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Distance Makes The Team Grow Stronger

From where Architectus principal, Simone Oliver, is standing, recent shifts to working remotely will ultimately benefit workplace culture.

With a workforce of 450 people across Australia, Architectus is an inimitable behemoth amid the nation’s design industry. When mandated with the task of transposing its culture and ways of working onto the virtual realm, the firm’s leaders’ first and foremost priority was the wellbeing of their people.

Within two weeks of receiving the command the transition was, for all intents and purposes, complete. As a studio already adept in working remotely and collaborating across borders, the transition was, technically speaking, not a start-from-scratch situation. Rather a matter of ensuring company-wide shared knowledge and understanding of the systems and platforms in use.

Above and beyond the rudiments of getting all people and processes up to speed with remote ways of working, Artitectus’ transition extended to optimising home workspaces. This highly personalised approach meant ergonomically surveying each individual’s home office set up and supplying screens and task-chairs as needed.

By Simone Oliver’s account, steering a large-scale design practice online hasn’t been as convoluted as first thought. In the context of her comparatively smaller – though still sizeable – team, as Architectus’ national head of interior architecture, Simone believes that the current state of affairs is bringing them closer in ways beyond the physical sense.

Simone’s vision for the Architectus’ interior architecture division – comprised of forty interior architects split across five locations, each with a local principal – has always been that of one cohesive team. Though simple in sentiment, realising it in practice hasn’t always been easy – and was never presumed to be something to be made easier by the team spreading further and farther apart.

The current state of forced widespread separation, as it turns out, has been more of a blessing than a curse. Any previous notions of geographic displacement have been eliminated through and through, galvanizing the team’s vision. They are now forty people in many locations, coming from the same place, as one team. Truth be told, Simone believes our industry has been cast ten years into the future.  “We are finally truly walking the talk, we are agile and paperless, and connected,” she says.

Besides the team being set up correctly, delivering on their mental health and wellbeing and happiness at home is high on the priority list for Architectus.  “Checking in with each other daily, making sure we as a team are ok, e-coffee-presentations with suppliers or run team fitness such as online yoga are all happening,” says Simone.

The world of creativity tends to lend itself to face to face contact, crits, meetings, coming together of minds. However, it would seem that they have the right focus to be able to keep the cultural juices flowing, fueling the creativity. Albeit in their own isolation but as a group online.

Simone definitely feels that as an industry we are banding together to deliver to clients and to each other.  “We are keeping the conversation going, we can deliver online, present workshops, take briefs, its really is not so strange.” In fact, they are even managing to onboard people in this new way of working.

So you see, there is a closeness in distance and one that it would seem has been embraced by not just the leadership team at Architectus but across the whole firm, one and all.


Photography by David Wheeler

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