By Lauren Coles
The AIA Practice Committee hosted a panel to discuss the future of remote working in relation to the practice of architecture on February 16. Together with the committee, I organized and assembled four experts that manage architectural practices and represent different sized firms with diverse architectural specialties. The panelists included CO’s Managing Principal Scott Kelsey, Marisa Kurtzman (Partner, Frederick Fisher and Partners), Avivah Rapoport (Principal, Director of Architecture, HOK), and Kristina Singiser (Managing Principal, HMC Architects), with Jessica Orlando (AECOM) as co-moderator.
Almost a year ago, most architectural practices were mandated to begin working remotely. Many firms implemented IT strategies and new health safety protocols at unprecedented speeds. After a challenging year, offices have been fine tuning and improving these work from home protocols. But with the pandemic’s end hopefully in sight, architecture firms now face the issue of how to re-integrate back into the office while considering the benefits and challenges of working remotely.
Our discussion kicked off with the panelists divulging their biggest challenges in managing remote work with staff and clients over this past year. The panelists noted challenges in remote collaboration, mentorship, communication, work-life balance, design processes and equity of the new at-home work environment. While most experienced a challenging year, not everyone’s home life experience is the same, resulting in varied personal work circumstances. As each staff member is unique, they require different types of support, technology and workplace surroundings.
Next the panelists spoke to how they see continued work from home aligning with their practices, and how collaboration may be different post-pandemic. The panelists hypothesized that the future will include less physical travel, resulting in reduced carbon footprints, cost and time savings. The office might become a place where design collaboration happens. In addition, staff may want to bring aspects of ‘home’ into the work environment.
CO’s Scott Kelsey shared his thoughts on reintegration, imagining the future as a mix of in-person and virtual engagement. Without certainty of what the model of work will look like when we can all come back into the office, CO realizes the importance of in-person collaboration, mentorship and the sharing of ideas and inspiration.
Lastly, the panelists discussed what processes their firms are currently engaged with to foster new ways of working. It became clear that this idea was still in progress – many participants shared tools, tips and software programs that have been useful while working remote. After quickly putting together plans at the beginning of the pandemic, firms now realize that there is a need to evolve – and are discussing how to with both clients and consultants. As architectural professionals, this is an opportunity to rethink how we ‘go back’ in the future.