Four weeks ago FUTURE Designs held a conference at the start of lockdown to gauge the immediate reaction and practical steps that our market was taking, in two of our key markets – the UK and Middle East.
It felt then, that the construction sector (which is responsible for a whopping 6% of UK economic output) had been left without a clear directive from the government in the UK and the immediate response was a complete lockdown on the majority of sites.
Fast forward a month and we gathered another esteemed group around the virtual table to update on experiences so far, it turns out that a lot can change in four weeks…
There was no doubt that any initial novelty factor hopes for a quick way out were long gone. The reality of having to live, certainly for the medium term, with a level of restrictions is now sinking in for all of us but alongside that sits a healthy dose of resilience and innovation, along with a close examination of the balance sheet and cash flow.
It seems that there was far less ambiguity in Scotland, with the Scottish Assembly being very clear that only the essential sites (healthcare) should remain operating and even those sites now working on longer shift patterns with deep cleaning.
In the Middles East we are reminded of different perspectives, in between a potential war between Saudi and Yemen, a harsh climate and fluctuation in oil prices, COVID -19 is another challenge to deal with. The turbulent nature of the market means that those that operate within it are very used to dealing with the ebbs and flows and adapting at short notice.
In the UK, common sense has begun to prevail with sites slowly opening up, following strict hygiene and social distancing rules, whilst they will be progressing at a slower rate, at least they are advancing.
The advancement of tech has certainly helped the industry to the new strange world of remote working, with witnessing of sites able to happen by video conferencing and communicating with employees via Teams, Zoom and a whole other array of VC methods. Humans are highly intelligent beings which enables us to be very good at getting through the challenges that are presented to us, the downside of this is that we are also very sociable so the lack of face to face contact and social interaction is undoubtedly a key challenge.
At this moment in time people are still busy and it seems the peak of COVID-19 has passed but we are not out of the woods yet, not by a long way. The real challenge for business is in the pipeline, and whilst the Chancellor of the Exchequer has softened the blow, rather like the good fairy in Sleeping Beauty, he can’t completely stop the pain.
To end on a rather more positive note, there is still hope that the sudden decline will be matched by an equally swift recovery in the economy.
As C.S. Lewis said “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind” and it is important to keep the good stuff with us, for some that may be an increased level of home working, a greater respect of our social freedoms and above all an appreciation of the people who have kept the infrastructure of our society intact.
The forum was hosted by David Clements, Chief Executive, FUTURE Designs
Mark Russell, UK Specifications Sales Director, FUTURE Designs
Rennie Dalrymple, Managing Partner, bruceshaw
Ken Scott, Partner, CCDP
Mark Rumsey, Associate Director, FLATT
Russell Hunter, Principal, chapmanbdsp
Lee Curtis, Associate Director, MTT