Architects are working to reassure clients that they can continue to serve them after the Prime Minister told people to work from home whenever needed.
Firms are issuing statements and calling on clients to underscore their preparedness for the unprecedented restrictions facing the country.
Companies have detailed their business continuity plans while quickly testing their work-from-home procedures.
All businesses are facing a growing number of employees forced into self-isolation because they or a member of their household exhibit symptoms of suspected Covid-19. Moreover, since Boris Johnson’s press conference last night, even healthy staff members who can work from home will now have to do so.
Most firms have been testing remote working capabilities for the past few days – and most have now also ‘locked in’ their staff against unnecessary travel around the world and the UK.
PRP released a statement this morning announcing a work-from-home policy which means that from tomorrow 90% of staff will work remotely, using Microsoft Teams to collaborate.
The architect said he was still open to clients visiting his offices for important meetings, but would seek to reduce the number of people in attendance. He also said staff would avoid going to individual homes for consultations or for site safety and quality inspections, in order to eliminate the risk of infection going both ways. This is a reference to visiting apartments whose coating or balconies need to be checked. The practice worked for MHCLG inspecting existing apartment buildings for regulatory compliance.
The statement concluded: “After 57 years of uninterrupted design and business activity, this is an unprecedented challenge. We will continue to operate with a people-centered approach in our work and hope that all of our staff, clients and the communities we serve will navigate this crisis with dignity and health intact. “
BDP, the UK’s largest WA100 architectural firm, issued a similar statement indicating that 70% of its 1,350 employees, who are based at 16 locations around the world, have a laptop computer. company while others had remote desktop access, allowing a significant proportion of projects. remote activities.
Managing Director John McManus wrote: “I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that BDP will continue to support you and your business, and we will take all necessary steps to maintain continuity of service to our customers and contacts during this. hard time. “
A spokesperson for Foster & Partners, the second largest UK firm, said: “We have been testing working from home for some time – our offices in Asia have all done this successfully. Around 50% of our teams in London are currently working from home. “
Grimshaw carried out a thorough cleaning of his Clerkenwell office over the weekend, which, according to a spokesperson, “was simply following NHS guidelines and advice and doing everything possible to minimize the impact and prevent the spread of the virus “.
He had also tested remote working before the Prime Minister’s announcement last night. He said his business continuity plan was aimed at protecting staff and visitors while ensuring the firm could continue to serve clients.
Update of PRP emergency protocols
As Covid-19 continues to spread, we want to provide you with an update on how PRP is tackling this extraordinary challenge.
It is above all the protection of our staff, our clients and the residents and clients of our clients. Our current policy is to continue our business as usual where we can, so that our efforts and yours collectively minimize the potential damage to the economy and livelihoods of our staff than a policy of complete withdrawal and locking would result.
PRP has a comprehensive and solid business continuity plan that we are currently implementing in the context of the impact of Covid-19.
The majority of key IT systems are cloud-based with flexible remote access solutions to allow staff to work remotely when needed and dramatically reduce the number of people having to travel. We have launched a teleworking policy which, from tomorrow, will make 90% of our staff work remotely.
Our staff members have tested these remote working methods and we use Microsoft Teams which provides us with a powerful tool to communicate and collaborate with our internal studio teams. We can also keep in touch and organize collaborative meetings with our clients.
We are open to clients to visit our offices for important meetings although we seek to reduce the number of participants. We will review consultation events to reduce participation where possible or to communicate and consult by other means. We will avoid visiting individual homes for consultations or for site safety and quality inspections in order to eliminate the risk of infection both ways.
After 57 years of design and uninterrupted commercial activity, this is an unprecedented challenge. We will continue to operate with a people-centered approach in our work and hope that all of our staff, clients and the communities we serve will navigate this crisis with dignity and health intact.
Business continuity update
Given the changing environment associated with the spread of Covid-19, I take this opportunity to confirm that BDP has a business continuity strategy in place to ensure that risks to the health of our staff are minimized. and that we continue to serve the requirements of our customers. The potential social and business impact of the coronavirus is, of course, unprecedented and we will continue to review and update our plans in light of changing circumstances and government guidance.
BDP employs more than 1,350 people at 16 sites around the world. 1000 of them are located in UK / Ireland in 10 different locations. We have a long history of deploying this resource flexibly over our IT network to meet peaks and troughs in large-scale project demands. The processes and protocols we have established over decades will help us mitigate the impact of a potential event occurring in any location associated with the spread of Covid-19.
Approximately 70% of BDP staff have access to a corporate laptop which provides direct access to the BDP network and associated software licenses enabling a significant part of our project activities to be carried out remotely – including BIM. We also provide remote desktop access for the rest of our staff, ensuring that powerful workstations are available for BDP studios’ remote advanced modeling and visualization activities using personal equipment to access BDP networks. safely. All staff can access BDP messaging via business or personal phones.
While it is difficult to predict the impact of the virus, it is evident that social distancing measures are likely to increase in the coming weeks. We have already asked our staff to take a number of steps in this regard, including the following:
• Suspension of all non-essential UK and international travel. The conference call is available on the entire BDP computer network.
• Suspension of participation and hosting of large business-related meetings and conferences.
• Advise staff to follow UK or local government guidelines for self-isolation requirements.
• Introduce additional office cleaning regimes and require staff and visitors to use hand sanitizer when entering our offices and on each floor.
• Testing and evaluation of remote work hardware and software prior to any requirement for staff to work from home.
The BDP leadership team monitors government advice in all of our locations and meets regularly to review our policies and processes and put in place mitigation plans accordingly. I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that BDP will continue to support you and your business, and that we will take all necessary steps to maintain continuity of service to our customers and contacts during this difficult time.
John McManus, Managing Director
>> Also read the previous update: Architects warn of delays and bid prices could affect cash flow
Make also issued a statement saying: “From Tuesday March 17th, we have asked all Makers in the London studio to work from home, to protect them as much as possible from the escalating health crisis.
“Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, we have been testing our infrastructure and IT platforms and are confident that they are robust and will allow all of us to work remotely successfully and that we can respond effectively to most eventualities. .
“Where possible, we intend to meet project schedules, but ask our clients to stay with us in these unprecedented times. The health and safety of all of us must come first.
“The creators of our Hong Kong studio continue to work from home and we await further advice from the Australian government to guide our next steps in the Sydney studio.”
HKS said its offices were not closed but the practice was shifting to mobile working. “We have health protocols in place for our employees that include enhanced personal hygiene, workplace disinfection and online health screening if they are showing symptoms,” said a spokesperson. “To mitigate the risk of exposure, HKS is limiting travel, large gatherings and face-to-face meetings, and will do so virtually wherever possible.”
HOK, based in the United States, also released a statement:
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we would like to provide you with an update on our continued efforts to continue to help customers while protecting the health and safety of our staff.
We have implemented a mandatory telework policy for all of our offices in North America. As conditions change daily, we will reassess the state of our policy at the end of the month. HOK has a sophisticated system in place to support distributed work for all of our staff. In teleworking, we are completely connected. Our advanced technology options to support remote working include Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, Virtual Private Network (VPN) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) as well as various cloud-based collaboration platforms already in use. in many projects.
We value our relationships with our customers and partners. We remain committed to providing the level of service and responsiveness you associate with HOK. Together we will see our way through this time.
We wish you and your families the best.
Sincerely, William Hellmuth, President and CEO of HOK