Welcome to the “New Normal” – a seemingly alternate universe where working in an office has become burdensome and employers and employees alike are often at odds as to what a work-life balance looks like. As if the practice of architecture wasn’t complicated enough, our post-pandemic reality challenges firms to adjust to a remote workforce while still providing high-level service and deliverables that meet or exceed the standard of care. Principals want to keep their valued team members happy and motivated, but struggle with the realities of managing a firm and satisfying its clients.
Architectural firms – as with other employers – must acknowledge and embrace remote work to remain competitive and attract and retain valuable employees. A creative workforce is a powerful one – it should be nurtured and developed. Providing a positive work environment without risking the integrity of your services or protection of your firm is our new calling – one that could and should be answered with the right tools and right attitude in place.
There are certainly perilous roads along the way including employment/wage and hour issues, quality control and cyber vulnerabilities that can make or break a project – or even a firm. Further, it is a tricky balance to maintain good morale while striving for optimum productivity, developing young professionals through remote mentorship, finding more opportunities for team development and quality assurance, and safeguarding your firm’s information technology.
Right at the start of your remote working relationship, ensure that every employee is clear about how you will work together in this virtual world. Establish processes, communication channels and boundaries. Stay connected with your employees through regular videoconferences and calls to address tasks and assignments, workload, morale, logistical needs, technical resources and deliverables.
The right technology is essential. Some fundamental cyber security practices that companies can use in a remote working include the following: multi-factor authentication, password management, internal VPN connections, deploy firewalls, establish work-from-home security policies, and enhance endpoint security measures. Make sure your remote employees can access all of the online systems that they need to complete their work as well as tracking the necessary number of software licenses (i.e. Autodesk being one key example).
Further, you need to have them install necessary communication tools and timekeeping software for purposes of billing and payroll. The old “Nine to Five” may not be the best approach. Focus on results rather than activity. If the work is done, and done well and properly recorded and timely delivered, does it matter so much at what time during the day or night it is done? This does not mean you can ignore state and federal wage and hour laws – yet another reason why you need policies and procedures and the right timekeeping software.
You will also need to explore with whether your remote employees have all of the equipment required in their home office to such as maybe an ergonomic chair, laptop stand or second screen.
These are just some of the many issues that employers must consider in managing an increasing remote workforce while still delivering your services in an efficient, timely and professional manner.
Our “Do you Know?” column is provided by LegaLine. LegaLine is an AIA Trust member benefit service, formerly known as Practice Coach, that offers members and components access to qualified professionals who can help identify and manage risks while minimizing claims–whether dealing with clients, contractors, employees, or others.