At Mitie we joined many others in celebrating the fourth of July. However, rather than US independence, for us the day was about saying ‘thank you’.
That’s because the fourth of July 2021 was marked as the UK’s first ‘Thank You Day’, an opportunity for us all to recognise, and, as the name says, thank, the thousands of key workers who have worked tirelessly to help keep people safe and the UK running throughout the pandemic.
Since the Covid pandemic began in early 2020, we have all seen the flood of support in the news and on social media for the work of our nation’s doctors, nurses and teachers.
It’s fair to say that most of us are very familiar with their hard work and dedication to helping get our country through this crisis. However, there are many more ‘hidden heroes’ – from caterers to cleaning assistants, and porters, through to engineers and security officers – who have also done so much, often behind the scenes, to support the nation during these unprecedented times.
For example, Mitie’s thousands of frontline colleagues have played a key role in helping feed students, children, as well as NHS staff and patients, to name but a few.
Indeed, in the past year, our public sector catering colleagues prepared and served over five million meals for NHS patients and staff, school and university students across the UK. And, with many pupils spending most of 2020 studying from home, our colleagues also stepped-up at short notice to ensure children who receive free school meals continued to get nutritious and healthy meals at home.
In addition, as the infection rate increased at the start of the pandemic and the UK’s field hospitals were set-up in cities such as Cardiff, London and Manchester, many of our catering colleagues answered the call to put themselves on the frontline to help keep patients and NHS staff fed and watered.
Indeed, in the first week alone, our colleagues at NHS Dragon’s Heart Hospital in Cardiff served over 30,000 bottles of water and 145 litres of milk as well as more than 100 kg of hash browns and 22 kgs of breakfast cereal to staff on site.
What many people may not realise however, is that as well as focusing on supporting the UK’s Covid efforts, public sector catering teams have also been making strides in helping to reduce their environmental impact too.
For example, last year our team at The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust made changes that have seen the number of single-use plastic items on site fall from around 1.8m a year to just 300,000. In the midst of the pandemic, the catering team went all-out to switch to compostable food containers, cups and cutlery, totally removing their plastic alternatives.
With many people concerned that Covid safety procedures will have an impact on our planet and increase the amount of single-use plastic we all use, the Mitie team at Dudley has shown that we can all play a role in minimising this.
And, of course, our catering colleagues are part of a wider team supporting these essential services. From cleaning and maintaining hospitals and schools through to setting-up test centres and the UK’s Covid field hospitals, these frontline heroes have all played a vital role in keeping critical infrastructure running.
For example, our healthcare cleaning colleagues completed more than 57,000 hospital discharge cleans and 32,000 Covid cleans in NHS Trusts across Britain to help ensure that the health service could cope with the increased demand.
We’re incredibly proud of how all of our 65,000 frontline colleagues at Mitie have stepped-up to the challenges the pandemic created. So, as a thank you, last year we gave all Mitie frontline employees who had been working during Covid an extra day of holiday, so that they could take some well-deserved time to rest. We have also rolled-out a number of industry-leading benefits, such as life assurance and access to a virtual GP, to give our colleagues extra peace of mind during these challenging times.
We owe much to frontline employees so, as the vaccine roll-out progresses and life goes back to ‘normal’, it’s important that we continue to recognise how much these heroes working in catering, cleaning and security, to name a few examples, do for us all.
With this in mind, I want to invite everyone to join me in thanking these hidden heroes, not just on one day a year - the fourth of July - but every day.
Although we may not always see the work they do, they have kept us safe and for that I know I will always be thankful.