now been adopted as ‘business as usual’ by both councils. Archive staff transferred the operation to Information Management colleagues in July 2020. A 2-week training and handover period was arranged to ensure continuity and pass on tips and knowledge learnt.
The team aims to enhance and streamline the process with further consultation as it moves out of ‘emergency mode’. Archives staff will provide emergency backup to the new team should this prove necessary.
- Archives skills are highly transferable and proved a good fit for this project.
- The post-room colleague who sorts the incoming post into the pigeon-holes prior to scanning is a key player in this operation: their knowledge prevents security breaches within the council.
- Responding to an emergency is good for team-building, and all staff really stepped up to the mark. It was particularly pleasing to offer a joined-up service to both county and city councils.
- The task provided an excellent opportunity to learn about the breadth of services offered by county and city councils, strengthen connections across both councils, and raise the profile of the archives service.
- It was a low-tech solution which proved highly efficient and cost effective.