By: Michael Frech, April 2020
Approximately 2 months ago, the COVID-19 pandemic forced our company and many others into a work from home situation with little time to prepare logistics or how business would be conducted during this time. To compound this situation, we had to coordinate a plan with no end date.
The challenges we initially faced were, “how could we continue to maintain our level of service to our clients, keep design projects moving forward without delay, and maintain our company culture during such a time?” The answer was in leveraging technology in ways that we hadn’t done before. Nearly 6 weeks later, we feel that we are succeeding in conquering those challenges.
Tragically, many lives have been taken by the COVID-19 pandemic. The world is constantly fearing something that is not visible and is evolving every day. Everyone has been impacted. Although this pandemic cannot be ignored and everyone was put into this extremely unique WFH world without warning, the reality is that companies still need to conduct business.
Like most, we took for granted simple, everyday office interactions before being forced to work from home. A quick chat by the water cooler, a question for a nearby colleague, or the second opinion of a licensed staff professional, must now be done through phone call, text, or Zoom, rather than a short walk to the other side of the office. We are no longer able to make a quick site visit to provide judgement on an unsafe/unforeseen condition or meet with fellow industry professionals and clients to discuss past projects or future work opportunities over lunch or a coffee.
We are now mandated to stay in our homes but still continue our everyday business. Working with children who are simultaneously trying to grasp how to learn remotely (“dad, the WiFi is not working!”) or discussing a project on a conference call while your roommate is staring at you from across the kitchen table, is much easier said than done.
They say necessity is the motherhood of invention…and they weren’t wrong! At first this seemed like an impossible feat. First, we started getting used to Zoom and its idiosyncrasies, then we sprinkled in a little GoTo Meeting, and even threw in Facetime. As the days went by, it became evident that the virtual “system” we created was working, and there were things we could do that we never even considered. Our team has been hosting virtual walkthroughs via Zoom with Contractors, where we share and narrate photos of site conditions, the scope of work, and drawings. Just like our on-site walkthroughs, these video calls allow the Contractors to ask questions, create proposals, and smoothly move along through the pre-construction process without delay. Once the bids are received, we conduct our usual interviews with the Owner’s Representatives and selected Contractors via Zoom.
We have also taken several steps (with the help of technology, of course) to keep pertinent information flowing through our industry. We’ve put out a series of “vodcasts” on numerous social media platforms, such as Instagram and LinkedIn. These videos are simple conversations with people in our niche about what they are experiencing and their perspectives on the immediate and long-term future. We also hosted a webinar that over 100 industry professionals attended, where we shared information regarding the recent changes to the 9th Cycle of FISP. Both of these initiatives received positive feedback from those in and outside of our industry.
Similarly, we are adjusting how we communicate within our team while we work from home. Our Leadership Team meets via video call at the end of each day to assist each other with anything related to COVID-19. All of our regularly scheduled meetings still occur at the same day and time, and we have started a happy hour once a week via Zoom. Our “virtual happy hours” have become a place where we discuss our WFH challenges, show off our pets and children, and share old photos of team members when their hair was not so gray. This weekly call with our team has been a great way to chat about our lives and escape the challenges of quarantine.
When presented with the obstacle of a worldwide quarantine, we utilized our various skillsets and technology to make the situation work for us. Although we cannot accomplish everything we would like to, the way we do when we’re outside of our homes, we are proud that we can move our projects forward and be there for our clients. Our attitude remains positive, our marketing efforts on social platforms have increased, and our company culture remains intact, and for that, we are very thankful. We are anxious to have Contractors back on-site so construction work and field inspections can resume, and are excited to return firing on all cylinders as an industry and a team. As always, we continue to look forward with an optimistic outlook and are fully prepared to win for our clients as soon as this is over.