FIRE! How a Team Can Pull Together When the Worst Happens

Posted on 7th July 2016

This blog is quite a personal one, and it might not seem to have much to do with HR to start with, but keep reading, as I hope that you can take some lessons for business from it.

As some will already know, a couple of years ago, just before Christmas, my settled family life changed quite suddenly and dramatically. I was awoken to the shouts of “Fire, get the children out” from my husband, who, ironically enough was a firefighter at the time. It is amazing how you can go from a deep sleep to being wide awake, terrified but also very calm for the children, in only a few seconds. Thankfully we all got out, but it was certainly the worst night of my life and we were in temporary accommodation for 5 months while our house was restored. We lost everything we owned downstairs and a lot of the upstairs of our house was smoke damaged. Thankfully our lives are now very much back on track, and we’ve been happily back in our house for some time now.

So… “What on earth has this got to do with HR, Emma?!” I hear you think. Is it about the importance of backing up any work you do from home in case your work bag and laptop are burnt beyond recognition? Is it a plea to have smoke alarms at home and in the office? Or are you telling us we need a disaster recovery plan to help us manage if a key member of staff is suddenly unavailable? Well, yes… But no… Although these are all good pieces advice, none of that is the point of this blog.

The point I want to make is one about team work. It was my team who kept the business going when I suddenly became unavailable during a very busy week. They spoke to clients, rearranged things where possible, ran meetings and generally kept the day-to-day things going to. You could argue they are paid to do this, which of course they are, but they did it to help me, knowing the last thing I was capable at that time of was fulfilling my role at work.

However, it was also the things that happened outside work that showed me what a fantastic team I have. In our temporary accommodation, half the furniture was supplied by the team and the week we moved out of the hotel in to a rented house they came over one evening complete with a Christmas tree, lights and decorations to make sure our children knew Christmas was still happening even if in strange surroundings. Maria and Lou between them washed every item of clothing we owned – a challenge in itself, and hand-washed all the children’s teddies that had survived. Lindsay also gave up her afternoon to help my husband build furniture and beds, as that is certainly not my strong point!

So I come back to my previous point, why would they do this? Washing, decorating and bed building is certainly not in a HR Consultant’s job description! I believe, and I am assured from the team that I am right, it is because they are engaged with GatewayHR and therefore with me as the leader in that business. They don’t just want it to succeed so that they get their salary and any perks; they want it to succeed because they believe in it. Also, as a manager I am told that I am pretty reasonable, I have my moments of course, and so when I needed their help they were there to offer it in abundance.

Our clients and suppliers were also incredible too! One client, West Lodge Farm Park, donated my family a meal and Christmas Sing-a-Long tickets and then invited all the team to GatewayHR a Christmas Party! When the fire happened we had cancelled our office Christmas party plans, but this offer was just what we needed to let off some steam (excuse the pun) and celebrate as a team. We had many other gifts and offers of support from clients, which all made life just that bit easier, including a lovely coffee machine waiting for us when we moved home.

We like to work with our clients in a personable way (hence our logo) and in those few months after the fire, the value of a strong supplier-client relationship really shone through for me. It’s difficult not to fall into clichés here, but I really feel that the GatewayHR ‘team’ extends beyond our own offices, and that the ‘team’ is really all of us – Gateway staff, clients, associates, suppliers and partners.

So there we have it, a lesson in the importance of excellent relationships within your team and with your clients, and also of making sure you look after your staff and develop engagement in your organisation.

If you’re wanting to develop or improve team working in your business, then we can help – we run a fantastic team building course; it’s very down to earth, and I promise: no clichés!

Best wishes,


01536 215240

Emma Wynne Character
Written by:
Emma Wynne
Managing Director