We have started back. How have the weeks leading up to this felt?
Seeing into the future? Would that be a useful skill to have? At times being able to predict the outcome of Covid-19 moving forward, in order to plan starting up again has felt impossible. In business, it is common practice to work a plan for the future.
Some companies plan years in advance, to set the strategies needed to budget, others may plan year by year. Most, like ourselves will use past experiences, cash flows and budgeting as the evidence to base this business plan and predict the best outcome. This however is new territory for everyone around-the world. Not just for business, but our day to day lives. Being able to keep ourselves and others safe from infection is key and most important in our minds. However can we plan strategies moving forward, when there are so many new challenges? It is interesting.
It is fortunate that we had a lot of beautiful projects already lined up before lockdown. Forecasts had predicted enough work through to the end of the year if they were all commissioned.
Thankfully they are still going to happen. This has meant Martin has been able to continue designing, working on some lovely rooms during lockdown. Interestingly, there have also been a few conversations with new clients, who, after living in one space and working from home, wanted change. They have decided that they wanted help in creating bespoke solutions and had found Chiselwood, whilst they had time to browse. We are looking forward to meeting up and getting them started. The workshop is full of projects already made and waiting to be installed. https://chiselwood.co.uk/projects/
Contact with our clients have been a very important part of this lockdown. Reassurance that we will get back as soon as possible has been key. As both Martin and Mel have been in the office daily, the communication has continued.
Our suppliers have also remained in contact. We have linked a large number on social media and they have been happy to do the same. As there were some amazing projects photographed before lockdown, we have been able to utilise and push them out both in magazines for Autumn features and social media. Is has been great to work with innovative and positive companies.
At the end of April we set about creating a new timeline for fitting, helpful in planning cash flow. As weeks have passed, our thoughts have also been on how to get the workshops running
again. We have had zoom meetings with the managers to work solutions to ensure social distancing can happen whilst manufacturing.
Martin and I continually walked around the work spaces checking and working things through, trying to think of every scenario that may happen. Adding things to the list and removing others that we realise will be impractical. Each day things change. We encouraged the team members to think about their working space and flag up anything that needed to be addressed. This becomes very helpful in writing up the risk management documents.
We took the plunge and decided after a long conversation with our team, to start back after the bank holiday, 26 May 2020.
For the first few days we decided to keep the showrooms closed. This gives us time to ensure our new systems are working, without putting others at risk. It would also give us additional office space for the managers. The reception area would also be closed to the public. The entrance will only be allowed for team members to access the building. The offices upstairs would only be for the design team and office ensuring social distancing. We will of course welcome clients by appointment and limited to 2 at a time. We are not a high street showroom, so most ring ahead anyway. PPE will be provided ensuring the safety of both client and team.
Starting back we are a bit nervous, however eager to support each other and make this work.
The workshops are now fully zoned enabling each person to work safely and separately. Cleansing stations are placed at each zone with personalised solutions for each team member. Daily temperatures are taken and staff know, each is responsible for the team in letting us know immediately if they feel unwell. No one wants to be shut down again.
Conversation and systems are discussed with clients to provide solutions to enable the site teams to work in isolation. This is harder as usually we will have several trades working alongside each other. From now on we work alone. We are all accepting that things will take a bit of juggling and be slower, however this is going to be the new normal for the time being.
Everyone is aware it will be very much a work In progress. In the longer terms, there may be further disruption. There were plans in place should Brexit cause delays in materials or supply i.e. appliances being unavailable. These are being considered again. We have planned our materials and supplies as best we can, having honest conversations with distributors. We hope the disruption to any purchases will not be too drastic to cause further delays to projects. This would only upset clients. Long term this could also have an impact on cash flow. Emergency measures of how we overcome these concerns are being discussed with managers, with the view that minimum impact for the client is key.
We have completed the first days back. Our team has been amazing. It has been lovely to see how supportive they have been not only for each other, but ourselves as well. They were so happy to be back and we were touched by their generous gifts.
They are working hard together and we feel more confident manufacturing can happen safely. The first project, fitted temporarily the week of lockdown, is being completed and the client is pleased to see their kitchen taking shape.
It is lovely to sit in the office as we did nine weeks ago, the day after we closed. Looking at the sun out of the design studio window, however this time, there is now the familiar hum of the machines and singing of a 1980s song, the name I canâ€™t quite remember! It feels good to have everyone back.
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