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Life in lock-down by Josie Dawson

How my life has changed in lock-down

Josie Dawson, Allegro Optical Opticians in Meltham   Well here we are entering week seven of lock-down and for many of us, life has changed completely. My daily routine has changed beyond all recognition as has my working environment. I now work mostly from home on admin and involves processing invoices and payments. Although I have been into the practices to receive PPE deliveries and deliveries of essential equipment for when we re-open. I’ve been there for tradesmen and engineers who have been installing new equipment and additional electrical sockets. Although we’re not providing eye tests currently, we are working towards it. The guidelines surrounding our future re-opening means that we have had to buy and install a lot of new equipment. From the installation of sneeze and cough guard screens and the fitting of ozone generators. From the new UV sanitisers and performing a deep clean, I’m keeping very busy.

A change of image

The two practices have changed in appearance as our beautifully upholstered chairs have been replaced by easy-clean seating. We have had a complete redesign to allow for social distancing. This will ensure that no one has to be within 2 metres of each other. We just need to find somewhere for the thank you cards now! New covid-19 practice layout in meltham The appearance of the team will change also, once we return to work. All client-facing team members will change into scrubs as soon as they arrive in practice to prevent the risk of infection. This is to ensure that our staff and clients stay as safe as possible. Our Optometrists will also wear surgical gowns when seeing clients and due to a lack of supply, I have been busy making those. I love sewing so have been more than happy to help in this time of need. Things are changing in the test rooms too. We have installed breath protectors on the slit lamps and screens around some of the test equipment. We’ve also rearranged the rooms to minimise the time spent in an enclosed area. We have also arranged for all our test rooms to have ozone generators fitted. The ozone generators are being used to thoroughly sanitize and kill COVID-19, other viruses, and bacteria throughout the eye examination. In addition to the thorough cleaning and sanitising of the consultation room the Ozone Generators quietly produce ozone which kills bacteria and viruses. When pollutants meet ozone, oxidation reactions occur destroying any infection risk. We're installing OZone Generators in our opticians practices in Meltham and Saddleworth  

Changes in the test room

Our optometrists all prefer to use a trial frame when testing a clients vision, as they are much more accurate than the Japanese 3-metre remote control lens selector systems, otherwise known as phoropter heads. Even though the phoropter heads allow our optometrists to maintain appropriate distancing when performing refraction, the results are rarely as accurate. The elderly and children often struggle to use them and our musicians cannot get their instruments behind them. For this reason, we have decided to continue using the trial frames. Sheryl and Steve have purchased a frame steriliser for both Greenfield and Meltham, which takes about 5 minutes to sterilise the trial frames and lenses. The advantage of these is that we will also be able to sterilise all the display frames after our clients have tried them on.  Things have certainly changed within the last few months, not just at work, but in the supermarket and at home. One thing is for sure though, we will adapt. You can rest assured that all of us at Allegro Optical will always put the safety of our clients and staff first. We can’t wait to welcome all our clients, colleagues and future customers back once the restrictions are lifted.  
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Coming together in Lockdown

Lockdown, how being apart has brought us together

We’re now several weeks into lockdown, with “the good old days” starting to feel somewhat nostalgic. Just like a warm and comforting distant memory.  The Allegro Optical team have been filling their lockdown days with a combination of music-making, looking after their families and in Josie’s case, still working in the background keeping our accounts and admin department together.  To be honest, the prospect of closing our practices left Sheryl and Amy having a bit of a meltdown. The prospect of not going to work horrified them both. Neither relished the idea of either working from home, or being furloughed. Now there’s a word none of us had used before March. It now trips off the tongue with alarming familiarity. In early March’ all the social distancing, sanitising everything, hand-washing to the tune of Happy Birthday, were by then the norm and fairly easy to cope with. Even when the glazing lab shut down with less than 24 hours’ notice, resulting in huge delays to jobs currently on order, we soldiered. Providing essential, urgent and emergency eye care and repairs only.  Many of our team viewed the prospect of weeks of lockdown with only their nearest and dearest for company with dread. As we all listened to prime minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on that first Monday evening we all realised life was about to change in a way none of us could ever have imagined. 

How we are coping

The business implications of the lockdown have been a challenge and daunting to say the least. With all of us worrying about our livelihoods and our family’s well being. We have had to try to work out how to keep Allegro Optical running successfully. Protect our employee’s jobs, and continue to be there for our customers. However, as the lockdown continues and we all begin to feel the effects of the virus in our lives. The mood is now one of deeply felt solidarity.  Luckily we have always been pretty adaptable. Now a few weeks in, a fair few of us are counting our blessings.  Firstly, Sheryl and I have been given the time to review our business. We’ve looked at implementing some changes.  Maybe even change Allegro Optical’s business model going forward. Obviously we will continue to give the excellent service we have become known for. Secondly, by closing the practices to the public, Sheryl has been able to get out and help our clients. Many of whom have in the past struggled to get into us. Often because of mobility issues or poor health. It has been an honour and a privilege to be able to help our more vulnerable clients at a time of real need. Sheryl has really enjoyed the opportunity to help these clients.  Many of whom are self-isolating and don’t see anyone for days on end. Even from a safe distance, they have appreciated the contact. Sheryl running errands   Thirdly, the musical members of the team, myself included, have embraced the opportunity to make music. We have shared the results and paid tribute to all the amazing key workers keeping our country going at this difficult time. James has made some fabulous Acapella videos which we have shared on social media. He was even featured by the Oldham Chronicle following his first video. 

Zoom away while staying at home

Our team has all kept in touch thanks to Zoom and a team WhatsApp group which we will probably continue to use long after the lockdown has lifted. In a way, these virtual get-togethers seem to have helped cement us as a team and have helped the teams from both practices to come together as one. I believe that the staff team are now a closer-knit community than they have ever been. Allegro Optical Zoom away   After the initial adjustment, and as we have all adapted to the restrictions lockdown brings, the possibilities going forward seemed almost endless.