On Saturday 31 October, Boris Johnson announced that as of Thursday 5 November, we will be entering our second national lockdown lasting until Wednesday 2 December. Due to COVID-19 cases rising rapidly, the government will be bringing in restrictions requiring people to stay at home, except for specific purposes, preventing gathering with people you do not live with, except for specific purposes and closing certain businesses and venues.
Construction work is among those businesses allowed to continue working. But will this second lockdown still bring its challenges? What are businesses doing to prepare? And what if the lockdown is extended? We speak to businesses to get their views on the new lockdown measurements.
For Esse Landscapes, it’s almost business as usual, but there are concerns over the supplies:
“We’ll take the same precautions that we took for the first lockdown, which means that we’ll continue to reinforce social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing and so on. We’ll continue to reinforce all of the precautions that we were taking but we will still go to work. We’re mostly working outdoors, we only have three people in the office and they can work from home.
“We’ve sort of got used to it now, and we know there’s an end – well we hope. I won’t say business as usual, but it’s almost business as usual. If they stick to the month then we can see it out, if they then do it for another month and another month then it will become a problem for us.
“I think potentially the problems for us will be supply chain. What we found in the first lockdown was that it was difficult to get certain materials and that may well happen again. Last time it took a few weeks before there was a problem, but last time the builders merchants were closed initially but this time round I believe they’re all staying open, so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. It’s more a question of manufacturing and products being imported into the country.”
Carter Landscapes also doesn’t need to fret over social distancing measures in the office, with the two members of staff who do work there, husband and wife. The onsite staff can also social distance easily. Carter Landscapes is also a little more optimistic about supplies:
“The last lockdown we furloughed our staff for three or four weeks, but that was mainly just due to suppliers making sure their businesses were COVID secure so they could open. But once the builders’ merchants and nurseries opened back up, we started back up again.
“So far supplier wise we haven’t had any issues. Lots of them are continuing to operate from Thursday. We’ve got quite a lot of orders on for this week and they’re all going ahead, that’s not a problem, and the cash and carry nurseries we use will still be open. Our supplies are delivered straight to site as well, so that’s not an issue.
“Our industry is a little bit sheltered from it. I think we could still cope if it gets extended. Fingers crossed it’s not going to affect us too much. We’re pretty optimistic this time round.”
Skidmores have also had positive news from suppliers, with all aiming to carry on as usual. Though most clients have been understanding, some have been a bit more difficult though and the main issue for the company is labour:
“We’ve got a full order book and we have work until after Christmas, so we’re okay. The only thing that will affect us is the supply chain and the client and our suppliers seem pretty positive. Most of our clients are understanding, but we’ve got a few tricky clients who are expecting things to be done and carry on as usual. They sometimes hear COVID and think it’s an excuse on our part – some people don’t realise the knock on effects COVID can have.
The main thing for us is labour for us. We’ve lost about four people at the moment because they’re from Eastern Europe and they want to go home to be with their family before airports close. Another staff member is from Ireland and he did the same. He got back just before they shut the borders. We’ll be carrying on as we are though.”
Paxman Landscapes is keeping calm and carrying on:
“We’re just going to keep going. The first lockdown was pretty severe, so we couldn’t work, but I think there’s a bit more interpretation with this one.
We’re also more prepared this time around. We’ve been working with each other all through this, so not too much will change from what we’re already doing. We keep to two staff in a van. Anyone working on a site needs to take a COVID test before they start, is anyone gets COVID then they can’t come back to work until they test negative. We’re working a private job at the moment. The clients can stay in the house and we work round the back, so it’s all safe.
“If we can get through to the new year with the jobs we’ve got, then I think next year more enquiries will come in with people wanting to redo their garden. So far, we’ve still got a good level of enquiries, both domestic and commercial, so it’s looking positive.”
Langdale landscapes also feels the last lockdown and the measures its been taking over the last few months, has set it up well for the second lockdown, it’s also optimistic about the future:
“This time round, not much is going to change with us. We’ve got everything in place from the first one and a lot of our clients are happy for us to carry on working around their houses because we’re outdoors. This lockdown isn’t as severe as the last one. Everyone is a lot clearer this time round as to what you can and can’t do.
“Office staff are going to remain working in the office. We decided that because no one is really going anywhere or doing anything, we’re going to stay as we are, socially distancing in the office.
“We’ve had a very buoyant six months for enquiries, so we’re still working our way through and next year should be a busy year. I think this second lockdown has probably reinforced the idea that we’re not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, so gardens will continue to be a priority.
“We’ve had a slight slowdown in the supply chain, but we’ve been very organised and kept everything coming in well in advance. We’ve not seen a huge problem yet; we’re just having to order things very far in advance. I haven’t heard anything from my suppliers today to suggest that the supply of materials will get worse. We’re all a bit more geared up for it this time.”
idverde also feels the previous lockdown has enabled it to handle the second one:
“Following the announcement of the first lockdown earlier this year, idverde rapidly implemented a number of measures to protect its colleagues and visitors at site and office locations. The second lockdown is more a continuation of the first lockdown phase measures idverde already has in place, which we are able to adapt as new information and government guidance is published. It would be a lie to say we are not concerned about any form of lockdown, but, that said, with the measures we have in place and a better understanding for how to deal with different situations, we are optimistic that the second lockdown will not have such a direct impact on our business and our colleagues.
“With the increased test and tracing capabilities in place, and resultant higher official infection rates, the ability to fully operate will no doubt present challenges at some point for many businesses.”
Cube 1994 is also being proactive this time around:
“We have had plans in place since the first lockdown. This allows us to be pro active rather than reactive. At Cube we have a senior leadership team. The team meet weekly via zoom and discuss all nearly completed, rely started and future projects. We highlight any logistical issues we may have, this includes not only access but also our supply chain.
Elmtree Garden Contractors won’t be making any changes to its current work, and though it is optimistic at the moment, challenges could be ahead:
“We have so many house buildings sites at the moment, so if confidence in house buying goes down, then we’re going to go with it. For the moment it’s going really well, and we’re not having to adjust how we’re working at all.”
Hortus Collective also has some concerns:
“It’s been a funny year in general, and things for us have carried on as normal in terms of projects, they’ve still been coming through the door and the ones on the books are thankfully continuing. It doesn’t however get rid of the anxiety associated with the government’s proposals. It’s certainly leaving some uncertainty going forward. If the lockdown has to continue into next year, then what does it mean? Hortus Collective is a new company, so it does leave some concerns.
But it’s almost a learn experience – we’ve all been through this once before. So, in terms of provisions going forward, we’re just following guidelines and we’ll continue to do so.”
Marcus Watson of Ground Control explains how it is putting its employees and customers first:
“In considering the lockdowns, our over-riding desires are to protect our people and customers, protect our business and do our bit for the nation. We have been reviewing our policies and making amendments based on the increased prevalence of COVID in October, and have already reduced the number of people in vehicles, mandated the use of the NHS COVID-19 app for those working in teams and have closed our offices again.
Keeping our people safe, protecting those in vulnerable categories, and making sure all our people feel supported has been critical throughout this year. The government’s extension of the furlough scheme is helpful in that is allows us to better support people in vulnerable categories who cannot work from home and make sure they are kept safe. We have introduced a subscription to the Calm app and moved our “Train Your Brain” bitesize learning sessions and GC Yoga online. We also understand many of our people may be struggling financially and introduced a Hardship Fund as well as Wagestream – an app which supports with saving and interest free borrowing.
As we go back into lockdown, we are confident we can work safely within the government guidance to continue to deliver our services. This is especially important as we enter the winter season and gritting is a top priority for many of our customers who want to ensure their site users are safe.”