Living in the new normal

The way we live and the way we go about our work, day to day has slowly eroded the quality of life for many and undeniably had a negative impact on the environment. In our last news article we touched on what a post-lockdown world could be like if everyone takes the time now to consider where their priorities should lie both at a personal and at a professional level.

After much discussion between all of us this is how we have embraced the new normal. The biggest change for us has been the relocation of some of our staff as a result of social distancing measures. There were some teething issues to do with the UKs inability to balance upload and download speeds in rural areas but we soon had everyone adapting to a new way of working.

In the office we have made changes including staggered breaktimes, availability of PPE and become more aware of not gathering around the printers etc. For those that work from home there has been an improvement in the work/life balance and with the assistance of modern technology, it is possible to liaise between those who need to come into the office and those who can work from home to maintain what is essentially a normal working week. With clients based across the UK and overseas, we were already geared up for remote conferencing and real time on-screen CAD viewing to discuss projects so it is unlikely clients will note any difference.

We think it is important to talk about what we have done because providing guidance and support to our clients, is a large part of our work as product designers. If we can practice what we preach and show resilience as a business, offer sustainable alternatives, cost saving measures and a more beneficial way of working, we can encourage these businesses to look at their own work priorities. We hope this would inspire them to look at how they too can embrace the new normal.

What else can we learn about the new normal as product designers and how do we respond?

The designer and the client have a responsibility to be mindful of the end use of the products they collaborate to design. With many goods in shorter supply and retailers also in lockdown, many consumers have utilised their right to repair and shown great intuition to fix what they have. Unfortunately for many years the right to repair has not been something manufacturers have wanted to support and the opportunity to repair products is limited mostly by having no spare parts available. If there was a mindset to create products that are intuitive to fix this would help combat our ‘throw away society’.

Now is a great time to open discussions and champion this approach. We believe this is a crucial role for Product Designers and manufacturers to address on a global scale.

If you are about to embark on a new product development and would like more information about how you could benefit from our insight, please contact us today.

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Is there a better way?

Over the weekend a video clip was released on the BBC of a Cornwall-based artist, spending his lockdown time collecting plastic rubbish from his local beach. He had collected over 50 million pieces and his joy at doing so was evident. This is just one of many hundreds of positive stories featuring the lives of individuals and communities shared during the covid19 lockdown. Paradoxically what appears to be emerging from our time in a global quarantine is an awareness of nature and our environments and at the same time exposes the true cost of how the human race treats our planet and each other.

In Boris Johnson’s recent public address, his words resonated with a clear “carry on and get back to work” message. However, we question should we really be hurrying back to how life was before the coronavirus or actually using these unprecedented times to re-evaluate how we live and how we work and find a better way for both?

On home soil, with 20% of the UK workforce temporarily furloughed and another 45% remote working, school closures and the country essentially ‘shut down’ the undeniable ‘life pressures’ the modern day world has created have all but vanished. Many now find themselves with more time to appreciate time at home with their families and exercise in traffic-free streets. To rediscover nature in our surroundings and breathe in clearer air.

A number of employers and employees have realised, maybe for the first time, that remote and flexible working actually benefits both. That long distance commutes and business travel abroad take their toll on our free time and our planet. When faced with an inability to make these journeys, we have adapted to a new way of working, using remote technology and conferencing for the large part. There would be a strong case for investing in this type of infrastructure and implementing this into every business post-lockdown.

Maybe now is as good a time as any to ask ourselves to compare our lives 6 weeks ago to what they are now. What are we seeing? What positives can we take from this? How can we apply these to how we live and how we work going forward? Is there a better way? The good news is that being in lockdown has meant working families and both employers and employees have had the time to talk together which will lead to open discussions that will ultimately benefit all.
To be clear, the outcomes of the coronavirus pandemic won’t be positive for everybody. There will be many losses to life and to the business economy. But what it has done is provided us with the opportunity on a global scale to learn lessons and rewrite the rules of how we operate on a day to day basis both personally and professionally.

We can all create something great together if we take the time to stop and think about where our priorities lie.

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The Lockdown Lowdown – Part 3

Managing Director Chris Howsam shares his thoughts about the lockdown.

For many years I have maintained a fully functioning office at home complete with CAD and secure access to all our files and documents. I can’t remember when this was not the case as it has been driven by the needs of planning projects, dealing with admin and working with clients/suppliers in different time zones. Having video conferences at 3am to look at tooling in China or talking to clients in far flung places at 9pm is quite normal and part of the day to day challenge of delivering our product design services. The challenge of Coronavirus now means that a home office is crucial for many of us. In my case I am sharing my time between home and the office. Work that can be done at home is done there but work that needs to be hands on with parts must be done in the office. There are of course the usual items of post and parcels that need to be dealt with, many of them necessary to maintain the running of the business.

Within Sated Design we now have some staff working from home and some working in the office. By liaising between those who need to come into the office and those who can work at home we maintain a normal working week. Thank fully, the office space and workshops are large enough that we maintain social distancing. Unfortunately, we don’t have the same buzz in the office because of the reduction in conversation and bustle of people moving about it feels a little odd, almost like working on a weekend. Gadget and Gizmo (the office dogs) must think everyone is on holiday!

Everyone here has adopted to the new way of working without any drama and this set me thinking about what could happen once the lock down is over. I think there will be a need to redefine how many businesses operate. The changes imposed on us through Coronavirus and the lock down have added a different dynamic which will change the status quo.

Of course it will be impractical for some to work from home but there are many that could work in an office facility close to their home. The provision of more leased workspaces in residential areas and town centres created from vacant retail or office space would reduce travel costs and travel time for many. The concept of leased workspaces is not new because many business start-ups get off the ground in this way, but I see many people wanting to work nearer to home, especially after proving they can work remotely from a central office.

I believe there is something positive to be learned about how businesses are coping with lockdown and this could result in improvements to the work and life balance of many people. Do we go back to everything as it was or do we as employers and employees actively engage in discussion about what we have learnt about how we work and use it to define a better way?

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The Lockdown Lowdown – Part 2

These are very strange days indeed and like many workers I am bunkering down and experiencing the joys (and tribulations!) of working from home.

Some years ago I worked full time from home, so in a lot of ways going back to that style of working has been easy to pick up again. However, the biggest difference between then and now is that we’ve since had two kids, bringing with them much joy, happiness and a significant amount of chaos!

The main challenges facing our household when it comes to working from home during this lockdown revolve around space and time management. I needed a quiet place to set up my workstation. We have a desk in the living room, which would have been great except for the fact that it’s in a communal area and I wouldn’t get a moments peace with a pair of under-fives running around. In the end I set up a makeshift workstation in the main bedroom. It’s rather cramped and far from being the perfect solution, but at least I can close the door and concentrate properly on my work.

The other problem we have is scheduling our days so that both I and my partner can work on our respective jobs. For me as a product designer it’s relatively simple as I’m able to sit down and log on quite flexibly. My wife however is a yoga teacher and while her in-person studio classes have been cancelled, she continues to teach some lessons by livestreaming and posting pre-recorded sessions on-line. Her livestream classes are at a set time each week, so in order to have a peaceful environment in which to teach, I use our allotted daily hour of exercise time to take the kids out and get some fresh air.

Communication and flexibility between everybody at home and the team at Sated Design has been very important to make sure we all know what we can contribute, and when. This way we can all have an opportunity to continue our work sensibly, even whilst under a lot of additional pressures.

If working from home is new for you then the best advice I can give you is to treat it as you would a regular working day – have a routine, get up, get dressed etc. Set clear working times to prevent the boundaries of work and home life from blurring. If you’re able to safely, go out for a short walk before you log in can help create a divide between your personal and professional time. Do some exercise after work to help you decompress. Try to create a dedicated work area at a desk or in a spare room if you have the space. Check in with your colleagues regularly and invite them to do likewise, preferably by video if possible so you can see each other’s faces and lessen the sense of isolation. Above all, communicate with people around you to work through challenges you may face individually.

Working from home is a compromise but as a positive I do get to see my children for lunch every day and that is a very special time. And who knows, once all this is over, maybe all our ways of working will never be the same again!

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The Lockdown Lowdown-Part 1

In these current unprecedented times, many working professionals now find themselves having to juggle home working with caring for their families. So how is it possible to ensure you are fulfilling your obligations to your employer as well as those in your care? Sated Design’s Marketing Manager Holly Hollis shares her experiences so far in her role as a home worker, educator and carer.

I am a single parent, raising two young children with cystic fibrosis (CF) – a genetic condition which is life limiting. I’m no stranger to complications. CF has a habit of throwing curveballs when you least expect it and never allowing you to take anything for granted. The respiratory symptoms caused by the Coronavirus could be catastrophic to my children and so (along with 1.5 million others in the UK) they have been placed in a 12 week isolation for their own safety and protection.

As I type we are 19 days in. Since we entered our isolation here at home, many across the globe have lost their lives. Many businesses in all sectors have had no choice but to shut up shop and every school has closed its doors. No one yet knows when this will end.

It’s a very challenging time for everyone – but for home workers the biggest challenge is managing to run your home, care for your children and provide the dedication and support expected by your employer. My role in Marketing means at this critical time, it’s more important than ever that I bang the drum and make some noise for Sated Design. If we keep a presence, it not only reassures our clients that we’re still in business but it also shows potential clients how resilient we can be.

The difficulty is that at the same time I am having to be a full time mum and dad, co-ordinate a care plan, oversee and support their education and still continue to run a home. Fortunately this is where digital marketing is a great help – you can pick up where you left off at any time of the day. My working week has become 24/7 as circumstances allow but the flexible nature of it means this can be managed around the needs of my children.

They have anxiety about the change in routine. They haven’t seen their father now, apart from a wave over the gate, since this all began. They miss their friends. They are scared for those they know. My approach has been to keep them busy. Whether it be drawing a rainbow for a neighbour to put in her window, making a new tortoise house out of an old cardboard box, or planting up a new vegetable patch in our garden we are making memories. In amongst all the devastation this pandemic has caused there are still reasons to feel positive and grateful.

It’s not easy. In fact it’s proving to be the greatest challenge of my life to date. But it is achievable and employers like Sated Design should take a small bow for doing all they can to help those like me who face these challenges.

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We need a crystal ball!

So as of this week, the UK is in lockdown. The message from Boris Johnson was loud and clear – “stay safe, stay home”. In terms of safeguarding our health, this strategy cannot be questioned. If we adhere to social distancing, the virus cannot spread as effectively. But when it comes to running a business, no matter how great or how small, the results of social distancing are potentially catastrophic.

On Monday 23rd March 2020, (excepting those deemed to be ‘key workers’ and ‘key services’) the UK business community was essentially ordered to shut up shop. While the rationale for this cannot be questioned, we now find ourselves asking “for how long?”

Emerging now are details of financial support for employees and businesses but what about timescales? What we need now are some proper ‘guestimates’ from our Political Leaders as to when we can expect to be out of this crisis and begin to operate our businesses again.

What we are calling for now is the “Exit Strategy”. We are doing our bit. We are following these restrictions and supporting our government without question. Now it’s time for them to offer us some certainty and prioritise stabilising our economy.

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