All posts by Lola Augustine

Covid changed how we work. The question is, was it for better or worse?

In March 2020, it became clear very quickly that architecture firms in Canada needed to jump headfirst into embracing technology in order to keep working. Remote work became the norm almost overnight. This was easier for some than others—plenty of firms were already using contract administration software like RForm to do many tasks online—but there were those who faced an extremely steep learning curve as they raced to get teams in synch and sign up for Zoom accounts.

More than two years later, the pandemic may still be raging but we’re living with it, going back to the office, and right now planning in-person holiday parties. As a society, we’re in a weird place. While, of course, the pandemic has been truly terrible, some of the work changes it forced upon us were not. As employers, we need to reflect on these changes and the impact that they had on our teams. 

Going remote, staying remote

The US Census Bureau reports that the number of people working from home tripled in the first year of the pandemic. Canada saw similar stats, and as we moved through the pandemic, Canadians have been slower (dare we say more reluctant) to head back into the office than their US counterparts. For most of us, working from home holds a strong appeal. Not contending with long commutes, being more present for our families, and being able to work in comfort is of huge benefit.

Stats Canada reported that 90 percent of employees feel they are just as productive, if not more when working at home. Some businesses have fully embraced remote working, some going so far as to shut down brick-and-mortar offices and save on the costs of rent and administration. This isn’t the case everywhere. Some employers are eager to bring their team back into an office eight hours a day. 

Consequences to consider

Demanding that employees come back to the office may not be wise. With so many empty positions and so few skilled workers to fill them, the last thing you want to do is drive good people away from your workplace. And, you may be fine with coming back to the office but plenty of folks still do not feel safe doing so. Consider why you need them there. If you don’t trust them, if their work is not up to snuff, then that’s a bigger problem than where they are working. 

You’d be more prudent to consider hybrid work models where employees can split their time between the home and office. Perhaps everyone needs to be in on Mondays for team meetings, and on other days as negotiated (and for team building). For some, this is ideal, especially if they enjoy their colleagues and there is a positive environment when they come into the office. 

Embracing tech for contract administration

A Zoom meeting that follows an agenda can be a whole lot more productive than a rambling team meeting, especially if people are having to travel from job sites or far locations to attend. Many of us had never heard of Zoom before the pandemic, yet now more than 300 million people attend meetings on the platform every day. Usage grew exponentially in 2020 but never slowed down which is a clear reflection of how useful businesses find the platform. Clearly, video meetings have made our work lives more efficient, and there’s likely no going back (or should there be). 

In many ways, the pandemic made us more nimble. Who would have considered that even site meetings could be turned virtual? If you had the right systems in place, then distributing information among teams became way more efficient than we may have thought possible in pre-pandemic times. 

Some companies were able to handle the remote work transition better than others. Offices that had already transitioned away from Excel sheets and Word files were already at an advantage when the world changed, but some no doubt had to contend with worries about vital information such as shop drawing reviews, changes, submittals, requests for information etc being left at home on someone’s computer (or locked in a cabinet in a locked-down office). We were able to help many firms make this transition during the past few years, and once they were onboard with RForm, all their contract administration processes were automated so with every change all team members were instantly updated. 

Taking the leap

Communicating online in general makes everyone’s life easier, and increases productivity and efficiency. Adopting industry-specific software such as RForm takes the stress out of contract administration and keeping up with the many, many changes that occur through the life of a project. As our users tell us, RForm handles many of the tasks that can take up far too much valuable time, and ensures that fewer changes slip through the cracks creating those annoying issues that slow projects down unnecessarily. Moving these systems online is definitely a positive change (and if you didn’t do this already, then you really should. Click here to access a free 30-day trial). 

Ultimately, employers need to examine how new practices have made work better, and how to keep it that way. 

Designing Canada’s Railway Hotels

Image credit: Banff & Lake Louise Tourism / Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. 

Though it opened in 1911, the Chateau Lake Louise hotel has likely never been as popular as it is now. Room prices are exorbitant, and unless staying there you aren’t even allowed to visit most areas of the hotel. The fact that many of the hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and Canadian National Railway (CNR) more than a century ago (and some that are soon to be centenarians) are still considered to the utmost in luxury and style is a testament to the vision and talents of the architects that designed them.

These grand buildings showcase both Canadian architectural prominence and the grit of the builders in those days.

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Use of construction contract administration programs is essential, says the Ontario Association of Architects

As any architect knows, although it is vitally important, contract administration (CA) is rarely the fun part of any project and is often greeted with similar levels of enthusiasm as when one is called up for jury duty. In our experience, there are two reasons why architects dread the many chores associated with CA. First off, no architect goes into the profession because they love paperwork – the thrills are in the creative design process, and that’s why most architects went into the profession in the first place. Secondly, problems in CA, no matter how trivial, can lead to conflict with contractors and project owners, possibly even resulting in lengthy and time consuming litigation.

Experienced architects also know that managing contract administration well is what keeps projects on track, and what supports the continuity, quality, and intent of their original design. When the architect serves as contract administrator, they can also better manage and limit risks by facilitating communications and maintaining clear project records. The architect is also in the best position to identify and correct problems in construction as they occur, and can quickly deal with them to minimize any negative impact on the construction.

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Bring your project team onboard: Four steps to easing in a new contract admin solution

As you evolve any business, finding brilliant new tech solutions to help manage workflow is going to be a big part of how you grow. However, no matter how much you know it is going to revolutionize how your team works, it is absolutely normal that you are going to face resistance when it comes to buy-in from your team. And, if you’re looking to onboard external project stakeholders to that particular tech, you may face further resistance there too. In this blog, I’ll outline ways to smooth the buy-in process in order to help transitions to new solutions, and ensure better outcomes.

Recognize the opposition

There are plenty of reasons why people resist new tech solutions. Not everyone feels that confident with computers, and no doubt there will be some people in the office who are perfectly fine doing things the old way. Often fear of change is based on anxiety about being able to keep up with changes, and it doesn’t take much to reduce that level of fear. A simple acknowledgement that this will require effort in the short term, and that you’re going to ensure that everyone has the support they need to learn it at their own pace, will do the job.

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