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Do you think the traditional 9-5 40(+) hour work week is a thing of the past? Will that improve or hurt staff morale, firm profitability, & project quality?That is a question our executive committee has been discussing and a topic I recently moved down to our Leadership group. For some, yes, I think the normal 5 day work week is a thing of the last. Our firm has always had a 4-1/2 day work schedule and we just recently changed it to a 4 day flex schedule with Friday mornings working remotely. We simultaneously moved all internal meetings to Friday mornings rolling from staff meetings to studio meetings to Leadership meetings to our Director meetings. Once a month we blend in full company wide staff and Partner meetings.
We seldom scheduled Friday deadlines in the past so Friday deadlines really isn't a problem with our schedule. This has allowed us to go to a 4 day work week. Now for the other part, the bulk of our staff is still working remotely and although I do sense we have a more flexible staff (which we were already with multiple remote full-time workers) working for more PMs across the firm, I also sense a reduction in production quality, firm led continuing education, brown bags, personal growth, individual camaraderie, and general social interaction. To date we have not seen an impact to firm profitability but we have heard many comments from our staff that they are positively feeling financial results with less lunch, travel, and clothing expenses. They've expressed extreme interest in maintaining these attributes and continuing to work remotely.My biggest concern is the education of my staff, especially the new interns. We have few individuals under 2 years experience with most between 5-20+ years. The more experienced staff members are doing fine but I am concerned about their future growth and development. New interns - that is going to be a MAJOR challenge for us as well as for the profession as a whole.
The impact to our social interaction and company morale is yet to be determined, but I fear negative effects. These are issues upon which I am intensely focused.
Scott:I share many of your concerns. Like you my staff is singing the benefits of working from home and to them this is a time of increased efficiency and profitability for the reasons you mentioned; however, I am not at all convinced reality is matching their perception and I am deeply concerned about the growth of all employee, collaboration and the incredibly beneficial day to day interaction folks get in person.
As far as employee efficiency while we are still hitting deadlines, coordination is clearly suffering. Moreover I have noticed increasingly employees are unavailable for mandatory company wide Friday afternoon happy hour zoom calls. Most claim issues like deadlines/work issue but when we were all in the office there were never this level of folks not attending Friday afternoon catch ups. I strongly suspect Friday afternoon starting the weekend early-itis. The number of times I have reached out to an employee and gotten no response is concerning.
Then with younger intern, their professional education must be lacking even at the simple level of not being in a studio overhearing senior folks discussing and solving all sorts of problems. Which brings me to the senior folks. In a studio setting one might overhear a phone call or a discussion with a team and recognize the issue and jump in with a solution to solve BEFORE anyone asks for help saving God knows how many hours of the second team trying to re-invent the wheel.I understand why people are embracing this, I totally get the allure of flexible hours, flexible schedules especially for younger employees and employees with young children. Architecture use to be called "the old man's profession" because there was so much to know, so much to learn that one was old before one was truly at the height of their career. I simply do not see the sharing of knowledge that is necessary for younger people to thrive in an any schedule/work from home model. Remoteness removes the simple human interaction...the cliched but real small talk at the coffee pot or over lunch that bonds folks. This cannot be replicated on a zoom call. Once that bonding and the friendships that spring from it start to fall away, employees and co-workers are no more than a means to an end, not a beloved team member. The entire dynamic of our profession changes if our teams are held together only by email and zoom.Architecture is a profession where school teaches you very little in terms of real professional skills and one's apprenticeship is fundamental to professional development. It is also a profession of interaction, collaboration and shared ideas. While working in an office (mostly) on a 9 to 5 schedule 5 days a week may seem like a quaint idea to some, if there is not a base line of in person interaction in architecture we will see a stratification in the profession between the more experienced folks who can lead/design/direct projects based upon their years/decades of experience and a younger generation that is ill equipped for stepping into leadership rolls.
I cannot wait for this covid era to be over.
" I do believe that the newest workforce generation is uninterested in sacrificing their well-being and personal opportunities just to benefit an employer".
If this indeed is the new normal I think you will find employers unwilling to sacrifice anything for their newest employees; they will be given the loyalty they exhibit, moving from treasured team member to disposable cog in the machine.