While lockdown continues across the UK, businesses are battling to keep their heads above water with some now making adaptations to their processes in order to reopen.
One such business is John Reid & Sons Ltd in Christchurch, which has reopened today with special measures in place to protect staff. More high profile national businesses are also doing the same, with DIY giant B&Q recently announcing limited store reopening as well as Greggs, the bakery chain trialling the reopening of 20 stores.
TJohn Reid & Sons Ltd (also known as REIDsteel) has today, begun a limited return to work after extensive reviews of their handling and manufacturing processes. Those who are able to work from home are continuing to do so, and they are currently developing plans that would allow construction site staff to return to work.
It’s a controversial issue. In the first weeks of the lockdown, there was public furore over construction sites continuing their work in spite of the measures the government had put in place, but Simon Boyd, the Managing Director or John Reid & Sons Ltd, is determined that any return to work will not place staff or anyone else at greater risk: “The health, safety and wellbeing of our people is our utmost priority. When the lockdown was announced, we immediately took the decision to send all our people home to stop any potential spread of the virus and to give us time to consider alternative measures.
“As the government has advised we should do, we have been working on plans to find a way to re-open our factory and works in Christchurch on Monday 27 April, following a three-week shutdown. A number of special measures will be taken, and these will be explained to our team in detail before any work commences.
“My thanks to all of our people for their help and understanding during these difficult and challenging times. There may be further challenges ahead, but we are confident that we have put in place robust safety procedures to allow our operations to get back up to full productivity as quickly as possible.”
What about other businesses?
Businesses across the country have been working on creative ways to trade in a coronavirus-stricken economy on lockdown. B&Q began operating ‘click and collect’ services again two weeks ago, in addition to home delivery. As of today, 155 B&Q stores have reopened to the public, with strict measures to protect all involved. Their website explains “This includes sanitiser stations to ensure trolleys are good to go, safe queuing 2m apart before entering the store, 2m navigational markers on the floor to guide you through the store, perspex screens at our checkouts and contactless payments only.” They have also asked that shoppers limit their party to no more than two, and that all those entering the store are over 16.
Currently, all stores in the BCP area, however, remain closed.
Local toiletries and cosmetics company, Lush, has also begun operating again recently, with their Customer Care department confirming last week that their factories have reopened. Their online service has been up and running since 17 April, with customers able to buy products online for free delivery on orders over £45. However, the disruption to the business means that a number of items are currently unavailable, and deliveries are taking up to 20 days. As with B&Q, protecting staff and customers has been carefully considered, and Lush have produced a short film demonstrating the measures they are taking while putting orders together for delivery. Further information on the steps they have taken can be found on their website and will be updated regularly.
Too much, too soon?
As more businesses begin to reopen, it’s fair to wonder whether it is wise to open while the rest of the country remains on lockdown. Another 413 people died between Saturday and Sunday in hospitals across the UK, and although this figure is markedly the lowest since the end of March, experts are expecting it to fluctuate further before a significant, lasting, difference becomes obvious.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky News in an interview on Friday that the businesses that are currently reopening are ones that did not need to close in the lockdown, as they are classed as ‘essential’ services. Such businesses closed to make satisfactory amendments to the way they work. In the meantime, the restrictions we continue to live under are considered by government and it’s scientific advisors as vital for ending lockdown as soon as possible. He added “I just urge people to continue sticking to those rules, because it’s working and we’re flattening that curve but we need to see it coming down.”
The reopening of those businesses that are able to do so within the government’s restrictions provides a beacon of hope for those remaining on the sidelines for now, that it is possible to return to operations in a capacity that echoes normality, while continuing to protect everyone involved in this time of crisis.