Putting People First

Denis Waring , 28 January 2022

QLD/NT Committee member Denis Waring shares his pandemic experiences as Principal of PW Architecture, and the need to prioritise people through challenging times.

Where is your practice based? How has your practice been affected by the pandemic?

PW Architecture is based in Brisbane and Hervey Bay. We’ve had periods of remote working with the principal being the only person in the office for coordination of projects with other team members. Another impact has been the cessation of regular trips to the Hervey Bay office for long periods. The workload has not been affected (it has probably increased) and productivity has had its ups and downs, but is generally satisfactory.

What have been the key challenges for your practice over the last two years?

Keeping communication open between team members when working remotely. Practice meetings continued with Zoom and an online chat facility was installed so everyone could communicate socially in real time.

What measures has your practice put in place in response to COVID-19? What additional measures have you made (and do you foresee making) due to the recent disruption?

Apart from general sanitation and long periods of remote working, there hasn’t been any real issues in the office. With the latest Omicron outbreak, a policy was introduced regarding vaccinations – all but one are fully vaccinated. The person who isn’t vaccinated yet has volunteered to continue working remotely and when required in the office wears a mask all the time.

What advice would you give to other practices based on your experiences so far?

First and foremost, just look out for your people.

What do you believe needs to happen to support our profession and the wider building industry?

It doesn’t affect me but I know a lot of practices rely on government work, so I would call upon the various levels of government to support architects with a program of public building projects.

What measures have you put in place to support your employees’ mental wellbeing? How is this going?

As per answers above, discuss issues with individuals and make sure they are ok with others in the office, and regularly connect when everyone is working remotely.

How can the ACA assist you? What would you like the ACA to prioritise as we face another disruptive year?

As a branch committee member, I have the advantage of being able to discuss matters collectively and individually with peers when I need advice – not all architects have that privilege or opportunity, especially small practices and sole practitioners. The Institute’s Community Forum seems to work well but covers lots of topics so perhaps the ACA could offer something similar related to the Business of Architecture for people to reach out when they need a hand.

The ACA website is fantastic in what it offers, but I wonder how many know about it.

CPD is becoming harder to source directly as most of our in-office presentations have been cancelled, so online CPD webinars will become more popular I suspect, but are there enough topics?