So – we have started back. It feels weird, strangely unsatisfying and just slightly scary. We have a skeleton staff in, with more at home than are working. But the cogs are turning.
In this week’s blog, Naomi King, Sales manager, talks about her feelings and concerns as we go back to work. She and husband John and family have had a pretty torrid time with the virus hitting their home – we are so glad she is well and back to work.
For more general information about our Coronavirus policies, please see our formal statement.
If you had told me at the beginning of the year, that Affordable Granite would be closed for over a month, I would have found it very difficult to believe you. I could not see that I would be off that long, let alone the whole work force. Covid 19 has been a major disruption for hundreds of thousands of companies around the world and here in the UK. Disruption of business pales into insignificance beside the stories of loss and heartache that we see daily in the media, but all the same, livelihoods and the sheer importance of work to human well-being mustn’t be underestimated.
As a business we have to look to the future and livelihoods of those that we employ. We have to battle to avoid further heartaches. For companies such as ours, the decisions regarding closing for lockdown have been numerous and sometimes very difficult. Decisions with regard to: complying with the Government guidelines, commitments to finishing pre-existing work, maintaining and managing our workforce, (to furlough or not to furlough) etc. etc. At the forefront of all decision-making, though, is the safety and well-being of our customers and staff.
The AG team
As with everything at present, the decisions are not always totally clear cut. We had to have a cut off point at the start of the lock-down but inevitably there were customers who were just about to become ready for templating or who were half-way through having an extension built. Try telling someone with three kids, stuck at home for 6 weeks, that having a working kitchen isn’t essential. Construction, where safe, was permitted but this means that there are apartments needing worktops for the developers to be able to get them signed off.
This week we have brought back a skeleton crew to help our customers who have been without worktops and therefore a working kitchen. We have had to bring back enough staff so that we can work safely; it is not good practice to have people working completely alone, where heavy machinery is being used. We also have the highest standards of quality control, installation, customer service and excellent communication with our customers, so we need enough staff to be able to maintain these best standards.
Cassie and Tina (with Andy just visible) in the AG office this week
Sad sign on the showroom door
At the same time we cannot bring back so many staff, though, that we cannot keep our safe two metres social distancing rules. Bringing back too many people too early would also not be economically viable, if there is not enough work once we have completed the jobs that are already waiting. (Many kitchens haven’t been delivered by manufacturers from Germany and wholesalers in the UK, and a lot of tradesmen stopped work so many projects are on hold.) We have new things to think about too; making sure that we have gloves and hand gel has not been something that we have had to think about in the past. We know that this is going to be the new normal for a while yet.
We at Affordable Granite are extremely lucky to have amazing customers, some of whom are regular kitchen showrooms, others are builders and developers and others new homeowners. Without exception, they have all been understanding about the situation and also taken on board our new partial re-opening guidelines. People’s kindness when I was ill, was also really heart-warming. When people write, “I hope that you are well” in an email or text now, you get the feeling that they really mean it.
Inside the lifeless showroom
Ben and Piotr – part of the small team of three in the workshop
There will be more hurdles to come, I am sure. There are many “What ifs”. What if the staff, that have been brought back, display symptoms and have to have time off? What if we can’t get materials? – some wholesalers are still not delivering so some materials may not be available immediately. Fortunately most wholesalers are delivering and have good stocks in the UK.
We also have a large number of granite and quartz slabs in our own warehouse, so there is plenty to choose from for your worktops. We cannot currently have casual visitors to the farm, so for the time being, our showroom remains closed. However, we have an excellent library of photos and can send video and images of currently held stock. We are also able to send samples, so that you can see the actual colours of the stone in the light of your own kitchen. We do recommend that full slab images are seen, for marble-look quartz worktop materials particularly and other large-patterned or variable natural materials. Please do ask our sales team for advice on this and if necessary we can make a special arrangement for you to view a full slab.
We know that with our staff, The Affordable Granite Team, and the understanding of our customers, we can find a way through this together!
Naomi King, Sales Manager
We are Affordable Granite, the leading granite installer in Surrey, Sussex and across the South East. We are committed to the highest standards of installation quality without risking the health and safety of our staff, our customers or colleagues from other trades. If you are interested in buying granite or quartz worktops, then we are the people to speak to. Please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01293 863992 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org/ .