A GFF TEAM SURVEY DURING COVID-19
Since transitioning to a fully remote workforce on March 24, GFF has remained committed to providing the high creativity and productivity levels that our clients and consultants rely on. We are proud of the dedication that our GFF team has shown during these challenging times and we couldn’t have done it without each and every employee’s commitment and cooperation. GFF continues to Create Memorable Places from our home work spaces and for that, we are incredibly grateful to our IT team.
While we feel very fortunate to continue our daily operations without disruption, our thoughts go out to all those who have been affected in so many ways during COVID-19. As a firm united, we are sheltering-in-place to protect our clients, collaborators, neighbors and friends, while continuing to support our communities. From our GFF family to yours, we hope you are all staying safe and healthy.
Please scroll down for a snapshot of our experiences working from home and examples of how our team is staying engaged.
Have you executed any creative design interventions in the process of transforming a portion of your home into a home office?
I’ve become more of a nomadic worker. I find that I focus better by changing my environment. I have a desk setup with faux plants and family photos for heads-down work and I’ll work on the sofa or at the kitchen island for some sit-to-stand action. I’ve started thinking of ideas for altering my front porch, but I don’t have a power outlet.
My boyfriend gifted me a nice office setup and then he took over our media room and made it into a design war room with a standing desk.
I have done a great deal of automation. Luckily I have two girls that are much more tech-savvy than me. Now I have a gaming head-set so that I look like a pilot, a supplemental camera so that the laptop camera doesn’t shoot up my nose, and a laser printer that it only took me six hours to hook up to my home’s wireless network.
Our dining room table has become a multiple-user work station. Years ago I made a large square dining table for us to provide more seating for social gatherings. This table has worked out quite well in being able to accommodate several people in a work/school environment. And while we do have a separate office, this table is closest to the internet modem. Hard wiring to the modem has made all the difference.
My laptop’s camera is too low, so it focuses on my nostrils. I’ve propped up the laptop on a box.
I don’t know if I would call it “creative,” but because we have two boys doing classwork from home as well as two professionals working from home we did need to find space near the router. The solution was turning our pool table into a large work table for four computer stations.
THE BOYNTON FAMILY WORK STATION
How are you freeing yourself from distractions?
Whenever I feel distracted, I move my work space for about 30 minutes. It allows me to keep working diligently. I also take a few five minute breaks throughout the day and that really helps me stay focused. I’ve been able to keep productive with these little tricks, thankfully.
Day One took some adjusting for me, but by Day Two I found my groove. I’m taking coffee breaks as I would at the office. Instead of going to the work kitchen, I’m going to my home kitchen. I have the patio doors open so I can go the backyard to get fresh air and the dogs can easily go in and out.
My girlfriend is also an Architect so we have created a makeshift studio in our apartment. Having her here helps to normalize working from home with the added benefit that we can bounce ideas off one another. And between the natural light, the library of plants, and the sounds of the plant nursery below our apartment, it has been a great working environment.
My wife is also an Architect so she is just as busy as I am. It can be tough with two young boys who are as sneaky and mischievous as I ever was. We are taking turns watching and instructing them with their school work while trying to throw a little bit of activity into the mix. It has been an adjustment for them to have to focus at home and actually listen to us as their teacher instead of their parent. My after-hours time is spent trying to log work hours from the distractions during the day. I’ve never been so productive from 9 PM to midnight.
I think that keeping the consistent schedule that I adhered to before working from home has helped. I play music on my phone and then set it aside out of sight so it doesn’t distract me.
I am in the early stages of prototyping away/busy signs for co-working spaces. Wait. What was the question?
ROSS CHARBA’S CO-WORKING SIGNAGE PROTOTYPE
Has setting up your own home office made you more tech savvy?
A little bit. I have actually had some trouble learning how to do calls/video calls through Teams in a remote connection and I kind of feel like my mom who can never figure out anything tech.
It has just made me feel thankful for my tech-loving husband who thrives on this kind of stuff and had already implemented every item GFF’s IT Department suggested. When we moved into this house, he spent several days in the attic, drilling through walls, and laying cable under freshly installed kitchen countertops to ensure that all our important devices were hardwired to our router.
I definitely have a huge amount of appreciation for our IT team after having to be my own at home tech support for a week!
Well sort of, but it has also given me an increased value for younger people (like my daughters), who, though they don’t know and understand much of the things I do, it’s hard to deny how intuitive they are when it comes to technology and figuring stuff out.
Yes. I’ve become the de-facto ‘IT guy’ around the house, setting up web-cams, dual monitor displays, troubleshooting printer connections, etc. I’ve learned (still learning, actually) how to use MS Teams, and it is quickly becoming part of my daily workflow.
I am definitely getting good practice at organizing various kinds wires, usb cables, charger cables, HDMI cables, etc.
Have you had any fun teaching moments with your clients, coworkers and consultants about technology and remote connectivity as everyone transitions to working from home?
Everyone seems to be pretty up to date on how to work from home. It’s amazing how everyone has been able to transition so smoothly.
I had a video meeting with a client, where he had the world’s best backdrop – a full bleed aerial image of downtown Ft. Worth. I want to learn how to do that!
I’ve been able to introduce Bluebeam Studio to GFF Interiors as an alternate to redlines. It cuts down production time!
When using your cell phone for a video call, don’t hold it too close too your face unless you’re okay with displaying how well connected your nasal passage is to your sinuses.
I’ve been kicked off of my remote connection a few times. It happened once while I was on a coordination call with a coworker so I had to filibuster until the connection came back and I could see what we were talking about.
I like the video calls with clients and friends. Our interoffice camaraderie has gotten really good with our GFF Austin team and I feel that social distancing has actually brought us even closer through emails, texts, calls, meeting, check-ins, etc.
HOW GFF PREFERS TO COMMUNICATE
Have you seen anything particularly funny or cute in the background of people’s video chat screens?
You notice how clean people keep their spaces. My desk at home is organized the same as my desk at the office…. organized chaos.
My favorite moment of the last week was seeing Mike Reyes’ daughter giving him a huge hug on a call after lunch. It’s great to see people spending more time with family while working from home and kids really enjoying getting to see more of their parents!
The best thing so far was Phil holding his dog just under view of the camera during SOTF this past Wednesday (and the reactions of everyone as it kept popping up)!
Apparently a lot of people have cats. Who knew?
We had a family video chat the other night and one of our family had their Cockatiel bird prancing around in front of the camera.
Other than Evan’s cow hat, a friend has a life-size cut out of ‘The Rock’ in the background: tights and an orange tie that she placed on him so that he is appropriately dressed for work.
I loved Evan’s hat! Hook ‘em!!!!
EVAN BEATTIE’S “COW HAT,” ALSO KNOWN AS “BEVO”
What unintended consequence of working from home has been a nice surprise?
My family can get a glimpse of what I do. I have been able to show all of my kids around a Revit model while showing them the job site on Google Earth. They have a much better understanding of what an architect’s job is now than they had a week ago.
I have such a nice space visually. I have a bright window, around 20 plants, and can play my music out loud without distracting others. I do miss my large desk in the office.
ANNA ELIESE SCOTT
The best thing about working from home is that I replaced the commute with exercise. I finally have time! I’m also saving money on gas.
Getting to go for afternoon walks with my dogs during the daylight has been nice, frogger running from all the other people doing the same has not been as great.
Learning from all the people that I have a great deal of respect for, and better understanding their processes now that I need to work more independently. Ricardo Montoya’s organization skills and how he has all sorts of browser favorites set up to quickly find answers to code, zoning, and other questions. It’s a lot different than using the tattered (and beloved) copy of the 2000 IBC that I always reference at my desk.
I’ve been snacking more, which is not a good surprise.
The commute has improved immensely! We’ve also noticed that we don’t get up from our desks to walk around and talk to others as much, so we’ve started taking walks at lunch and at the end of the day to clear our heads and allow us to transition our mindsets between work/school and home.
RICK MYERS, DIGITAL – 900PX x 900PX
How are you remaining socially engaged with your project teams and studio members?
The plan is for the Pontious studio to do a weekly morning call in. I send out a “good morning” every day to everybody to check-in. We have a studio chat where everyone creates surveys, sends funny images, and (more importantly) asks very serious project-related questions. We’ve already done one virtual happy hour and plan to do it every Thursday!
MICROSOFT TEAMS!!!! and phone calls during coffee, lunch, or an afternoon pick-me-up when I’m craving social interaction.
I use the occasional “poke” emoji in Microsoft Teams…
Virtual studio with my closest friends in the office! We check in every morning and share our breakfasts and wake up together over coffee! We share music so we can get a different playlist/mood every day depending who’s sharing!
We have an IT Department call everyday for about 30 minutes that’s very helpful. I think this should be our norm going forward!
The Landscape Studio has always been very connected both inside and outside the office. We chat frequently and have morning check-in calls.
STAYING CONNECTED WHILE WE’RE APART
What do you look forward to the most about returning to the office?
Seeing all of my studio mates. And to see how this experience affects the way we work post-lockdown.
Going back to our collaborative process and face-to-face interaction with clients will be such a joy.
Bigger printers/scanners and my second monitor.
Being able to leave my stuff out all the time
The laughter and comedy of my studio mates. Everyone I sit by is so amusing during the work day.
It really is the people. While focusing uninterrupted can be easier at home (for me…I know that’s not the case for everybody with families, pets, no home office, etc), there is so much collaboration and inspiration that happens from being around each other.
Quiet! I think I’m actually missing the “quiet” provided by the white noise hum of a commercial HVAC system.
The sense of community and being in physical proximity to others that can’t be replaced by technology.
WE CAN’T WAIT TO RE-ENGAGE OUR COWORKERS IN THE OFFICE.
If you have animals, how have they responded to your being around the house much more than normal?
My pup is living her best life. She is currently sprawled out on the day bed in my “home office” and watching me type with 3-4 toys. We’re on a whole new level of inseparable.
We have an older dog named Marty that likes a routine. He was a little anxious at first not knowing if we were going on vacation or what, but now he knows his afternoon walk comes sooner, so he starts “checking in” around 4:30.
Our dog, Minnie, is definitely freaked out by all this…I think she has some level of intuition that something is wrong. And, she’s just not getting her 22 hours of sleep per day anymore, and the fatigue is really starting to get to her. We’ve had to Bondo multiple glass panes back into place on that door since I don’t think replacing it is going to happen anytime soon. Sigh…
The dogs (all five of them) have been amazing since I started working from home. The three Bigs wander in and out of the office throughout the day while the two Littles are stuck to me like glue. Every morning they run into the office when they know it’s work time. One sleeps in a bed on the desk and one sleeps in a dog sac on my lap. They couldn’t be happier!
They show their happiness with me by constantly barking outside while I am on a phone call.
Oh yeah. At first my cat was all over me when I was working from home but now you can tell he is starting to miss his alone time. I think he’s sick of us already.
My cat loves it. Some days I’ll leave the balcony open and he just goes between watching birds and sleeping. Sometimes he will jump in my lap to say hello. He is so happy I am home.
ANNA ALIESE SCOTT
No pets here, but the neighbor’s cat seemed quite surprised when it passed by the window yesterday!
Henry lives here, and gets fed twice a day. He also has bad gas. I might need to look into new food.
All they do is eat! All 60+ of them!!!
KA-RI WALKER: BIM MANAGER AND CARETAKER OF 60 FARM ANIMALS
How do you plan to fill your time after hours while sheltering in place?
Well it’s unfortunately not watching or playing sports, which is an absolute killer for me. We’ve been taking long walks around the neighborhood, cooking better food, and Facetiming with friends and family more than we normally would.
I’ve been doing a lot of gardening. I also plan to start working on more leatherworking projects once I’ve wrapped up a couple of current garden projects.
My down time is spent trying to find ways to help my son, Pierce, burn energy. It isn’t easy being a cooped up 4-year old boy these days!
I’ll probably be forced to give myself a haircut.
Making Tik-Toc videos, learning about other apps and platforms: Telegraph, Marco Polo, and Bitmoji, and WhatsApp. Though mostly true, I’ve tried to do a sketch challenge every day. My daughters or a friend will send me a ‘still life’ pic, and I will do my best to sketch it.
SCOTT SOWER’S SKETCHES
What are you doing to help those in need during the COVID-19 outbreak?
I’m making sure those in the service industry whose livelihoods were literally shuttered are being taken care of. I’m trying to still order lots of food from to-go places in order to keep some revenue coming in. The hardest part for me was having to get stern with my mom and insist that she is not going to go to the grocery store to get stuff even if she goes during the “seniors hour.” It was hard. I haven’t had to ever speak to her like that before.
I have an elderly neighbor that we keep track of. He walks his dog every morning, and I try and catch him more on those walks to make sure he has what he needs.
There are so many people in need currently and I am very grateful to have a fulfilling job to wake up to every morning. We’ve made donations to homeless assistance and healthcare worker funds that hopefully will make a bit of difference for those that don’t have the comforts we currently enjoy, as well as healthcare professionals who are putting their lives on the line to help those in need at this challenging time.
We’ve been doing grocery runs for some of the at-risk folks.
Not spreading the disease. Washing my hands and keeping my distance.
I have decided to support Wesley Rankin Community Center during this time. When our camp fee for a Spring Break camp at the Perot Museum was refunded because the camp was cancelled, I turned around and donated the money to Wesley Rankin. They are currently safely delivering both groceries/boxed lunches and memory games/DIY art kits to the senior citizens they serve that were already in danger of feeling acute social isolation and food insecurity even before this happened. They have also reached out to every single young student that they work with to assess the needs of each family, whether it is food, technology for virtual learning, or emotional support. They are doing great things!!
If I receive a stimulus check, I will donate it to someone in need.
We’ve donated surplus supplies and we are getting my parents stocked up when they return home from being in Maui for two months. We want to make sure they have everything they need when they get home next week!
At the moment, we’re trying to stay attuned to the needs and well-being of our staff. We’re also keeping tabs on friends, family and neighbors, and doing what we can to support our kids’ teachers and schools.
Even though we are all separated, it feels like COVID-19 is bringing us closer together in many ways. We’re all in this together and we will ultimately prevail!