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Life as we now know it…Covid-19 and post-Covid-19

SFHA associate blog.

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By Julie Hillhouse, Key Account Manager – Housing, Altro.

It is hard to believe that only one year ago, life as we knew was about to change dramatically. Working from home became the new normal, and, as we all adjusted to Microsoft Teams and Zoom contact with the outside world, it was a poor substitute for meeting people. And yet, here we are, 12 months on and after slamming the door on 2020, we are now looking at a brighter future with new opportunities and different relationships and a better appreciation for life, work balance, what we have and what we have learned.

I have worked with Altro for eight years now, which has gone by in a blink of an eye, however, never would I have believed anyone had they told us what the year 2020 would do to our working lives. I am the housing consultant for Altro in Scotland and had just started the role weeks before Covid-19 arrived. However, Altro, as a business, adapted working from home for each member of staff – addressing individual requirements and protecting staff was a priority for all, from the external sales team to the internal teams and those at our manufacturing site in Letchworth Garden City. We are a global company that, for those don’t know, are 100 years old and family owned. We also pride ourselves on being the inventors of safety flooring, with over 35 experience with walls and being a British manufacturer.

Since March last year, Altro has continued to work through the pandemic, supplying safety flooring to many of the sites set up to help tackle the virus, such as the Nightingales in London and across the country, plus many vaccination centres and laboratories, some new and some repurposed buildings. We have continued to manufacturer flooring and walls throughout the year – where many projects were put on hold, housing projects continued throughout due to the personal needs of individual people with challenging issues. Adaptations and bathroom refurbishments were some of the many ongoing projects.

With everyone working from home, we had to become more creative in our interactions with people. I believe webinars were one of the best ways of interacting that we had as a company, not only as an internal team but also to our wider user audience. We were able to offer specification and technical guidance and learning opportunities effectively, at a time when it was really needed. We covered subjects such as designing for mental health and for dementia but also on the needs that were suddenly upon us, for example, adapting spaces in offices and care homes to better manage hygiene and social distancing. Using the power of social media, posting on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to reach out to people became even more important and, actually, I found people more interactive and approachable on this platform than good old-fashioned emails. How did we make each other laugh and see everybody safely and sanely through this transformation? Well, how many times in the last year have we said: ‘you’re on mute?’ I actually bought my brother-in-law a book at Christmas and this was the title – again, a little bit of light relief during a truly challenging time; we do still need to find a little humour after all.

As a company, we would normally have sales meetings throughout the year, with launches of new products and ongoing training. However, this year we had this all on Teams, where it is fair to say we all became very familiar with each other’s homes and indeed families (and let’s not even mention home schooling). I believe, going forward this year, and into 2022, we will all be different people because of the last 12 months (I hope), who listen more, have more patience, and, generally, are nicer. As I was once told, it costs nothing to smile, and we should do a lot more of this.

How many of us, during our daily exercise, found ourselves saying hello to people we didn’t know as it was just a nice thing to do? Anyone who knows me will tell you I like a chat, and, during Teams calls with lovely people like yourselves, I have learned that, by listening more to your thoughts and needs, it can make your working life easier. Partnerships are priceless and, at Altro, we pride ourselves on being consultants, not salespeople because we are not. We are here to help make your life easier. If it is a wet room for a child with special needs or, indeed, a bedroom, we have solutions to offer you which are not institutional, as in this day and age nobody wants a clinical home, especially when they have spent time in a hospital environment – would you? We have a range of projects and images to show how you can create a homely but safe finish with our safety flooring and Altro walls solutions, which are both lovely to look at and easy to clean.

The pandemic may not be over, but it is looking a lot more hopeful, and we will all meet again soon. So, as we reflect, let’s take the opportunity to embrace change and come out of our comfort zone more, do something different and make a change in somebody’s life.

For further information, visit Altro's website at: www.altro.co.uk/Home 

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