It’s been a long, strange year, and one where most of us have spent far more time in our homes than we ever planned to.
The longer we spend in our homes, the more stress they’re put under - and the more we need tradespeople to help out. From boilers going on the blink as they power us through a cold winter to electrics going haywire with everyone trying to plug in their laptops to work or learn from home, we’ve needed tradespeople like never before.
It’s something we’ve all recognised too - 90% of homeowners told us they thought tradespeople had played an important role in getting us all through the pandemic, ranking in the top five most essential professions, right after the emergency services, NHS workers, shop workers and delivery drivers.
Panic in the air
But like for most of us, it’s not all been plain sailing for tradespeople. Most operate as sole traders, meaning they didn’t have access to the same government support schemes lots of people had.
Alan Rae of MultiColour-Dreams, a decorator in Oxfordshire, said that once the first lockdown hit, there was a sense of “panic” in the air.
“After the lockdown news in March, everything went quiet. There was a sense of panic. For a week, you were wondering if you were ever going to work again,” he said.
“Gradually, the government made it clear that tradespeople could work, and things slowly started coming back. I think I’ve been very fortunate, because a lot of the work I do is outside, so people were more comfortable with those jobs happening.”
Even with being back to work, it’s not hard to see evidence of the pandemic during his daily life. He said: “A while ago, I was hired to do a commercial job, decorating an office. It should have been full of people I’d have to try and work around - but there was only one person in there. It was very strange - but that’s how things are.”
Brain Tilbury, a veteran carpet fitter from Ilford, agreed that times were tough when the first lockdown was announced.
“Last March, you found that jobs were being cancelled, as people didn’t want you coming over to work. A lot of people were scared, really when it first hit it was the fright of people’s lives,” he said.
“Over the year, things have started to come back a bit. You get used to wearing masks and working a bit differently - people check if you’ve been ill, or if your family has it, before you come around.”
He added: “My brother is a builder too, and he’s been in the same boat. You never want to stop working, it’s what you do.”
A sense of responsibility
Steven Plummer, of SGD Window Services in Bexleyheath also remembered the worry of last March.
“Work just died a death,” he said. “People were too scared to have you coming round, so jobs were being cancelled left, right and centre.”
For Steven though, lots of his jobs are emergencies - fixing broken doors and windows and making homes secure. That meant work couldn’t just stop - but he knew he had to make sure that homeowners felt safe in every respect.
“I think during this time I’ve felt a real sense of responsibility, one that we all have, for keeping people safe. You have to work in a way that gives people the confidence that it’s safe, like wearing a mask.”
Luckily for Steven’s customers, they can be even more reassured, since he’s already received his vaccination - something that will hopefully help all of us get back to normal in the coming months.