As the coronavirus spreads, going into the office is looking increasingly risky to many. What are your experiences? Leave a comment and join the conversation about what practice and the profession look like in a COVID-19 world
Maybe you have already wondered to yourself ‘Can I work from home?’ Perhaps work has asked you to fill out a survey so they can gauge if staff could be productive remotely. Working from home is often thought of aspirationally, but would architects actually be able to work from home and would they even want to?
The AJ employs some not-currently-practising architects and their response is a resounding ‘no’. Architects can’t work from home. We’re interested to see whether readers agree.
Companies don’t have enough laptops; it’s difficult to co-ordinate CAD drawings from home – if you even have CAD at home as the licences are so expensive; you need to be able to print things and sketch ideas out collaboratively; if work laptops are available, you won’t be able to use Revit effectively with only one screen; and site visits are obviously not possible from the sofa.
These are the broader reasons why architecture firms have not earnestly embraced flexible working while other businesses have moved in that direction. Often only high-level employees in architecture practices can work from home as they don’t tend to do any drawing, their jobs mainly involving management and emails.
There are also some cultural barriers to overcome. In 2018, the AJ reported the experience of Pepper Barney, an architect at BDP who, when summoned to discuss a flexible working request, says she was asked how they would know she was not just watching Grand Designs? The request was later turned down and she quit.
What can you do from home then? How might coronavirus shape and change architectural practice? What does it mean more of (reading, research, business development … catching up on your recent issues of the AJ)?
Or maybe everyone has already been enrolled on intensive online CPD courses.
Our readers join the conversation
Co-director of HAT Projects Hana Loftus says coronavirus might have greater impact in different areas of the profession:
Ummm...the idea architects can't WFH, simply not true! We just put in place a system, tested as of today, and we're a small practice. Site shutdowns and consequent costs/delays for clients could be much more impactful. https://t.co/RxJpxR3bmL— Hana Loftus (@hanaloftus) March 12, 2020
Kieren Porter doesn’t think the question helpfully contributes to the profession’s image:
They can. Do. And will.— Kieren Porter (@snowyweston) March 12, 2020
The toxic narrative of the all suffering hero profession must end.
KITSON Architecture director Ellen Kitson says on Facebook ‘Totally possible to work at home as an architect. I’ve done it loads! It’s not perfect and I also miss the atmosphere of my practice but as long as you are super organised you can do it!’.
But Elisa Pardini, partner and co-founder at Pardini Hall Architecture says it’s ‘Impossible for all the material that is in the office. Plus I don’t have the licence I need on my personal laptop’.
David Simpson, associate at Associated Architects has working from home down pat:
Utter nonsense. I've just spent the day working from home using Revit, connecting remotely to the company servers, holding meetings with colleagues and collaboratively editing a PowerPoint over TEAMS, and sharing my screen so others could see my work. Very productive.— David Simpson (@dgsimpson74) March 12, 2020
On Facebook RPS Europe senior architect Jordie Bokor, agrees that it is ‘Definitely possible and much more dependent on whether your practice has a decent VPN/internet bandwidth and laptop resource than about the uniqueness of the architect’s role.’
Hari Phillips of Bell Phillips is optimistic;
Most of our team are now working from home for the foreseeable future using a combination of remote desktops, VPN connections and office laptops communicating using MSoft Teams. First day today seems to have gone incredibly well. Could be the future...— Hari Phillips (@hari_BPA) March 12, 2020