Coronavirus update: the latest news from East Midlands businesses

(Pictured above: Natasha Green, Senior Account Manager, Elliot Haines, SEO Specialist, Bethany Pigott, Senior Account Manager, Jake Third, Managing Director)

Nottingham digital marketing agency Hallam is marking Mental Health Awareness Week by launching an internal Mental Health First Aider (MHFA) programme.

With lockdown in place, Nottingham-based Hallam noticed that people were more isolated than ever. Now, the firm has launched the MHFA scheme after running an anonymous poll, where the company found that around 15% of its colleagues were struggling with mental health issues exaggerated by prolonged home working.

The organisation has provided Samaritans and MHFA training to four individuals in the company to help them to support staff during lockdown and as restrictions ease.

The MHFA will act as a point of contact at Hallam and will be able to listen to anyone, confidentially, who is struggling with their mental health. They have been trained to listen and hold supportive conversations, and if necessary, guide their colleague to official resources or the relevant help they need.

Managing director Jake Third, who spearheaded the programme, said: “As organisations move to remote working, human connection has never been more important.

“I am really proud of all of our MHFAs who have gone through official MHFA England and Samaritans training. It takes courage to put yourself forward and support others, sometimes requiring very difficult conversations.”


Two East Midlands businesses have come up with ingenious ways of helping people open doors during

Sharon Brown, director of Melbourne Festival

the Covid-19 epidemic – without using their hands.

Dubbed the ‘Footle’ by the team at Melbourne’s Acres Engineering, the new hands-free-handle avoids the risk of infection by reducing contact with door handles, providing a germ free option when accessing areas with pull doors.

Luke Parker, director of Acres Engineering, said: “Since the crisis began, we have been adapting our production line to ensure we have the capacity to manufacture essential products that will support both manufacturers and key workers.

“The Footle is a solution that will really help our neighbours here in Melbourne – for whom we will be providing Footles for free – and across the country for a small charge.

“Strangely enough, there was a similar story emerging recently of a tech company over in Australia repurposing wall-brackets to use as a foot handle and would you believe it, they were based in Melbourne, Victoria. It just goes to show that great minds think alike, whatever the distance between us.”

Acres has already installed the first Footle in Melbourne’s Spa shop and Melbourne Art Festival Pop-up shop on Derby Road and will be launching a new arm-operated handle in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Philip Watts Design has launched its own version of a hands-free hand for doors.

The Shoe Pull

The Shoe Pull costs £36, with 20% of profits being donated to the NHS during the pandemic.
Designer Philip Watts said: “We find ourselves in an uncertain time, with a lot of businesses affected by the current pandemic.

“So, I asked myself what can we do in this situation? The first thing that can help is for us all to not touch door handles and transfer germs, so I designed the Shoe Pull. A ‘societally safe’ design, this innovative product is a human approach to a technical solution.

“It really is very easy to use, you literally just pull the door back, and the shoe print is a visual queue to use your foot, and all customers need to do is screw it in.

“This would be a great solution that can be used across a variety of applications, including hospitals, restaurant and pub toilets, hotels, service stations and more.

“We have decided to raise money for the NHS through this product, with 20% of all profit to be contributed towards the frontline staff as they really are heroes and we want to do all we can to support them.”


Elliot Saxton

Locked in with… Elliot Saxton, managing director, Essential Projects

Who are you locked-in with?
Anna, my girlfriend who is a doctor of microbiology at the QMC. She is dividing her time between lab and hospital wards whilst I’m safely locked in at home. Oh, and my crazy dog, Rufus, a Labrador retriever. He’s now coming up to two years old, and getting big and boisterous,

How has the lockdown and working from home been for you so far?
I’m getting lots of work and household jobs done, and the garden is looking great.

What has been the best thing about staying in?
I’ve bought a piano and have rekindled a childhood hobby of reading music and playing my favourite tunes. I’m also sampling some wines from around the world. I did an essentials shop in anticipation of lockdown and decided to stock up on brands and varieties of wine that I have not tried before to make my evening tipple more fun. It’s a shame the food and wine pairing involves having to do my own cooking though.

And what have you missed the most?
Two things really. I had a skiing holiday booked to Banff in Canada that I was really looking forward. This trip seems ill fated as I had to miss out last year as I damaged my knee! I’m also missing going for rides on my motorbike. I use it to commute to work, but as that’s now home I can’t really get out as its not essential travel!

What previously essential thing have you realised is not actually essential?
Got to be careful what I say here, being as my two businesses are called Essential Fabrications & Essential Projects… both of which are obviously essential!  Seriously though, when you have close family working as part of the front line in the NHS, you very quickly appreciate health is the one and only essential to wish for.

What are the changes you’ve made that you plan on continuing when restrictions are lifted?
I’ll definitely continue to play the piano, and I think I will try to use technology more to keep in touch with people in order to reduce travel time and do my bit for the environment.

Have you made progress on any of your bucket list items?
Well, skiing in Banff was my big bucket list item, so no!

What is the first thing you will do when isolation ends?
I am going to go to my favourite restaurant and treat Anna and myself to an exquisite meal that we have not had to cook, and a bottle of their best wine!

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