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22 Apr 2020

Andrew is one of MIS-AMS’s software developers who ordinarily works full-time from the office with his team around him. Home working has presented many challenges to his and other teams in the company, but we asked him about how he’s adapted, and what positives he will take away from his experience of lockdown, as well as what he does outside of working hours to keep himself sane!

Tell us about yourself and your role

I am the software development manager at MIS-AMS, and I’m responsible for employees across development, testing, documentation and customer support. Although I’ve been at MIS-AMS for 13 years this year, I’ve only been in this role for about two and a half years. Over that time, it’s been really rewarding seeing our vision for the software realised. My favourite part of the role is the diversity it brings - I can view all parts of the system and have an insight into what our customers are doing and how they want to see the system taken forward. Rarely are two days the same, which keeps things interesting.

How are you settling into home working?

Pretty well, now that I’ve settled into a routine, although it’s been a challenge to explain to the toddlers that they can’t just drop by! We’ve put a lot of effort into changing how we work and how we manage the teams to reflect that we’re all seeing less of each other. There have been some positives – we’re making much better use of the technology available and in some respects it’s actually improved communication between teams. We’re also putting a lot of thought into our colleagues’ mental health and encouraging people to work more flexibly so that they can get fresh air and exercise. It will be interesting to see how things change when all this is over and we look at what we’d like to keep from the experience.

What have been your biggest challenges?

The busiest period in our development cycle is always the last four weeks as we try to get all the loose ends tied up, make sure everything has been tested, all the bugs have been fixed and the packages built ready for release. When the lockdown started we were just at the beginning of this process for the 6.7.1 release and it’s certainly been a different experience finalising the package with everyone working remotely. I’m really proud of the way the team have risen to the challenge and we’ve been able to get 6.7.1 fully tested and released with only a couple of days’ delay.

What positives have you taken from home working?

It’s been really good to be able to spend more time with the family during the day. I’ve been able to take my eldest out on his bike at lunchtime and give my wife, Rebecca, a break when the cabin-fever gets too much. It’s also been good to have the space to concentrate on some of the more complicated development we’ve got coming up – it’s often difficult to do that in the office.

What have you been doing outside of work to keep yourself busy?

I’ve been doing a lot of the things that we’ve all been doing- trying to get regular exercise; cleaning the oven, becoming a dab hand at jigsaws and so on. As a Cheshire West and Chester councillor I’ve also seen a lot of the crisis from the other side, both in terms of how the council has responded and how the community has pulled together to make sure no one has slipped through the gaps. My casework has switched to problems with employers not allowing people to work remotely, issues with social landlords and many, many people looking to defer their council tax payments to the end of the year. It’s certainly given me a different perspective on the crisis, and it’s easy to forget from my relatively comfortable position of being able to work from home, that only one-in-ten of the bottom half of earners are able to do that.

The current situation has resulted in a huge transformation in the way many businesses work. Do you think this experience will result in any long term changes to working practices?

At MIS-AMS we’ve been pretty flexible for a long time with home working, with a number of members of the team working from home either on an ad hoc basis or semi-permanently. However, it is amazing how quickly many businesses have been able to adapt and I’m sure there will be a much greater demand from workers to make this a more regular fixture now that it has shown itself to be possible. With the challenges we face in responding to climate change and in giving people more family time in a nation addicted to a long-hours culture, that can only be seen as a good thing.

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