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Working from home

  • 1.  Working from home

    Posted 02-15-2020 12:30
    We are getting more and more requests to work from home. To date, we only allow it for family needs or for workmen at home, since we find it difficult for teams.

    I am curious as to how other firms handle this issue.

    Sent from my iPhone
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  • 2.  RE: Working from home

    Posted 02-17-2020 17:32
    We are the same. Part of the reason we HAVE an office is so we can collaborate in real time. If we could have distributed employees and work efficiently together, I'd hire different people. I don't work as efficiently at home, and I doubt the employees will either. Maybe you do some other "time off" benefit like 10 hour days and Friday off during the summer (for a couple of weeks) or offer occasional work from home days, but I personally wouldn't entertain this for anything other than special times.

    David Sisson AIA
    David Sisson
    Providence RI

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  • 3.  RE: Working from home

    Posted 02-17-2020 17:46
    I can't speak directly to that, but Archinect had an informative, related article, recently:

    Michael Tulp AIA
    Story Construction
    Ames IA

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  • 4.  RE: Working from home

    Posted 02-17-2020 17:57
    Our firm 5 person firm has had remote employees for over 10 years. At first, only one. Now two are full time remote and one other is half-time remote. All our projects are Bim (revit) based using the Bim 360 cloud platform. We recently began using Microsoft Teams software for web conferencing, chats, and team solutions. Prior to that we used the free version of Skype. There are many challenges to overcome and we are certainly not a completely well oiled machine. Most issues are communications related. We've learned more effective ways to do that over the years. Problems are in meeting with owners and site visits as one of the two remote employees would otherwise be someone who would be managing those projects first hand if not for the need to work remotely.

    Darren Heine
    BBA Architects, LP
    Brenham, TX

    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join the PMKC leadership!

  • 5.  RE: Working from home

    Posted 02-17-2020 18:25
    That's how I run my small practice - all at home, and I know several other firms that do the same. There are many ways to structure a virtual practice, but it requires self-motivated reliable staff with a certain level of experience, ideally diverse in their abilities. Another architect I know with 10 staff spends his time travelling around the region to touch base with everybody (individually) once a week or two. I also feel that this reinforces an approach of results-oriented management rather than micro task/schedule management, which generally promotes better mental health for all.

    For a firm of larger size though - where you are bringing in recent graduates - they need and deserve closer mentoring, but maybe that could be done in small dispersed group (or you'd have to be sure their team leaders do not work at home). Having come from a mid-size firm and a large firm before that, I imagine one HR challenge would be allowing those whose duties and habits are well suited to work at home, while not granting that "privilege" to the sometimes-demanding staff whose self-perception is, shall we say, divergent from management's perception.

    Scott Knudson AIA
    Knu Design, LLC
    Boyds MD

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  • 6.  RE: Working from home

    Posted 02-17-2020 19:25
    Thanks for bringing this topic up.  I think this a great conversation piece.  We have a few different schools of thought and potential interaction and coordination within our teams.

    First I have personally worked remotely for a number of architects while I was learning my craft.  Secondly I currently work with, or have worked with remote teams with my own practice.  Thirdly I have remote team members who manage projects themselves as I manage their efforts and guide their direction and focus.

    If you are working with remote teams and your are nervous or unfamiliar with the process I would suggest these few initial steps. First, if this is the first time that a employee is working from home, request a site visit.  Make sure they have the bandwidth they need both digitally and physically; meaning that their connection speed is adequate if not you will need to upgrade them or manage their speed increase. Second do they have a special place to isolate themselves and work in a focused manor on their projects.  Do they have a space designated for working? It is easy to say "Hey I would like to work from home (skip the commute, be hyper productive earlier)." But if you haven't worked from home then it is easy to skip some of the simple steps necessary to work remotely.  Are you working in a place that is quite and someone can easily jump onto a MS Teams meeting quickly and go over issues?  Are you able to access the companies server and move files easily to and from the office?  Are you able to show your screen, explain an issue and move forward quickly?

    It isn't that difficult to see if someone is able to fulfill their responsibilities within a couple of weeks working remotely.  Did they produce the work that was required of them?  Did they interact with the team members then needed too?  Did they speak with or communicate with their direct managers in a consistent and timely manor?

    This sort of analysis can work for known assets as well as remote assets; meaning that I can work with someone from Croatia as well as I can work with someone from the Scotland or someone I know who is working 30 minutes away.  The key is building measurable elements into your workflow.  Next is creating the comfort level you desire with the technology.  For instance how do you monitor their activity and productivity now? How would that be different if you didn't see them everyday?

    I could go into a lot more depth about remotely operating a architectural operation but I think it is important to understand a few pieces.  What sort of architectural operation do you currently practice in?  Do you like making sketches and having your team translate those into models?  When do you want a project architect to have autonomy versus direct observation?  I think the more that you explore remote work within the practice of architecture you can see that is a viable and economically beneficial method to running a practice, but a lot of the efficiency comes from the actual methods for production and interaction; How do you transfer files (Can you see when someone downloaded a file)?  How do you interact with your team currently? How will that change if people are working from home? Is the server accessible remotely? Are there ways of working together within the same file(s) that are being leveraged in the office that can be leveraged outside of the office (outside the LAN)?  Are their tools or techniques that are better suited for remotely working/operating a remote office (staff) that you are not currently using that should be implemented? Are you providing the necessary hardware, software, etc. that someone in the office has access to that a remote employee would have access to?

    Now I understand that for some practitioners this might be a little over the top but I find that you should understand your workflow as the leader of the organization and insure that you can be effective in a remote environment first and foremost.

    Somethings to consider if you are by nature a analog architect.  Can you make a scan of your sketch and send it to someone quickly? Can you start a remote meeting with some sort of conferencing software like Microsoft Teams?  Can you text, email, scan, message, conference call anyone?  Okay so if you have that covered can the remote operator do the same?  If so you have established a good basis for multi-modal communication, which is necessary.  Next can everyone work in the same authoring software at the same time?  Can you open this software and review peoples progress at anytime you choose?  Can you open a model and show it to the rest of the office and assess it's completeness and accuracy without having to dive into the finite details? Can you start a video conference with someone?  Can you review documents digitally and provide direction and comments?  Can you review a drawing and share them with a team quickly.

    Ultimately what this response is getting at, is that if you provide the methods for working remotely you can have a successful team that works remotely.  If you get asked by a employee to work remotely and you aren't prepared to define the new relationship going forward it won't be successful.  That is true with any relationship for the most part.

    As you can tell I am a big proponent of measuring effectiveness with new technologies and allowing people to pursue alternative methods of fulfilling their tasks as long as it is executed in an effective and efficient manor.  Personally I have been studying these methods since 2001 and it all comes does to the methods by which people are most effective in communicating complex ideas without being in the same room.



    Willard Williams AIA
    VDC Manager
    JTM Construction
    Seattle WA

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  • 7.  RE: Working from home

    Posted 02-17-2020 19:27
    For me the key was productivity. If an employee can be as, or more productive working at home, let them! I've had great success with one who ran her team from home and was very productive in several weeks pre-maternity leave. Another time she worked from home one day a week. Some would not be as productive and I have no problem telling them so. Give them an opportunity to prove themselves and you can make it a win-win.

    Gary Nicholson, Architect

    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join the PMKC leadership!

  • 8.  RE: Working from home

    Posted 02-17-2020 20:19
    We don't permit it in our written policies, and don't condone it as we too have witnessed in our 40 years that it is important that teams be together, physically, for collaboration and coordination.  We rarely permit it, and only for specialized tasks, such as specification writing or shop drawing reviews that don't require collaboration or teamwork.  Even then, the work permitted from home is day per month, etc.and only when specifically requested. It is not a blanket granting.

    We don't grant 'working from home' for workmen or appointments....that is what personal time is for, or they are expected to make up the 'workmen time' during the rest of the week.

    We have found that these policies are not rebuffed by our staff nor are we aware that we are losing qualified candidates because of it.

    William Silver AIA
    Silver Petrucelli & Associates
    Hamden CT

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  • 9.  RE: Working from home

    Posted 02-17-2020 21:16
    Let people work from home. There are plenty of ways for teams to communicate without being located in the same place. As long as they do their work and are available for calls etc, why not?

    -Kristen Nyht, AIA, AICP, LEED AP

    Open: Call for applications deadline November 6. Learn more and apply to join the PMKC leadership!