Talk About It
From the Desk of an Architect: Nick Thorn, AIA
Nick Thorn, AIA, shares his work from home set-up and thoughts for this week's "From the Desk of an Architect."
What is your favorite/most meaningful object at your workspace?
The Dallas Neighborhoods print that I purchased when I moved back to Dallas. It is a daily (sometimes hourly) reminder that, even though I am sheltering-in-place and isolated from my family, my friends, and my coworkers, Dallas is fighting this pandemic together. (Oh, and the beautiful window-art from my talented wife. Can you tell she’s an educator?)
What are your tips for staying productive while working from home?
First off, giving yourself some grace to realize that you are probably not at your sharpest right now is incredibly important. This is more than just temporarily working from home – it is a crisis response and it is okay to be stressed.
I take time each morning to assess what I will accomplish for that day. This helps me stay focused on the day and the tasks at hand. I still look at my weekly tasks and milestones each Monday as to not lose sight of the bigger picture but focusing on each day is helping me maintain my productivity.
I also provide myself time during the day to get up and move around. The first few days of working from home, I pushed myself to focus on work - uninterrupted except for lunch - from 8am to 6pm. I quickly realized that the small breaks which occurred organically during the workday in my office would now have to be scheduled while working at home.
How are you staying connected to your team? To your clients?
Working in a small firm set in an open studio, we never used videoconferencing or a messaging platform to stay connected. But over the last few weeks I have been relying on a mixture of Zoom meetings and Microsoft Teams to stay connected with my coworkers and consultants. Simple things like email, phone calls, and text messages are still incredibly useful.
If you had a problem when the rest of your remote team was offline, how would you go about solving it?
I am the office IT guy, so if the rest of the office is offline then I’m working to troubleshoot the issue to get everyone back online!
What’s your biggest concern about working remotely?
My concerns are two-fold. For the short term, the loss of a sense of community is real. The architecture profession thrives with personal interaction and while working remotely allows us to continue getting work done, the lack of office camaraderie has been weighing me down. Virtual happy hours are a nice way to temporarily fill the void left by social-distancing measures, but I miss enjoying drinks with friends and colleagues at our favorite local restaurants and bars.
Long-term and tangentially related, I am concerned about the impact this global pandemic will have on the fabric of our cities and public gathering spaces. Dallas has made incredible progress undoing some of the harms caused by urban sprawl by promoting (and providing opportunities for) an urban lifestyle. I am worried that this pandemic will cause a knee-jerk reaction by citizens and developers alike to flee to the suburbs and exurbs forgetting the multitude of benefits that a well-designed urban environment provides.
However, this is an incredible opportunity to reassess the fabric of our cities and take stock of what is working well. If increasingly more people do work from home as a result of this pandemic, I hope that Dallas can reimagine our transportation network and increase the amount of public space available to everyone.
How are you staying active?
Being a dog-dad to a rambunctious and energetic Blue Heeler is enough to keep me active for the time being. I haven't resorted to swimming laps in White Rock Lake, but might have to if the pool at my gym doesn't open soon.
How do you unwind after working from home?
A glass of red wine on the porch, a walk through the neighborhood with the wife and our dog, and making sure to turn off my computer at the end of the day.