With the changes the Covid-19 situation has brought on us, Governments have encouraged home working where possible and our teams have seamlessly transitioned from studio working into a new virtual force supporting clients and partners all over the world.
Our teams of architects, heritage specialists, designers and business support staff are regularly used to working on client sites and within office environments. While many of these sites, whether they be construction compounds or estates we are surveying have started to reopen, our teams carry on with a large portion of their delivery working from home. Purcell have previously invested in remote working solutions for all staff, allowing colleagues to work from almost any location.
This means the “new normal” of the working day is no longer new, so what can be learnt from the changes to our working day? A few members of Purcell discuss both the opportunities experienced and the perspectives gained by these changes imposed by Covid-19.
Dovile Botyriute, London based Senior Architect
I have noticed a shift in social dynamics among people during this period of working from home. It has become a lot more casual and personal. People are welcoming colleagues and directors into their living rooms, kitchens, or studies. Intense meetings are interrupted by occasional sights of a needy cat or sounds of a lawn mower. Everyone is simply doing their best to bring things together – and it brings out the best side in almost everyone!
Historically, many traditional architectural practices may have been resistant to an idea of flexible working, but now entire teams are working from home delivering projects successfully. Once the industry returns to normality, remote working will no longer be unusual. Having said that, I do believe that strong studio culture and hands on creative meetings will be even more important in this new future – but this is showing us what potential there is for blended working environments and Purcell have been great in ensuring we have a good work/life balance both before and during the time of this pandemic.
Steve Phillips, Hong Kong based Associate
As staff in the Asia Pacific region return to the office environment, we have seen shifts in both working practices and the workplace environment. In Hong Kong for example, current social distancing restrictions see staff in workspaces positioned 1.5m apart, in groups of eight or less. With staff being reliant on commuting on mass using the cities bustling public transport network, they adopt personal protective measures such as the use of face masks. Accessing the workplace environment then follows newly implemented protocols such as temperature checks in both the lift and studio lobby, as well health and travel declarations.
Working practices have evolved from the strong foundations of virtual working already commonplace across our Asia Pacific studios. With studio teams working across great distances the ability to maintain regional and international connectivity between colleagues and clients is critical to our success. In fact, the team’s recent experience has provided opportunities to further enhance our remote working practices, which can be implemented going forward.
With this greater flexibility, we are also seeing a welcome return to in-person contact with clients and collaborators in meeting and construction environments, as remote working blends once again with face-to-face business practice.
Ewa Lenart, London based Architect
The last couple of months have been very interesting to observe. On some levels remote working proved to be seamless as, on a technical basis, we deliver the same quality of work. We are also fortunate to have great IT systems and processes in place to smooth the transition. Nevertheless, facing the change is a complex psychological challenge. Some of us may be fed up with a London-city commute but now we miss our role transition time as, if used wisely, it can serve as a healthy buffer between our professional and personal personas! Staying motivated and connected as a team can be challenging too but, by celebrating new project wins and acknowledging progress in meaningful work, we can help our teams maintain their sense of purpose and thus bring positivity.
As Marcel Proust describes; “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” From our strong existing IT systems and the fantastic community and office culture within Purcell we can view the current changes as a reinterpretation, rather than a reinvention of our working day.
Tatiana Guinness, Marketing and BD Assistant
Communication is a very basic yet incredibly complex instinct that is at the very heart of marketing. When normality was upended months ago, so too was how we communicate. Working in marketing during this time has been a dramatic learning experience; immediate priorities shifted alongside the tool-kit as the working day suddenly and comprehensively morphed to reflect that dubious phrase: “the new normal”. Ensuring we stay visible and connected with our clients and contacts has been very important.
There has been a great deal of discussion in the press about what life will be like in the coming months. How much of what we are learning now – about working, living and communicating - will remain?
While the idea lends itself to mild nervous laughter, embracing big changes without hankering (too much) for previous routine is incredibly valuable. As the old normality sneaks back in we can cherry-pick those parts of the Covid-working-normality that can add value and return to the early morning commute with emboldened (if dazed) eyes.
Support Staff Team Member
Successful virtual working is not new for our team as we work across the business and video conference calls are a frequent tool to work with our Asian and Australian based colleagues for instance. As our studios in the Asia Pacific region return to the office we can see how this new normal adapts to older routines. In Hong Kong the commute now involves use of public transport alongside temperature checks in office lobbies. With groups of over eight permitted within the office, teams are now working in the same room once more, albeit with the option to work at home and the use of online mediums has started to decline as clients and consultants return to face-to-face meetings.
As Purcell’s Hong Kong and Australian studios take up more familiar working habits once more, those in the UK can look forward to understanding what the future of studio life holds.