Has COVID-19 Pandemic re-landscaped Architecture?
May 21, 2020
We are indeed living in strange times!
May 21, 2020

How Covid-19 led to a Nationwide work-from-home Experiment.

I am probably not the best person to write about the oddities of how our profession in the building environment has changed given the current confinement.  I work from home 9 days out of 10.  My office has a very relaxed dress code.  Lunch is served anytime between 10 am to 3 pm.  We operate an honesty system at the bar.   

First, it was the cancellation of planned work trips. Then it was world news on pandemic mode but on steroids.  In real-time, I should now be standing on a golf course with several clients and friends in Cairo.  And when they closed the local nursery leaving me at home with 2 kids both under 2 years of age, panic set it.  

Whilst there hasn’t been a lot of change, there has been a LOT of change.  For starters, my browser history.  What was once full of links to the local planning portal, academic papers, and my favourite regularly visited design blogs,  I now have a homage to ‘How to keep a 2-year-old entertained’.  I now schedule all of my important calls when the kids are sleeping, and accept the inevitable meeting photobomb from the oldest.

My workload has definitely suffered.  I am lucky that most of my work is long-range and strategic in nature.  Even still, the urgency has gone out of many clients.   Nonetheless, I am grateful and privileged to be working.  This is with gratitude to a number of clients, who are reciprocating years of loyalty and hard work.  I make a point to express my thanks regularly.

I am, like many millions, learning a few home truths.  Until it truly impacted yours truly,  it was more of an inconvenience than an issue.  And here are some below listed.

  1. Social interaction is far more valuable than we give it credit for. With lockdowns in place, chatting with strangers has gone through the roof.  I’ve met, not a simple passing “hi” but actually spoken to new people in my local area.   Everything from actors to future para-Olympians. 
  2. We are re-learning how to communicate. For all the wonders of technology (portal, zoom, house-party, etc) we are starting to learn their short-comings.  Online conversations are often stilted, so people have to take time to avoid talking over one another.  This has increased listening, and reducing blurting out the first thing that comes into their head.
  3. The workplace is less important than we think. It is ironic that for many workplaces, trialing working from home hasn’t been part of a well planned, progressive corporate sustainability strategy.  For many businesses, it is (almost) business as usual.  Working from home takes a lot more discipline than office-based people could have believed.  Done well, you can achieve a lot more in less time, which benefits the brain, body, and soul.  I believe it makes people, if anything, more accountable and professional. 
  4. We can live off less. This isn’t an invitation to employers and clients to start to devalue services, but more an opportunity for people to evaluate what it is that is critical in their day-to-day lives.  Our household has been making far fewer frivolous, spur-of-the-moment purchases, and instead are making more of what we already have.  The best bit is we are cooking more meals from scratch as a family.  We are eating more healthily, and by taking the time to plan our meals, we’ve around 70% less food waste. 

When this is done and dusted (and I believe it will be), or at the very least our new norm is considerably more normal than today, I am hopeful that a lot of goodwill comes out of the more.  So here are my predictions of the good bits which I hope will be left behind.

  • Our streets will remain free of cars…… I wish!  It has been a wonderful side-effect of people staying at home.  Our streets are calmer, our air is cleaner, and our public parks are being better used.  It is unlikely that we won’t get back in our cars, but maybe we might use them less.  Preferring bikes,  public transport, and walking.
  • The 4-day working week will become the norm, not the exception.  As we are learning to live with less and perhaps place greater values of non-material things like time with loved ones, maybe we might see a shift in the mindset resulting in greater work-life balance.  (This is a bit of a double-whammy, as for every 4 jobs that existed previously we could employ 5 people, helping reduce unemployment!). 
  • The death of the throwaway consumerist economy. We don’t need as much as we think.  The relentless need for the latest everything, and in particular low-cost, high-volume items, I hope will give way to higher-quality, durable, (locally sourced) lasting products. 
  • Lastly, we remember who the essential workers really are.   And guess what, it isn’t measured by pay packets.  There will always be a need for many different professions and specialisms in the world.  Many of them most people will never come into contact with, and so may feel redundant.  But there is no way that we can survive as a species without care workers, nurses, doctors, educators, grocers, and farmers.  

Stay safe, support your local businesses, reconnect with family and friends.

by: Adam Crozier. Partner, Maginaires UK

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *