As one of the key measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, many countries are calling on people t... More
As one of the measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, many hit countries call on working people to work from home as much as possible. Architects are also responding to this call. Archello is asking various offices about how they are giving shape to this. Willem van Bolderen, partner at Studio Puisto, offers an insight into how his Finnish office manages during the crisis.
How does your office organize the working from home challenge?
“We thankfully have a robust infrastructure that supports the technical side of remote work well. Through our internal VPN, we can access and update files on our server without issue from our laptops at home. It is a system we have had in place for a while and it continues to serve us well even with the added traffic.
Of course, the technical end is only one piece of the puzzle. Communication both within Studio Puisto and to external parties is facilitated through a collaboration tool, Microsoft Teams. Each project has its own channel within Teams, making the sharing of information much more seamless and targeted. We luckily had a chance to get used to this streamlined system before the crisis, as we have remote staff for a few years now.”
How is the collaboration within the team and communication with external parties like clients?
“Virtual collaboration may not always be the most optimal method of working, but we are fortunate to live in an era where face-to-face communication is possible – even if it happens to be through a computer screen. As we work in a visually dominant field, it would be an entirely different story if this was not possible.
Within the project teams, every morning starts off with a brief video call to check-in. Then, every afternoon, we reserve time in our calendars for a short coffee break where the whole office comes together on a joint conference call. We’re finding that although these moments are not able to (yet!) replace the candid conversation and impromptu brainstorm sessions that come more naturally from a conventional office setting, we can use this time to actively experiment and ideate how communication in the future could be like. We encourage everyone to have fun with it.
As for external communication, an increasing number of our clients and business partners are international, so we have had extensive experience with this. We are openly sharing this expertise and our methods with those who have had less exposure to it in the past.”
Can you keep this up for a while or will you inevitably need to start reducing working hours?
“From a technical standpoint, we could foresee ourselves working this way for a while if needed. As we all get more comfortable with virtual collaboration, we feel it will become second nature over time and we will be able to figure out what works best for us as an office. In building such a foundation now, we look forward to allowing even more flexibility for extensive remote work in the future when everything settles down.
As is the case for many other architecture offices worldwide, the unfortunate reality is that we may need to temporarily reduce working hours if a significant number of our projects pause. One of our focuses at Studio Puisto is hospitality, which is an industry that is very much affected right now. To combat this, we have been proactively looking for creative ways to use our expertise and experience in other fields and keep us operating normally in the long run.”
How does the crisis change things for your current and upcoming projects?
“The ramifications of the crisis run wide – a few of our current projects around the world are temporarily slowing down due to unexpected and coincidental connections to the situation. It is a unique moment in time that exposes just how interwoven we all are as a global society.
For the rest of our current and upcoming projects, we can continue those without interruption due to the infrastructure and tools we have available to us. Our most critical goal right now as an office is to remain as reliable of a partner as possible for everyone working with us. Given how much uncertainty there is now for many, we aim to continue as at least one steady constant for others.”
Does the crisis give you other insights?
“Since seemingly every industry is affected in one way or another, we’ve noticed a new level of flexible collaboration and solidarity between different entities in the field. Everyone is now bound by the same objective: to get back to normal business operations as quickly as possible. Therefore, everyone is actively thinking of innovative, out-of-the-box solutions for how we can all get through this together. In the future, we hope that this trend continues and positively influences how we all cooperate in the architectural design process.
Moving beyond just architecture, we see the crisis presenting all of us around the world an important opportunity for reflection. In a matter of weeks, our daily routines and livelihoods have been seemingly flipped upside down, giving us the chance to evaluate them from a different perspective. With this rare insight, we can use this time to clarify our own roles and responsibilities in society and adapt to the forthcoming demands in a way that contributes to a better, healthier, and more sustainable way of living overall. Work-life balance is something that we are more mindful of at Studio Puisto through this experience, and we look forward to implementing changes that promote this even better as we transition into a new era of working.”