Would it ever come? It seems as if we’ve been locked away for ever and then, all of a sudden, we are given our freedom albeit with some restrictions. A bit like being released from prison but with an electronic leg tag…..and still reporting to a probation officer. It sounds as if I have experience of this but, honestly, it’s just speculation!

Actually, I think I’ve become a bit institutionalised. I haven’t actually hated the lockdowns and restrictions and have become accepting of them as the way we live. I’ve liked the quiet roads when we’ve popped out to get a click-and-collect and the ease of walking down a street to get a paper. Of course, there have been irritations and disappointments particularly when it comes to seeing friends and relatives and, touch wood, as a family we have been very lucky in that Covid-19 has not struck us down in any serious way although I fully understand that others may not have been so fortunate.

We have also been able to continue our work. Has it been different? It certainly has. However, it seems that the vast majority of the population have been able to adapt and carry on, albeit very differently than before. Yes, as a country we have been fortunate that most people and businesses have been able to get financial support of some description and although it is easy to gripe about the things that may have gone wrong over the past year, I don’t think anyone could fail to recognise the success of our roll-out of the vaccines to the population.

So here we are with the first invites for face-to-face interviews and editor visits to manufacturers starting to drop into my Inbox. And even the first invite to a Golf Day and a visit to a facility abroad! Exciting as this may seem, I go back to my remark about feeling that I have become a bit institutionalised. I’m a fairly outgoing and social sort of guy, or so I would like to think, but there is a certain trepidation that is hard to shake off. I had to look up ‘institutionalised’ to fully understand that if someone becomes institutionalised, they gradually become less able to think and act independently because of having lived for a long time under the rules of an institution. If I’m feeling like this now, after only a year, what must it be like for someone in a prison or hospital for a long period?

In all honesty, I’m hoping that we have now found a better and more efficient way of working. I don’t miss queuing my way down a motorway and never knowing whether I’ll get to my appointment on time, whereas I do miss seeing and chatting with people in the flesh. Perhaps there is a happy medium to be found between the use of technology to aid visits and for interviews mixed in with face-to-face interaction. I have talked with many people about this and there is little doubt that our use of technology has saved time and money over the past year and being able to help a customer with a technical problem via a laptop, tablet or ‘phone rather than charging across the country, is very much more efficient. I would be very interested to hear your opinion – email me at chris@glassnews.co.uk

In every interview we end up talking about the skills gap in our industry and the need to attract more people into fenestration. There is always talk of apprentices and that automatically makes one think of school leavers and young people joining the industry and it is easy to forget that there are many other options: people who have been made redundant from other industries, those of any age wanting to change jobs or service personnel taking their pensions and looking for a post forces career. As has been pointed out to me on many occasions, virtually every sector of our industry is short-staffed and the problem is exacerbated by the boom we are experiencing and is forecast to continue. But for how long? Will the rush to get the towels on the sunbeds on some sun-kissed shore slow down the spend on home improvements and will the inevitable rise in prices for windows and doors through the increase in the price of raw materials and transportation have a detrimental effect on our industry? Time will tell!


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