HTK Moves Forward while Working From Home During COVID-19

By Zach Snethen, AIA, LEED AP
HTK Associate

Two weeks ago when I asked my wife to cut my hair little did I know I’d be staring at it on a daily basis in zoom meetings. Virtual meetings are part of the new norm as is my Lyle Lovett haircut. HTK just finished our fourth week working from home, doing our part to social distance and help keep people healthy.

Rewind six weeks ago when we started talking about what if we have to work from home- are we going to be able to continue what we need to do to progress projects? Will we be able to maintain the communication that we need on a daily basis? Will people actually work?? All valid questions as we pondered picking up what we know and moving it home. Now we have four weeks of the unknown behind us, finding a groove and settling into this norm. Looking back on the recent past weeks, I am pleased to say we have been able to continue moving projects forward with only a few minor hiccups here and there. More often due to a slow internet connection.

This past week topped out 10 zoom meetings with the Emporia Public Schools working on the first round of their bond issue projects; an elementary school renovation/addition, an addition/renovation at the high school and a new early learning center. We were able to meet with nearly 100 people; students, staff and administrators to review schematic design plans and seek their feedback. Student and staff feedback is invaluable to the design process and I’m happy how everyone has embraced virtual meetings when face to face was the norm. Despite the limitations of being together, the conversations, screen scribbling and chat window were hugely beneficial. While none of these are foreign means of communication, their context is. But as I look back on the interactions I actually think the conversation was more real and direct because people had several ways to communicate in the meetings. Not having been forced into this experiment, we probably never would have known, but there are several positive takeaways to learn from.

Similarly, I see the conversation amongst coworkers equally engaging through chats, video conferencing and live drawing annotations back and forth. Our initial hesitations thought to impede our work flow have been embraced with a can-do attitude as we continue on without missing a beat – plus the ever changing virtual background. I do miss our Friday team lunches though.

Until we can be back together in the office, we’ll continue to work hard doing what we do; just from home.

Stay home, stay healthy!

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