Light between the cracks of a year like no other / 1

Author L&L Communication Team
Category Corporate and events
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The last few days of February 2020 had been frenetic: with Light+Building just around the corner, we’d been in the final stretch of preparations for it.

Then, suddenly, we were faced with the health emergency. The whole world discovered it had just one priority and started to slow down to almost a complete stop.

Everyone was left waiting with bated breath.

There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.
(Leonard Cohen)

We peeked through the cracks of this historical break and caught the light filtering through them. As a result, we interviewed some members of the L&L team.

Exactly one year after the start of the events that turned our daily lives upside down, we have collected the first five interviews here. Others will follow.

Marco Celsan, CEO

Like so many other manufacturers, L&L’s activity is intertwined with that of other companies, the other links in its supply chain. What did it mean to see this chain break at the start of the pandemic?

I’d like to reply by referring back to the situation we were in before the pandemic reached Italy: we’d seen a significant increase in orders. At first, I couldn't understand why, but, as the days passed, some of our customers explained it to us: we had the Italian supply chain on our side.

The much maligned Made in Italy production allowed us to continue to deliver without the negative effects of a lockdown that had already affected China and that we believed would never reach our shores.

When the emergency hit Italy, and the government imposed a total close-down, my concern was how to avoid bringing production flows to a standstill. I immediately set about finding out how we could reopen in complete safety, applying all the protocols. So, after a week of a complete shutdown, I reopened the production department of L&L, in a reduced capacity and with the new safety measures in place. Our nearby suppliers complied with our requirements, and we were able to “keep the engine running” and guarantee our services.

What’s the biggest difficulty you encountered during that time and what new opportunities have arisen because of it?
The biggest difficulty was checking order by order that the connections, means of transport and warehouses were open so we could get the products to the customer.

The positive thing that’s come out of it, on the other hand, concerns our staff, who immediately started working from home. For many of them it was their first experience of Smart Working. I really appreciated the people in my company, who didn’t throw in the towel but, in no time, reinvented themselves and proved they were winners. The sales team experimented with every possible kind of video technology available to present the new products.

Can you tell us a good habit that you started in lockdown and you’ll now carry on?
I have to say that, during this time, I’ve got into the habit of paying much more attention to my health and that of the people close to me. It may sound trite, but I see a person’s health as the litmus test for self-respect. Showing yourself respect is an essential habit. There was a moment when I asked myself what quality of life we can look forward to now. The answer is directly proportional to the amount of respect we have for ourselves and for others. In every choice we make.

Patrizia Framarin, Human Resources Manager

What was your experience of adapting the company to the health and safety requirements, considering Prime Ministerial Decrees, protocols and directives that came out one on top of the other at the start of the pandemic?

The main difficulty was understanding the instructions imparted by the Prime Ministerial Decrees and getting up to speed quickly when they followed on one another in such a disorganised way (let's not forget the timely Saturday night bulletins!). And all the while needing to be aware and sure that the procedures adopted were the ones that would really put the workers in a position to work safely.

Suddenly distances became apparent, that is to say living outside the area could now be an obstacle to coming into the office and therefore to being able to work. Equally, the family situations (school-age children, elderly parents, pre-existing medical conditions) of some employees affected their ability to guarantee their presence at work.

On the other hand, everyone’s willingness to review their working methods allowed us to easily organise online operations wherever possible and to guarantee continuity of service to our customers — many of whom, especially those in other countries, continued to operate to a greater extent than we were allowed to in Italy.

And what about managing online operations and employees’ return to the company’s premises?
As far as production was concerned, we were obliged to comply with the complete shutdown initially ordered by the government. However, as soon as we had the chance, and had sourced all the necessary PPE, we organised the return to work of the production and warehouse staff in conditions of the utmost safety – at first only partially, and on a rotational basis, depending on their responsibilities. Then, as the months passed, we became aware of the increasing need on everyone’s part, even those who were working from home, to regain some normality. So, after having reorganised the office spaces, we let everyone gradually return on site.

I would like to take the opportunity of this interview to thank all the L&L staff for their willingness to adapt to every sudden change proposed. It was important to work together to find solutions and guarantee continuity, and everyone participated positively and contributed to maintaining a climate of calm and tranquillity.

Can you tell us a good habit that you started in lockdown and you’ll now carry on?
In my view, the term “lockdown” doesn’t have the same meaning for everyone. For me, personally, it meant a lot more work, whether I was in the office or during the few days I spent at home. Pizza/wine/video chats with friends/books/films ... those certainly weren’t the ingredients of these months for me.

All the same, there have been two aspects that have characterized my days: health, feeling vulnerable and fearing for loved ones and, in contrast, the awareness of enjoying the privilege of being able to work, in safety, that has allowed us to live a more normal life, to some extent, than those who were obliged to stay at home. All this has activated in me a profound sense of gratitude that has allowed me to bear the considerable stress of these last few months.

There you are, the habit of being grateful, thanks for the question!

Is there any other aspect of your work during lockdown you'd like to talk about?
It's more about today, the difficulty of looking to the future, the courage to make plans when faced with the uncertainty of a success that no longer depends only on my commitment, but on external factors that can disrupt everything in a flash.

We had a vision of a world that seemed easily achievable and now we can take nothing for granted: we must learn to look to the future in a new way.

Massimo Grisonich, IT Manager

At the start of the pandemic, every company was driven to use remote-working options wherever possible to stay operational, at least in non-production functions. You had to adapt every department to this new way of working extremely quickly. How was that experience?

L&L has always made a point of investing consistently in its IT systems, so, in terms of connectivity and security, the current infrastructure was already set up to allow external users to access the information system (ERP, CRM, PDM).

Just a week before lockdown started, seeing how serious the situation was getting, we'd already made sure that every employee was able to work from home.    

Do you think companies should hold on to Smart Working as a real alternative even in normal times, or does that present a greater risk for their information systems?
When Smart Working is done in ideal conditions (suitable home environment, lack of interference from family members, technological support from the company), it can actually be an improvement on the traditional way of working in some respects.

Modern business information systems already have to be open to the outside world, given that departmental software is increasingly moving towards cloud-based platforms. So Smart Working is just another way in which company infrastructures are being modernised.

Can you tell us a good habit that you started in lockdown and you’ll now carry on?
The physical distance from my workplace enabled me to see beyond the day-to-day problems that obscure the company’s real needs. And now I’m making more and more of an effort to devote part of my time to identifying where there might be room for improvement in the tasks I’m responsible for, and to finding solutions.

Filippo Balestro, Product Designer

As a product designer, you often need to be in production to run the necessary tests on the products you’re developing and to supervise pre-series production of new ones: what was it like to try to continue working on your projects without being able to be physically present?

When the pandemic broke out, I was working on the pre-series stage of my new project, the Duomo projector. I was at the end of the intense period that was meant to culminate in the Light+Building fair, where Duomo was due to be presented ... but then everything vanished overnight.

Thanks to the different programs for staying in contact with my colleagues, I was able to continue with various projects from home, and even start some new ones.

I must say I found this constraint spurred me on to look at what I was designing with a more critical eye. As a result, I was able to fine-tune everything I needed to complete work on the Duomo pre-series without a hitch. So much so that, when I went back to work, it only took an afternoon to process everything I’d planned. The projector was launched on the market just a few days later, and I was able to get back to designing new products right away!

Can you tell us a good habit that you started in lockdown and you’ll now carry on?
Not being physically present at work pushed me to improve the quality of the documentation that travels between the design department and production.
Thinking about not being physically there enabled me to easily identify the weak points in my documentation and take the necessary steps to make it clearer and more effective.

What’s more, this “full immersion” into design, even if it was forced upon me, let me hone certain techniques, and my knowledge of the programs I was already using – and, even more importantly, it allowed me to throw myself into researching and mastering new technologies I’ll be able to use in future projects.

Ankica Lukic, Packing

Since March 2020, there have been several states of emergency in Italy. How has your working day changed in recent months?

We’re used to carrying out our work in the hubbub of the daily routine. In March, I experienced a new, unsettling feeling: how quickly everything in our lives can just stop without warning.

In my daily life, I’ve learnt to protect myself and others more, with distancing and face masks. The company’s rule of moving around as little as possible and avoiding close contact between colleagues has forced me to learn to relate to them in a different way.

Finding yourself thinking about how far away you are from the colleague in front of you, and worrying about being a danger to their health is a completely new experience.

Is there some particularly invasive protocol you can’t wait to be rid of when this is over? Or a work habit you’ve had to stop to comply with protocols?
Face coverings are definitely something I can’t wait to leave behind. I’m also hoping we can soon get rid of the rule of entering the changing room one at a time, which takes longer and prevents you from exchanging a few pleasantries with your colleagues.

A question we’re asking everyone: can you tell us a good habit that you started in lockdown and you’ll now carry on?

Having to live with the anti-Covid rules at work has led to me arriving much earlier than I used to!

With schools closed, I spent more time than ever with my 13-year-old and 15-year-old. All the same, I think children and young people have had to endure enormous consequences with the extended school closures. Fortunately, they’ve opened again now, and it’s a huge relief.

Is there any particular aspect of your work you’d like to talk about?
I’d like to talk about a positive aspect: 

paradoxically, this pandemic has made my colleagues and me much more united than before.

An event of this magnitude makes everything else pale into insignificance. It has brought us closer together as people and made us more concerned about the health of our colleagues and their families.


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Further insightful interviews with the L&L team ...

On the cover: Alberto Burri, Grande Nero Cretto, 1977.
Photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra (CC by 2.0)