Nov 01, 2020

With remote work burnout setting in for many, here are some ideas to take care of your people now and for the foreseeable future.

People have been separated from the place they spend more time than any other in the world – the office. Most of us have probably said at one time in our careers, “I could do most of my work from home and would love it.” Well, here we are amidst a global pandemic and are hearing from a lot of people who aren’t loving it so much anymore.

What we’ve heard from a lot of our clients recently is that they are taking extra precautions with any business or personal travel, but leadership teams are generally working from the office each day with the majority of staff working from home. According to Zweig Group’s latest COVID-19 AEC Industry Data Report, 74 percent of firms have changed their policies on telecommuting to allow any employee to telecommute at any time.

Believe it or not, the AEC industry was ready for this moment.

The office and the work we do there will undoubtedly change forever due to the impact of the current pandemic. Major events like this can have unforeseen impacts both physically and mentally and we must consider both the employees’ struggles as well as our own. One minute you’re a design professional enjoying the perks of an office space built to maximize your efficiency, and now the highlight of your day may include a trip to your curbside mailbox. It’s perfectly natural to miss the office and the platform it provides for your work productivity. Offices are clean, quiet, and calm for the most part right now while our homes have become our new bubbles. Dining room tables, spare bedrooms, garages, and living rooms have all been transformed into workspaces, and this fall those same areas have also turned into classrooms for school. For some, this is a rather simple transition; just stay home and work. For others, this can cause problems and decrease production in work and life.

With cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise in most U.S. states, no viable vaccine at the moment, and predictions that we might be social distancing well into 2022, how can firm leaders continue to take on this challenge for the foreseeable future? Here are some key things to consider while planning for the new era:

  • Culture preservation. You need to be focused on retaining one of your top assets: your employees. There are all sorts of small things that can be done to boost morale like swag bags, virtual happy hours, gift cards, public shoutouts, equipment donations, and extended flexible work hours. Lots of firms have found ways to reduce overhead during 2020, so there should be some room in the budget for a few surprise-and-delights to go around. Putting out the effort is what is most important.
  • Empathy burnout. This can happen when anyone devotes so much time trying to deeply relate to the problems and stress of others that they forget to care for themselves. Keep an eye on your staff’s PTO bank and make sure they are getting the most out of it. Many people have fallen into the habit of staying in this year and are not using their PTO.
  • Forty hours. It’s important to recognize that no one is expecting you to be sitting in front of your computer from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. all day long. There are times when work productivity in the office is low but culture is being built and that is perfectly fine. Find a schedule you enjoy and that also works well with your team. We’re not robots – yet.
  • Show face. Video communication tools are becoming extremely popular for a reason. Much of that reason is because it helps a lot of us communicate better. I’d suggest turning your camera on when possible and engage those you are working with. I don’t think most mind seeing an unruly child or pet on the screen.
  • Keep communicating! Employees across the AEC industry have ranked communication as one of the most improved areas at their firm during the pandemic. Leaders must recognize this and not let it go to waste. Keep investing in technology that will make your employees’ lives easier at home.

One last thing – remember to afford some extra grace where you can and to care for one another as we head toward the end of the year. Everyone is going through something new right now.

Chad Coldiron is director of executive search at Zweig Group. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.