The sudden change to working from home during the Covid-19 outbreak has the potential to decrease a firm’s productivity. Professionals abruptly found themselves transitioning from collaborative office environments fully stocked with resources and the latest in technology to home offices – or, in many cases, a spot at the kitchen table or in a quiet bedroom. Furthermore, limited technology at home is often being shared with other household members attempting to work and school from home.
Our team of talented design professionals has taken this unforeseen transition in stride – from souped up desktops to handle CAD software programs to suddenly having some employees use personal computers for work, which required remote software downloads to home devices. Meaningful collaboration has become more challenging. Nothing can replace the teamwork and mentoring that happens over a set of drawings sprawled across the conference table or a casual conversation in the breakroom that spontaneously sparks creativity. Fortunately, our employees have embraced morning Zoom sessions to begin our work day with familiar face-to-face interaction and keep everyone on task and focused. Instant messaging and video conferencing maintain frequent communication. Technology has truly bridged the span from Slack to Dropbox: it has kept our office not only surviving, but thriving.
One of the positive side effects of a work from home initiative is an increase in staff utilization numbers. While utilization has increased, will that translate to increased profitability? Or are utilization rates up as the result of decreased office chatter and fewer routine office trainings consuming employee time? There has been discussion from some company leaders that people are working more hours simply to fill time and maintain job security. Has lack of social outings had an effect on how many hours a person now works? Cancellation of vacations may also have an impact on more available time for work.
Whatever the case may be, it seems that many companies – including ours – are seeing an increase in utilization. What these numbers mean will not be fully realized until a few months of billings have been completed. For now, making efficient use of time is crucial to driving productivity to keep job costs accurate and maintain profitability. It is as important as ever for employees to diligently track time to monitor utilization and eventually profitability. By maintaining a schedule, establishing a dedicated work space, and leveraging technology for innovative collaborative opportunities such as virtual site visits, employees can best remain on task and efficient.
Many lessons will be learned during this time. Perhaps most notably will be the importance of technology. Technology has made working from home far easier than we previously would have thought. It has widened our pool of job candidates, allowing us to successfully attract and retain talented employees remotely working from other areas of the country. Technology could even potentially have a significant impact on office design, allowing employers to decrease real estate costs by reducing office footprints as employees work remotely at least part of the time.
While we long to safely return to our office, we are grateful for technology and the continued good health of our employees and clients. Covid-19 has impacted where we work, but not our ability to deliver exceptional work.
Lorie K. Skolski
Danielle M. Cavallaro