Finding comfort in the new normal: the Cumulus WFH experience so far

After making the transition to a completely home-based office in late March we began hosting regular team video check-ins to keep connected and see how everyone was travelling. At first it was hard to ignore the shared challenges of less human contact, particularly when it came to quickly confirming details, conducting site visits and testing ideas with other designers. However, as time moves on the kinks have started to disappear, the video chats are less clunky and the team have more and more positive experiences to share.

Now that most of us have begun to find routine in the new normal, we decided to officially put aside the challenges and ask the question ‘what have you enjoyed about the working from home experience so far?’.

Here what some of the team had to say:

Claire Austin, Senior Architect

I’m enjoying looking out onto my neighbour’s garden (an inspiration for our own) and we say hello everyday now.

One of my work colleagues (the cat) is in total agreement of everything I do and only stirs when my second colleague crashes into the office and wants to discuss lego achievements, why one has to change out of pyjamas or why my third work colleague has completely thwarted his best laid plans.

I’m often distracted from the smell of good food cooking down the hall. It was tricky to begin with, as with any change of routine, but now life is feeling less complicated.

Luke Waldron, Senior Architect

Access to a fully stocked fridge has been a plus. It’s pretty handy not to have to think about lunch and being able to just get up and grab some snacks. But also just being able to jump on my bike and go for a quick ride in the forest has been really good. Taking a break and being surrounded by family is another big positive.

Andrew Frangou, BIM Manager

My guitar is just behind me. Sometimes I just feel like breaking out a tune while I’m working. It’s great.

I think when you’re in the office you can walk around all day, get bogged down and not do much. But If you’re at home you’re more focused, you have less distractions and more accountability to get things done. 

Jet O’Rourke, Architect

I think working from home as an architect or a designer makes you think about your own contribution. You have to think a little bit more about what you bring to a project. In an office environment you get a little bit caught up in the milieu of other people. It makes you take stock of the things that are important to you and the things you can bring to a job because you have that extra autonomy. 

It also makes you look a bit further for information. You’re not just reaching for those reliable resources within the business. You actually have to start thinking about where projects are coming from in the future and what are the things that I can do to assist. I guess it just makes you think a little bit more accountably. 

This experience has shown me that it really is possible to work away from the office. It’s comforting to know that if I was to travel or work in another country for a while it would be ok. 

Andrew Grimsdale, Senior Architect 

I walk to work now!

One of the things I’ve noticed is that I actually feel a lot more comfortable around computers. Working from home I’ve been forced to do things that are way outside of my comfort zone, but I’ve really enjoyed it. 

Chi Chee Goh, Graduate Architect

I do a lot more exercise. Midway through a drawing when I feel my brain start to slow down I’ll get up and do a quick workout then come back to it. It really helps! 

Jess Murphy, Designer

Honestly, I feel more connected than I ever have. Video calls have allowed me to feel closer to all of the networks I am a part of. It will never be the same as having a coffee in the fresh, Tasmanian air with a friend, but it’s a whole new experience that I’m learning to appreciate deeply. 

It has also enabled me to have time for reflection, to understand the true strength and adaptability we have as humans. Getting through this chapter is going to change how we do things, and what we place value upon, forever. How exciting!

Rosella Sciurti, Architect

I can call my friends and family back home more easily. I’ve noticed I have a healthier lifestyle too. I have more time to go walking or exercising and I cook at home a lot more.

I guess I feel more motivated generally. If I relax I feel guilty, because i’m already home so much. I’ve been using spare time to learn German and challenging myself a bit more. 

Keith Westbrook, Director

Having the family around and being able to spend more time with my daughter has been really nice. 

The flexibility in being able to program your day around family has taken a lot of stress out of our lives. You’re always going to be doing work but you can spread it out more easily amongst the other things happening in your day. 

Liz Walsh, Architect

I’ve really enjoyed watching the shifting light in a day. It’s been nice to experience my home at a time when I wouldn’t normally be there and having my own quiet space to work. 

Edwina Brisbane, Architect

I get to spend more time with my loved ones, my partner and my dog, even if we have ridiculous arguments now. Yesterday we had this weird argument about the fact that I’m right handed but cut bread from the left hand side. Apparently that’s an odd thing to do.

I would typically spend probably 10 hours a week in my car. Now that I don’t have to do that I’m spending that time reading news or novels instead. 

I suppose I’m also thinking a little bit how the industry is operating. I’m still teaching and helping with the awards jury for the Victoria architecture awards, which makes me feel like there’s still momentum around me which is nice. I think without that I might feel lonely, but that diversity is definitely helping.

Andrew Geeves, Architect

By using an iPad for marking up drawings, it’s been easier to adapt to working (mostly) paperless. I’m fortunate to have a great view, so that’s nice too. I’m also enjoying the flexibility to stop work and have dinner with the family, then finish work a bit later.

Lucia Wellington, Architect

I remembered I have a book collection! I’m finding myself having breaks from the computer and picking up a book/magazine that I forgot I had. And I love eating lunch in the sun.

Lucy Watts, Designer

I’ve really been enjoying the proximity to the kitchen and having proper cook ups at lunch time. It’s also been interesting to see what’s involved in my partner’s work as a photographer. Watching him trying to use spaces within the house and being resourceful. I’ve learned how they use fake ice and how to make beer cans appear cold and shiny. It’s pretty special to see things that always appeared quite mundane, be transformed into something quite polished. 

Pippa Jensen, Architect

At the moment I’m standing out on my deck looking out at the reserve. It’s actually nice getting to spend more time in my house. We pay this massive mortgage but never really got to spend that much time in it until now.

I think I’ll have lunch out in the sun on the deck and finish the day with a run.

Phil Ackerly, Designer

I think working from home is helping my creative process. When I think of an idea I can quickly jump on the computer and put something together. I don’t lose thoughts in between home and the office, because the office is my home. 

I often help out with home schooling during the day and come back to put a few hours of work in through the evening. The flexibility really works for me, and I can get a lot done without the regular phone calls and emails of normal office hours.

The amount of online architecture talks has been great too. I really hope they continue. 

Shannon How, Finance Manager

It’s interesting to see how the experience is forcing new learning, creative thinking and flexibility in our working day.  Navigating work and parenting at the same time is challenging, but I mean that in a good way – I have to think up fun ideas for the kid to allow me adequate work time.

Our little house had a room similar to those seen on “Hoarders” where we would put stuff with no fixed storage space and shut the door vowing to “deal with it later”.  I cleared it out, finding some treasures along the way like my dad’s handwriting practice book from 1956 when he was 5 years old.  Now the room has been transformed into a combined workspace and homeschooling room and it’s my favourite room in the house – full of sunshine for the whole day and with a view of the garden we don’t usually see.  

I wonder which of our new habits will remain when we return to the typical work day?