As a team at ETA + Partners Ltd we were honoured to be On Shortlist for Archiboo Awards 2020 – Best Digital Workspace.
Having worked in the Architectural Profession for the last 20 years it was amazing to get shortlisted with some of my heroes Cullinan Studio and Grimshaw Architects alongside the next generation of heroes, whose methodology show that the profession is in good hands. Congratulations to the eventual and worthy winners New Practice.
However the point of this post is not just a simple reflection but is a great opportunity to show that it is good to be prepared to write your own copy for marketing and that it still will have value way past its original purpose.
As part of the competition we were asked a few key questions and then subsequently there was the opportunity to expand on those answers.
The great thing about going back in and looking with a fresh pair of eyes at the copy is that you are able to tighten up concepts and explore, edit and expand were necessary.
In short we looked at how our company was set up to deal with the pandemic. Hopefully our story can help you:
Best Digital Workspace – What makes you the best digital workspace?
We were fully prepared to work from home as each team member had a home studio already. But, it was fair to say, the analogue pleasures of the job became more digital. Our pen sketches had to move from detail paper to touch screens and styluses, for improved digital workflow.
All face-to-face client meetings moved into virtual chat rooms in messaging apps and the ubiquitous Zoom call. We were now in the same multi-purpose room that hosted a video call, webinar or even pub quiz throughout the initial lockdown. Our Zoom backgrounds became past project pictures, and our virtual desktops became as much part of a meeting as any sleek, edited presentation.
The process for design optioneering was done, with caveats, from estate agent plans until risk assessments and method statements were produced to allow site access for measured surveys to be conducted.
All dotting of ‘i’s and crossing of ‘t’s were done for paperwork and contracts whilst the world slowed down and the phones had stopped ringing off the hook.
In regard to the means of production, the technology has been here for a while – touchscreen mobile devices with styluses and pens such as Surface Book 2 and Samsung Note 9. The communication with team members, clients and collaborative workflow for sketches and marking up were conducted with the flexibility that Whatsapp, Zoom and Microsoft Teams platforms provide.
Our drawings and documentation were connected to the cloud-based systems of Dropbox and Onedrive. This information, plus emails, could be securely accessed by all the team’s computers and phones, while simultaneously forming and having the support of a robust QMS filing system.
The fact that the team was so relaxed when harnessing and using openly available consumer technology meant we knew that the general population could easily adopt a similar strategy.
We are an open and trusting company, so it felt like the world was coming around to our way of thinking and should use their communication, storage and technology without frontiers and barriers.
Why do you believe your approach to the digital workplace has been successful? (approach)
One of the tenets of our company ethos has been to create architecture in a collaborative fashion. At the inception of the company research and development and a continuous feedback loop for processes was instilled. It was decided that team location and software should never be a preventer of good communication or the successful delivery of a project. This meant questions asked to team members were enablers to move forward. “Can you draw within a company drawing border? Can you email from a company email? Can you access the servers and QMS? Can you be reached by phone, email and messaging apps?” If the answer was ‘yes’ then you can work on whatever software you were most effective in. Through the adoption of open source thinking about our processes and actively embracing the trust in people to work remotely means a new team member with a phone, licenced software, a computer and internet connection can work independently and collaboratively with the established team from wherever they choose to be.
What became key, once the pandemic kicked in, was the well-being of our team. We phoned or video called to check in with each other most days. Collaboration was enabled via Zoom and Microsoft Team conference calls. Through these platforms we were able to review and solve design and admin issues and generally still chat. For us – and people globally – this technology became an essential part of daily communication. Maintaining good client contact and keeping existing projects on an even keel involved regular work review and checking in on team wellbeing. All of which ensured we continued making progress.
We believe we already had a robust work-from-home system in place before the pandemic hit. This has been proven to be the case through such extraordinary times. The success of our system allows for outsourcing of drawing to team members in Santiago in South America. Our watches are set to two time zones now. The sun literally never set on our business during the pandemic and we can only hope this remains the case.