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Not that much has changed for Helen Kontouris after all

In putting together Indesign #83, our Workplace Progress issue, we spoke with Helen Kontouris to get her thoughts on the longer term impacts of COVID-19.

Not that much has changed for Helen Kontouris after all

An Indesign Luminary from way back (issue 47 to be exact!), Helen Kontouris has plenty of wisdom to share. She spent much of her 2020 – like other Melburnians – in lockdown. What did she take away from this experience? How has it influenced the way she designs and manages her business? Here’s what she has to say.

The past year has seen the way we live and work change considerably. How has this influenced your view on designing for home and work?

Initially peers, friends and our staff thought they’d prefer to permanently work from home, yet the more prolonged the Melbourne lockdown [became], the more it became evident that we all desire human connection and social interaction. We’ve focused on ensuring our new products are adaptable to the present COVID-19 situation along with the post-COVID-19 future, as we don’t see a long-term shift in the way we work or spend time at home actually. I expect any longer changes to remain will [include people being] more aware of personal hygiene and not feeling guilty to stay home and work if they feel slightly unwell.

This last year has seen our relationship with ‘change’ shift. From pioneering change, we’ve had to react quickly and flexibly to change beyond our influence. What was your experience of this?

We did experience some significant challenges. Although all our staff were able to work from home, many of our manufacturers and artisans in Australia were unable to trade. This led us to work closely with them via Zoom to discuss details to continue the momentum. Manufacturers are often slower to adopt technology; having them adopt a technology to ensure we can continue to work closely has been incredibly helpful.

Do you have a top takeaway from 2020 that will inform your business beyond the pandemic?

Going through all of the emotions during 2020 [I’ve realised] at times it’s easy to be caught up in the negative outlook and energy. We were checking in with our team much more frequently to ensure they felt supported, and as a team it highlighted the importance of maintaining good mental health. We’ll definitely carry this forward now and always as it brought us all closer.

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