“The new reality of living with the coronavirus is just getting started.”
With social distancing in full swing and virtually everyone I know in the A/E business working remotely, the new reality of living with the coronavirus is just getting started. Reflecting on the present and looking toward the future, here are some of my thoughts:
- This is the new reality. The situation will get worse before it gets better. Unless they develop a cure very, very soon – and make that available to anyone who needs it – I don’t see much changing in our daily lives for at least a couple months. We will be home every day and not seeing anyone other than neighbors we can talk to from either the deck off our bedroom or our front yard as they walk by. We aren’t seeing our older kids at all and only talk to them and other family members by phone or FaceTime. We severely restricted the social circle of my 17-year-old stepdaughter to one friend several weeks ago. We wash hands 50 times a day and spray or wipe down every package or anything that could have been exposed. We aren’t going out to eat. We have gotten take-out only once. We have a well-stocked pantry and multiple refrigerators and freezers full of food, and make all of our meals at home.
- Work will never be the same. All work I do today is accomplished via email, phone, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or some other collaboration platform. Aside from the scheduled virtual meetings and conference calls, it’s easier than ever to work whenever you want to. Besides the home office I share with my wife (we each have our own desk), I am working from my kitchen breakfast bar, kitchen island, back porch, dining room table, bedroom table by a window, and even our garage workshop. I don’t subscribe to the theory that I have to go to the same place in the house at the same time every day to get anything done. But then again, I was already used to working like this before the virus to a great extent. I know a lot of A/E firm principals who read The Zweig Letter are working the same way because I communicate with them daily.
- It’s not all bad. I have already lost five pounds. We are getting more “official exercise” than we normally do. Our 120 lb. Great Pyrenees pup is happier than ever. We discovered we can still cook and make some pretty good meals. Our AMEX charges are half what they normally would be. I have had some real quality time with my wife and little girls. My 8-year-old has finally learned to ride a bike with confidence. I have learned to ride an electric scooter and crashed only once in the driveway with no injuries. Small home improvement projects have finally gotten done by me versus hiring someone else. Our sliding screen door now works like it was designed to for the first time since we have lived here. Our pantry has new shelves and is organized to a “T.” I touched up all the interior paint. Our art and crafting stuff is now where we can use it. Our cat litter boxes are the cleanest they have ever been. The “Honey-Do” list is shrinking every day. All good stuff.
- Most of our clients are struggling but remaining optimistic. I am hearing many stories of projects put on hold or clients stopping all work. But I am also hearing about quick responses to the problem with new remote work methods being employed, selective staff cuts, across the board pay reductions, bigger cuts or pay elimination for owners, and a lot more communication with the staff as immediate responses to the situation. While none of this is pleasant I am glad to see our industry responding quickly instead of foot-dragging as we normally do.
- The future has to bode well for our industry. Going forward, A/E services will be needed now more than ever. Huge demand in health care, HVAC systems that don’t spread viruses, adaptive reuse of buildings that are no longer needed, and design changes to support social distancing and remote work situations, among all the other things we do that aren’t getting done now will drive demand for A/E services for a long time to come. The needs will not go away. They may change some but firms that are really tuning into their clients will find plenty to do.
How are YOU and your firm doing through all of this? What do you see ahead? Let me know your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are all in this together!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at email@example.com.