Architect – A

Q1: What are the major challenges have you had to overcome during the beginning stages of this pandemic?
“Ensuring we have enough work to carry us through. Spent a lot of time talking to clients to understand their position and figure out cash flow over the coming months. Also trying to decipher govt advice – it’s not been so clear with regards construction.”

Q2: How sustainable is ‘working from home’ In the long term for your business? And do you think working from home can play a larger part of the day-to-day business after the recovery of the current situation?
“Working from home is fine for most of what we do. A lot of meetings being conducted over MS teams or Zoom. Not yet done any site visits but could see that happening through video without issue. Don’t foresee working from home as being what we do after this. Need a separation of home and work, also a place for clients to visit and also a space we can leave stuff out etc – drawings/ models etc”

Q3: Are government loans adequate to sustain staff employment and cashflow levels? What else do you feel the government can do to help?
“Govt schemes are adequate however the finances won’t actually come through for some time (they are claimed back after) so cash flow is still needed. Also, when furloughed, an employee cannot technically work, the irony is you need them to do the work to release fee..”.

Q4: Should this scenario play out for the long term, how will you fill your time? Expanding to online tutoring and mentoring for example?
“I don’t really teach. People will still be embarking upon designs, probably looking at this time to save money which they can add to their budget to do up their house. So long as the housing market is relatively ok, we should be fine.”

Q5: How do you feel the Industry will fair In the upcoming months.
“It’s hard to say. Everything changes by the day at the moment so it’s impossible to understand where we are going. For instance you won’t have had any of these questions 2/3 weeks ago. We are in unprecedented times.”

Q6: What are the positive outcomes you feel can rise out of an otherwise negative situation?
“I think people are more considerate of their wellbeing and health generally. Eating home cooked meals, taking to exercising at home, generally taking a pause from the craziness of capitalist London – surely that’s a good thing for our minds, maybe not our wealth.”

Q7: What Impact will the current situation have on your commissioning of photographic and video marketing?
“Erm, Well I suppose we aren’t getting this done at the moment. We usually wait for a few projects to be completed and photograph in a block.”

Q8: A clear beneficiary from this pandemic is the natural world, as global lockdowns have greatly reduced pollution levels and improved the environment. Does this encourage you to improve any aspects of your business’s environmental ethics moving forward?
“I think the benefit is momentary and studies already show that pollution levels are rising again in China as everything starts again. I think we have to continue to look at how we reduce our impact and even suggest where possible alternatives to building (maybe alter/ reimagine rather than knock down and rebuild).”

Q9: Is there any other points you feel are Important to mention In relation to your line of work and this pandemic?
“Not that I can think of.”

Architect – B

Q1: What are the major challenges have you had to overcome during the beginning stages of this pandemic?
“A whole office of 80 went from collective studio based working to working from home over night. I believe that’s what they call ‘agile working!’ This obviously came with it a whole host of IT issues given the complexity and size of some of the models we work with. As ever communication is key and regularly checking in with your team is important, there are plenty of great apps that allow you to do this.“

Q2: How sustainable is ‘working from home’ In the long term for your business? And do you think working from home can play a larger part of the day-to-day business after the recovery of the current situation?
“We can function like this for the time being based on the strong team bonds that we have previously cultured in the studio environment. I do think there is something to be said for having a group of people in one room working toward a collective aim that is hard to replicate when you are physically removed from one another. However, after things settle down I can see our practice moving toward a mix of working from home and studio time. At the end of the day, it comes down to choice. Covid-19 has certainly sped this change up.”

Q3: Are government loans adequate to sustain staff employment and cashflow levels? What else do you feel the government can do to help? 
“Construction is a long term business and I believe a lot of clients are seeing beyond the lockdown. We are lucky and currently, our work hasn’t been affected however I do foresee trouble in the future when the effects of a recession are felt. I can’t talk from the experience as a business owner but it is reassuring to know the support is there if it is needed.”

Q4: Should this scenario play out for the long term, how will you fill your time? Expanding to online tutoring and mentoring for example
“If I’m honest I am busier than ever with my day job and two exciting private jobs coming my way. I’m also in the process of designing two record sleeves, hosting 2 radio shows and writing my own music. I’ll hopefully develop my time management skills.“


Q5: How do you feel the Industry will fair In the upcoming months.
“As I mentioned previously I think the industry will feel it in the future as sites shut down and a wave of effects are felt from the economic slowdown. Construction is usually the first to go in an economic downturn.”


Q6: What are the positive outcomes you feel can rise out of an otherwise negative situation? 
“There’s something quite relaxing about knowing you don’t have to be anywhere or that you are missing out. I think it has given people time to slow down, reconnect and re-evaluate their relationship to others and themselves. I believe a lot of creativity and new ways of thinking will come out of this. It’s a blank canvas, a reset, the likes of which we have never seen. Hopefully, we will start to think more locally, reduce unneeded travel, buy food from local producers and products from local makers This article by Dezeen sums it up much more succinctly than I could. Then there are the environmental benefits of grounding flights, reducing road travel and consumption. The NASA satellite imagery capturing the change in air quality above china is very telling.”

Q7: What Impact will the current situation have on your commissioning of photographic and video marketing?
“It will be very difficult to commission someone to take images during the lockdown but hopefully when we come out the other side of this there will be a backlog of new work that will need this.”

Q8: A clear beneficiary from this pandemic is the natural world, as global lockdowns have greatly reduced pollution levels and improved the environment. Does this encourage you to improve any aspects of your business’s environmental ethics moving forward?
“Prior to Covid-19 we have had a limit on air travel, we have also allowed 2 days extra holiday if you decide to take the train on your trip. We are also the first architectural practice to use ‘Science-based targets’ to reduce our carbon impact.  More info here.”

Q9: Is there any other points you feel are Important to mention In relation to your line of work and this pandemic?
“This isn’t specific to Architecture but I believe there is opportunity amongst all of this madness!”

Architect – C

Q1: What are the major challenges have you had to overcome during the beginning stages of this pandemic?
“We initiated a work from home scheme ahead of the government guidelines, principally because we could see that it was an inevitability and wanted to work through all of the teething problems early.  Despite this, we still face a number of fundamental challenges with a dispersed team, particularly on larger projects where large files and complex shared models are in use.  Within one week of working from home, we saw 80-90% of our work go on hold, initially due to the economic pressures of COVID-19 on the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors, and latterly due to building sites being closed down.  The challenges of dealing with major employment and HR decisions, deciphering government guidelines, rules and support and implementing significant structural changes to the business all within a very compressed timeframe was extremely challenging, especially given that the senior team were unable to meet face to face to thrash out some of the more complex matters.  Following the closure of the schools, individuals have faced additional pressures with home-schooling and a number of team members have moved to flexible work patterns to accommodate this.” 

Q2: How sustainable is ‘working from home’ In the long term for your business? And do you think working from home can play a larger part of the day-to-day business after the recovery of the current situation?
“We’ll be able to work from home for a while, but there is an obvious loss of productivity.  Our practice and our work is collaborative by nature and requires good, clear communication, where the nuance is important.  There are excellent tools available and we’re working to understand how we can best use these to minimise the space between individuals and groups.” 

Q3: Are government loans adequate to sustain staff employment and cashflow levels? What else do you feel the government can do to help? 
“The government support has been a big help, and without it we would have been looking at significant redundancies.  I don’t think things will be anywhere close to normal in three months so I think its inevitable that this support will need to be extended, or else they will have only served to delay the inevitable.” 

Q4: Should this scenario playout for the long term, how will you fill your time? Expanding to online tutoring and mentoring for example?
“We’re working to keep a small number of people on the team who will be fully occupied.  For those who are furloughed, there has been a lot of discussion around training and professional development, but also personal growth around health, wellbeing and the home.  Ideally these people wouldn’t lose contact with the practice over this time, and lots of them want to continue to contribute in some non-commercial ways, but we’re still working to understand what is and isn’t permissible under the furlough rules.” 

Q5: How do you feel the Industry will fair In the upcoming months.
“While it hopefully won’t last as long, I think we should expect a deeper recession than 2008, possibly much deeper and I would expect that the lock down may continue into the early summer which would prevent most new opportunities for work from emerging until later in the year.  There’s always hope that at the end we may see an explosion of culture, travel and productivity, but for this to happen I think we would need something as clear as a vaccine being available to all.” 

Q6: What are the positive outcomes you feel can rise out of an otherwise negative situation? 
“Better work-life balance, time to re-focus on what’s important in life and work, less time in cars, more time with immediate family, an appreciation of those working in basic services and the nhs, a slow down of global pollution.” 

Q7: What Impact will the current situation have on your commissioning of photographic and video marketing? 
“It’s unlikely that we will be commissioning any video or photography until at least the lock down is lifted, but even then, projects which were due to be completed later this year now won’t realistically be complete until the year after.  We are, however, conscious that marketing and communication is extremely important at times like this.  We don’t want to fall off the face of the planet.” 

Q8: A clear beneficiary from this pandemic is the natural world, as global lockdowns have greatly reduced pollution levels and improved the environment. Does this encourage you to improve any aspects of your business’s environmental ethics moving forward? 
“No more so that we were already seeking to.” 

Q9: Is there any other points you feel are Important to mention In relation to your line of work and this pandemic?
“The economy will eventually recover, and the work will come back, but I hope and expect that everything won’t go back to business as usual.  The situation has offered a rare opportunity to implement experiments in how people live and work and how countries are run and I think understanding and implementing the lessons learnt is where a lot of the interesting work will be in the coming years.  Governments have shown that the scale of intervention required to tackle the most significant problem we face, climate change, is actually possible outside of wartime.  I hope that this helps us on that journey rather than hinders us.” 

Interior Designer – A

Q1: What are the major challenges have you had to overcome during the beginning stages of this pandemic?
“Clearly, like everyone, the initial uncertainty was hugely problematic – what work was deemed possible to continue with; what was best practice for the health of employees; what exactly was on the horizon and how it would affect business. As the situation evolved and government advice firmed up there was a degree more certainty… but clearly challenges became even greater. How viable is working from home in a highly client-orientated service industry; lack of access to design libraries housed in an inaccessible studio; the continuing question of how long a “lockdown” would go on for with consequent impact on employment, rent, rates, work in progress, estimated work and whether it would be accepted; client reactions to the pandemic and their impact on current and future business; supplier reactions to the pandemic and their impact on business.”

Q2: How sustainable is ‘working from home’ In the long term for your business? And do you think working from home can play a larger part of the day-to-day business after the recovery of the current situation?
“We already make use of a degree of remote working – but limited to management and marketing work. As a company we have become adept at virtual meetings and digital presentations because of the number of clients we have had over the years who live further afield. However, it is not an avenue I feel is sustainable in the long term. This industry deals in so many tangibles – the ability to touch, stroke, see at first hand materials and fabrics and the flexibility to jump in and out of an extensive design library during presentations and meetings is invaluable. I also believe that in all businesses there vital communications issues which are hugely dependent on face-to-face relationships – trust and clarity are much easier to develop in person. I have noted how much more byzantine correspondence by email can sometimes be regarding questions which would be clarified in minutes in a face-to-face meeting.”

Q3: Are government loans adequate to sustain staff employment and cashflow levels? What else do you feel the government can do to help?
“Loans are not always the answer – they can simply kick the can further down the road and result in financial difficulty in the near future compounding a period of reduced sales. When companies are faced with the “tap being turned off” in a single day through no fault of their own and at the Governments behest there should be a duty of the Government to provide sustainable, low cost solutions. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is one such solution and there are grants available at the local level. However, it will not be enough for many companies and the speed of funnelling money through to those who need it is vital. The banks appear to being slower to respond to the need for financial assistance than they were to ask for it themselves in 2008. Perhaps cancellation (rather than deferment) of VAT and PAYE for a period would be helpful – especially when businesses are able to return to “normal”. That will be a difficult period for those businesses that survive – the last thing you need when you have just about managed to hold your breath under water for an age is to resurface and be presented with a large concrete block…”

Q4: Should this scenario playout for the long term, how will you fill your time? Expanding to online tutoring and mentoring for example?
“It is certainly advisable to think outside the box as to how your company may be able to diversify and make an offer that might be attractive and not reliant on traditional methods of delivery. However, if this is a long-term situation it will definitely wreak economic havoc – in a landscape of high unemployment, high inflation and high taxes those offering high-value services which are reliant on discretionary spend will have to be very imaginative in order to thrive. For example the more design is forced into “online retail” as a possible solution, the more it becomes simply about product and therefore price becomes paramountl in what will be a competitive market – the trick will be working out how to still provide the “added value” of design expertise in a new environment.”


Q5: How do you feel the Industry will fair In the upcoming months.
“As is apparent from the daily news, all industries are suffering hugely and interiors / architecture will not be immune. It is largely a discretionary spend and many potential clients will be hoarding their finances anxious about their own futures. Many will also be anxious about the inevitable dislocations in supply chains and holding off signing up to work that they genuinely anticipate doing on the basis that they believe in all good faith that broken links further down the supply chain will prevent their jobs being completed. If it is genuinely a matter of months rather than weeks many companies in the industry will struggle.

Q6: What are the positive outcomes you feel can rise out of an otherwise negative situation?
“I am not sure that I can see a positive outcome – the best solution is for as rapid a return to “normality” as possible.”

Q7: What Impact will the current situation have on your commissioning of photographic and video marketing?
“Clearly no commissioning can take place in the current situation. Should a viable exit to lockdown be engineered so that everyone can get back to work then marketing will be even more important than ever. So we will definitely be in touch!”

Q8: A clear beneficiary from this pandemic is the natural world, as global lockdowns have greatly reduced pollution levels and improved the environment. Does this encourage you to improve any aspects of your business’s environmental ethics moving forward?
“On the contrary, I think that the current situation will focus people’s minds on the basics with much re-prioritising. Overall we have benefitted from many years of unprecedented growth, innovation and progress economically, health-wise etc. which has allowed people to re-calibrate their concerns towards larger issues such the environment or more political issues. It may be that instead we will realise how much we have taken this unprecedented period of peace and prosperity for granted. I am not sure that improving pollution will be too lauded in general if the price turns out to be a hugely reduced economy, closed down travel and mass unemployment.”

Q9: Is there any other points you feel are Important to mention In relation to your line of work and this pandemic?
“Clearly interior design is a luxury product and as such it appears of little relevance to many who are struggling with health and work in the current environment. However, like the vast number of such businesses interior design is a thread in the overall tapestry that is the UK economy: connecting thousands of manufacturers, suppliers, raw materials suppliers, workshops, weavers and mills, delivery companies, tradesmen, magazines, photographers, computer software suppliers – and the many thousands of people employed in each and every one of these both directly and indirectly. Each of those people in part rely on the industry for their livelihoods and the income that they then spend on mortgages, eating out, clothes, groceries; and the taxes that they pay to support healthcare, education etc. Everything is interconnected. I am not sure how well understood this is or  how much of an impact the effects of a lengthy lockdown will have – it is, after all, the success of these many thousands of businesses and individuals that pays for the health service that we are so keen to support. So it is vital that there is a clear and realistic exist strategy aimed at getting all businesses back to work. As they say, if you are a milliner, making hats is essential work!

Interior Designer – B

Q1: What are the major challenges have you had to overcome during the beginning stages of this pandemic?
“Keeping steady leadership, keeping the team calm while waiting on tenterhooks waiting for government advice. Literally rewriting operations as news came in at 5pm each day was stressful. Navigating a lot of grey advice was difficult. As a non-essential retailer, we closed our showroom, studio and warehouse before it was mandated because of concern over safety. It felt like the right decision for social responsibility but it’s also hard to pull the plug when businesses around you are continuing as normal and you are still unclear on the available support. Lock down came as a relief.

The logistics of uprooting our office wasn’t too much of an issue. We invested in upgrading our tech a year ago to facilitate more flexible working within the studio environment. This allowed the design team to work from home straight away. I know many companies had to suddenly buy laptops etc. If this had happened with our set up as it was it would have been a nightmare. But in terms of normal communications and day to day operations, working from home is not the norm for us and we are very heavy on meetings / face to face communication. That has taken some getting used to.”

Q2: How sustainable is ‘working from home’ In the long term for your business? And do you think working from home can play a larger part of the day-to-day business after the recovery of the current situation?
“Definitely, But for some more than others. The retail and logistics side have to be location based, but the design team have flex. Although some have previously noted they like the routine of being at the studio and like to keep it separate to their home life.

We are a very sociable office, which is amazing, but sometimes it can hinder productivity. I think there may be less focus on attendance being a marker of success and more focus on what we actually produce at the end of a day. Personally, I feel the ‘noise’ of just getting in to the office can cloud some of my best thinking / problem solving time. I’ve always known sitting at my desk in an open plan office restricts my creativity.

We haven’t really used video calls for client meetings as instant reaction is very important to what we do, but I think this may change as people become more normalised to video as a method of communication. This could help us progress projects more quickly as coordinating meetings can be tricky with client schedules.”

Q3: Are government loans adequate to sustain staff employment and cashflow levels? What else do you feel the government can do to help? 
“I think a lot of people, ourselves included, were naive to the government assistance. Hearing 80% of wages are covered was a relief, but unfortunately furloughing has strangled some of our business development and marketing functions for the short term. As a small business these activities are not enough to keep staff going full time. Guaranteeing wages has been prioritised. We are in a strong position, Hopefully we can pick up on this very soon, with limited impact. We’ve also discovered the small print of The business interruption loans.. it’s not available to all.”

Q4: Should this scenario playout for the long term, how will you fill your time? Expanding to online tutoring and mentoring for example?
“Our current business model relies on being able to supply products. Many of
Our suppliers make to order, rather than hold stock, so we are limited on that front until manufacturers can safely go back to work. We can still design, which is 80% of our business, and have had new projects start, but we will need to rethink our services should this continue.”

Q5: How do you feel the Industry will fair In the upcoming months.
“I think it has the potential to do very well. No one should profiteer off a crisis, and no one should be putting people at unnecessary risk right now buying non-essential products from companies that are putting bottom line over their employees working conditions.

However, I think many people stopped prioritising their immediate surroundings. It’s often the thing that falls to the bottom of the list. After spending so long confined to your home, I think there will be a
New appreciation for good design. It’s more than just changing the colour of your scatter cushions, it’s actually making the best use of your space, and improves quality of life.”

Q6: What are the positive outcomes you feel can rise out of an otherwise negative situation? 
“I think it’s given everyone the opportunity to slow down and take a breath – re-evaluate what’s important.
For our industry, I think this will spur creativity and open a window for more U.K. based manufacture. It might finally be the push we need to put a stop to fast fashion.”

Q7: What Impact will the current situation have on your commissioning of photographic and video marketing? 
“There’s been more pressure on trying to get shoots done in the short-term so we have enough content to keep ourselves in view. We have always held portfolio photography in high regard – it’s key to our business. But if we can’t install projects, we don’t have anything to photograph for the time being.”

Q8: A clear beneficiary from this pandemic is the natural world, as global lockdowns have greatly reduced pollution levels and improved the environment. Does this encourage you to improve any aspects of your business’s environmental ethics moving forward? 
“It’s been on the agenda for a while. I think this will give it the push it needs to be put into practice.”

Q9: Is there any other points you feel are Important to mention In relation to your line of work and this pandemic?
“I think the considerations for design are going to change. There’s a good article on AD about how pandemics have influenced design. We think everyone in the west will want a butt hose now!”

Interior Designer – C

Q1: What are the major challenges have you had to overcome during the beginning stages of this pandemic?
“We’ve been isolated 2 weeks today. We had a client I had been working with who showed signs. Fortunately we had set up remote access but then work was suspended within days which makes perfect sense. No major problems.” 

Q2: How sustainable is ‘working from home’ In the long term for your business? And do you think working from home can play a larger part of the day-to-day business after the recovery of the current situation?

“A certain amount of work can be done from home, CAD drawing work, invoicing, research, but really you want to be in your studio surrounded with your library. No,working from home its not viable long term proposition far better working with a team bouncing ideas off each other. Also important for mental health to have that human contact.”

Q3: Are government loans adequate to sustain staff employment and cashflow levels? What else do you feel the government can do to help?
“Only time will tell, but so far so good.”

Q4: Should this scenario playout for the long term, how will you fill your time? Expanding to online tutoring and mentoring for example?
“Painting, sketching, gardening, it’s early days. It’s good to not be running at 200 miles an hour.” 

Q5: How do you feel the Industry will fair In the upcoming months.
“A reality check to everybody regardless of industry. I do think some companies are still being irresponsible, these companies I will avoid in the future. If your life hasn’t changed you are doing something wrong, being selfish and in doing so putting others at risk. It’s interior design, it can wait.”

Q6: What are the positive outcomes you feel can rise out of an otherwise negative situation? 
“Consideration for others, a realisation of how small the world is and how we all need to pull together not apart. “BREXIT” !!!”

Q7: What Impact will the current situation have on your commissioning of photographic and video marketing? 
“It will be put on hold.”

Q8: A clear beneficiary from this pandemic is the natural world, as global lockdowns have greatly reduced pollution levels and improved the environment. Does this encourage you to improve any aspects of your business’s environmental ethics moving forward? 
“It’s not always the answer. Countries like China have terrible human rights but we deal with them and are as guilty as their government in exploitation. We might just think more and if we do so, the environment might just improve.”

Q9: Is there any other points you feel are Important to mention In relation to your line of work and this pandemic?
“Yes sometimes we can take ourselves too seriously, now is not the time. We are a great Creative industry and look forward to taking up the creative challenge when these dark days are over.”