We fall into this hybrid category. Post-pandemic, we have mastered the art of digital collaboration. All our monthly national design reviews are now held over Zoom, and we have significantly reduced air travel across the business. All our studios have adopted a 3-2 model, which requires in-studio attendance three to four days a week, with some flexibility to work from home.
This approach strikes a balance that works for our people and leads to the best outcomes for our projects. It recognises the importance of the studio as a physical place where ideas incubate and grow but also reflects important lessons we learned through the pandemic.
While staff must coordinate their studio days with their project leaders and teams, we also understand that giving the staff the option to work from home on certain days has benefits.
The entire team are equipped with laptops that facilitate this flexibility. Some find the quiet of their home lends itself to highly focused aspects of their work. The more introverted among us recharge on their days working from home, returning to the studio with the energy to collaborate and fully engage with their peers. The option to work from home gives some time back to those with long commutes, and it helps people strive for a work-life balance that suits their lifestyle.
People have always been at the heart of how we operate as a business, something that is serving us well in the current employment market.
We know that contemporary workers are more inclined to leave jobs they find unfulfilling. We’ve grown familiar with ‘buzz’ phrases such as ‘the great resignation’ and concepts such as ‘quiet quitting’.
People are unwilling to let their work overwhelm their personal lives. In many industries, including architecture and design, well-qualified job seekers now have their pick of jobs.
How do we reconcile these cultural changes in the context of the architecture and design industry – an industry known for its long-hours culture, where stress and burnout are commonplace?
We believe the answer lies in the strength of the relationships we build across our teams. Collaboration is a word that gets thrown around constantly in this profession – now is the time to reflect on what it truly means.
Historically, our industry was built on the apprenticeship model where the master guides the apprentice as they develop their skills and experience over many years. This hasn’t changed. We need to encourage a culture of the open exchange of ideas and knowledge sharing where everyone on a team feels valued. Training the next generation of architects requires close and trusting working relationships where burgeoning talent can develop the breadth and depth of skills required for the job.
Working alongside people who are great at what they do is inspiring, especially in creative work like ours. It helps people understand what is possible as their careers progress. Simultaneously, people should feel supported through their failures and celebrated for their successes. Mistakes are part of how we grow and develop personally and professionally. This is hard to provide in an online environment that can reduce our profession to task-based activities and reduce the sense of creative pursuit.
As team members gain experience, they deserve meaningful opportunities on projects that interest them. It’s the responsibility of leaders to create these opportunities within their project teams.
One of our Senior Associates in Sydney, Craig Early, recently commented, ‘People are my projects’. His words capture the way forward for our industry as we enter a post-pandemic world. Our projects and clients will always be our highest priority, but that can and should co-exist with our responsibility to the profession and the next generation of architects who will design and shape future cities.