The challenges and opportunities of growing a team during these strange times
2020 was a year like no other, including for the team at Aquarius. We learned how to work from home and adapt to seeing our colleagues and clients on our screen. Members of the team have had to juggle the roles of worker and parent/carer or living alone during the lockdown while continuing to deliver excellent, meaningful and impactful work that supports decision-making at national, international, and local/regional levels.
As Managing Director of Aquarius, I am extremely proud of what the team has achieved individually and collectively during such extraordinary and difficult times. They have continued to develop professionally, learned a wide range of new skills and competencies, and delivered outstanding work for our clients. Everyone has been so team-spirited: still bringing a smile and encouragement to others on the team and being able to enjoy our moments of (virtual) personal connection that we have worked hard to foster. It brings me joy to see people build their confidence and competence, and push themselves outside their comfort zone, even when physically isolated from each other.
We have been extremely fortunate as a company to grow during 2020. After many projects were paused in the Spring due to the first lockdown and furlough of several clients, the summer, autumn and winter have brought growth. Many new projects were commissioned, grants awarded for exciting UK and European collaborative research projects, and new clients decided to work with us. The scale and impact of our projects has also grown this year and there are even more compelling ways we can make a difference, locally and abroad. We are doing important work in 23 countries so far this year, an increase from primarily European projects last year. The importance of demonstrating robust evidence for health and healthcare in making policy decisions is more important now than ever and is one of the positive impacts of COVID-19 in our sector.
As companies and organisations see the urgent need for evidence, we have been able to hire amazing thinkers and problem solvers to expand what we do. My husband, Rupert, has joined Aquarius as a Director in February 2020 to support developing Aquarius and bringing a vast amount of expertise in Market Research and strategic consultancy. At the start of 2020 ‘lockdown’, we were five people; now the team has grown to 18 with additional new hires starting in February and more planned for the rest of the year. Hiring and onboarding people remotely has been a challenge for the management team, and we’ve learned how to do it successfully over the last year. Remote work has been extra-challenging for our new starters this past year too. Nonetheless, every single one is flourishing. They tell us how happy they are in their roles and that they are looking forward to great careers at Aquarius. The processes we’ve developed mean people can join if they are based in London, Sheffield or France, and have the same experience of learning how we do things at Aquarius.
Alongside the challenges of COVID-19, changes have come with Brexit. The full impact of Brexit to businesses such as ours is yet unknown, and we anticipate there may be challenges ahead particularly with our clients based in Europe. However, one silver lining is that the immigration rules have changed to make it easier to hire skilled workers from outside the UK in our sector. We gained our sponsor licence in early January, meaning we can now more easily hire talented people from abroad. This opens up opportunities for Aquarius, as we look to expand the team further and attract a diverse workforce.
Now more than ever, we understand the importance of supporting our people within the team, to continually challenge them to learn and develop, whilst making sure that we are flexible and understanding of personal commitments. We are extremely proud that our team has worked so hard to connect and to remain happy and fulfilled in their work. We allow for flexible working when needed, remote working as our office remains closed, and have adopted new ways of offering team social events including ‘TBF’ (you have to be a team member to know what that is!), Thursday Funday and picnics when meeting outdoors is permissible.
New developments in 2021
- Reopening our office in King’s Cross for a hybrid office/home working model
- Collaborating in new and traditional ways (oh for a simple whiteboard!)
- Continuing to work closely with our new and existing clients including some large multinational projects in infectious and long-term diseases
- Developing our existing team and bringing on new staff
- Striving to achieve our vision of transforming health, for everyone
We are actively recruiting permanent staff (full and part-time) with immediate openings at all levels – particularly senior staff. This includes, but is not limited to, people with a background in health economics, data analytics/statistics and epidemiology/public health. We want people who align with the Aquarius values, and who are passionate about making a difference. If you are interested, please apply via our webpage or contact us for an informal discussion. We are also looking to increase our pool of expert advisers and contractors, so get in touch if you would like to know more about working with Aquarius in this capacity.
There will inevitably continue to be challenges ahead this year as we navigate COVID-19, Brexit and whatever else happens, but I’m thrilled to be going on the journey with our amazing team.