Morale boosters and changing work trends – Rahul Gore, Sonal Sancheti, Opolis

Principal architects Rahul Gore and Sonal Sancheti from Opolis discuss the ideas which kept their team's morale up during the lockdown, besides their learnings and experiences about the pandemic phase in 2020. They also share how the kind of project inquiries they recieved underwent changes in trends during the lockdown. With highlights such as occupation with studio research, retention of the core team, returning project inquiries and a relatively stable financial position, Opolis re-emerges out of the lockdown with their regular momentum.

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Highlights from the discussion

 

“For the first few months, everything came grinding to a halt, and pretty much the whole world came to a halt. So, all people were just in survival mode and the challenge has been to get things started again. Because you realize there’s a cost to starting up now. There’s a pandemic charge. Every place requires more stringent control, you cannot have more than X amount of people working in a place.” 

 

 

“We work our designs a lot through models. That was an aspect that did not work (during the lockdown). There will be one longterm impact (from the pandemic)…It is maybe moving to a four-day workweek where people work one day from home. the challenge as we have seen ‘is’ giving one-day as work from home is easy, but when they are three-four days away, the disconnect becomes too much.”

 

 

“Cash flow is the biggest challenge as a practice in any case. In this pandemic, that was an even bigger challenge. All of us have to be smart and work around that. But I would say that we’ve managed to bounce back. And I think it’s partly due to the economy also bouncing back. Stock markets have gone up again. Real estate will feel the kick always a little later. But I think it seems to be going in the right direction.” 

 

 

“It (pandemic) has made me realize the value of the home and not only as my own home, but I think as the society in general; and how the home is important as an anchor to everyone’s life. It will affect the way we make homes in the future and even the way we work. A four-day week concept comes from that where you want to live quality time with your family and you need to understand the value of a home. The placelessness that one feels, and the fragile planet and it’s sustainability issues have just been highlighted. Those are ongoing concerns, as people were concerned about it even before the pandemic.”

 

 

“I think, as a society, we will need time to assimilate what has happened. And there will be a new normal…And by how things are going to change around us and by how we are going to assimilate them, it will take some time for us to understand what’s actually happened in history. But I think that the impact of the pandemic is going to stay in all our lives. And it will reflect in our practice too, in the way we work, somewhere or the other. It may be difficult to pinpoint that right now. ”

-Rahul Gore

 

“Whether there was work to discuss or not, throughout the lockdown, we used to meet every morning on Zoom calls, make presentations to each other. Everybody was studying one or two buildings and presenting them to the rest of the team like case studies, and some research on materials. Everybody was having fun doing that. And that helped keep the whole office together and their morale up. This was our bit of effort trying to stay afloat.”

 

 

“It was a time for a lot of reflection inward and outward. And one thing for me is that we need to be thinking about how much we need to live with. that’s something that I’m consciously looking at. I would like to educate my clients also when they come with their requirements and about if it is really necessary to build so much. It’s something that I want to take forward and you realize that even with so little you managed to survive in the lockdown, right? And that should become a way of life.“

 

 

“I was really hoping that the pandemic really changes people around me and for that matter even me. But, (recently) I took a site visit in Delhi, and I realized, “where is the pandemic? Has nothing changed?”… In a way I feel bad that it was an opportunity to really learn from and integrate some learnings in our life. But, I don’t know what lockdown effects are going be, to be honest.”

 

 

“The office interiors projects that we do in a year have been a major part of our practice. And with offices shrinking, and working-from-home increasing, this part of our practice has really shrunk too. So in the new normal, working-from-home is going to affect projects for commercial office spaces.”

 

 

“It was not only the pandemic, but even in the year before the pandemic, the recession was already felt. The pandemic made it a little more difficult. Towards the end of the lockdowns, we started getting a lot of enquiries for homes. That is a major part of our office work…home interiors, weekend homes and we see an increase for second homes.

-Sonal Sancheti

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