The Trials of Working Remotely

Like my classmates have reiterated, we have been working on a document with MUSC that they are hoping to distribute to other regional hospitals to help them set up successful testing sites for COVID-19. There have been a lot of changes in how this work is accomplished. For starters, we are working remotely from the safety of our homes, but to be honest I’ve experienced it as quite a challenge in many ways, one which becomes most apparent when it simply comes down to getting organized–something which I have always tried to make a huge priority in every project I have been a part of.

With 12 members of Studio V, we have more than enough people to ensure that tasks are moving forward completely and thoroughly to ensure completion and thus a successful document by the time which MUSC needs it by–which is basically as soon as possible. But I have to be honest here–it’s not simple. At many times, on a rush timeline with a deliverable that is kind of a moving target (it changes when we learn new information or uncover something significant with our research–basically what we think we need to include in our drawings is always in flux), it is hard for us all to get a sense of the bigger picture, isolated to 12 different offices, I think sometimes it is hard to feel like we are making a genuine unified effort as a team. I’m not completely sure if these challenges have been overcome yet. But whether they do or they don’t before our semester is over (we don’t have much time left), they have helped make more apparent to me some of the most important aspects of being part of a team, and being part of a unified goal.

Communication is absolutely key. Especially at a time like this, when most of our communication has been reduced to a 4 hour window via Zoom call, it’s become more important to simply show up, be ready, engage, and speak up. But it’s not without its challenges here. To quote my calculus teacher from high school who was always trying to improve our motivation and preparedness for the end of year exams he would say– (and I’ll change a word to make it more appropriate) “Y’all… the first step is simply to give a darn!” And I think as much as the stubborn high schooler that I once was would like to argue this somehow, there is some real truth to his assertion–partially in being able to tell how we were already thinking about summer, and then in acknowledging the age old aphorism–you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. He could teach us everything right to do, but if we didn’t give a crap, then what good would it do? So I think his advice is worth listening to. And it is a message which boils back directly to communication in our situation–because frankly when we are working remotely like we are now, communication is more work. Instead of more implicit conversations which can kind of flow as part of your day to day while we are all together in studio, communication now has been reduced to task items–call so and so, email these people, forward this to all of these folks, reply to this person’s request, and so on. It takes more energy than what could happen if we are all working in the same room. And so my point here is absolutely not to form accusations that anyone has stopped caring about what we do, it’s to draw attention to the fact that our level of care for communication before we went remote cannot be the same as the level that is demanded of us now that we are working remotely. It requires more energy. And so if that energy isn’t there, theoretically it can decrease efficiencies for the entire team. Maybe people won’t fully know what their classmate is working on because their classmate doesn’t t check in, or maybe work gets turned in that maybe no one else has looked at, and so at the end of the day, not only is our productivity compromised, but one of our proudest points–the fact that we are a collaborative studio–becomes somewhat compromised as well. And I’m not saying that any of this particularly is happening right now, but I will say it is something which we are at risk of, something we are being forced to combat, as the result of being isolated into 12 different studios.

So I’ll leave it at that. And I’m fully aware that this post sort of lacks the youthful and cheerful optimism that many of our other posts have helped perpetuate in this blog space. But I wanted to take a minute to reflect on some of the real challenges that working remotely has posed, challenges which, in some cases, we have already overcome, and for other cases, I have no doubt  we can overcome. Navigating the tunnels of communication while working remotely is something we have to deal with now more so than before, something that demands we find the energy for it, in order to keep the forward momentum. So to end being youthful and optimistic, I think if it ever becomes lacking, we will find that energy, and we will successfully finish what we set out to do.



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