American architect Donna Sink shares her experiences of returning to work from home in Indianapolis during the pandemic, and the space she shares with her family.
What is your work-from-home space like?
When I moved to Indianapolis in 2005 I was self-employed and working from home, so I’ve always had a home office in this house. We have a very large family room in our mid-century ranch house, so the back half of the room is three desks – for myself, my husband and our son. The only change I’ve made since working from home (WFH) started is investing in an external monitor for my home laptop – at age 53 I need that extra size when doing drawings! The view to the backyard lets me watch the yard bunnies come and go and feel connected to the outdoors. If I could change something I’d prefer a bigger side return on the desk – I organise my work in piles, the more pile space the better!
What work do you do here?
My office, Rowland Design in Indianapolis, has about 23 people and we all switched to WFH four weeks ago. I’m currently working on three main projects: one large sports arena, for which I’m managing a team of five designers and drafters in our office, as well as two smaller projects for which I’m both lead architect and manager. For the latter two I’m doing all the drawing as well – a bank project in Revit, and a residential remodel in CAD.
Did you work from home pre-COVID-19? How has the experience of remote working changed for you in the last few weeks?
A big difference with WFH now compared to when I was self-employed is I feel guiltier now if I take a break to fold some laundry! But the real difference is technology: with online meetings, chats, email, cloud collaboration on drawings, etc. I really feel like I’m working in a team, not as a lonely sole proprietor, which I used to be.
What have been the biggest challenges so far?
The main challenge right now is the one we ALL face: overall anxiety and concern about the physical safety and emotional wellbeing of our families and friends and society. It’s a time of extreme stress for everyone, an unprecedented change in our communal lives. As I said on twitter: Everything sucks right now, and that’s both awful and comforting.
Have you discovered any tools (technological or otherwise) that have been particularly useful for remote working?
We are using Microsoft Teams to chat throughout the day and it’s really great for staying connected! I’m honestly enjoying being able to manage the interruptions using Teams. If a chat comment is an emergency, I can answer it right away, but if not, I can finish the task at hand and then respond. That makes me more productive.
What strategies are you using to switch off from work?
When the workday is done – be it at 5.30pm or 10pm – I have a glass of wine or bourbon. It’s an important ritual for me to signal mentally that the time for relaxing has begun – though I usually can’t help but check my email a few more times the rest of the evening.
What strategies are you using to lift your spirits and maintain mental wellbeing?
My workplace, Rowland Design, has always emphasised wellness strategies, so a brisk walk after lunch has always been an accepted part of our workday. The difference is these days I take the dog along – dogs love WFH!
Donna Sink AIA is a registered architect committed to elevating the demand for good design in her community. She has worked on urban design, cultural institution and art exhibition design projects for the last 25 years and has lived in Philadelphia, Detroit, Portland, Phoenix, and now Indianapolis. Donna is Board Chair for People for Urban Progress, a non-profit known for salvaging the former RCA Dome roof and turning it into fashionable bags, as well as many other urban and reuse projects. Donna currently works at Rowland Design, an architecture firm focused on cultural, educational and residential projects throughout the country. She received a Bachelor of Architecture from University of Arizona and a Master of Architecture from Cranbrook Academy of Art.