March 23rd 2020 everything changed for everyone. Lockdown was enforced in the UK. The reality is though, everything changed or at least started to change for business owners long before this date.
Around a week or two before the lockdown, I was already aware of at least two local business that had essentially ‘shut up shop’. The mood amongst other owners was changing to one of concern and uncertainty, and you could start to feel the tensions brewing.
We decided to work from home as late as we could (I’ll get to that in a bit) but had decided to make a move, coincidentally, the day before the official lockdown announcement. Personally, with two children now out of school and needing ‘homeschooling’ and the ever-growing uncertainty of, well, everything – I felt I needed to be at home with my family to help support them too.
‘Working from home.’
Most peoples perception and now a first-hand experience of working from home is quite fun by the looks of it. I’m seeing lots of people on social media talking about spending more time with family and going for walks, doing puzzles and ‘learning new skills’ while ‘working from home’ in between these things. Now, most of these people are probably on furlough or before the furlough scheme was announced in the UK, were very lucky to be employed by large companies that would ‘take the hit’ and show their ‘social awareness and caring’ before most.
One of my previous employers, Apple, had announced all retail staff would be sent home on full pay for as long as it takes. With over $200 billion in cash, it was, of course, the right move – but hardly heroic.
The reality is, for me, working from home sucks.
Eldo Web Design Ltd is a great little company, and in the last couple of years, it’s essential to understand it is just that – a limited company. Working from home for me is not just sitting on a sofa on my laptop with the TV on hitting a few keys building websites sending three emails a day (it used to be!).
Firstly, building a website. It’s not that easy! Sure I’ve been doing it for years and years, but we have moments when unless you are truly locked in with no distractions things can go wrong very quickly.
Secondly, managing employees remotely is not fun! At Eldo, we work closely, in a bright, spacious office and it delivers the best productivity and flexibility. It allows me to manage workloads easily, ask quick questions and get immediate answers. We can bounce ideas off one another and seek ideas when things get ‘tough’. We are lucky that for the last few years we’ve always had well over a dozen or so projects on the go at once. On most days, we move between these projects splitting up our day. Last week I sent an average of 46 emails per day! My day is never quiet.
Thirdly, my work from home environment is not good! In our office, we have big sit/stand desks that allow us to look after our posture and get comfy at all times. Other businesses also surround us in a thriving environment. My desk at home is small and as a tall man in his forties (for the last two months anyway) to say my back is feeling it, is an understatement. Throw in a 7 and 12-year-old and my wife under the same roof also trying to come to terms with everything that’s going on, my days are much harder than they used to be.
Thirdly, and I’m not ashamed to say I feel this way at this time. It feels unfair. I have worked bloody hard to get to this point, to have an office to have employees and not only that, to run it all in an ethically awesome way and to be in profit. To have this taken away for the foreseeable future with complete uncertainty as to what will remain at the end of it all, it just feels unfair. People are dying so of course I fully understand why it has to happen and agree, with lockdown, that’s the reality. It doesn’t stop these feelings of unfairness, though.
It’s worth noting at this point of this article that I know I’m not alone. Every small business owner I have spoken to in the last couple weeks has had at least one if not all of the same experiences I mentioned above.
What’s a furlough?!
When you first start a limited company and start to have employees, you’re learning as you go. There’s no shame in that, why would you know about limited company accounts and pensions schemes and PAYE when you didn’t need to?! Learning ‘all that stuff’ alongside doing your skilled job, and everything else is tough and just when you think you’ve got the hang of it… more terms you’ve never heard of !
The last month of understanding how furloughs work, how grants work, having to prepare for possible redundancies, even how to liquify your company is scary and stressful! Any small business owner who has not had these thoughts (no matter how far down the road it may seem) is either lying or naive enough to think it couldn’t happen.
The pressure of knowing that any decision you make can alter the future of not just your company, but your employees future, and of course your own future and families future, well, it’s not fun. Let’s leave it at that.
So what’s actually going at Eldo right now?
As I type this, we have one director on furlough. The rest of the team, the three of us, we are here (or here, there and there), we are hustling hard working and continuing to offer the awesome service, product and communication we always offer our clients. Many of whom are also small businesses and have had to scramble to pivot and update their website to reflect the changes and to help them survive. We’ve worked into the night and weekends to help them to do that because we understand what it means to them.
What’s it like to run a Web Design Company During Lockdown?
Sh*t. Do I wish could go back in time and never have taken the jump into running my own business in the hope that right now I would be employed in the comfort of a full paid furlough leave? Nope. Us small business owners, we’re not built that way.