Gary Wadhwani, co-founder and director of Craft Buddy speaks of the duty of care that the company owes its employees. He speaks of responding to an increase in demand for its arts and crafts products, while prioritising the health and wellbeing of its staff, their families and the general public
How are the team? And how has your business had to adapt since the government imposed its social distancing guidelines in order to limit the spread of Covid-19?
It goes without saying that our primary objective is our team’s wellbeing. In light of the dangerously rapid progression of the Covid-19 outbreak, we made the decision to partially close our office around a month ago. Staff who are mainly office-based were asked to work from home, while a very small number of warehouse staff have continued to come into our headquarters to ensure we can continue to dispatch customer orders, albeit at a slower pace than normal.
Three weeks ago, we took this a step further by limiting the number of people allowed in our building at any given time to just one person at a time, to minimise the possibility of any transfer of disease. Having reviewed this further, we have now safely increased this to two members of staff at any one time. Staff that do come in have been required to take various safety precautions, including wearing of gloves, masks, regularly using hand sanitizer and keeping at least two metres away from each other.
Fortunately, despite the frightening and rapid pace of the Covid-19 outbreak, staff morale remains high – members of the office-based team are in regular contact with each other via video conferencing and phone, and the warehouse team appreciate that we have put their wellbeing before anything else with the implementation of these safety measures.
How clear have you found government guidelines so far? Do you feel the government is offering enough support?
Government guidelines thus far have been fairly clear, while permitting some flexibility and room for interpretation. But rather than be beholden to government guidelines, very early on we took steps to ensure our staff were safe in the workplace, such as halving the number of people onsite as early as a month ago and taking other precautions, which I mentioned previously. As a business we have always sought to go above and beyond statutory minimums, on matters such as maternity and paternity pay, holiday allowance, et cetera, and in some ways, this is no different. We want to go further for our staff than merely what the government has suggested.
Other recent government initiatives that are helpful are the government’s Covid-19 website, with details on workplace safety precautions that employers can take; and the Furlough scheme, which we have considered for some staff who simply cannot perform their duties from home. Overall, we are satisfied with the guidelines and support the government have offered.
Has there been much demand for your products, since the country went into lockdown?
Interestingly, there has been high demand for our arts and crafts products, particularly Crystal Art, as people look for activities to keep them entertained during long days at home. So, we have continued to receive orders, in some cases in higher volumes than normal, from our online retail trade customers, as well as on our own e-commerce websites.
We feel a duty to send these products to our customers to keep them entertained; however, this is tempered by the duty of care we owe to our employees – hence our recent step to limit the number of people on-site.
Do you feel that you may have any stock issues on the horizon?
We are currently well-stocked and our manufacturers who are based in the Far East are now back up and running and producing our orders. However, to receive our goods we need UK ports to be open, and this is uncertain at the moment, so future deliveries may be affected. We will monitor this closely and we will be sure to regularly update our customers about stock levels and focus on selling items that we do have in stock.
What’s your online presence and social media set-up like?
We have a very engaged, loyal and active social media following for our brands, including Crystal Art and Forever Flowerz. We recognise that our role during this outbreak is to provide our B2C audience with content to keep them occupied and entertained during this worrying period, as well as continuing to deliver their orders. We have been working hard with our creative team to arrange Live arts and craft demonstrations and give our followers the opportunity to learn new crafts, for social interaction, and above all to lift people’s spirits and morale. We’ve primarily used Facebook Live as a medium for this.
We have been guided by our customers in terms of the content of our live demonstrations – we’ve asked them what they want to see. We’re planning live demonstrations that don’t necessarily involve our products – for example, a demo on children’s crafting, using common household waste materials (Blue Peter style!). The overriding concern at this time is the welfare of our audience, rather than commerce. It’s been great to see our crafting community come together and engage in online conversations, for example, on how they are best dealing with being at home. Our Facebook groups – of which we have three, with a total of over 10,000 members – have been vibrant hubs of interaction.
How will you continue to drive awareness to your product ranges?
We are continuing to create our daily social media posts as well as weekly customer newsletters and generally keeping them informed of any updates that we may have.
Do you see any opportunities in all of this?
The Covid-19 pandemic is nothing less than a very serious public health emergency. By far the most pressing concerns for us currently are the wellbeing of our staff, our families and the public.
But while many of us are stuck at home, there are certainly opportunities to try new things. Crafting in general is an ideal activity to take part in at home, as it enables people to exercise their creativity, to do something therapeutic and to relieve stress and anxieties. Our brands, like Crystal Art and Forever Flowerz, have both experienced a surge in online sales in the last few weeks – both crafts are great forms of relaxation, are stress relieving and are suitable for entire families, as well those living on their own. Helping customers to craft and relieve stress is a major reason why we continue to send one staff member to our HQ each day, rather than close our operations altogether.