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22 January 2021

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2020 – A year in review

As we close out another year at UK Connect and wish ourselves a Happy 8th Birthday, Managing Director, PJ Farr, takes time to reflect and share some of the highlights and challenges of 2020 and offer a little insight into what is still to come from UK Connect. There are big plans for 2021 that will benefit colleagues, customers and the communities that we work within.

2020 a year in review

Wow, what a year it has been! And I make no apologies for a long ‘2020 year in review’. 

UK Connect are 8 years old and in the last year, our business has changed beyond all recognition.  We have witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly, and every time we thought it couldn’t get any worse, you guessed it - it did.  

The true effects of Covid19

However, throughout all of this, we have also seen some incredible moments, from businesses having to adopt digital best practices, to unforgettable moments of humanity, kindness, support and understanding from our friends, families, colleagues and even strangers. 

In the early part of the year, Covid-19 was coined ‘the second blitz’ and whilst I’m not sure I entirely agree, I do wholeheartedly believe that just like in wartime, we saw innovation accelerate like never before. This was also seen within UK Connect; and just keeping up with all the new ideas has been a challenge in itself! 

We have seen more innovation and change in the last 12 months than in the last  8 years combined!
PJ Farr

PJ Farr

Managing Director

UK Connect

As an IT & Communications business, we were well versed in remote working and security processes to ensure that the business can operate and share regardless of location. We understand the importance of secure networks and ensuring all our teams are comfortable and confident working remotely by taking advantage of software such as MS Teams. Our people policy needed to adapt quicker, recognising the new stresses people were facing. 

We had prepared for the “lockdown” before it was confirmed and had managed to update a company-wide stay at home policy just before the first lockdown was announced in March. Whilst we all wanted more time to prepare, we definitely benefited from this time ahead of the lockdown being announced, and we were able to make some simple changes to ensure our customers could still be looked after and remain our focus.

wfh selfies stay. home stay safe stay connected

commitment to putting our people first 

From day one, my wife Zoey and I witnessed, as you all did, the uncertainty that was about to unfold for many UK businesses. We did not want any uncertainty to affect our business but, by the very nature,  this proved very hard to predict. So we focussed on what we could control. From the very first day of lockdown we committed to the team that we would not make any member of staff redundant due to the pandemic or furlough our people. Of course, this was a risk as we did not fully appreciate the scale at the time, but this was a personal guarantee we made and something that at the very least helped to relieve pressure on our staff and their families. 

The response to this policy was truly humbling and being able to remove the stress and associated pressure that people naturally felt was invaluable. As a team we are now more committed and truly feel like UK Connect is not just a business and a place to come to work, but it’s somewhere we can really make a difference. This act really showcased how much we value everyone within the business. 

We have always had a people first policy. (It’s the second slide of our Onboarding Academy  that every new team member goes through), but this act really proved it to everyone and ensured it is not just lip service in a company credentials presentation. 

A moving ‘People Policy’ that remains fluid

A lot of my approach to managing teams and people comes from my Army days and the ‘leaders eat last’ concept. Covid-19 certainly put our people policy to test. Each and every person had their own challenges to overcome, and we had to adapt to support our staff. 

Some staff had to self-isolate, including our field technicians, parents needed to be able to look after their children, and some staff cared for dependents.  

Above all else, I asked myself a question each time a member of the team would approach me with a challenge. “Is this situation you’re in affecting your wellbeing?” if the answer was yes, then we allowed for flexibility. But this ad-hoc flexibility became unsustainable and having to be continuously contacted to make allowances was not going to work. 

Our people policy had to get radical and quickly. Integrity is a core value at UK Connect, and with that, comes trust. So overnight, we changed our ways, providing: 

  • Greater flexibility: We cancelled working hours - staff could work when they wanted to, and this flexibility meant they could care for loved ones or take a break as and when it was required. 
  • Improved staff support and assistance: We improved our staff benefits plan and launched an Employee Assistance Programme offering round the clock counselling or advice on a confidential basis. 
  • Regular communications and check ins: Every day at 11am we held a company-wide Teams meeting to check in with all staff and update each other. 
  • Creative socialising!: We launched our own virtual pub and café  - the café supported teams in working hours with one hour on a Wednesday to have a laugh, play games, have a good moan, build Lego from kits we sent out to everyone’s homes. We even had a virtual campfire and sent the whole team Smores’ kits. The pub on a Friday night was aimed at our many staff who lived on their own, this open all night event typically ended up boozy but meant people had an ear to listen and time to relax with friends. 

Between all of the business efficiency, I was immensely proud of the selfless acts our staff took, making sure to contact each other and offer support as needed. The actions of the business and our people has certainly made UK Connect feel more than ever like a family, and our culture has made a significant shift in this direction. 

Twelve months on this now just feels like the norm, and I have been surprised at how well we have adopted to remote working and how we have become much more efficient with our time. A lot of this has been thanks to some of the technology we have had to embrace, such as Microsoft Teams. 

UK Connect socials

Digital team building to build team culture: virtual campfire, virtual secret Santa and virtual Christmas party with a live magician and cocktail making class.

In challenging times you really get an understanding of how your customers view you and your services

Our customers have been amazing.95 % of all our business comes from the construction sector, so when the lockdown was announced, we did have some fear. But our customers have proven just as resilient. We have built some very long term relationships with our customers, and I am forever thankful that our customers trust and value our services and our commitment to get and keep them connected. 

During the pandemic, we have also made new friends and found new customers. One in particular was Landmarc who are the FM provider for all Ministry of Defence sites across the UK.  

Many of these sites had been turned into Covid quarantine locations to provide space for soldiers about to deploy around the world. Welfare was a top priority for the Army, and the ability to communicate with loved ones whilst on operations was a priority. This is something incredibly close to my heart as an ex-serviceman. 

They needed a fast, secure and reliable Wi-Fi solution that could support over 500 users per site with only a few days notice. Our team did not let them down, and to date, we now support many camps across the UK providing this much-needed service all accelerated due to the impact of Coronavirus. 

Nicole & Luke, Engineers

Landmarc Project: Halton Training Camp

Working closer with and for, our suppliers and becoming Elite 

Extending past our customers, we also cemented our relationships with our suppliers and during the pandemic took some unexpected available time to train our technical teams further. 

key partner of UK Connect isCradlepoint Ericsson, the number 1 global leaders for cellular routers. We are immensely proud to be only one of five Elite partners and as we move into 2021, we are the most qualified CradlepointEricsson business in the UK. This will become an essential play for us as we move to 5G and CradlepointEricsson launch the first commercial 5G solutions to the market.  

We also leveraged the power of Ruckus Wi-Fi becoming an Elite partner and deploying their next-generation Wi-Fi access points across the UK. As we go into 2021, we will continue to deploy the power of Ruckus and combine the 5G network capability we have with the Ruckus IoT platform to help transform our customer’s businesses and capabilities. 

Elite partners for Cradlepoint and Ruckus.

Growing through a pandemic 

There wasn’t a lack of new staff in 2020 and in fact, we have almost doubled in size going from 24 to 40 in just a few months. 

Many of the new starters recognised our people first approach, and I will always recognise that I see my job as looking after colleagues, who in turn look after customers, which in turn delivers success. I believe this approach has also helped us find unique talents from across the UK that have further helped accelerate our business. 

Somehow, we managed to open two new offices, no small feat during a lockdown and a lot of thanks needs to go to Kate Hurst, my EA and Office Manager, for working very hard on this project. We are now open in Farnborough and Glasgow and both of these locations give us a strategic edge and allow us to be closer to our customers as well as offer more solutions and services. 

In 2020 we welcomed lots of new faces!

So what’s next for UK Connect in 2021? 

With new staff, offices closer to customers, new solutions and a totally committed group of professionals across the business, I am very excited to see what 2021 brings. The practices we have brought in over 2020 will mostly stay in place and will have a positive impact, but our new offices and some killer partnerships will really launch UK Connect to new heights. More on our solutions will be announced in the new year, but for now, I can just say - watch this space.  

But don’t worry, we are still very much focussed on the construction industry but with I.T and Comms now at an all-time high in terms of demand.

One final thought 

Now is of course the right place to say a personal thank you to our customers and our teams. One thing has become clearer than ever to me this year, and that is that we have all been able to appreciate the smaller things and supporting each other has benefited so many.  

As many will know, UK Connect is committed to supporting local and national charities. We give away between 5-10% of profits each year to help good causes, as well as giving our staff  5 paid days a year to support charities they personally care about. This year we were also proud to partner with CMPP to further support our local communities.  

Still, we want to take this even further, and I’m excited to announce that in 2021 UK Connect will launch its own charitable foundation that will directly link the money our customers spend with us to supporting children in STEM subjects and raising the ambitions of children in some of the most deprived parts of the UK.  

That’s it from me for another year, thanks again, be kind and we can’t wait to see you all at some point in 2021! 

UK Connect has a role for you

UK Connect are the leading providers of communication solutions to the construction industry. We are always on the lookput for the best UK talent to join our team. Please visit our careers page for more information. 

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“Working with UK Connect has been a smooth and easy process. The team has been fantastic by going above and beyond, getting our broadband installed for us within extremely tight deadlines and ensuring the client relationship is done in an efficient manner. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the UK Connect team, as I find they are highly reliable and have good attention to detail and carry out the job to an exceptional standard.

Jonny Leivesley

Redrow Homes

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