After COVID-19 was officially characterized by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic in March 2020, the impact of the new coronavirus started to ‘spread’ on almost all the fields that make up the everyday human life.
Teleworking and virtual online meetings became (and continue to be) the new normal for most companies, including design and architecture firms.
This period has been a test of resilience for our profession, and with winter approaching, the cases of infection are rising globally. Therefore, measures need not only be taken against COVID-19, but also to improve the adaptability of your architectural office and increase the overall performance of your team. By following the ‘People first’ principle explained in the actions below, you can make the most out of this situation, and still thrive in this competitive professional sphere.
Supporting your employees and building trust
It is extremely important to deepen the relationships with your team while teleworking. Since remote work is filled with challenges, there are several actions that can ease communication and inspire your staff to be more efficient.
Most successful managers establish scheduled daily check-ins with their remote employees. These can be executed as one-on-one calls - for independently working members of staff - or as team calls. It is essential that these calls are done on a regular basis, and that your employees can be open about their problems and concerns.
It is also advised to have rich virtual communication platforms for different issues. Instant messages can be sent for urgent matters, while calls and video calls/conferences can be used for daily meetings. Ideally, managers should establish engagement rules with their employees, so that the availability, frequency, and means of communication are set and agreed upon early in the process.
Remain in close contact with your clients
Customers and clients are the driving force of your architecture office. During these difficult times, it is considered important to let your clients know that you and your firm understand the circumstances that the society is dealing with, and that your relationship with them is more that economic.
Try to show this empathetic character of your firm not only during private communications with your customers, but also by using your company’s social media sites and mailing lists.
However, you still need to continue meeting with your clients, by having fact-to-face meetings. Be flexible to your client’s needs and their time, frequency, and communication platform preferences.
Adapting to a cloud-based workflow
During the pandemic, technology has become our closest ally. Investing on key-infrastructure elements can aid and increase the productivity of your architectural office. Adopting a cloud-based workflow is not an entirely easy process for architectural practices, because projects usually involve the efforts of many different professionals.
However, by taking advantage of the most sophisticated tools out there, you can run your firm with low costs, and it can save you considerable amounts of time that would be lost synchronizing individual documents and files sent from your employees. Cloud computing can also help your staff work on large, complex projects that would otherwise require powerful tools and computers.
Architectural design work has been continuing slowly, while many projects have been postponed or cancelled. Nevertheless, this uncertain time, can be used to your company’s and client’s benefit. There are projects that will be first in line for completion when the situation clears out. Therefore, you must be prepared that these projects develop firmly, by completing all the necessary steps from getting the building permits, to having detailed construction drawing ready. By securing that your projects are ‘construction-ready’, you can get new projects running, while waiting on the re-commencement of the previous ones.
Prepare and/or revise your disaster plan
The pandemic situation, put many young architectural firms to test. While we cannot predict and foresee the future, we have to learn from the past (and present). The future of our profession will evolve, as the industry itself will renew and improve itself. You have to be prepared for other events of emergency if they strike again in the future.
Several technological advances have already aided the emergency responses of most design firms. However, having an updated disaster plan ready for your company, where everyone involved is familiar with their roles, and the role of others, is considered fundamental to your business’s safety and long-term success.