None of us will forget the experiences of the last few months and just how quickly things have changed from the world we knew at the start of January.
The future is still uncertain, and caution remains. However, life seems to be getting back to some kind of normal. The property sector is starting to wake up again, which is encouraging news for the two and half million people in the UK who make their living from the construction sector.
We’ve been back on site since early May and following those dark days of April, it’s been great to see people back with smiles on their faces. We mustn’t forget that the pandemic posed serious risks to our mental wellbeing, not just our physical health.
A changing workplace culture and new priorities
Trying to balance looking after the business, protecting jobs, and making sure people were doing ok mentally was a real challenge for me personally along with the rest of our senior team. It’s made me realise that as employers, we all need to redouble our efforts to ensure that all-round employee wellbeing is a priority.
I felt very proud and humbled by the way all our team members, supported by the wider Mulbury family, all pulled together to ensure we could get back to work safely. They’ve done a fantastic job in setting-up our sites and ensuring that social distancing works as it should. It was great to hear the feedback we’ve had from our clients, subcontractors, and suppliers about how well organised our sites are and how they’ve made people feel safe.
For our off-site staff, the challenges have been different – getting used to working from home, using new technology and juggling childcare with team and client meetings! However, it’s also opened all our eyes to some of the benefits of more flexible and agile working practices.
While I still feel that a physical workplace is vital to creating a company culture and the spirit of collaboration, there’s no doubt we can encourage a greater degree of flexibility on homeworking.
While it was probably one of the most frantic times I’ve experienced work wise, spending less time travelling to the office and to our sites meant getting to spend more time at home with my family and having space to think. Clearly, agile working can lead to many efficiencies, benefiting the company and our employees, so it’s something we are going to embrace more.
A changing property sector
What’s clear already in terms of learning from lockdown is that the property market has changed. Working from home is likely to be a longer-term trend, which is going to result in people looking for properties with more inside and outside space.
That means the way city centre properties are designed will change too. There’s always going to be demand for city centre living and that creates opportunities to look at better quality affordable housing, homes for sale and, potentially, more interest in low rise built-to-rent property.
With many people being priced out of buying privately, the need for good quality affordable housing, and suitable sites for those homes is only going to increase.
That’s something we are seeing first-hand when talking to people in our sector. It meant that even through lockdown, we remained incredibly busy on the land acquisitions side of the business, working with our clients in the housing sector to help them find suitable sites for new affordable homes.
A future of opportunity
Even though we’re now back on site, it would be remiss of us to think the risks have just gone away. We’re constantly reviewing the government advice and industry guidance to make sure we’re doing things right and that our people, clients and suppliers are kept safe at all times.
It’s not that we can’t do things, we just have to do them a little differently. Socially distanced site meetings and property handovers are also going to feel strange for the time being, but our team are relishing the challenge of finding ways to get the job done.
Despite all that’s happened, we’re still on target to complete 455 new homes in this financial year. The target we set ourselves in October 2019 to help deliver 3,000 new homes across the North West over five years also remains.
In what is our 10th year as a business, we’re in strong position and we’re looking forward to working with our property community to build the new homes we so desperately need.
Greg Mulligan is a co-founder and director of Mulbury