18th December 2020

2020 – The importance of being helpful

As we reach the end of the year and what a year it has been, we have invited some of our team to share their thoughts on our Civic Engineers values and with those in mind reflect on what they have learnt this year. Kicking things off is our Head of People & Culture, Caroline Todd who talks about how the value of being ‘helpful’ has truly come to life in recent months.



help·​ful | \ ˈhelp-fəl  ; Southern often ˈhep- also ˈheəp- \

Definition of helpful

: of service or assistance : USEFUL

Thinking back to March seems in many ways such a long time ago but in others like it was yesterday. For the majority of us, this prolonged period of reduced contact in both our personal and professional lives has seen us all have to come out of our comfort zone and adapt, very quickly. We’ve had different experiences and faced different challenges but there has been one common theme that has been apparent in media reports, on social media and in our conversations. That theme is one of being ‘helpful.’ Across the country there have been incredible examples of how communities and businesses have helped each other and of how volunteers being helpful have assisted the NHS.

One of our core values as a Practice is being ‘helpful’ and I can honestly say that over the last 269 days of lockdown, we wouldn’t be where we are now if we didn’t have such a helpful and supportive team. When lockdown began, I think most of us felt that initial anxiety that the structured, known way of working was being thrown out of the window. We went from seeing our colleagues every day, having chats over coffee and by the printer, even spending time with them socially, to seeing them only via Teams and Zoom with conversations scheduled and family members and pets regularly interrupting. The spontaneity had disappeared.

At the start of our unusual journey, we made it a priority to focus on health and wellbeing. We consciously strengthened our communication with our teams. We tried hard to keep them updated and to feel included with weekly briefings, monthly practice presentations and encouraging 1-1s, as well as the odd quiz. We did our best as a Leadership Team to be helpful and our team responded by rising to the occasion and striving to be as helpful as they could to each other but also to our clients and collaborators.

We also looked outside the Practice to see where we could help and add value. We tried to inspire future engineers with our ‘Doing STEM differently’ challenge which saw some incredible entries showcasing some impressive homeschooling structures. We also reached out to forge and support new social value partnerships with initiatives such as the ‘Accelerate’ design education and mentoring programme run by Open City in London and the key stage 1 and 2, Greater Manchester Engineering Challenge supported by the University of Manchester.

So what do I feel we have learnt this year? For me, I think it is whatever the challenge now or in the future, the way to work through it is by being supportive of each other and always looking at how we can help in our own way. We are all different and that is a good thing but being helpful is universal.

2020 – The importance of being helpful