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At home with... nelsonandlong

There’s no doubt that working from home is now the new normal. For those of us in the design industry, especially if you’re freelance or an independent business owner, working from home may well have already been a normal and integrated part of our lives. But if not, having to adapt to a new routine in amongst the anxiety of a pandemic seems overwhelming to say the least. Whilst we’re been acclimatising to working out of the spare room or on the dining table, we’ve also had to navigate ongoing projects; maintaining a healthy relationship with clients whilst not being able to meet or see the progress face-to-face. Projects which usually should have had a lead time of several weeks have now been extended to months, regardless of how organised we’ve been.

As areas across the North-West are plunged back into localised lockdowns following a spike in Covid infection rates, we want to enlighten you on how people within the industry are coping with the ever-changing climate which we find ourselves in. Each week we will be having a chat to interior designers and creatives across the North West (and further afield) to see how their working lives, and spaces, have changed this year. To make things more interesting, we’ll be asking our guests to show us their current WFH set-up – what can we say, we’re nosy!

This week, we’re at home with Alicia and Jessica, the design duo behind nelsonandlong, a Stockport-based design studio specialising in commercial projects across the country.

Image courtesy of nelsonandlong

Hi guys! Could you tell us firstly all about nelsonandlong and what you guys do?

Hi! Thanks so much for having us! So, we are interior designers specialising in student accommodation and commercial interior design projects. The student accommodation sector is where our expertise lies and we really enjoy creating new and divergent spaces for students to enjoy! They have changed so much over the years and many PBSA buildings are now more like boutique hotels which is amazing and it allows us to be really creative and innovative. We also really enjoy working on other commercial projects, such as restaurants, hotels and offices as well as residential property developments.

Has lockdown changed the way you would usually work?

It most definitely has! Our usual work set up was in an office, which to be honest was not the most inspiring of spaces!

Working from home separately has been something that we have had to adapt to pretty quickly. It has been such a different way of working and living. We have learnt to have a more flexible approach in finding a new work/life balance. I think for both of us though, it has brought so many positives - no travelling, more time to enjoy the great outdoors and a more focused working time too! We have most definitely seen this as a period of growth for our business in as much as having the time to focus on completing tasks that we may not have had previously. It has taught us to be present in the moment, whether that be working, home schooling or family time - which is something we are grateful for.

How have you found working from home?

We both really love working from home –we’ve found a new balance and a more relaxed routine which is something we will continue with! Saying that- we have missed seeing each other. We, of course, talk all the time, but working together in person is much more fun! We do really bounce off each other and have missed that positive energy at times.

Have you been able to continue working as you would usually?

We have been working throughout lockdown, although it has been on different things than usual. For example, we have been focusing on our business development and getting some solid processes in place. We have really tried to maximise the time to our advantage as much as possible.

Image courtesy of nelsonandlong

Do you usually work collaboratively on all your projects?

We do work really closely on all our projects. I think that’s what we enjoy so much- having that other person to discuss everything with and also we have a lot of fun! Our working relationship has grown over the years. We both have different strengths and areas we are confident in and it has become a very natural process!

How easy has it been to maintain communication as a pair?

It’s been so different as we were used to seeing each other every day! But, we have spoken and used FaceTime several times a day and got used to our new routines (albeit with many interruptions from the kids!) Now lockdown rules are lifted, we have been meeting up and working together again, which has been great!

Image courtesy of nelsonandlong

How has it been trying to navigate projects and work with your clients whilst not be able to see them face to face?

Fortunately for us, we weren’t mid project when lockdown started. Some of our work involves specification development for clients with property portfolios. We have been working on helping them resource products as it has become difficult to get hold of the stock and quantities needed, which has been an enjoyable challenge!

It has been relatively easy to do this all remotely. A few projects that were in the pipeline were postponed which was totally understandable, but as restrictions were lifted we have been out visiting sites and new work which has been great!

Moving forward, how do you think this period in lockdown will affect how you work in the future?

Lockdown has really made us reassess our working environment. It has helped us to look at our lifestyle too and realise that we can achieve more and have a greater work life balance when working from home for some of the time. So, for now, the plan is to meet up at each other’s places whilst we look at finding a really interesting space to work in. We love designing them, so thought - why not look for something more like us! A barge maybe or even a shepherd’s hut! Watch this space!

Image courtesy of nelsonandlong

Back in April, you posted 10 tips for maximising productivity whilst working from home over on your blog. Which of those 10 tips would you say is the most important to carry forward as we come out of lockdown and back into normal life?

It’s hard to pick one as we try and work by all the tips (although not always possible!). The one that has been the most helpful for maximising productivity and also helps greatly with switching off from work is making plans. We have really stuck to making a plan for the week and breaking this down into lists for each day. It helps us to stay focused and achieve the task with the least amount of stress. It’s so satisfying crossing jobs off the list! Also, setting ourselves a timetable has been really beneficial as it defines the work/life balance. Knowing when to switch off is so important when working from home - especially for those you live with too!

How successful do you think you have both been at following your own advice with those WFH tips?!

Well, some things we have done better than others! Mentioning no names (Alicia!) we’ve seen an interesting choice of work clothes - dressing to impress?! Also, our separate work rooms were often abandoned. Let’s just say - not always the preferred place to work as the sofa/bed/kitchen offer a more favourable facility! Need to work on this maybe - but it’s hard when the kids are around too! (That’s definitely Jess’ excuse!) I think overall, the line of work that we are in can really lend itself to working from home successfully, but then you might want to ask us again in a couple of weeks when we are mid big project not being able to see the floor for samples everywhere!

Thank you both so much for speaking with us, and for letting us have a little snoop around your workspaces!

To find out more about nelsonandlong, you can visit their website or find them over on Instagram.