06 May 15:30 | Weekly Update
Throughout all of these communications, I’ve been asking the question ‘when will it start to pick up again?’ It’s the one on everybody’s mind and not one I’ve been able to answer.
However, the government does seem to be considering an easing of restrictions and is expected to make recommendations about how businesses, in general, can start to plan their return to normal operation. I get the sense we are not at the beginning of the end, but certainly are at the end of the beginning.
So what does this mean for us?
It would be reckless to expect the live event market to bounce back any time soon. I suspect we’ll have a significant lull in sales that lasts up to 18 months. Therefore in order to survive we are going to have to adapt as a business. We will explore all opportunities for change but one of the things we now must consider is the possibility of redundancies. We will be looking at all areas of the business and every area is at risk.
Due to the wide-ranging nature of this consultation we need employee representatives to consult with before any decisions are made.
We will be asking for four employees to be nominated from within the business for the following areas:
You can nominate yourself or another to be a representative regardless or not of whether you are currently at work or furloughed. If more than one nomination is received from the same part of the business, an election will be held to determine the appointment. HR will issue more details about this process to you shortly – for staff currently on furlough or without a work email address, HR will contact you on your personal email address.
We will need nominations to be received by midnight on Sunday 10 May. We expect collective consultation on redundancies to begin on 15 May.
At the same time, we are inviting anyone who wants to put themselves forward for voluntary redundancy to contact Jess Ulrich directly to discuss their options.
These are tough times and for the business to survive we need to respond accordingly. I hope that we can work through this difficult phase with decency, fairness and compassion.
Let’s deal with facts not rumour.
And let’s keep talking.
30 April 13:20 | Weekly Update
You’ll have noticed that the daily updates have turned into weekly updates. As the situation has stabilised there simply have been fewer things to report. This communication is a long way from week in brief, but I hope it still remains useful and helps people feel connected to the business.
Let’s start with some good news. Earlier this week Brandfuel picked up a top award for the 2019 Android Project at MWC. It’s a timely reminder that we do knock out world-class work. The shortlist for the award also included the BBC Pavilion at MIPCOM. So to have two projects in the line-up is gratifying and testament to the great work we delivered last year. The associated award video is lukewarm but the message is very positive: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENSnfpgCLBo
Belated congratulations to Lewis from the CAD Team who became a father to a healthy baby boy ten days ago. No doubt lockdown is inspiring a flurry of gene sharing antics right now and you can look forward to a baby-boom special sometime in the autumn.
On to work related matters, you’ll notice that activity in the workshops is beginning to reduce in some areas. Where this happens we’ll be quick to move people to furlough where appropriate. Furlough is in operation to 30 June and the Chancellor hinted that this may be extended if necessary.
For those still coming in to work, please ensure we keep social distancing in operation. We’ve been doing it well now for over five weeks. Let’s not start lapsing now. Yesterday the Government announced that anyone who has symptoms whose work cannot be done from home is now eligible for testing. So please do get tested if you find yourself in that category.
Sales remain flat, but enquiries are still coming in. The most likely opportunities seem to be coming from outside of Europe. Closer to home opportunities are currently extinct.
And so when will it all end and start to pick up again? That’s the million-dollar question. Predicting the future is a dangerous game right now. It will be interesting to hear what the Prime Minister says in this afternoon’s briefing on his plan for coming out of lockdown. I suspect we have a few more weeks of this yet. However, let’s be guided by the data and those in charge. It will come back at some point so let’s not lose sight of that.
These are tricky times. Thanks as always for your contribution and patience and for keeping the Stage One spirit alive.
22 April 15:45 | Daily Update
It feels like we’ve been enduring COVID-19 for an eternity. Strangely it’s not even been a month since lockdown was announced on 23 March. In that time we’ve sent people to work from home, furloughed others, implemented completely new ways of operating in the workshops and have used technology to keep in touch.
The business is still very much alive and it is absolutely our plan to keep going. These aren’t easy conditions in which to operate, but we’re finding a way through it all and are grateful to everyone playing their part.
For those furloughed, we’ve now got all the applications into the government portal and are hopeful for a fast turnaround in terms of receiving the grant payment. Regardless, we are not expecting a delay to payroll dates this month.
To those working on reduced incomes, thank you for the sacrifice and for believing in the future.
To those working at home and having to wrestle with restless children, pets, frustrated housemates and dodgy Wi-Fi thanks for finding ways of staying sane.
And not least, big thanks to those still coming in and producing physical output. It’s important we continue to do it safely and are able to demonstrate to clients that we can adapt to this challenging environment.
I suspect we’re going to be in this situation for longer than we might like. The government’s furlough scheme has now been extended to June and it’s going to take brave policymakers to start relaxing the state of lockdown.
We’re doing our best to manage costs, find new work and most importantly operate safely with an eye on the future.
Stay connected to your colleagues. Look out for one another. And keep reminding yourselves and others that no matter how it feels, this won’t last forever.
16 April 15:55 | Daily Update
We will learn later today from the Government how long the lockdown is likely to be extended. The anticipation is that this will be for at least another three weeks. During this time we expect to be able to continue to run the business with many working from home and those in the workshops continuing to keep 2m distance from one another.
It’s been good to see a couple of folks those who have been socially isolating return to work this week. It’s a reminder that whilst this can be a deadly disease, the majority are recovering. Let’s not lose sight of that.
In the workshops, we’ve still got Venice Kinetic, Johnnie Walker, Floating Tables and WRG Containers. Sales are still stalled but enquiries have not dried up which offers some hope. Please keep being cost-conscious in everything you do.
We understand that the Government Portal for furlough payments will open on Monday. If you are furloughed the company will be applying for this on your behalf and this will be paid through payroll. You are required to take no action. Those furloughed will be receiving a note from Jess later today containing more information.
That’s all for now. Thanks for staying positive and keeping the faith. I know it’s not easy.
09 April 14:20 | Daily Update
A quick update before we break for the Easter Bank Holiday. Probably not the break any of us had planned, but please do try and find time to put some of this madness out of your mind and relax if you can.
Thanks again to everyone for their professional handling of this situation. Each one of you should be getting a letter from me via email either to your work or personal email address. This sets out formally our response to the crisis and explains what we will be doing in the weeks to come.
For those of you on furlough, we’ll be getting in touch next week with details of how April’s payment will be made. We now have a bit more clarity on the government’s job retention scheme and will be sharing this with you.
We still have Venice Kinetic, WRG Containers, Johnnie Walker and Trellis Brackets in the workshops. We expect some areas of the business to begin to slow down further over the next couple of weeks as some of this work draws to conclusion. We are still pitching for and costing potential projects but unsurprisingly, the flow of new projects coming in has stalled.
The big unresolved uncertainty is how long the lockdown may continue. Ministers are discussing this right now but it’s safe to assume this will extend beyond the initial three weeks. In the meantime, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing, taking government advice and operating as normally as we can in the circumstances.
It might be hard to imagine, but this can’t last forever. Let’s not lose sight of that.
03 April 16:15 | Daily Update
Thanks to all of you who responded positively to yesterday’s note. In spite of the social distancing, it’s great to feel that we are still part of a bigger team.
The note also got me to thinking about what people might consider their toughest job during their time here. I’d like to turn that into a competition with a modest liquid-based prize. In no more than a hundred words, drop me an email about it with the subject ‘Toughest Job’ and we’ll publish some of the highlights. If that works we’ll do the same with favourite jobs next week.
I’m also considering a Friday lunchtime quiz next week. Workshops can join in here at Tockwith and people can zoom in from home. It might be carnage, but we’ll have fun trying. Midday Friday. Stick it in your diaries.
On to matters more serious, the spread of the virus and the fatalities continue to grow. Please do all you can to social distance, isolate where necessary and continue to observe good hygiene practices. We are doing a good job of that and have transformed the way we work in very short order. But let’s not get complacent, it’s all too easy to drift closer than two metres separation. Respect the rules.
We’re still pursuing concrete advice on the exact mechanism for financial support from the government. This is slow in coming but we expect to have more information available later this month. We’re managing our cost base carefully and are still running projects to generate income. Long may this continue.
I know we have the metalshop working this weekend. There is momentum out there and I’d like to thank all of you for keeping the faith.
If you are able, have a decent weekend. Forecast for Sunday is tropical.
02 April 16:15 | Daily Update
There are three Stage One jobs that will always stay with me. The first was the 2016 Serpentine Pavilion. We were so far behind with the build that we worked through the night for the best part of a week and got the last decking board down twenty-five minutes before the press launch. The Pavilion opened on time.
The second was a Google event in London in 2018 where the size of the undertaking was massive and we were recruiting more hands daily until we had a crew the size of a small army. Those were long days but even so the show opened on time.
And last year we fought with the rain and ended pushing thirteen tons of rainwater off the top of the MIPCOM pavilion in just under an hour. And yet still the show went on.
These examples are just a glimpse of some of the hairy situations we’ve worked through as a company. You will all have your own stories of battle and endeavour whether in the workshops or on-site. These moments define us a company and serve to make us stronger.
What we’re going through right now is a just another of these challenges. It’s tough for sure and extends way beyond the sphere of our business and the industry. I’m very aware that we’re asking people to make big sacrifices. But we’re doing a bloody magnificent job in the circumstances. Wherever you are and however you’re playing your part, you should be proud.
And I’m convinced we’ll ride out this storm.
01 April 16:45 | Daily Update
A little later than scheduled, here is today’s update. With little additional information from the Government, we’re simply proceeding as per their guidelines. We’re operating a reduced workforce but are still getting through production tasks at around the right rate.
As we start to see an increase in cases nationally, it’s likely that we’ll begin to see more of our colleagues go off into self-isolation as they or family members start to develop symptoms. Do follow the published rules on isolation and make sure that we do what is necessary to limit the spread. Please let HR know if you or your housemates start to experience symptoms. Let’s not be surprised if the rate of output starts to dip slightly as a consequence.
For those still coming to work, I know some of you have expressed a desire to have a letter with you that you could show to the authorities should you be stopped on your way to or from work. Whilst we’re clear that we are not an essential service, those of you still coming in to work can not perform your duties from home and therefore this movement remains legitimate. If you’d like one of these letters, please content Jess Ulrich or Tim Leigh.
By now all those furloughed should have received a letter confirming their status and next steps. Thanks again for responding quickly and professionally to these communications.
We’ve likely still got a long way to go with all of this. Keep talking to one another. And feel able to raise your concerns with us.
Thanks for being part of Stage One.
31 March 15:15 | Daily Update
Apologies for the absence of an update yesterday. With no real announcements for companies from the Government and business as (un)usual in the workshops there was little to report.
We will be writing to all of those who have been furloughed to confirm your status and share with you the few details we do know about the grant towards your salary.
Whilst the furlough situation is frustrating, it’s the best mechanism we have to avoid redundancies. And because we believe there is a future for this business we’re keen to use the furlough mechanism as a route to retaining people.
The letter will be asking you to acknowledge and accept your furlough status in order that we can participate in the 80% grant scheme.
I’m conscious that not everyone has been furloughed. Some are working on reduced rates or reduced hours. We’re trying to make this as fair as we can but I’m aware that it’s going to be impossible to keep everyone content in the current context. Thanks for your patience and do take some comfort that we don’t expect this situation to last indefinitely.
In the workshops we have Venice Kinetic, Floating Tables, Johnnie Walker, MIPCOM Pavilion condition assessment, WRG Containers and Trellis Brackets. We also have Fluxaxis producing prototype visors for healthcare staff which is generating lots of interest from the NHS.
These continue to be tricky times. Thanks again for listening.
27 March 15:45 | Daily Update
There has been little change from yesterday in terms of advice for business. An announcement about help for freelance workers was made yesterday by the Chancellor. The details are complex and the funding is likely to take some months to come on-stream, but you’ll find the detail here.
The majority of people reading this will be employed and for those who have been laid off without pay (furloughed), there is slightly more clarity coming through on the grant to cover 80% of monthly income up to £2,500. If you are furloughed this is something that Stage One will apply for on your behalf and will be paid to you through the payroll system.
Thanks to those who have been patient with us as your status has changed this week. This is a fluid situation and some of those who have been laid off may get a call to return to work. We are simply responding in the best way we can to demand, and keeping the business going in the most efficient way we can.
You won’t be surprised that there won’t be a Week in Brief email today. Apologies to those who might have been looking forward to it.
Keep washing your hands. Keep social distance. Keep being kind and decent to one another.
26 March 15:15 | Daily Update
The situation we find ourselves in continues to change on a daily basis. We have had postponements and cancellations to some of our upcoming projects which is unsurprising but frustrating nonetheless. Inevitably, this has led to more furloughing of staff. Those affected have been informed.
We still have activity going through the workshops on Fabric Bridge, Johnnie Walker, Floating Tables, Venice Kinetic and Trellis Brackets.
The Government press conference yesterday afternoon didn’t provide us with any more clarity on business issues. We are still pursuing the help for businesses and employees offered, but again new information on these issues is in short supply.
Most office staff are now working from home with just a handful coming into work. This is as it should be. Working remotely is unusual, so please call your colleagues via phone or skype just in order that we remain connected and informed as a business. Even if it’s only to say hello, a five-minute call helps build bridges and make us all feel less isolated.
Thanks for listening and observing good practices. More tomorrow I promise.
25 March 13:45 | Daily Update
Yesterday evening, the Government added some clarity to their advice about going to work. Matt Hancock has reiterated that those who cannot work from home should go to work. We will continue to follow this advice and will adapt accordingly should it change. Please keep checking in for updates.
We are continuing to pursue the financial help offered by the Government. In particular, we are applying for a business continuity loan. We are also standing by to take advantage of the 80% payment grant for those laid off without pay. However, full guidance has not yet been published on this and the online portals to which we are directed are not yet active. We are checking online resources for updates every hour.
Be assured that we have not forgotten about this mechanism which will provide a financial lifeline for many. However, be prepared that it is likely to take some time to come on stream.
And earlier today, the Government has promised an update for self-employed individuals in tomorrow’s press conference.
Thank you for following the distancing measures and new procedures for general operation. Let’s stay vigilant and not become complacent over time.
Finally, thanks again for sticking with it. The pace of change is fast and I’m pleased everyone is cooperating.
I know these are anxious times as much of this is outside of our control. But let’s focus on controlling what we can. And supporting one another.
24 March 10:15 | Our Response to the PM’s Announcement
The Operational Board is meeting via teleconference at 9am each day to review and plan. The main topic today was our interpretation of the latest advice issued by Government which can be viewed here.
Travelling to and from work is allowed, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home. Therefore we will continue to keep our doors open until told otherwise via updated Government advice.
We understand that people may be anxious about coming in to work. This is natural and I think we all feel a bit of this. However, let’s trust in the advice and make sure we follow the simple rules around hand hygiene and the two-metre gap.
We will continue to shrink the office-based team and plan to send the CAD team to work remotely.
And now some good news. Sales enquiries are still coming in. People are making great use of technology to stay connected. Everyone is staying separated at break times. People have smiles on their faces.
We are a brilliant and resilient organisation. We are better placed than many to survive this situation. It won’t last forever. And we are already planning for being in the best shape we can be when it’s time to ramp up again.
23 March 21:50 | Tonight’s Announcement
At 20:30 this evening the Prime Minister made a statement suggesting an increased state of lockdown for the nation. For the next three weeks, movement is to be restricted to shopping for necessities, one form of exercise per day, fulfilling any medical need and travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home. More clarity on the situation would be useful but has not yet been released.
On this basis, please only come into work tomorrow if you are part of the Production, Operations, Stores, Project Management & CAD teams. If you can work from home you should log-in from your machine remotely and be available for calls.
As always, keep 2m distance, wash your hands, and observe the welfare changes that have been implemented to good effect today.
Rob Parkin and I will be in tomorrow and will update you as more info becomes available.
Thanks for your patience during these testing times.
23 March 10:39 | Social Distancing
In response to further government advice this weekend we are ramping up our response to COVID-19. Today we will be sending more desk-based workers away to operate from home. If you are sent home, please stay connected, use the tools, skype, zoom, email and ensure you play your part remotely. You’ll be contacted by me directly if you’re in the frame for this.
To reduce cross-contamination risk we will be abandoning the door loggers and tablet based time-sheet systems. Supervisors will collect this info manually.
Those who are still in the office and the workshops should respect the two metre limit required for social distancing. Staying 2m from your colleagues is the single most important thing you can do right now, so please play your part.
We’ll be closing down the common areas like welfare and canteen spaces. These will be open for making drinks and warming food, but you should not eat or drink in there. Assume these are café style environments that should only operate as takeaway venues.
Finally, we are in the process of examining the help for businesses that was offered by the government on Friday. The finer detail is not yet clear but rest assured once we know how best to take advantage of it, we’ll let you know.
The situation continues to change very rapidly. Things are about to get serious. There is hope and we can navigate through all of this if we are sensible and level headed.
Thanks for listening. Now wash your hands.