Chipping Norton man doing his bit to #stopthespread by helping handle customer inquiries to Cherwell District Council

Many people have not done a day’s work in the office since March and have been adjusting to life working from home.
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But there are people like Gary Jones from Cherwell District Council’s Customer Service Team who have continued to travel to work each day.

Gary, 54, who lives in Chipping Norton, and has been commuting to the council’s Bodicote House headquarters since starting his job with the team 18 months ago. He can’t work from home for medical reasons, and so has continued to journey from the Cotswolds to north Oxfordshire each day.

Like many other people who have not been able to work from home – such as NHS workers, firefighters, the police and others – life at work has changed for Gary and adaptations have been necessary as he and colleagues try to #stopthespread of COVID-19 at work as well as at home.

Gary, who is originally from Wales and has previously worked for Tesco, Premier Inn and Blenheim Palace, said: “Our daily life has changed a great deal.

“There are only a small number of us working in the office. Most of the customer service team is working from home and handling calls and emails in to the council from there and that’s been the case since March.

“For the small number of us in the office we’ve got hand sanitisers placed throughout.

"Even so, before I leave the car in the morning I use hand-wash. I wash my hands every time I go in to the kitchen area for a cup of tea, including first thing in the morning. We don’t make a cuppa for colleagues any more, just for ourselves.

Gary Jones who works with Cherwell District CouncilGary Jones who works with Cherwell District Council
Gary Jones who works with Cherwell District Council

“We very regularly cleanse the desk areas. We each have our own keyboards and equipment. We don’t share. We have guidelines to work within to stay safe in the office and keep others safe and we make sure we follow them. It’s important to play our small part in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“Occasionally we have to hold face to face appointments with residents. Often this is because they have difficulties using a computer or don’t have one.

"We can often deal with those people over the phone, but sometimes that’s not possible. On those occasions we make sure to keep the right distance from the resident we’re dealing with.

"We use gloves and sanitise everything before and after and we use a document box if we have to share paperwork with the visitor.

“The area of Bodicote House we use is very close to reception and Perspex has been placed to protect both staff and customers.

“I enjoyed working here before lockdown, and I still enjoy it now. The people are very nice. But more importantly during this period with COVID-19 I also feel very safe working here. The things we have in place for our safety are just what we need, and they were put in place when they needed to be put in place.”

Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health said: “Gary and the few of his colleagues who are going in to the office each day in the Cherwell customer service team are doing the right things and I commend them to everyone.

"They are very basic things that help us all #stopthespread.

"Wash your hands, keep your distance from others and in the office don’t share equipment, make your own drinks and keep sanitising the work area. It all helps keep COVID-19 at bay. Don’t give it an inch. If you do, we’ve already seen that it will take a mile in return.”