Slowly, cautiously–our daily architectural lives seem to be headed towards normal. Or at least, something
familiar and regular, if not exactly normal yet. As our collective patterns change once again, I remember
the small rhythms of the Before Times: saying good morning as you walk in post-commute, quickly
dropping off your lunch leftovers in the office fridge, stopping to chat by the coffee machine, grabbing
extra pens as you head to the big table for a markup session. Even writing these things almost sounds
foreign, like a fable about how we “used to do things” after getting used to kitchen table laptops and
waist-up formality for the last 15 months. I had one of my first in-person work meetings recently, and like a
long-forgotten pair of jeans, I felt the strangeness and comfort of these cautious steps forward.
But what rhythms have we forgotten? What habits have we lost? I suspect that if you are like me, one tenuous habit lost has been balance, and how we navigate and structure the intersection between our personal and professional lives. Studies by Forbes, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, and others all point in the same direction — working from home has mostly resulted in working more. Most of these studies show that, on average, Americans worked 1-3 hours more per day during the pandemic. Despite this, similar studies also indicated that many pivoting workers also somehow managed to maintain or even increase their productivity when working remotely. With job cuts, layoffs, and reductions happening in unexpected ways across lots of industries, design professionals had to adapt, juggle, and squirm as the world swirled beyond the walls of our homes-turned-to-offices.
And so we figured it out. But we also stretched ourselves, perhaps to the breaking point.
I will not opine on why we have worked more (we can leave that to the counselors, clergy, and loved
ones), but I wonder how–after 15+ months of extra hours, of thinner boundaries between work and
non-work, of uncertainty breathing down our necks–how we reactivate our habit to rest. To clock out. To
not just take a break or go for a walk, but to disengage from the always-present professional snarls of
doing the hard work of architecture. As we return to offices and perhaps forgotten patterns, we also return
to the realities that work and rest are scales to be balanced, each critical in its own time.
Drawing a tough hand, many young professionals rose to the challenge to keep learning and working in
new ways and unexpected formats, and now find ourselves with a new challenge of how to rebalance our
schedules, our personal commitments, our loved ones, and our mindsets. Personally, I took my very first
vacation this past year (really) and was shocked at how stepping away from the never-ending demands of
an architectural job reset my system. I came back more engaged and rejuvenated, more capable of
contributing rather than just coping and reacting. In essence, more capable of being my whole self. And in
the spirit of June being Pride Month, the goal of bringing our full selves to the creative table is an ongoing
opportunity for synergy.
And so I hope you can take the beginning of summer to carve out time to reset, to relax your jaw, to
power down the computer, and find time away. After 15 months, we will continue to navigate all the new
normals to come, and so rest up in the meantime. Use that vacation time. The good work we do will
continue to be there, and it takes our fullest selves to do it well.
In solidarity and action,
Michael Spory, Associate AIA