How dhk continues to provide a world-class service during lockdown
As we know, the South African government has downgraded our nationwide lockdown from level 5 to level 4 with level 3 looming. This risk-adjusted strategy means that the government has relaxed certain lockdown restrictions – geared towards resuming some economic activity while limiting community COVID-19 transmissions and outbreaks.
For the duration of the lockdown, dhk’s team members have taken to their desks and are working from home in an attempt to flatten the curve through self-isolation. As a large practice, we are fortunate enough to have sufficient systems and procedures in place to minimize disruptions during this process.
The unprecedented exercise of going digital has been an immense test of tenacity and endurance but we are proud to say that dhk has utilised technologies and optimised our resources to continue to provide a world-class service. In addition to all staff being contactable via email and on their cell phones, we have made use of a variety of different platforms to maintain productivity and yield project deliverables.
- IT and access to our server: Before lockdown, dhk’s dedicated IT department assisted all staff members with setting up the correct hardware and software for their ‘work-from-home’ stations. The majority of staff are using remote desktop software to access their PCs at the office, and some are using a VPN connection to connect directly to our server.
- Internal team communications and productivity: Several communication and collaboration platforms have been utilised to ensure that our staff are continuously engaged. All staff have access to Microsoft 365 which includes Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Teams. Teams has been instrumental in keeping our staff engaged via persistent workplace chat, video meetings, file storage, and app integration. Our teams have scheduled face-to-face video-conferencing meetings approximately twice a week, project-based meetings in between, and constant instant messaging for day-to-day coordination. In these meetings, deliverables and progress are discussed and tracked. In addition to this, Zoom (a reliable cloud-based platform for video and audio conferencing) has proven particularly useful for more formal internal communications, such as our partners’ meetings.
- External communications: In addition to being used for formal internal meetings, we have utilised Zoom for our external communications. The simple navigation, screen-sharing and mark-up tool have been especially useful for maintaining efficiency and productivity within these meetings.
- Design software: Before lockdown, all design staff were set up with the required design software. This includes Autodesk Revit, SketchUp, Enscape, BIM360, Skitch and Twinmotion. Furthermore, the Adobe Creative Cloud, a collection of over 20 apps and services including Photoshop, InDesign and Lightroom, has been used by our 3D rendering, graphics, and PR and communications departments.
- Internal webinars: In addition to Zoom being used for both internal and external meetings, it has been the app of choice for our regular staff-wide Monday morning training sessions and Friday #dhktalks. Some previous virtually-hosted #dhktalks have included sharing ideas and insights regarding how COVID-19 has forced business’ to shift and adapt, as well as various new project showcases.
Overall, working remotely during the lockdown has been an exercise of adaptability and agility. Although certain activities have required some adjustment such as sketching to iterate a design, the majority of staff have agreed that utilising new tools and platforms have increased our ability to connect and collaborate. While some staff miss impromptu ‘water cooler’ discussions (not only to discuss architecture but share their thoughts on the world at large), for most it has been more focused and productive. Looking to the future, we hope to incorporate these new ways of working into everyday business and anticipate that workspaces of the future will become much more flexible.
While these are strenuous and uncertain times for many, it has been humbling to see South Africa unite as a nation. dhk is ceaselessly optimistic that we as a country, and a company, will ultimately prevail and emerge even stronger.