The 'New Normal’ for Architects and Design Professionals: Are You Ready?

The 'New Normal’ for Architects and Design Professionals: Are You Ready?

Think for a moment and remember what it was like when you first got into architecture with a capital “A”. Visions of building houses and mansions,  hospitals, schools, churches…All those wonderful buildings you would design to make the world a better place. Pretty early on, I’ll bet you learned that Architecture is much more than that. We all know that with the advent of the COVID-19 Pandemic (so named by the WHO on February 11, 2020)( (2020 COVID 19 Timeline) affecting the entire globe, the way architects and design professionals were to practice their chosen profession was to change forever. In fact, it would redefine the way we would design buildings in ways we never expected when we first got into Architecture with a capital “A”. 

So, by March of 2020 when the Pandemic was in full swing the beginning of the way things were to be started to show up. More than half the planet was in “Lock-down” at the time according to a European News agency:

“More than 3.9 billion people, or half of the world's population, have now been asked or ordered to stay at home by their governments to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus…”(Euronews – COVID-19 shutdown)

Because we couldn’t leave our homes, we had to rethink the way we would do business. A “Hybrid” way of doing business began to emerge with employees staying in the office part of the time and working out of their homes the rest of the week. This then is what many people would begin to think of as “The New Normal”. Working in a “hybrid” capacity. 

So what do we do now? How do we adjust to this new way of doing business post pandemic? These are the questions which we will answer for you. On top of this, we are going to talk about the good and bad aspects of working in an office 100% of the time as well as learning about some good and bad things from working at home 100% of the time. You might even learn some ways to make the best use of this new hybrid model. We will examine some surveys and discuss what those surveys represent as we move forward.

Working in an office may have been the way things were done before but as we go forward into this “New Normal” of using this “hybrid” model many questions and concerns will come up. Let us put those fears to rest here and now.

Designair has worked for architects and designers who work remotely; long before there was any pandemic – for over five years. We have learned some unique insights and facts about what it takes to make working from home successful and productive. Rest assured that we will share our experience generously.

3 Distinct Methods of Doing Business

What’s your style? Really. How do you work best? Do you feel energized by your coworkers everyone running around doing their thing? Or are you more the type who begins to get stressed out by that type of activity? Working in an office may not be your speed because of so many distractions and too many rules. By the end of the day, you might feel so drained you can barely stand. You might get more done by working on your own and setting your own schedule. Yet…there is a third option. You might find doing a little bit of both suits you best.  We’ll take a look at all of these styles and help you find which is the best for you.

Pros and Cons of The Office

As Architects and Design Professionals we have been accustomed to getting ourselves to an office often far away from where we live. This has been the traditional method of doing business for us as long as we can remember. We may not have even considered different styles of doing business yet, that is changing. There are some Pros and also some Cons of working in an office. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Pros of Office Work

1 - There is More Direct Access to Management and Fellow Employees

We all know those times when we are working on our assignment, and we get stuck. For whatever reason there is something which hangs us up and we need help. Our direct supervisor and our other coworkers are right there able and willing to help us should the need arise. On more complicated issues, impromptu meetings can be called between team members to determine how to address those issues.

2 - We Gain Experience in Our Chosen Profession and Improve Our Chances of Career Advancement

There are a couple of other advantages to working in an office. When we get into the habit of going to the office on a daily basis, we find we learn to manage our time better because we learn structure. We learn from those around us, and we begin to expand our knowledge. As a result of doing these things our supervisors and our coworkers learn to trust and to depend on us. This naturally leads to those in Management offering us more complex projects and they don’t need to check up on us as often. So, when this happens, as it inevitably will, we move into higher positions of responsibility.

3 - You Will Learn the Value of Teamwork

Sometimes working in an office, you get smaller projects that you can work on by yourself, but there are times when working in an architecture office for example, that you will be working on one part of a larger project. No matter what that may be, you know that the role you play there is just as important as anyone else’s role. You begin to learn how to work with other members of the design team, including the Project Architect, Project Manager learning communication and teamwork.

So, you can see, there are some very good things that happen when you work in an office. But as with everything, there are some downsides to working in an office too. Let us take a look at what may not be so cool about working in an office.

Cons of Office Work

1 - There is Usually a Commute to the Office Which Can Add Stress to Your Day.

An astonishing 54% of American morning commuters experienced stress on their way to work. This data was extrapolated from a survey of 2,000 Americans conducted by Harris Interactive in 2004 (USA Stress Survey) According to the survey, the shorter the commute the better. If you traveled less than 30 minutes to get to the office then your chances were 22% better chance of not experiencing stress which can be a catalyst for suffering heart attacks. In Europe, the results were strikingly similar. An empirical survey of 1,167 Italian Industrial workers  showed that those who commuted at least 45 minutes a day experienced a more stressed lifestyle than did non commuters. The Italian commuters “… suffered discomfort as a result of overcrowding, microclimatic conditions, noise and vibrations. Commuters also reported higher psychological stress scores, more health complaints, essentially of psychosomatic nature, and greater absenteeism from work due to sickness…”(European Stress Survey)

2 - There Can Be More Distractions in the Office Resulting in Less Overall Productivity

We all k now that working with others can help development teamwork and harmony among team members and we can learn efficiency by adhering to the set routine but every so often there might be somebody who is more easily distracted by all the noise and activity in the office. This person might take a little longer to settle in and the distraction can lead to overfamiliarity with each other and a lack of production in the workplace.

3 - You Will Have to Adhere to Office Policy

office policies do not allow working in pyamas

Now I know you may want to ditch the neck noose and leave it at home. You also may want to start earlier or later than the time the office opens but when you work in an office you will be required to follow their rules, policies, and procedures. This can mean anything from punching a timeclock to dress code to personal mementos at one’s desk. To make sure of this, many offices require you to sign a statement indicating that you understand and agree to follow their office policy.

Okay. Now we know some of the good and bad aspects of working in an office. Is this your style? Do you find yourself working in this type of environment? Maybe you feel more comfortable working out of your home. Let’s check out some of the Pros and Cons of working remotely.

Pros and Cons of Working at Home

You know, for those of us who might want to consider options other than an office environment you might consider a newer method: That of working out of your home. Otherwise known as working at a “virtual” office or working remotely, it offers some distinct advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at these.

Pros of Working at Home

1 - There is No Commute, Therefore Stress is Minimized.

What if you walked down the hall to your office instead of a mile to the bus stop? Or walking ten feet instead of driving ten miles. Would that appeal to you? As we have mentioned earlier, the shorter your commute you have the healthier you are. While we cannot completely eliminate stress from our lives, minimizing our stress will lead to a longer and healthier life.

2 - Working Remotely there is more flexibility in one’s schedule.

As we all know life can throw some curve balls at us. If you work in an office, you have to arrange with your supervisor to get time off to handle these unexpected events. But when you are working out of your home, you can arrange your time at the times you know you are the most productive. You are not necessarily tied down to a typical 9 to 5 schedule. You don’t need to make special arrangements and anything that comes up, can be dealt with when it happens.

3 - You can save money and the environment.

Just think for a minute about the small things that you can do to save money and the environment. Perhaps you save your spare change, or you reduce, reuse, and recycle, plastic, glass, and paper and so on. But what if you could do these things without leaving your home? You know what? You can. You can write off certain business expenses on your income tax (You’ll have to check with your tax professional to find out how to do this) and you can save money by eating at home instead of going out every day. You can reduce your carbon footprint by not driving and staying home. So, by working at home (remotely) one can be healthy and environmentally conscious too.

Cons of Working at Home

1 - You need a lot of self-discipline to work remotely.

Let’s face it. There is always the temptation to stop work and go and watch your favorite television program or to read a book instead of focusing on your work. You need to find ways to encourage self-discipline and to keep working even when you may not want to work. You won’t have the external motivation from other employees to keep going, so you need to find ways to generate this self-discipline yourself.

2 - There will still be a need for professional social interaction which cannot be had by working at home.

You know, if you end up deciding that you would rather work remotely, there could be times you may feel cut out of the activities in the business. You will still need to attend team meetings or professional retreats, or other trainings that you just can’t get if you’re working at home. You will definitely still need to make an occasional appearance to stay connected to the team.

3 - The line between personal and professional responsibilities can become blurred by working remotely.

This ties back into having self-discipline in order to work at home. You absolutely must establish boundaries with your family in some fashion so that they will know when you are working and when it is okay for them to be with you. Getting into the groove at work can all of a sudden come to a screeching halt if you need to pay attention to something that is not work-related. That can slow down your productivity and raise a red flag in the eyes of your supervisors at work .

But now, what if…you don’t like either of these options? Is there another choice? Yes there is. That choice is the Hybrid model, and it is catching on around the United States and the rest of the world. We know that a hybrid is essentially the merging of two disparate functions into a whole (Hybrid Definition). But what does that mean in this new era of work? We have seen some of the plusses and minuses of working out of an office as well as that of working completely at home. Now let’s look a little deeper into working in this Hybrid Model.

Pros of the Hybrid Model

1 - There will be a large potential for real estate savings.

Because many offices will be adopting the Hybrid Model, there will not be a need for as many desks and floor space in offices. Some companies may even sublease sections of their offices to other companies or lease smaller spaces entirely.

2 - Productivity is increased with a Hybrid Model.

In a survey conducted in Ireland in mid-2020, Over 5,600 workers were surveyed and 62% of respondents agreed that working remotely increases their productivity. In the United States 79% of employees surveyed mentioned that working from home has been a success.

3 - It will be easier to recruit and retain top talent with a Hybrid Model.

More and more people are expecting to work from home at least part of the time (Retaining Top Talent in a Hybrid World). People are feeling more productive when they work from home (WFH) at least part of the time and they have better mental health. Individuals in critical industries such as IT, Technical writing, and sales need to continually learn. Operating in a hybrid workspace allows that.

Cons of the Hybrid Model

1 - There will be a dispersal of talent at least part of the time.

In order to have an effective workforce a company needs not only clear communication, but also clear understanding of what is required of them. In a hybrid model, the times when employees are working remotely they need to know they are not being isolated from the rest of the team.

2 - There is possibility of threats from Cyber-attacks using the Hybrid Model

Any company which opts to enter into a Hybrid Work situation must realize that they will have to implement steps to “…secure their digital footprint through constant software updates, robust password management, and multi-factor authentication…” This can result in data loss if it is not regularly backed up. Remote Employees will have to be trained in this procedure.( Hybrid Option Pros and Cons)

3 - It may be more difficult for managers to maintain productive routines.

Those on the management team must be aware of each individual on their team and their unique situation. They will have to find new ways to communicate and adjust the work schedules of their employees so that all are doing their best work ( Hybrid Option Pros and Cons)

It may be that the Hybrid Model is not for every office. In fact, there are five types of hybrid work which are under consideration by companies post pandemic. (1) The Office Centric hybrid – Employees work in the office three to four days a week and remotely one to two days a week. (2) Fully Flexible Hybrid -Employees choose when they’d like to work from the office and when they’d like to work from home (3) Remote Friendly Hybrid – specifies which employees can work remotely and when they can do so. (4) Hybrid Remote Office – Choose your own adventure from a “menu” of remote possibilities. (5) Remote First Hybrid – Most employees are required to work remotely. (5 Styles of Hybrid Work).

Opportunities for the New Normal

Whether or not you choose to opt for Fully Office, Fully Remote or a Hybrid approach to business, you are now aware that several options are available. While we haven’t yet arrived at this “new normal” we must still be open to the possibility of change as it begins to dawn. There are several options open to us as we begin to think about how to move from our traditional office-based system to a hybrid model. Clearly there will be more planning that has to take place. Also, we must consider that all employees will need to be trained in “virtual” meetings with those working remotely while others work in the office. In addition to this, those people who are in management positions must remember to trust their employees as they did during the pandemic, and of course we must all remember that communication is key. The way we communicate will be different and every employee from the lowest on the rung of the career ladder to the top needs to be retrained in how to do business. Other things that will help here are to do what you can to maintain the company culture and keep everyone in the loop. That means remote workers too. Find ways to communicate with others, even if it’s through Zoom, TEAMS, or whatever system works for your office. It will also help to give everyone equal access to information and learn to focus on output rather than input. In other words, look at what is done, goals and deadlines that are met and so on, instead of the traditional means of progress. Recognize employees for work well done whether those employees are working from home or in the office. Following these tips and tricks will help you move forward and stay ahead of the competition.

Office Activities vs. Remote Activities: Is it a No-Win Situation?

So what activities are better left in the office and what activities are better for working at home?

Let’s take the example of an architectural office. Many times, it will be necessary to meet formally with the client and the team to discuss progress on the project. Also, informal meetings amongst team members are necessary to keep them on track. Training and other seminars are best when done in an office setting. On the other hand, Remote activities which seem to work best are those activities which can be done reasonably unsupervised such as writing specifications and other technical writing, virtual meetings through Zoom, research, creating videos and promotional material are also excellent activities which are not as easily done in the office. As we have seen, it matters what type of person you are. If you are one who is self-disciplined and can find ways to schedule your day to get the maximum work done in the least amount of time, and you need a space free of distractions, for example, then you may be one who flourishes as a remote worker. If you need the energy of an office and regular supervision, and you want to be around others who are able to assist you when you need it, then perhaps you are better suited to an office environment. Maybe you find yourself longing for freedom to work remotely a couple of days a week and the rest of the time at the office. Then you might be most proficient in a hybrid model. Only you can make that decision. What seems to be truly happening is that we are slowly but surely working into a hybrid model as the months go on. Truly there is evidence to support this claim.

Results of Independent Surveys

In three independent surveys one conducted in January of 2021 by Price Waterhouse Coopers, and the last two posted on LinkedIn in the Spring of 2021 we can see that the desire to continue working at home and to do business using a hybrid model are becoming more and more popular with employers and employees. In the survey carried out between November 24 and December 5, 2020 by PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers which is a multinational professional services network of firms based in London, England) (PwC - Wikipedia)


“…1,200 US office workers from a range of industries…all identified themselves as employed and previously/currently working remotely — either because they were required to work remotely due to shelter-in-place mandates (64%) or were already working in a flexible arrangement with their employer (36%).”(PwC Remote Work Survey)

Some key takeaways from this survey were that the vast majority of employers questioned (83%) indicated that working remotely was an effective solution for their organization. While there was no clear consensus on the balance of workdays at home versus in the office 55% of respondents preferred to work remotely at least three (3) days a week once the pandemic concerns recede. However, employers were more concerned about the number of days per week employees would need to spend in the office. They said that a typical employee should be in the office at least three days a week to maintain a distinct company culture. This might not be a major concern because in the same survey 87% of employees mentioned they believed that collaborating with team members and building relationships was ranked as one of their top needs for the office. 

In a LinkedIn survey with 408 professionals questioned the results were surprisingly similar. 72% of the respondents revealed that they wanted to work from home two (2) to five (5) days per week.

do BIM users want to work from home


The final survey of 533 professionals suggested that 80% of BIM professionals work at home and to how this working from home (WFH) would be accomplished. The results were as follows:

virtual dekstops are used by 3% of BIM professionals

If you look closely, you will see that nearly half of those questioned (46%) revealed that they used their work computer at home, had remote access to their work computer or worked on a virtual desktop. The importance of a hybrid model becomes clear now. So many people have mentioned that working in this way at least two the three days a week has made them more productive, reduced their stress levels and given them greater mental health. In these days of increased technology where technology seems to be outstripping our ability to keep up with it, This Hybrid model seems to be an effective solution combining all of the advantages and none of the disadvantages of working at the office as well as working remotely. Truly, the best of both worlds.

Technological Solutions

You only have to go back just a couple of years to remember what doing business was like “Pre-Pandemic” when we had technology, and we used it in our offices and personal lives, but what will happen once the restrictions of the Pandemic will be lifted? How will our lives change then? To be honest, they already have changed. Whenever you go into a doctor’s office, your temperature is taken. Think of going out to dinner. In some restaurants, robots have replaced human beings as a host or hostess, and handheld menus have been replaced by QR scan codes at every table. Yet…that doesn’t begin to cover the technology that is out there. Artificial Intelligence is making inroads in the medical field, Contactless delivery is now commonplace after ordering items online. Distance learning is more prevalent where students use their laptops to take classes instead of going to brick and mortar schools. Arguably one of the most important technological innovations to come out of this pandemic is the need for increased cybersecurity and a focus on cloud computing. “Cybersecurity spending hit an all-time high in 2020, garnering a whopping $11.4B — a near 50% increase from 2018. Going forward, organizations are expected to increase spending on cybersecurity measures, as well as train employees to deal with these situations.” (Technologies Shaping the Post Pandemic World)

The importance of this cannot be underestimated. Many professionals are concerned about working “in the cloud” and yet, they use cloud-based software applications all the time. When you order something from Amazon you are using a cloud-based application. Do have a Gmail account? This is also a cloud-based software application. Have you heard of Facebook? Dropbox? These also are examples of applications based on using “The Cloud”. Maybe, what causes people to hesitate about cloud-based systems is the name “cloud”. It conjures up thoughts of high floating cumulus weather phenomena. Let’s take the mystery out of this term. When it comes to discussing “Cloud-based Computing” all that we really mean is that services and applications are available to users via the internet instead of local servers. (For some concerns regarding how well this will perform: refer to our blog:(Designair's - Latency in the Cloud Blog)

How can Designair help to achieve the opportunities of the Hybrid Model?           

Designair works across offices allowing for the use of Multiple Offices to collaborate on the same project almost instantaneously. Whether in Texas, Tokyo or in Timbuktu, team members can collaborate on projects using Designair's Virtual Desktop solutions. You can do this by using a laptop to connect to our “powerful virtual desktops” in the cloud. Whether an intern, a freelancer, a temporary employee or a fulltime employee, we offer the ability to use safe, secure (Designair Capabilities) harmonious collaboration no matter where you are or your office is located. We are the only virtual desktop provider focusing on 3-D modelling software for remote CAD and BIM design. We offer flexible monthly plans and a 20% discount when you sign up for a year! We have conquered the hybrid solution by offering our virtual desktops at affordable rates. We know the importance of experiencing our solution first before you make any decision, which is why we will only sell to you if you are 100% happy with our free trial. In other words: we don’t sell our solution if you have not tried it.

Don’t wait! Start this minute utilizing the unique proven experience of Designair to usher your company into the 21st century. Connect with us and get started on a free trial of our virtual desktops and see how our technological expertise can help you today! (Designair Free Trial)