A paradigm shift to global architects working remotely

A new survey conducted by Architizer focused on AEC professionals’ evolving relationship with technology during the post pandemic year, looked at topics ranging from design and communication to the psychological wellbeing of staff. The survey reveals that almost 80% of AEC professionals worked remotely during 2020. Both design processes and team communication were now being conducted digitally. However, 28% of architects working remotely said that they were doing this even before 2020. This indicates that a shift towards online collaboration and a fully digital workflow was already well underway before the pandemic closed down offices across the globe.

Although an oxymoron, it is true. The biggest advantage cited for the remote working phenomenon was the flexibility to select and customize personal work environment, as well as the commute time saved to and from office.

In addition to the above, benefits include an improved work-life balance, flexible working location and hours, proximity to family and an unprecedented sense of freedom. From the respondents, 44.1% appreciated the flexibility while 22.9% liked the ‘no commute’; 11.7% enjoyed being closer to family while another 11.7% valued their freedom. A fair 8.4 % even reported increased productivity.

On the flip side, a good 33.8% of respondents reported struggling to keep clear separation between work and home life. The second most common challenge pertained to communication with colleagues with 17.7% reporting missing the in-person collaboration.

The most significant finding of the survey is the preference of almost half of all respondents i.e., 46.3%, to continue working remotely, indefinitely even after the pandemic with only 13.9% wanting to return to the workplace.

77.9% of architects working remotely cited a powerful computer or laptop as an essential tool to bolster performance. They described how displays are vital to their workflow with many respondents naming either large or dual monitors among hardware they regard as essential. This goes a long way in replicating the technological advantages of the office environment at home.

In terms of software, communication tools have risen hugely in significance. A huge 87% of respondents cited communication applications such as Zoom and Skype as being among the most essential software in 2020, placing them even above the most ubiquitous design applications such as Revit. As architects attempt to mitigate the loss of real face time with their colleagues, collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Discord have also risen markedly in importance.

Another interesting insight emerging from the survey was just how common it is for architects to connect back to their office remotely. 57% of respondents stated that they utilize the cloud to connect back to company servers when working at home. If architects working remotely becomes a norm, the concept of a central server for all company work may need to be re-evaluated.

AEC professionals are split almost exactly 50-50 between primarily using a laptop or a desktop. This is a big shift over the past five years. In Architizer’s previous survey on technology in the architectural profession, 80% of architects were primarily using desktop computers.

Furthermore, two-thirds of respondents that said their primary computer was a desktop also stated that they use a laptop or mobile workstation as a secondary device. This means a total of 76% of respondents utilized a portable computer in some form to get their work done in 2020.

  1. REDUCED NEED TO COMPROMISE: Mobile workstations now provide power-equivalent to a desktop, with all the advantages of mobility..
  2. MOBILITY AT HOME: Architects working remotely during the pandemic require greater flexibility to move between spaces while working (to provide space for family members or seek a quiet space for certain tasks).
  3. AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Some architects may be waiting to see whether they will be required to return to the office before purchasing a desktop computer for a more permanent home office.

When asked to describe their ideal computer, architects overwhelmingly described a powerful, portable computer able to handle their visualization needs. While AEC professionals now require their computers to render 3D models and process complex algorithms for generative design, they are less willing to tie themselves to a desk in an office, and technology must continue to be developed to meet their evolving needs.

Overwhelmingly, AEC professionals are using technology to facilitate visualization and rendering. A huge 91% of respondents cited architectural visualization and rendering as part of their workflow. This result indicates that architects are increasingly creating their own visualizations rather than hiring the services of a dedicated rendering studio. This may be down to practical or economic reasons but may also be because the architects’ own hardware and software is not capable of producing the high-end results they and their clients require.

Other technologies being increasingly adopted by the industry include virtual reality (VR) and generative design, which were cited by 28% and 26% of correspondents respectively.

The biggest takeaway from this year’s Architecture + Technology survey is that, while 2020 was no normal year, the working conditions it has necessitated might become the ‘’new normal’. While the pandemic forced AEC professionals to adopt new hardware and software for remote working whether they liked it or not, the profession has been pleasantly surprised by the outcome. This has led many in practice to re-examine their workflow and work-life priorities in the long term.

With the rise in collaborative tools and apps for ease of communication, this shift is more easily facilitated in architecture than most professionals. For this reason, mobile workstations –balancing immense processing power with the lightweight and compact qualities of a laptop- look likely to become the standard hardware for the profession.

Whatever the post-pandemic world looks like, one thing is clear- the practice of architecture, engineering and construction will continue to advance with the help of powerful, mobile technology and innovative software solutions.

At Aligned Studios, we provide all our architects working remotely with the latest tech-enabled laptops and large screen monitors supported by the latest available software to be able to generate top quality work. This allows them to collaborate efficiently and effectively with cross border partners from the comfort of their homes. 

Want to work with our highly qualified and tech-enabled team? Check out the services we offer.

Integrity is the key to success in the work from home set up

Between 2008 and 2020, remote work has grown 159 percent. Whether companies allow employees to work from home as needed, hire both remote and in-office staff or have only remote employees, more and more companies are embracing the trend. With so many great resources available on transitioning to remote work, there isn’t a need to reinvent the wheel here. There are, however, a few transitioning tips that arise out of being in this model for a while which are worth sharing.

  1. A ‘shift’ occurs when moving from working in person to remote working. It is important to recognize and accept that this ‘shift’ takes people time to adjust. People tend to drop the ball in adjusting to new modes of communication which move away from being entirely and exclusively written. Use of screenshare and videos need to be used a lot more to add context to messages.
  2. Incoming mail cannot meet with immediate responses. Response time for ‘considered replies’ must be purposefully and deliberately slotted.
  3. Communication protocols need to be set up as a team to cater to the remote working style keeping in mind individual information needs and impacts of different time zones. At Aligned Studios, we regularly conduct Communication workshops to upgrade communication skills of our people not only within the internal team but also with their international partners.
  4. productive environment consisting of clean, noise-free zones is an ‘absolute must’ in the remote working model. It is important to set apart distinct work zones from the day- to-day routine activity zones to ensure setting of boundaries and compartmentalizing of individual energy levels and priorities.
  5. Warding off loneliness by building an extensive social network even outside of work as well as having video chats with team members always help. At Aligned Studios, we encourage weekly coffee chats, buddy lunches and personal meet ups to help people build stronger team bonds and adjust to the new workplace.

In addition to basic remote working skills, what will always remain at the core of this working model’s success rate is INTEGRITY. Work from home needs a high level of employee integrity to succeed. While responsible and conscious hiring techniques do ensure a high level of employee integrity, it takes a continuous process to keep the integrity alive.

Leveraging the reduced visibility in workflows, a small percentage of employees resort to unethical practices that rob the Company of its productive hours. Timesheets are filled out with deliberately inaccurate information. Work from home time is misutilized for other purposes. As employees are sometimes faced with genuine challenges in a work from home arrangement, it is best to open doors for clear, free, and transparent communication to understand their concerns and educate them on how enhanced commitment from them can contribute to overall productivity and a win-win situation for all.

A second area of concern is ‘moonlighting’. Moonlighting refers to pursuing more than one job at a time and remote working, particularly in the IT industry, has helped employees take up this option. This could involve activities outside of office hours or on weekends that do not impact their productivity on the full-time job or have a conflict of interest. In the AEC (Architecture, Engineering, Construction) Industry, however, particularly where international collaboration is involved and NDA (Non-disclosure agreements) govern the arrangement, moonlighting exposes Clients’ assets to risk. Use of common hardware and software to do multiple jobs proves ethically and functionally unacceptable.

Conflict of interest and violation of trust issues are of foremost concern. Employers and employees need to consciously recognize and embrace the goodness of remote working to help the model succeed. It enables global talent to come together on the same table. It empowers people to find a healthy, enriching work-life-balance. It empowers companies to expand their geographical operational boundaries to new markets at minimal costs. Integrity at every level is a small ask to pay to enable this all-empowering model to succeed.

In an interesting field experiment on ‘Honesty of online workers’ (Journal of Behavioural and Experimental Economics, Vol 94, Oct 2021, 101730), employees reported hours mostly honestly regardless of the condition of automatic recording (AR) or dishonesty enabling manual recording (MR). Honesty-humility, a unique indicator of job performance, was not related to dishonesty and choosing the manual reporting. This reinforces the faith and the belief in people’s integrity as a reliable tool in bolstering the success rate of the work from home model.

At Aligned Studios, we have successfully worked remotely completely. By leveraging technology along with the quality and commitment of our select, chosen team, we consistently deliver premium global quality to our satisfied customers across the globe. We have continued to proactively strengthen the learning curve by introducing people- centric, culture- specific and industry-specific inputs that have enriched the workplace and facilitated smooth seamless working across global frontiers. Aligned Studios, along with its employees has consciously recognized the ‘remote working’ model as an ‘equal opportunity’ partnership between the employer and the employee. Looking forward, we see a promising and rewarding working model catering to employer and employee alike.