Coffee and a chat with Donald Brown

Could you describe your role and the responsibilities you have within Worksmart?

My role is Estimating Manager, I am responsible for ensuring that tenders are submitted on time and to the standard and quality clients expect..

You’ve recently joined the Worksmart Team. How has it been so far?

Initial signs have all been very positive, staff have been helpful and made we feel welcome and the Directors have all been supportive throughout my bedding in period.
I always feel a bit apprehensive about starting a new role “have I made the right decision” I would say a definite yes to this.

How did joining Worksmart come about?

I have been looking for an opportunity to get back into a Management role and was approached to come in for a chat, both my interviews went very well and I had a good feeling about the company.

What did you know of the company beforehand?

I knew very little about the company but I done my research and all the feedback from people I know in the industry was very positive about the company and just as important feedback about my future boss.

In terms of career progression, where do you see yourself in five years?

I chased a dream of being a Director when I was a bit younger but I am in the role I know I can make a difference. I think you get to an age where you know your limitations, I still enjoy what I do. I strive to do everything to the best of my ability, in 5 years I would love to be sitting on a beach drinking pina coladas and watching the world go by, but maybe I would just get bored of that?

What’s your best piece of advice for a young person looking to get into your profession?

There are 2 schools of thought on what makes a good Estimator – 1. become a trademan and experience site working for a few years and move into estimating or 2. start of as a trainee estimator, go to college part time and get as much site experience as you can.
I am the latter and maybe biased but with any role, if you work hard, listen, show enthusiasm and absorb as much knowledge as you can, you will always go far.

When you’re not in the office, what do you like getting up to?

I enjoy spending time with my family, love to go to the movies or comedy gig. Enjoy weekends away. Its good to just switch off from work and enjoy your free time.

If you could choose to do any other job in the world, what would it be and why?

I started out life wanting to be a graphic designer, it would have been good to have a go to see if would have been successful. My daughter wants to be an Astronaut so maybe I could do that and join her in space!

Hybrid Working

The Covid-19 pandemic has completely altered our mindset towards work. There has been a monumental shift towards remote working due to the restrictions that were put in place as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to data from the Office of National Statistics, prior to the pandemic only 5% of the UK workforce worked mainly from home with 65% of employers not offering regular home working. Post pandemic, 65% is set to drop to 37% representing a significant change in the way we work and engage with our employers.

 

Throughout the last 18 months, bosses have discovered that when implemented well, hybrid working is a much more efficient and cost-effective model. People are also able to achieve an improved work-life balance which has made home working increasingly more appealing to many.

While some employees would prefer to predominantly work from home, most would favour a balance where they are in the office some of the week and spend the remainder working at home. Employers must decide what this new form of ‘hybrid working’ means for them. What procedures/changes will they need to implement to ensure that they are getting the most out of their employees?

For some organisations, moving to remote working will be a significant challenge both practically and financially with a number of things to consider such as IT resources and Health & Safety. It will also completely change the way in which organisations interact internally placing greater demands on management.

It may be argued however that allowing employees greater freedom of choice will enhance performance. No size fits all and every employee will have a different idea of what works best for them. Some may be more productive in the office and some may prefer the distraction free environment of home. This must be considered by companies in order for these new ways of working to be effective.

Many firms have also adopted ‘hot desking’ when individuals work from shared offices close to home. Again, this is another distraction free, professional environment that will encourage high levels of productivity.

With all of these factors to consider, we will start to see the role of a corporate HQ change significantly. Instead of being an everyday location for staff, it will become an environment for collaborative working and a hub for meetings and other corporate events. This will result in a greater focus on staff wellbeing with breakout areas and coaching/quiet zones. There will also be a requirement for greater air filtration systems and improved lighting.

Things that must be considered when returning to the workplace include:

  • Have an understanding of what you need to get the most out of your employees.
  • Listen to the preferences of your employees
  • Engage with contractors and design teams.
  • Regular communication with your team to ensure they know what is required of them.
  • Engage with expert interior contractors who know and understand the requirements of fit out & refurbishment projects in tight demanding timescales and budgets
  • Complete the approach with reviews of how the spaces work and make final tweaks if required
  • Continue to engage and challenge each other in how best we can continue to develop our workplaces
  • Consider working with an expert interior contractor, consultant & furniture specialist company in a design & build (D&B) basis to accelerate and mitigate risk in cost and timescale

 

How can Worksmart help you?

Worksmart Spatial Planning and Design – COVID-19 Office Refurbishments

  • Safely returning to the office is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses over the coming year. The health and well-being of staff is paramount and instilling a level of confidence high enough in people to encourage them to return to the office is equally important.
  • Through innovative design and spatial planning in the office, Worksmart can help you achieve this and create a safe working environment for your staff. We want to get staff back into the built working environment again.

Spatial Office Redesign

  • Worksmart Contracts are creating offices to match the current and future needs of businesses. You must ensure that your workspace is designed in such a way as to minimise any possible COVID-19 transmission. Long-term solutions are the only response to the current situation and workspaces need to be modified in order to reassure workers.
  • Worksmart’s Spatial Planning and Design team benefits from the expertise of interior designers, architects, space planners, pre-construction specialists and office furniture consultants.
  • By combining all of this knowledge, we have created a team who are capable of meeting the challenges of office design in 2020 and beyond. Thanks to our Spatial Planning and Design team, Worksmart Contracts will be industry leaders when it comes to getting staff safely back into offices.

Air Filtration and Purification Systems

  • Correct filtration and cleaning of air is going to be very important as we attempt to recover some level of normalcy. To do this, offices, buildings, schools, hospitals, supermarkets and any other public places will begin to make use of HEPA and HVAC air filtration technology.
  • HEPA and HVAC systems effectively clean the air and rid it of potentially harmful bacteria and viruses. Even if the country makes a full recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, measures will be put in place to try and prevent future pandemics crippling the economy once again.
  • HVAC systems are designed to replace the air in a building every 20-30 minutes. This constant flow of fresh, clean air will prevent virus spread as well as having other benefits. Cleaner air will reduce headaches, fatigue and other issues that lower workplace productivity.
  • Worksmart are fully certified and can source and install HVAC and HEPA Air Filtration systems in any environment.

Komfort Protective Workspaces

  • With social distancing already accepted as the norm, no one will mind when it’s integrated into the office. This will include the use of free-standing and desk-mounted screens to protect people in the office environment.
  • Partitioning screens are available in a range of sizes and styles and can be used to enhance the character of a space, while also offering protection against virus transmission. Anti-microbial finishes are available for even greater protection.
  • As well as being utilised in the office, these systems will become the norm in waiting rooms, canteens, restaurants, hairdressers and more.

COVID-19 Office Refurbishments

  • Your office may never look the same again. Evolution is the key to ensuring the traditional office survives the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Worksmart can carry out all necessary works to ensure your office space is ready for the return to work. From inconspicuous partitions complete with anti-microbial finishes – safely segregating areas and workers – to new hygiene stations and HEPA air filtration systems, our Spatial Planning and Design team will create a safe working environment you can have confidence in.
  • To discuss how Worksmart can redesign your workspace and help you get your staff back in the office, call us directly on 01563 53 55 11 or leave an enquiry in the form below.

Women in Construction Summit London 2019

Back in May, we sent our very own Kellie Ann down to London to the Women in Construction Summit. Here, she writes about her experience at the event, and speaks about the issues that were up for discussion. 

I attended the Women in Construction Summit on the 16th May at the Olympia, London. This summit was a real buzz of women and men coming together to discuss issues currently facing people in construction. The event was focused on how different companies and organisations want to repaint the industry and resolve key issues, as well as focusing on eliminating any diversity issues going forward.

I found it really interesting listening to the various speakers as they would give us examples of things they had come across during their own careers and how they had dealt with it. Sarah Beale from CITB was there discussing the problems she faced while she was CITB’s youngest ever CEO. People would frequently overlook her in the assumption that she couldn’t possibly be the CEO of the company, being that she was not only young, but also a woman.

Barbara Res was also there discussing how times are changing in construction for women, but not fast enough. As she was the head of construction for Trump Towers back in the 1970s, she has seen it all and can speak honestly about what she has experienced during her career. The evolution of construction was discussed, and it was pointed out that it is moving very slowly.

The percentage of women in construction has remained the same since the 1970s. Another topic of the day was that the construction industry employs such a diverse group of individuals already, and 30% of the workforce are foreigners. With Brexit around the corner this was highlighted, and it was predicted that there could be a significant impact to the construction industry leading to shortages.

A big focus of the day was flexible working hours. Being a male dominant field in the past, this hadn’t been too much of an issue. Now, however, with more and more women entering the construction industry and a rise in the amount of men taking more time to be with their families, it is now being acknowledged that the construction industry needs to rethink its position on flexible working hours. The goal is to change the current norm and have a system that works for both workplaces and employees.

Everyone at the seminar was on board with this and some companies gave examples of the measures they are already putting in place. Most have the same idea of ‘core hours’ in which everyone needs to be at their place of work, but the hours out with these can be worked to make their contracted hours as they please. Many have said this works well and allows for things such as doctors and dentist appointments as well as family commitments and child care.

The onus on was being put on the companies to make flexible working hours happen. For women, changing maternity pay was also discussed. Many of the bigger construction companies offer 3-6 months full pay whilst on maternity leave. This was also mentioned as a selling point for women considering a career in construction, as starting a family can often threaten to derail a career.

Being a seminar focused on diversity, it was also highlighted that different religions and cultures need to be taken into consideration. An example was given of a Hindu employee who needed a week off to celebrate Diwali, rather than the time he was given off over the Christmas period. During Ramadan, Muslims fast during the day and can only eat when the sun is down. One company has already incorporated this into its guidelines and has allocated special areas praying.

Another important issue relating to diversity was raised during the conference that struck me. Someone suggested that while everyone has day-to-day problems they must deal with, people from minority groups may face more challenges or oppression than most. It was recommended that everyone keep mindful of things like this, in order to ensure a happier and more accepting workplace.

The whole thing was positive and inspiring and challenged companies to think of ways of bringing everyone together. Family open days seemed to be a popular thing and had already been hailed a success from several companies attending. I think implementing flexible working hours would be such an investment for companies as in this day and age, everyone has commitments outside of work and with mental health being highly focused on, maintaining a healthy work/life balance is so important.

— Kellie Ann Bryden

Schools Back – End of a Busy Summer for Worksmart

It’s official, the schools are back!

This marks the return to work various sectors in which we undertake project during the summer, such as colleges, Universities and Football Clubs. It’s been a very busy summer workload for Worksmart and we’ve been all over Scotland and the UK. Recent years have provided Worksmart Contracts with a busy work load throughout the summer shut downs in a variety of markets and 2019 has been no different.

Unfortunately, the Scottish weather hasn’t been much different to past summers either!

Challenging Schedule

This time of the year is always a challenging one. We need to ensure that we are fully prepared, as the logistics of the summer can be highly complex. Manufacturer shut downs, direct labour holidays, and sub-contractor’s workloads always have to be taken into consideration when undertaking projects during the summer.

It can be very challenging to manage all of these factors, but we try our very best to accommodate our client’s main contracts, their variations and whatever changes are requested along the way.

Traditionally our direct labour and sub-contractor labour levels rise 30%+ in this eight to ten-week period. Being able to call on skilled labour consistently during this time is another challenge we have to face.

This year has been another interesting and rewarding summer. Our teams have been engaged in some fabulous projects, from high level design and product specifications, to routine upgrades of various facilities that can only be carried out while staff and students are on holiday.

No two projects are ever the same.

Fire Doors and Passive Fire Protection

One thing we have been asked to assist in a lot this year is helping to educate our existing clients in Fire Doors and Passive Fire Protection. We have been able to assist with our fully certificated, vetted and third party approved Inspectors, Installers and maintainers.

We would recommend a visit to our sister company – Worksmart Fire Door Inspection – to find out more and to ask them to arrange a meeting to go through and assist in all matters involving Fire Doors and Passive Fire Protection. Our clients have found this service to be extremely useful and thus far we have helped designers, architects, surveyors and FM Managers.

Retraining our Focus

Now that staff and students are all back to work and our busy summer period has come to an end for another year, we like to turn our attention towards training and staff development. Currently we have several schemes in place, such as SSSTS, SMSTS, First Aid, PASMA, IPAF and Asbestos Awareness. All of these are either being implemented as the training matrix requires, or people are simply being sent on refresher courses.

In addition, we are proud to announce that we have started a further two Apprentice Joiners! One in the West and one in the East to help with the skills shortage we are currently facing in our construction industry. Worksmart are very proud of our Apprentice and Graduate Training Programmes along with our Schools Project and various work placements in all our offices.

I am sure you will get to meet the new apprentices soon and you should look forward to some upcoming case studies which we will be sharing in the next few weeks.

– Steve Neilson

Benefits of a Fit-Out or Refurbishment to a College

For the past several years, Worksmart Contracts has enjoyed a mutually beneficial working relationship with Ayrshire’s largest educational institution: Ayrshire College. This affiliation has seen Worksmart carry out a variety of works at both the Ayr and Kilwinning Campuses. These projects have proved to be hugely advantageous to the College and Worksmart.

Heather Dunk OBE was Principal of Ayrshire College for five years before retiring in March, and oversaw the works being carried out by Worksmart Contracts. Her successor Carol Turnbull is the new Principal and Chief Executive of Ayrshire College. Worksmart Contracts is looking forward to continuing our mutually beneficial relationship.

Before stepping down, Heather Dunk OBE was kind enough to give us her time and shared some of her thoughts on carrying out a Fit Out or Refurbishment at a college. Below, we’ve outlined some of the key benefits outlined by the former Principal.

Selecting the Right Contractor

The first thing any College or University needs to consider when carrying out a Fit Out or Refurbishment project is the choice of contractor. It’s essential that a thorough and robust screening process is carried out and that the correct company are selected. Things to remember during the selection process is that you need a company who can not only be trusted and have an excellent reputation, but also one that can remain competitive on price.

Timescales

The bulk of any Refurbishment or Fit Out within a College or University needs to be done during the summer months. This will allow the work to occur with minimal interference and for the students’ academic studies to go undisturbed.

With this being the case, it leaves a very tight window for a project to be undertaken. For Colleges and Universities, this means finding a contractor who can set accurate deadlines and are able to work within those timescales without delays.
Worksmart Contracts have a reputation of being able to deliver on-time, on-budget and to a very high standard. Because of this, we have been able to forge a successful relationship with Ayrshire College.

Benefits to the Students

Education

Worksmart has created a new Hospitality and Tourism Suite, Early Years Education spaces and Health and Social Care spaces. These areas are able to replicate the real-world conditions students will face after graduation. Being able to accurately display what students will find in industry is hugely important for their education.

The creation of these new learning spaces is the best way to ensure students are receiving the best possible education during their time at Ayrshire College. By granting them these facilities, Ayrshire College are giving them a higher chance of succeeding in after graduation.

Student Experience

Providing modern and attractive learning and social spaces for students has a huge impact on morale and vigour. This can be especially difficult in older buildings that were developed in the 60s and 70s. This was the issue facing the Ayr and Kilwinning Campuses of Ayrshire College.

By undertaking a refurbishment of the highest standards, we were able to make these two campuses feel like new buildings that can rival brand new campuses. This leads to higher student morale, more inspired individuals and can spark a greater thirst for learning and achievement.

Opportunity

There is no greater learning experience for a student than getting hands-on in a real-world environment. By working with Ayrshire College, we regularly give students the opportunity to come on site visits and give them a glimpse into what the industry is really like.

Finding placements as a student can often be the difference between getting a job after graduating or not. Our partnership with Ayrshire College has led to several students being given placement opportunities, not just in the construction side, but also in the marketing and administration side of Worksmart Contracts. This type of experience can prove to be invaluable when it comes to seeking employment.

Another way that has proven to be hugely positive for both Worksmart and the industry as a whole has been our continued development of females getting into the Construction Industry.

Our first ever female joinery apprentice has been greatly involved in projects with Ayrshire College, engaging with students and helping to inspire and teach them about a potential career and opportunities in the industry.