For all of us, 2020 has been a year like no other in recent memory. Since the first lockdown hit in March, we’ve all had to adapt to new ways of living and working; often, finding it hard to avoid blending the two too greatly. At the same time, changing ways of working have opened up new opportunities and experiences that may go on to become permanent fixtures in our daily routines. As the first month of 2021 draws to a close, we have had time to think and reflect on the year that has passed, and asked our team members what some of the challenges and new experiences they had that shaped their lives during 2020. Below is a compilation of their thoughts.
The sudden enforced change to our working routine was always going to present a myriad of challenges for us to adapt to. Some of these issues have impacted every working professional able to work from home during the pandemic: mundane yet frustrating internet connectivity issues; dropping out of Teams calls; interruptions from four-legged members of the family; to a general feeling of a loss of communication between team members. Yet others are intrinsically linked to our role as designers: the formerly simple ability to gather around a table with colleagues and pen and paper in hand, and drawing in a live environment, has been an experience sorely missed by many.
Perhaps the greatest challenge has come from trying to separate work and home life, eking out space to set up a desk in rooms not intended to be offices and then winding down at the end of the day; a particular challenge for members of the team studying for their Part 3 qualifications. We have also had a number of new recruits join us during the pandemic, who have had to quickly get used to new software, and meet new team members solely in the virtual realm.
Yet despite all these challenges, the change in working practices during 2020 has also opened up many new opportunities and experiences. Losing the commute has been a relief for many, giving back valuable time and flexibility; an extra half hour to take a walk, go on a run, or read a book. New ways of working have meant new learning opportunities, and has shown that the industry is able to adapt, and bring with it efficiencies; reducing travelling times has improved availability, often greatly improving progress on projects. Remote working has also given teams a greater feeling of trust and responsibility, and with it a sense of empowerment that has produced fantastic work from team members at all levels.
Ultimately, the pandemic has given us all a chance to really prove that the principles laid out in our ethos really do define who we are; that when we say to clients and consultants that we’re flexible and adaptable, we meet that challenge, centred around the amazing adaptability of our team to a different way of working, maintaining a momentum equivalent to working in the office. We are also proud of the way we have adapted as a business, using the breadth of our skills and experience to re-focus our efforts on residential work that has meant we’ve been able to continue to operate successfully in what has been a challenging time for the industry as a whole.
With our team members at the heart this success, there’s no better way to finish this piece with some of their words that really sum up how their contributions have helped pull us through during what has been an incredibly difficult year:
“As a business we’ve rebranded, improved our offering through BIM development and regular design reviews, we’ve recruited new team members, strengthened our internal understanding of our diversity and the issues facing the industry, but more than anything we’ve done it as a team – something that’s really challenging in this environment but I think we’ve worked really hard to ensure we keep moving in the same direction as one big team.”