The impact of the novel coronavirus on the economy, lifestyle, and human interaction has been more extensive and destructive than anyone could imagine. Over the past few months, an enormous shift in office culture has occurred, with teams spread across multiple houses rather than one studio. This has forced architects and designers to adapt but since the industry itself is a collaborative practice; it has been a slow adopter, in comparison to other sectors. Architects are experiencing challenges like never before which hamper their productivity a lot.  

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How productive is the WFH system in architectural practice? - Sheet1
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WHY FOCUSING IS SO HARD

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How productive is the WFH system in architectural practice? - Sheet2
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We all can relate to this, perhaps the most apparent hindrance in regards to remote work, managing one’s environment becomes an unavoidable issue to address. The difference in home office set-up in comparison to the traditional office set-up can be quite cumbersome. Sometimes, you cannot design because of inner turmoil, other times you are too comfortable to sleep and for some, the distraction is inevitable, causing a hit to focus and productivity.

I AM NEW HERE

This profession is heavily dependent on mentorship and apprenticeship, whether that is a one-on-one meeting, learning through observations, or in-person interaction with a mentor; everything has been an important component in the growth of many professionals.

A regular point brought up in regards to work from home is that the employee needs to be able to operate through self-guidance, not requiring much supervision. For new-joiners, this can be challenging, when the working patterns of office are still being learned and communicating is tough with older staff that rely on living-document-like drawing sets and are not tech-savvy.  

WHAT ABOUT SITE VISITS AND ALL THE OFFICE FUN

Collaborative and creative work can be done sitting at various locations, but architects need to physically inspect sites under construction and on-ground interaction is essential in this field. Construction sites have been affected like never before, with some sites being closed while others working with few laborers. Although to reduce the number of people on-site, firms have started using digital tools that allow virtual tours and GoPro cameras to broadcast images to the rest of the team but that essence of site visits, handling on-site issues, going there and feeling your design come alive is something that is badly being missed.

A big concern when it comes to remote work is often loneliness. Even though professionals across the globe are trying to stay connected with their teams and clients, meetings are taking place via video calling apps, and online catalogs are being used to find architectural products and materials. Recreating that studio vibe, keeping the team connected, and combating loneliness while working at home can be a stumbling block for many. As remote meetings tend to be more intentional, the biggest hurdle to cross is recreating the ‘accidental’ conversations which enhance the design and is fun as well.

How productive is the WFH system in architectural practice? - Sheet3
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The good news is, the challenges mentioned above are not unbeatable. Many have overcome these challenges through online collaboration and constant communication. It is worth mentioning that although we’re productive in a WFH system, this productivity comes at a cost of intense efforts and cannot measure up to the standards of a team collaborating in a studio. Adjusting to this unprecedented shift in work culture would certainly require time and effort.

Author

Aditi Garg is pursuing final year of B.arch and believes in sustainable architectural practices. She came to RTF while discovering architectural journalism and is passionate about documenting ideas and architecture. Topics of my interest: Vernacular architecture Low cost architecture Sustainable architectural practices Buildings by Charles Correa Earthquake resistant building techniques

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