SOUTHFIELD, MI – Until March of 2020, no architectural firm (indeed most professional service businesses) would have ever considered the possibility that its employees would work from a place other than its office. That reality changed dramatically, and it may not change back.
Up to that time non-traditional office environments were never considered, largely because it wasn’t necessary. When lockdowns were initiated, working remotely was not only considered, it was mandated. While the technology (Internet, Zoom, etc.) existed in forms necessary to facilitate remote work, those capabilities had not been fully realized.
When they were rediscovered out of necessity, a surprising thing happened; firms found that it worked pretty well. Not only does work continue efficiently, but we avoid the commutes and generally make far better use of the time.
Several factors suggest that the change may be permanent. As firms realize their in-office work force can be smaller, they begin to evaluate and reduce their space requirements. As professionals realize that in many instances they can deliver their service from any locale, and that they need not be in a fixed office at least eight hours a day for five days a week, they have begun fleeing for more hospitable and lower cost environs. Indeed, residents are leaving New York City faster than anyplace else in the nation.
We literally don’t know what we don’t know, but now that design professionals know they actually can eliminate travel, reduce costs, and live where they prefer—instead of where they must—will they likely just return to past practices when it is deemed safe? We may well have permanently rethought the notion of the professional office without even realizing we did so.
Frederick F. Butters, FAIA, Esq. is managing member of Frederick F. Butters, PLLC, Southfield, Mich. Butters is a past presenter at Construction Super Conference.