The past three months have been an upheaval to everyone’s lives in a number of ways, but one of the biggest changes we faced as a staff was adapting to working from home – and, subsequently, adapting to the “new normal” when returning to the office. We asked our team their thoughts on working from home, what they learned from the experience, the challenges they faced and more.
What were some of the pros of working from home?
Collin Wheeler, Lead Commissioning Agent: I enjoyed being in the kitchen at our bay window. A lot of sun and openness. I felt more relaxed in my project calls with customers and contractors.
Luke Harmon, Mechanical Engineer: Not having to drive to meetings meant more time to be productive. For Building Information Modeling (BIM), there is some downtime when opening the large models or printing drawings – working from home made it so I could go grab a coffee or talk to a loved one while still being productive.
Chris Daniels, Associate/Technology Designer: Drive time and associated cost was nearly eliminated. I got to spend more time with my wife before she went to work! Lunch prep was much easier, healthier and less expensive than going out to restaurants.
Trevor Kuhlman, Mechanical Engineer: I got slightly more sleep, without having to make the drive. Communication with everyone was easy because everyone was always available. No one had on-site meetings (all meetings were remote). Working overtime is easier. Working on the weekends is easier without having to drive to the office.
What were the biggest challenges?
Elise Wilcox, Engineering/Design Support: The biggest challenge was communication, even though using Microsoft Teams made communicating a great deal easier. Being able to just walk over to a coworker’s desk whenever you have a question is more efficient.
Sam Manzella, BIM Managing Director & IT Manager: Managing the multiple communication methods, timing and tons of notifications. In the beginning especially, it felt a lot like juggling beer bottles on a tight-rope while singing the alphabet in reverse until we all naturally and unofficially fell into a pattern of using certain tools depending on priority level and time of day.
David Hildebrant, Mechanical Engineer: Communication with fellow workers on a project. Microsoft Teams worked well, but marking up drawings and waiting for a response added time. We needed to learn a new way to accomplish what was done together, apart.
Josh Jewett, Associate/Mechanical Designer: Not having all the references (like books and people) around when you had a question or issue come up. All the book references were online, and it’s great to look at hard copies from time to time to break up the screen time on a computer.
Did you learn any new processes or tricks to help you through challenges?
Collin Wheeler: I learned that if I needed a snack I needed to wait until the long-suffering Mrs. Wheeler was outside on a walk or in the bathroom.
Luke Harmon: I got more familiar with my technology at home, and now it is an advantage to have that option at home if it’s necessary. It makes working from home after hours much more convenient and doable.
Julie Winslow, Electrical Engineer: I’ve been getting faster at Bluebeam on drawing markups. I’ve used it before, but I’m becoming more proficient.
Trevor Kuhlman: I learned many ways to get around the small issues I ran into. The review/mark up phase for drawings worked well.
How does it feel to return to the office?
David Hildebrant: Good – I feel safe here because we are separated and there is a good effort by everyone to be clean and sanitized. I enjoy the interaction between team members.
Chris Daniels: The office is a more familiar work environment and leads to better productivity. It’s good to see colleagues daily, though I’m missing the lower stress home environment, healthier lunches, improved time with family and driving cost/time savings.
Trevor Kuhlman: I am glad to be back. Days seem to go faster at the office than at home.
Rochelle Downey, Administrator: It feels good. You have to get used to wearing masks, but it’s good to get away from my husband and mother-in-law and good to see people and interact with them again.
What advice would you give to someone in your position who had to start working from home?
Josh Jewett: Making sure you have a place set up that you can work from that is separate from your normal home area. I had an extra bedroom that I used and when I closed the door my family knew that I needed quiet time in that space.
Elise Wilcox: My advice would be to get up early enough to make breakfast and coffee before starting your workday to get you more awake and give you energy. Also, to try and go in a quieter place in your house that has the least amount of distractions, so you have better focus on work.
Rochelle Downey: Make sure to have adequate hardware (laptop/PC, monitor, printer), set break times and minimize distractions
Julie Winslow: Spend some time to get a good setup at home – both for your desk location and your computer – it makes working from home so much easier. I did the first week on WiFi and should have changed to a hardwired connection immediately since that made a huge difference in response time.
Chris Daniels: Have your work processes documented and regimented. Make sure you have regular collaboration time with colleagues and clients. Watch out for blurred lines between work time and home time. Work-sponsored, skilled and highly available IT support is the key to success.
Sam Manzella: Get your home environment set up as early as you can and keep the normal convenient things at your home desk handy just like you would in the office. Call your ISP and increase your internet speed. If there is a faster speed available, that is likely the one you will need. Use hard wire connections to your workstation, use wireless only for handheld devices. Carve out a space for yourself that is ideally not shared, so what you leave there at the end of the workday will still be there ready for you tomorrow. Before leaving the office for your home office, take photos and/or scan any reference materials you may need, including post-it notes from your desk, and save them to a cloud storage of your choice and organize those as best as you can.
The shift from office to home and back again hasn’t been an easy one, but the HAWA team made the transition skillfully, thanks to their commitment to each other and our clients, the hard work of our IT staff, and the support of their families. As we move forward into still-uncertain times, we have full confidence in our team to continue providing the excellent service you expect from HAWA. If you have questions about changes we’ve made or how they will affect your partnership with us, please don’t hesitate to reach out.