As the COVID-19 pandemic developed through Australia in late February and early March, the CM+ management team met regularly, considering the advice of the government and looking to implement physical distancing procedures to limit the company’s exposure to the virus. A plan had been prepared with a rotating roster of project teams attending the office on varying days and working from home the remainder of the week. It was to be trialled for two weeks starting Monday 23 March.
As the military saying goes “no plan survives first contact with the enemy” and by the weekend of March 22 the pandemic was developing exponentially and a more drastic course of action was required.
On Monday morning, March 23 the entire office met around the kitchen bench, as we do every Monday. The leadership team, led by Bill Morrison, communicated to staff that due to the rapidly developing situation and increasing risk to staff we would be working from home commencing close of business that day! Quite a dramatic change of events but as is the norm with CM+, the directors considered staff safety and security a priority above all. The management team led the preparations with project teams, discussing lines of communication and contacting clients and consultants so they were aware of the CM+ actions. IT readiness was of course a priority and our IT team stepped up to the challenge, preparing 30+ staff to work from home in less than 24 hours. This was made somewhat easier with the practice already utilising a number of document sharing applications and instant chat services.
The team who are generally energetic, enthusiastic, and bring a positive attitude to the job were remarkable. Within 8 hours all had prepared themselves to work from home for the foreseeable future – some leaving the office that evening with a roll of drawings, bundle of files or even full working desktop computers under their arm for the bus ride home!
The team pre COVID-19 at our William Street studio.
On Tuesday, systems put in place on Monday were challenged in practice and fluid adaptation was required. Wednesday morning the management team met via Zoom for our scheduled monthly management meeting – the first with the whole management team dialling in online, we had been having meetings with members of the team dialling in remotely for close to six months prior. Reports from the front lines (studies, bedrooms, dining tables, and living rooms) were received and discussed. All seemed to be working out well with only minor hiccups to report.
From those early days to now, some 8-9 weeks on, the key to our successful transition from office to home is in some ways due to our approach to normal business.
Clear communication was and remains essential, Zoom meetings have replaced face to face discussions, phone, email, instant messaging and file sharing were all utilised pre COVID-19 and remain effective now.
Management and staff have always shown great empathy in respect to others and continue to do so. It is a diverse collection of individuals who make up CM+ and each individual has their own concerns, challenges and responsibilities – to adapt to new challenges is easier for some than others.
Having a team who are truly connected to their work, to their colleagues, and to their clients meant focus remained on doing a good job and completing the tasks at hand. In a period of significant uncertainty having daily tasks to complete, commitments to be met and progress to be reported on, giving individuals a sense of normality, is both productive for the business and beneficial for staff morale and mental health.
Monday morning staff meetings, now on Zoom, remain a key point of contact with the whole office and photo-bombing children and pets are now a normal part of the meeting!
Michael Morony is an Associate Director at CM+ and leader of the architecture team. He brings a broad range of experience and a proven track record of successfully delivering a variety of prestigious commercial, retail and residential projects. In his role, Michael contributes to the strategic direction of the firm, providing new initiatives and insight to shape business, design and marketing strategies.