March 20, 2020

WFH in the Time of Covid-19

Remote Collaboration is Kind of Amazing…

December 1, 2020

As an architecture group, much of what we do revolves around collaboration, communication, and impressive amounts of coffee. So when we got the word that the progression of the coronavirus was forcing some companies around us to take their workforce offline, we knew that would hit us hard if we didn’t do something about it while we had time.

While we are proud of the care and timelines we have carried out for years, we knew that this was going to be a serious shift in workflow.

It was no easy feat, but we have made the transition, and while there are things that would certainly be more comfortable with physical presence, we must say... this is pretty exciting and our output is on a very good trajectory. This new environment is looking good and we wanted to share some of the details with you. We all need each other and if there is a way to make the transition easier for someone, we want to do that. We count ourselves lucky to have the resources to weather this, but we have learned a few things that we believe are totally worth sharing.

Some of our staff got together and began outlining everything that happens in the daily work at the office. We went over the requirements of different teams and came up with some high-level strategies to start enacting. We needed to prepare for how all of this will be done digitally.

First things first: What are the requirements of taking architectural work remote?

We know that the numbers that follow will be different for every company, but this was our baseline in the office. We had:

  • Around 40 staff, each with a desktop computer capable of handling AutoCAD, Revit, SketchUp and other essential related software.
  • An in-house server hosting an exchange server for email, contacts and calendars. Also on the server is file storage and VPN access configured for remote users.
  • Slack deployment to augment the office communication.
  • 3 Conference rooms.
  • Lots of work to do.

We divided everyone in the office into two categories: Remote Users and VPN Users. The difference is that everyone who had a good personal computer could let their local machine do the work while the remote users could control a computer that was on-site to work as if they were in the office. This helped distribute the load on the network among those who needed it most.

We knew this was going to take a lot of bandwidth, so we increased our internet speed at the office 8x to accommodate the increased traffic. Without getting too detailed, we know what the required speeds are for the total amount of remote and VPN traffic we were going to be seeing constantly and we got an amount that would be about 20% higher than that number to be sure things went smoothly for everyone.

We had all the staff run internet speed tests on their home networks to be sure that nobody needed an upgrade and once we got everything ironed out, things really started coming to life!

We started using slack primarily for in-house communication to be the digital equivalent of office conversations. Starting with a couple of tutorial explainer videos made in-house, we got everyone up to speed and began using that platform proficiently in no time! That experience has been amazing!

We have found that the culture, the work being done, and the quality of experience has actually been quite remarkable and the output is comparable to the close-proximity experience in the office!

Meetings happen with clients and small internal groups via Zoom remote meetings and our Comptroller and HR haven’t missed a beat either.

Our office deployed on a Monday, and we were at 92% Success within 3 days. We have had to be patient with each other from time to time, but things are working pretty smoothly and the situation is totally workable!

We pride ourselves on collaborative work, transparency, and an upbeat, can-do attitude in everything that we do, both in our teams and with our clients. This season of remote-only work has tested our resolve and proven that we mean it when we say, “We are your team and we work well with our clients.”

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