What We're Made Of - Chris Parker, InsideOut Architecture

What We’re Made Of is a Q&A series that looks at how companies in the aviation industry are tackling challenges brought on by the COVID–19 pandemic. We’ve had to adapt to changes in where, when and how we work, but we are resilient. If you would like to share your experience, e-mail editor@apex.aero.

Full Name: Chris Parker
Commercial Director, InsideOut Architecture 
Location: London
Day 40 of working from home
Date of writing: May 13, 2020

Are you in lockdown right now?
Yes. We took the decision to fully move to remote working from 23rd March.

Where are you writing from?
I am working from home alongside my wife, who also works full time, and homeschooling three children. I am fortunate that I have been able to set up four workstations by plundering the office furniture and computers, but it’s still a challenge trying to find somewhere quiet for conference calls. It is a running joke in my office as to which of my children I have thrown out of their bedrooms for each meeting.

How are you trying to maintain “business as usual” or communicating with your team?
Whether individual projects can continue as normal depends upon both the sector and stage of work that the project is at. I head up the commercial fit-out team at IO, which is primarily focused on hospitality. Within the aviation sector, all of our projects have been put on hold, with most client organizations now almost fully furloughed. Work “on the drawing board” is continuing as normal, albeit with any meetings via Zoom.

What’s your new office attire or go-to comforts at home during this time?
After a few days taking advantage of the more relaxed working environment, I am now trying to be “normal” – i.e, actually shaving and dressing for work. I’m still in shorts though – nobody can see your legs on Zoom.

“With reduced capacity and shorter dwell times, many airport-based businesses will need to reconsider their business models, and in turn airports will need to do the same.”

How are you passing time?
We are watching The Walking Dead (after the kids are in bed, obviously). Somehow a program about a zombie apocalypse is comforting at the moment – things could be worse! With the kids we are also making the most of our new Disney+ subscription and have also educated them in some 80s movie classics – Brewsters Millions has been the favorite so far.

How prepared was your company to instate remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic? Any tips on how to remain productive under these new circumstances?
We are a small company, so the move to remote working was fairly simple for us. Some people maintain a normal working day, whereas others are working odd hours to fit in around homeschooling and other commitments. We constantly monitor risks to the business, and a shutdown of the office (if not a global pandemic!) was planned for. All staff have remote server access, and the use of collaboration tools such as Trello and Teams are embedded in our working culture. If anything, productivity has increased. Personally speaking, I am enjoying the extra two hours of time a day previously taken up with my commute.

How can we, as an industry, work together and rebound from this unprecedented crisis?
A lot of the media focus has been on how airlines will separate passengers once on board, but we also need to consider that airports are small cities, and therefore face the same problems as cities face in terms of social distancing requirements. The difference is of course that while some people can walk or cycle to work, airports are usually remote and are linked by public transport. Getting people to and from the airport will be the initial challenge.

There will need to be a huge collaborative effort between airlines, airports, retail and service providers to re-imagine the airport. Shops, restaurants and lounges will all individually need to consider how they will maintain social distancing to keep their own staff and passengers safe. Due to the capacity constraints created by social distancing standards, will airports still find it advantageous for passengers to arrive to the airport three hours before a flight? If not, how will this impact revenue? With reduced capacity and shorter dwell times, many airport-based businesses will need to reconsider their business models, and in turn airports will need to do the same.

Where do you see your company or the industry in six months from now? One year?
I think there is only one certainty at the moment, and that is that things will be different than they were for the foreseeable future, perhaps permanently.

What’s one thing that will never be the same again for commercial aviation?
Business travel will almost certainly reduce as people become used to meetings on Zoom and companies assess the risk of asking their staff to travel. They will also be weighing up the cost benefit, with flight costs almost certainly needing to increase.

Read more about the coronavirus impact on the air travel industry, including APEX’s position on the matter, and subscribe to the APEX Daily Experience newsletter to stay up to date.