Home office builder bounces back after covid downturn

PUBLISHED: 15:12 25 September 2020 | UPDATED: 15:50 25 September 2020

New recruits with managers at Smart Garden Rooms, Offices & Studios  Picture: SMART

New recruits with managers at Smart Garden Rooms, Offices & Studios Picture: SMART

SMART Garden Rooms, Offices & Studios

A garden office builder is bucking the economic trend by taking on new staff.

One of Smart's garden office designs  Picture: SMARTOne of Smart's garden office designs Picture: SMART

Bury St Edmunds-based Smart Garden Rooms, Offices & Studios has seen orders go through the roof as more people look to work from home.

It bounced back strongly after the March lockdown – when all but one of its staff was placed on furlough.

The £4m turnover outdoor buildings manufacturer – based in Thurston – was back to full capacity again by mid-summer as orders came flooding in. So much so that it has boosted its pre-lockdown team of 37 by more than a fifth and now employs a 45-strong workforce.

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Three of the firm’s managers bought out the business last year. Managing director Matt Moss, sales and marketing director Sue Phillips and operations director Paul Sheppard have since invested in developing new products, improving customer experience and boosting staff skills.

From left, Smart Garden Offices owners Paul Sheppard, Sue Phillips and Matt Moss  Picture: PAUL NIXON PHOTOGRAPHYFrom left, Smart Garden Offices owners Paul Sheppard, Sue Phillips and Matt Moss Picture: PAUL NIXON PHOTOGRAPHY

This year, the firm has installed new external and internal showrooms and business is now booming.

“Leads and order books have been growing rapidly as working from home became the new and long-term normal for many workers, whether employed or self-employed,” said Mr Moss.

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“As a result of this upsurge in interest and purchases, Smart took the decision to both restructure and expand our workforce to effectively meet this demand.”

The firm has taken on nine new staff in recent weeks, including one replacement role, and continues to seek more workers to fill roles as part of its expansion plans.

Roles include business development, installation, production, project management, quality control and sales and marketing.

The plan was to be “fully tooled up” to meet demand in a growing market, said Mr Sheppard.

“The new recruits will all be about delivering quality and their appointments will allow other team members to step up to more senior roles in the company,” he added.

Research from the Universities of Cardiff and Southampton suggests more people want to work from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with nine out of 10 people wanting to retain some element of home working, said Ms Phillips.

“Working from home has well and truly arrived. According to one survey, while 16% of people worked from home, that figure is currently 43%,” she said. “All of this is great news for us.”

The firm’s output is around 20 buildings a month, but that looks set to rise to 30 buildings a month.

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