Blog: March 2020
Stay up-to-date with how BRS is making adjustments during the time of coronavirus.Continue
3/31/20: We know you all are getting bombarded with news, articles, alerts, and emails regarding COVID-19. Like many others, we have adjusted to allow for work from home, that's not the only adjustment we're seeing.
We know it's an unnerving time and everyone is anxious. We also know that out of all hardships come strength. To build up some strength, we're sharing some of the positive consequences that we've witnessed over the past two weeks.
Our employees are more vigilant, stronger, and more connected than we ever imagined. Our extroverts are reaching out to our introverts (more surprisingly) our introverts are reaching out to our extroverts! And we're all getting on an all-company video chat twice a day. We don't do it to catch up on to-do lists. We do it to check-in with each other, person-to-person.
Our passion is pushing us through. We noticed in our clients and employees; everyone is channeling their passion into the energy required to keep their projects running. It's inspiring and oh-so motivating to watch.
We are taking notes from our clients. We know you are running on emergency protocols and making decisions you never thought you would face. We're listening to our clients to take note of what actions your community has taken, were they successful and how can we benefit to learn from each other?
How can we implement best practices of virus containment into future buildings? We're asking big questions and while the answer might not be clear right now, we're tracking everything happening around COVID-19 to make us stronger for the future. Stay tuned for more or write in to share!
04/03/20: Taxi 2 (our Denver office location) Lobby doors will be locked - Consultants: Please coordinate sample deliveries, etc, with your team as there may be a better location to send them.
05/08/20: Staff will begin to go back to the Denver studio May 19th with 50% of staff working remotely. Grapevine, Texas office opened back up on May 5th. Please continue to work with your team to coordinate deliveries and meetings. We will continue to work remotely in many functions. We are still developing our office plan.
05/19/20: BRS has taken the following steps to move back to the office:
- Employees must take their temperature when they arrive.
- If they are above 100 degrees they must record it and go home.
- You must wear a mask in social spaces except for at your desk.
- Maintain 6' or more when talking or interacting with coworkers and guests.
- Use arrows to adhere to directional path of travel in the studio.
- Maintain maximum occupancy (or what is comfortable) of conference rooms.
- Wipe down and sanitize all surfaces often, plus there are nightly cleanings.
- We will continue to meet virtually and use Microsoft Teams for internal communications.
We are currently at 50% or less of staff in the office.
Our goal is to be back in the office by June but we are monitoring CDC and adjusting as needed.
05/21/20: Transitioning to a New Business as Usual
Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture (BRS), a 40-person firm headquartered in Denver, Colorado shares their transition to working remotely, staying connected culturally and their silver linings of the COVID epidemic.
Getting to 100% Remote
BRS has always been flexible regarding employee work hours. Previously, it was limited to whether someone was more productive working from 9:30 to 6:30 as opposed to 9 to 5, or because it provided a convenient option on a sporadic day, such as staying at home with a sick child. We offered this flexibility as an amenity for employees. However, since we are a relatively small firm with an extremely tight-knit and collaborative culture, we did not promote this as more than a short-term solution. All of this changed in March 2020.
In early March we had a few concerned employees contact their managers and express their desire to work from home. At the time we had other employees who were not concerned and wanted to continue to come into the office. It was a delicate situation. The management team had to balance both reactions and respect that each employee has a unique situation and individual needs to cope during a tough situation. We talked about it openly and discussed it as a group. Following the discussion on March 16th the majority of the office began working from home. When the Mayor's stay at home directive was issued on March 24th, we closed the Denver office and transitioned to everyone working from home.
This ‘new abnormal’, was challenging for the executive team for a multitude of reasons. There were time-sensitive technical requirements to meet as well as the management of fundamental emotional intelligence skills.
By the time the Mayor's directive was issued, we were already working with our IT consultant to provide everyone a work-provided laptop, as needed. We issued an office-wide survey checking in on home internet speeds, computer virus protection, etc. to assist our IT department in understanding the needs of each person, with one-on-one follow-up. The first day we were working from home 80% of people were up and running. Within three days, by setting up VPN's and remote desktop applications, we were 100% functional and working from home!
Meanwhile, we were bombarded with hourly news updates and needed to discern the best resources amongst the rapidly developing information. With the media posting breaking news 24/7 our employees were looking to firm leadership to provide timely responses. Staying up to date on ever-changing government policies, understanding how they affect our firm and our employees as soon as possible was and continues to be our goal.
We were also nervous our work would suffer missed deadlines, sluggish response rates, etc. Although we know BRS employees are flexible and adaptable, we had no idea how amazingly resilient BRSers are in difficult circumstances! We're continuing to offer the same level of service, meeting our deadlines and creating innovative digital workarounds for in-person activities. In fact, our utilization actually rose the first three weeks working from home. We made it a point to bring this back to the staff with a celebratory 'cheers' during our Friday happy hour.
We feel lucky to have a previously established intranet we call BoRiS (an acronym for Barker Rinker Seacat Office Intranet) which has been hugely helpful in enabling people to work from home while still feeling connected to others in the office. Not only is it a place where an employee could access project related information, write a post, or provide support, but we've also been using it to educate our employees on new office policy in the world of COVID-19 as well as share financial and health resources. We also hosted a webinar to help guide employees in understanding use of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave and the Expanded Family and Medical Leave Act under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
The Silver Linings
As mentioned previously, we take pride in what we believe to be a unique and close-knit office culture. Feeling forced apart so unexpectedly we were all drawn toward experiences which would bring us together, if only virtually. We are still maintaining our Monday morning all-company meeting virtually. We have added non-mandatory staying connected meetings twice a day and host happy hours every Friday. Although working remotely isn't ideal, we have noticed some extraordinary moments with our employees.
Whether family includes a spouse and three kids, or it's you and a puzzle—we're celebrating “family” on our web check-ins. Kids are showing off their spring dresses and lego sets, dogs pop-in and out and steal the show and we're motiving others to stay committed to their crotched blankets. As a result of our employees’ generously sharing a glimpse into their daily lives, multiple times per day and connecting with their families, our bond is stronger than ever.
Along with our Friday happy hours, our culture committee didn't want to see all activities take a pause while in quarantine. Throughout the year we host maker nights, where we get together after hours and learn a new craft. During quarantine, one committee member is planning to lead a group virtually through DIY silk-screening kits. We're looking forward to hosting this first-ever digital maker night!
Construction is identified as an essential service and we continue to work on a variety of projects under construction using suggested safe practices. Many of our initial architectural programming activities include in-person community meetings. We are innovating opportunities for members of the communities we are working with to engage virtually in the design of their new community center. These opportunities will provide services for future clients which might not be able to support public facilitation.
Throughout history, we've seen people overcome challenges with innovative solutions. We've seen our employees’ passion carry them through this tough time and inspire new initiatives that we're now working to implement. It's an exciting way we're keeping energy high and rewarding creative thinking.
Our marketing team is working to create webinars to provide our clients with support during this tough time as they navigate through transitioned re-openings of their community centers. Others around the office are taking on the task of tracking Recreation Centers nationwide, how they have reacted to COVID and having to temporarily close, what worked and what didn’t. With this knowledge, we can be a resource to our clients and continue to maintain our pulse on the recreation industry. We’re also working with our recreation clients to initiate new remote esports leagues and tournaments to help keep their members connected.
Our annual conference we call Rec Camp, has been delayed by three months but we continue to have registrants trickle in, and we are modifying content to be most relevant in the new normal. We’re also hoping to still celebrate the original dates with an e-version of relevant content for those who signed up but are no longer able to attend.
Reading this article in mid-May many of us are hopefully now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We're also acutely aware it will be a slow drip back to society as we know it—some things will be altered forever. Now we’re focusing on keeping track of public policy adjustments associated with recreation centers and libraries and how any changes may impact the programming and design of our buildings. Next, we’re looking forward to hosting a think tank post-pandemic with past and current clients. We will be assessing their new needs, what keeps them up at night and how we can leverage architecture to make our future a safer, healthier place.
Posted on March 31, 2020 at 04:23pm
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