In light of the rapid spreading of COVID-19, the AEC industry is taking steps, whether they be precautionary or mandated, to protect their employees and clients. Remote work policies are becoming the new norm, and it's not without challenge in an industry that thrives from hands-on teamwork and in-person cross collaboration.
Teams going fully, or even partially, remote demand an innovative approach to management for projects to be delivered on-time and on-budget. In order to make this possible, teams at software companies, like ours, want to remind the industry that modern technology is available to help with cloud-based solutions. As an extra step, we’ve pulled together a few pointers from our experience with working from home to serve as a guide for those that are new to this type of work environment:
1. Asynchronous and Synchronous Communication
Communication is the key to remote work organization and overall productivity. Asynchronous and synchronous are the two modes of communication that managers navigate as a remote team. Asynchronous allows team members to communicate proactively and synchronous allows for deeper alignment. Management teams should be utilizing both forms of communication with the employees they oversee, and they should be monitoring whether or not they’re being carried out effectively both externally and internally.
2. Effective Tools
Managers should look for tools that enable effective asynchronous and synchronous collaboration like Slack, cloud-based file sharing, and Zoom. Installing a modeling/draughting tool of choice on virtual machines like Paperspace can help teams access mission-critical software remotely without interrupting workflow.
3. Documentation is Critical
In order to avoid repetitive answers across team members, look into implementing a lightweight company wiki using either a tool like Notion or AskAlmanac. We’ve found this to be beneficial in ensuring that we’re not duplicating efforts or having any oversights in tasks or deliverables.
4. Stay on Track, Get Feedback
A weekly retrospective is a synchronous meeting that allows leaders to get feedback on what’s working and what isn’t during projects and around processes. Retrospectives help managers tweak their process.
Going off this idea of retrospectives, the last suggestion I’d like to make is that managers should be designing their week so that they can intentionally place time on the calendar to sync up. Over communication is more important than ever––just because we’re not in the office, doesn’t mean we want to miss out on the usual “water cooler moments” or personal interactions with our coworkers. Remote work policies shouldn’t come at the cost of a strong company culture. Although we typically work together in our San Francisco office, as a tech-focused company, we already had a remote-friendly infrastructure in place. Currently, we have a set lunch hour scheduled for each day where our team can jump on a Zoom call together.
Our focus is less on requiring core work hours in the midst of COVID-19, and more on maintaining consistent communication and connectivity. This mindset dates back to our founding as a company. We define our culture as one in which work-life balance is at the core, and we know employees are more effective when they can take time off, recharge, or even pursue their own passion projects. This is what led us to enact a 4-day work week.
While COVID-19 has caused a significant number of challenges, remote work can also have multiple long-term advantages, from cost savings to better work-life flexibility if the right software and cloud-based tools are in place to foster effective firm and project management. It’s this type of positivity and preparedness that will see us through these difficult times.