Navigating the Crisis | David Goodman and Emily Wilder on Leading David Collins Studio through Covid-19

“The combination of remote working and restrictions on international travel, by the end of 2020 David Collins Studio will have reduced our carbon footprint by almost 80% from last year. This is hugely positive from an environmental standpoint and something that we will be keeping in mind as we continue to review our sustainability strategy.”

As all businesses attempt to navigate the increasingly difficult – and regularly changing – Covid-19 measures, we spoke to David Collins Studio’s Chief Operating Officer David Goodman and HR Manager Emily Wilder on how life at the renowned design brand – which is responsible for the interiors of a great number of Walpole retail and hospitality members – has changed this year, and what – if any – positives can be found from the situation…

How have you navigated David Collins Studio through the Covid-19 crisis?

EW: The safety and wellbeing of our staff has been at the forefront of all our decisions. In February, as news of the virus became part of everyday conversation, we quickly implemented work travel restrictions and began to prepare our IT systems for a possible move to working from home.

During this period of uncertainty, we held regular company-wide meetings to communicate our plans to staff and made the decision to close the Studio shortly before the Government issued their advice to work from home. This meant that the transition from the Studio to home was a relatively smooth one!

Open communication has been key throughout, and Microsoft Teams has enabled us to stay in daily contact with colleagues whilst being physically apart. Project leaders hold regular check-in calls so that everyone stills feel connected with the continued benefits of working as a team.

How have you prepared the Studio, your people and your clients for reopening?

EW: We’ve been back in the Studio since the start of September and communication in the run up to this was really important in our preparations.

The Studio has undergone some big changes to enable us to return safely. We now have one-way systems in place, our maximum capacity has been reduced to 60% to maintain social distancing and we have signage all around the building to help guide people around the new one-way system. Luckily, we are a team of creatives, and so we have been able to introduce signage and other new elements such as disinfectant stations that are reflective of the David Collins Studio brand aesthetic.

What are the challenges? Are there any positives to come out of the crisis?

EW: Probably the biggest challenge we have faced has been responding to the ever-changing landscape and making quick decisions that protect both our team and the business.

One of the positives to come out of the crisis has been how everyone in the Studio has adapted to remote working. We have all learnt to collaborate remotely, both internally but externally too, with clients and consultants.

The combination of remote working and restrictions on international travel, by the end of 2020 David Collins Studio will have reduced our carbon footprint by almost 80% from last year. This is hugely positive from an environmental standpoint and something that we will be keeping in mind as we continue to review our sustainability strategy.

You have many retail and hospitality clients – how can government and/or local council help in aiding recovery for these sectors?

EW: Naturally, both of these sectors have been badly affected by the crisis and we know that the Furlough scheme has been a welcome support for many employees in the retail and hospitality sectors. As this comes to an end in October, it would be great to see the Government implementing schemes similar to ‘eat out to help out’ and the reduction of VAT to encourage growth in the retail sector.

The recovery of these sectors will also depend on businesses being able to afford their rent and business rates whilst there isn’t the footfall to support them. This is an area where local councils and the Government should review the help being offered.

Update – the Government’s announcement (22/09/2020)

DG: The key guidance from the government was to work from home “if you can do so”. Our positive experience over the last 6 months has demonstrated that most (but definitely not all) tasks can indeed be undertaken from home, so the Studio has moved to a default position of “Working from Home” for the foreseeable future. This is subject to the proviso that when the best work cannot be done from home and teams are needed in the Studio, they will attend. Having created such a COVID secure workspace makes this a realistic option.

We also took the decision not to “close our doors” so that anyone who would prefer to work at the Studio is easily able to do so. Several of our team members are not comfortable working from home (for personal reasons, mental hygiene or need for company) and we were keen to be supportive.

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