Comment: Pallavi Dean, founder and creative director at Roar, on pushing ahead

Comment: Pallavi Dean, founder and creative director at Roar, on pushing ahead

"It's a time for mental toughness and resilience."

Pallavi Dean, founder of Roar
Pallavi Dean, founder of Roar

Roar's Pallavi Dean adds her voice to interior design industry luminaries commenting on how COVID-19 is reshaping their sector.

"We signed two new projects this week. One was just a small extension of scope, but the other was a biggie, equivalent to about 15 percent of our typical annual turnover. It was with a government-related client in the UAE - we can't say more than that because of NDAs. Plus, our existing government-related clients have told us that all ongoing projects will push ahead as planned. That sends a powerful message that the UAE government – both federal and emirate - is backing up its words about economic stimulus with action. This money pays the salaries of 15 staff, who pay rent, go to the supermarket, order food online and so on…

"[Support amongst the industry] is happening informally, through phone calls and messages – not some grand industry-wide initiative. The good thing about consultancy is that it lends itself really well to remote working, so we're swapping tips on what works and what doesn't.

"We did a video bringing together a few local designers, a message for our Italian suppliers and friends -  it's been watched and shared so many times, as we didn't expect that. I love how this is bringing the community together and it shows that small gestures can be powerful too.

"Remote working is working brilliantly. We, as consultants, waste so much time travelling to and attending meetings, many of which are futile. In many ways it's far more efficient. Microsoft Teams has been brilliant.

"As an industry, we have far too many meetings, and they're a massive drain on productivity. Everyone will realise – clients, project managers, suppliers, designers – that a quick video chat is fine for 80 percent of meetings. The 20 per cent of truly important meetings (site specially) will still happen face-to-face.

"Two things will never be the same again. First, antimicrobial materials. Consultants have been pushing then for years, but they always get value-engineered out. Not anymore. Secondly, office design. Today, the vast majority of clients in this region still insist on ‘one person, one desk' when designing their corporate HQ. Only a handful of pioneers are commissioning truly agile, flexible workspaces. Not anymore.

"It's going to be tough. A lot of projects are going to be cancelled or put on hold – furniture orders will be delayed. Sure, we've signed new work, but we've already lost an office and a restaurant this week. It's a time for mental toughness and resilience."

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