Reduced stress, no commute, daily savings and increased productivity – working from home has been an amazing experience for Melissa Daniel.

What is your work-from-home space like?

We live in a three-bedroom townhouse in Maryland, USA. One of those rooms is my office/closet/workout room. My husband also has an office in the basement. Since I’m in this room a lot more, it changed a couple of times. The exercise equipment moved to another room, rearranged a couple of things, all because I got tired of looking at the same thing seven days a week.

What work do you do here?

All my work is now in the residential sector and public housing. After almost 10 years working in the government sector, I switched project types to multifamily, residential and affordable housing to better understand this sector. I am currently working with a housing authority renovating several of their sites. I play several roles on this project including designer and project manager.

I work in a small firm with five other architectural professionals. We are all working from home, connecting remotely, and we host client meetings once a week via zoom.

I am also host of a podcast called “Architecture is Political”. It is part personal journey and part interview; discovering if architects can solve the affordable housing crisis through the lens of black and brown professionals. I grew up in low-income housing and decided to study architecture thinking that architects can solve the housing problem. Little did I know that housing is more political than design.

Did you work from home pre-COVID-19?

Only in extreme cases like a blizzard or sickness. Working from home has been amazing. No commute, no spending money on eating out or gas. I’m more productive too.

Have there been benefits to working from home?

Again, commuting time and eating expense has been the biggest benefit. It’s a huge stress reliever.

What have been the biggest challenges so far?

Socialising has been the biggest challenge. March and April were my busiest months before the pandemic. Watching and interacting with strangers on various virtual platforms isn’t the same as meeting them in person.

What has been surprising?

How much weight I gained in two months.

Have you discovered any tools (technological or otherwise) that have been particularly useful for remote working?

My husband is in IT, so he is constantly telling me what my employer should be doing.

Do you have any tips for creating successful working relationships remotely?

Don’t take your laptop/cellphone in the bathroom while on a conference call. The mute button isn’t guaranteed to work properly!

How are you managing the work/life juggle, and all the competing demands?

The struggle of work/life balance is never-ending. I take it one day, hour and minute at a time.

How are you staying connected with work, friends and family?

For friends and family, good old-fashioned text messages and social media like Facebook. I only FaceTime with my mom and my sisters. As for work, it’s email and phone.

What strategies are you using to switch off from work?

Having a location to call your ‘office’ helps a lot.

What strategies are you using to lift your spirits and maintain mental wellbeing?

Friends, family, social media (surprisingly) and Netflix.

Melissa Daniel, Assoc. AIA, is an architect based in Maryland, USA. She has nine years experience as a Senior Designer on embassies, federal buildings and government facilities. For the past four years, she has been working on multifamily, residential and public housing. Most recently, Melissa was the recipient of the 2018 AIA Associates Award and hosts the podcast ‘Architecture is Political’.