Joanna Flowers reflects on her journey into the world of British Gas and how as an engineer on the front line, life has changed beyond recognition.
The world is a very different place compared to this time two months ago and although I have been a gas engineer for nearly 13 years, my day to day life has changed so much in the past few weeks. My journey into the world of being an engineer began by chance. I had seen an opportunity to join the British Gas apprenticeship scheme whilst working in our Stockport office, and I can honestly say I haven’t looked back since.
Going to work is something I genuinely look forward to. In a pre COVID world I spent my days visiting customer homes to get their heating and hot water working, having a chat, a cup of tea and biscuits and then onto the next house. Being able to help people get their homes up and running again is rewarding in itself, but the social aspect of meeting new people and getting to know them is what I really enjoy.
Since COVID-19 things have changed dramatically, whilst I have always called customers to tell them I'm on the way, I now have to check if they have symptoms, advise them I will be wearing a mask and gloves and to ask them to stay in a different room to the one I am working in. This for me has cut out a lot of the social part of my job which I miss. It's quite hard to talk to people in another room through a mask!
The hours vary day to day depending on how many of our staff have been isolated and how many emergency appointments there are but we have worked really hard to prioritise those who need us the most. If anyone has been experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, is self-isolating or has been exposed, we wear full PPE to protect ourselves and other customers. This has taken some getting used to!
Although the current situation has really changed my job, I’ve noticed the social spirit is still there and people’s attitudes towards this situation are generally very good. They are happy to give me space to work and apologise that they can’t give me a cup of tea! Going from job to job it really cheers me up seeing the rainbows in people’s windows and the chalked ones on their brick walls.
I have seen some brilliant acts of community spirit. I was visiting one lady’s house a week ago who had a delivery of fresh fruit and veg from a friend with an allotment. She then proceeded to share this with her neighbours who then offered to get her shopping the next day. I also want to help where I can and I recently took a loaf of bread to a customer so she didn't need to go out for a couple of days.
The acts of kindness I am seeing really help me to stay positive even though I do feel scared of the virus, and know the job I am doing could expose me to it. But I can’t bear the thought of anyone going without a hot shower, especially if they are an NHS worker and had to be treating people who are sick all day.
It is safe to say the past few weeks have been a difficult, not only getting used to a new way of working but also having two children at home, which in many ways are the biggest challenge. But I feel proud of the part I am playing in supporting our customers during the pandemic and I have hope that one day I will be back having a chat and a cup of tea with my customers.