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Comment: Isabel Pintado, senior vice president of Wilson Associates, on working through challenging times

Comment: Isabel Pintado, senior vice president of Wilson Associates, on working through challenging times

"We hope for the best and will continue to strive to be a step ahead of the necessary changes"

Isabel Pintado, Senior Vice President - Wilson Associates
Isabel Pintado, Senior Vice President - Wilson Associates

As the world around us changes dramatically in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, CID speaks to members of our Power 50 to find out how the region's design industry is adapting in the face of adversity.

First up is Isabel Pintado, Senior Vice President - Wilson Associates, who speaks on remote working and new social norms.

"As disconcerting as the current situation is we have found our clients are continuing with their developments so far.  We have recently completed the tender package for the new MGM at The Island and are in the thick of designing the Island's central feature. 
We are working closely with WASL, MGM and Mirage Leisure & Development to meet the agreed timeframes, while all of our meetings now take place online through video. 

Another fascinating project we are currently busy with is the Marsa Al Arab Development, where we are working closely with North25 as well as Jumeirah and the team of leading consultants. 

In addition to these two large projects, we are currently mobilising a team to start the design of a new Hakkasan Restaurant in Riyadh, four new F&B outlets in Al Khobar and Riyadh, as well as a number of projects outside the region.  We remain busy and hopeful during these uncertain times.

I have been in touch with a few colleagues who own or run design practices in Dubai and we are keeping each other informed. I believe most of their scenarios are similar to ours, where projects are continuing to progress, although different firms have taken different measures.

At times of distress such as this one, we are all concerned with keeping our staff safe, businesses running, and avoiding having to take any drastic measures regarding changes in our staffing. While we have little chance to communicate, we do know we can rely on each other and I hope we will all come out of this situation stronger and wiser.

We implemented from the beginning of all this a closed door policy, where suppliers nor guests are allowed in to the office, and all meetings between clients and project teams are happening virtually online.

Our staff have now began a remote working scenario from their homes with only a skeleton team based in the office at this point [unless otherwise directed by the authorities]. All clients, project managers, and operators have respected our decision and we can see it is becoming the norm with everyone in the industry whilst precautions are needed.  

I believe our social behaviour and how we interact with each other will change, it will become the new normal to not shake hands, to keep a minimum distance from others, and expect virtual meetings to remain the norm for some time. Such change of behaviour will definitely instruct a different approach to social areas within our projects, how people interact, how we deal with surfaces, for example.

Longer term, I believe we will see a cash flow issue which will affect very strongly firms with no reserves. This is a reality we all must face and we need to carefully structure our contracts and programs as we anticipate this pattern will continue for the foreseeable future. Contractual and financial savviness in managing payment delays will become part of the new norm. The industry needs to start applying much stricter policies in regards to payments to create a healthier cashflow.

For the time being, I believe we will need to approach remote work setups as a norm; this means implementing a strong planning process as to manage resources and projects successfully while we adjust to working in this alternative way.

Our industry, like all, are at the mercy of the overall economy, although for now we are not as adversely affected as much as others such as F&B, events, retail, and more. We hope for the best and will continue to strive to be a step ahead of the necessary changes so we can deliver to our clients in a timely manner."

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