Creativity with time; Our mission for creating a more flexible balance between ARC and our personal creativity
As a firm, ARC is committed to creating meaningful space for a better tomorrow. When it comes to creating a healthy balance between our personal creation time and our collective ARC team, where do we draw the line? Or better yet, how do we design that line?
As a relatively recent graduate and young creative within the architectural field, I believe this is a question we should ask ourselves and investigate within our surroundings. This insight will be my perspective on said topic and how I believe ARC has tackled these questions.
The transition of March 2020 over to remote and hybrid work underlined an ability to work in a way that most of us had never imagined possible however, the phrase ‘work balance’ held itself to a new standard with major creative and non-creative groups learning to collaborate in a new and arguably more efficient manner.
In my opinion, to simply respond to the modern employee’s needs for a more flexible life balance schedule, with an ‘Updated Hybrid Work Policy’ has been shown insufficient by many over the past few years.
So, the question remains, What can we do as first, a community and second, a creative firm in order to create a more efficient and yet comfortable space for our creatives?
I believe there are a few elements to the word ‘Flexibility’ which allow us ARC members to feel in charge of our own days/weeks and generally more looked after as creatives and as people.
1. The When/Where/What rule:
The WHEN/WHERE/WHAT rule is not a new concept nor are we the first to incorporate it, however it is a very important element to the structure of our balanced workplace.
- When can work be done?
- Where can it be done?
- What can we do to ensure smooth integration of work at home and in the office?
This allows for a much smoother transition between home and the workplace.
One of our initiatives towards the When/Where/What rule has been creating our 2022 Core hours plan.
ARC’s response was to define clear core hours that maximize flexibility for workday start and end. Team members are able to structure their days in ways that best respond to the needs of their personal lives and work responsibilities. Our firm believes that in-person collaboration is sometimes the best possible tool for learning, creativity, and efficiency. With this in mind, each project team works together to make the most of our in-person interactions, allowing individuals to work up to 40% of their hours at home each week.
2. Summer Hours:
ARC’s ‘Summer Hours’ program maximizes employees’ summer weekend time. Staff are invited to work a few extra hours earlier in the week with the reward of half days on Friday!
Here are some examples of what ARC members used their extra hours on, during summer hours.
Victor Agran: During the summer, Victor focused on digitizing his artwork by learning and experimenting with Procreate.
Tanya Estrada: Tanya took to making charcuterie boards for the first time during the summer and expanded on her passion for food.
Rojan Nekourouymotlagh: I used summer hours to have picnics. Every Friday I would walk from the office to the park and focus on reading and being in nature.
Hengyue Wang: Hengyue enjoyed his time chasing the golden hour with his camera during the time he had using summer hours.
3. Open Communication
The difference between policy and practice often comes down to communication. It is one thing to have a document defining the office’s stance on flexibility. It is quite another to feel comfortable letting your boss know you’d like to leave early or shuffle your schedule around to accommodate an appointment during the workday.
The culture at ARC is one of autonomy – we are each in charge of our own time, and it’s our responsibility to communicate and manage that time effectively. No two people have the same set of schedule needs. We trust one another to get work done efficiently, and to be reliable and clear about availability. We can’t always control when “life happens” but by being good communicators and respecting one another, we can make space for it.
4. Optional Events/Learning opportunities and social activities:
The balance between our own personal time and our workspace in my opinion should be a smooth transition. To break the heavy walls around the workplace is to make it more of a space you feel comfortable in. A space you feel understood and where you have many friendly faces who you collaborate with, learn with, and share some conversation about your pets over pizza. Those moments are just as important as every other element on this list. Celebrating each other’s birthdays, getting a funny poster of you made for happy hour and having bagel mornings are just as important. Work is no longer somewhere you must be, it’s somewhere us creatives come together and work on what we love while we have friendly conversation.
5. Mental Health Awareness and Care
The pandemic took a toll on us as a community in many ways and shone a light on the reality that many of us struggle with mental health challenges – pandemic-related and otherwise. While our new flexible work schedule focuses on the balance of work efficiency and personal time, it also makes space for holistic health care. Rather than “sick days” we offer staff “wellness days” to be taken without judgement for any health-related need. This tiny shift in perception helps our team feel safe to be a whole person with good days and bad, and confident that the firm supports them in building a healthy lifestyle.
Here at ARC, we understand the importance of accessibility to helpful resources in a time of need. Asking for help can be extremely difficult in those moments and that is why we have put together a collection of resources that is accessible to all our members which focuses on everything from mental health providers who take our insurance, to useful articles, podcasts, books, methods, as well as mental health professionals organized by distance from the office, availability, etc.
ARC also offers an EAP program as a part of our benefits package which allows confidential mental health support for all employees and their family members.
ARC understands that providing a flexible and balanced workspace is a continuous effort and we should continue to adjust to the world around us and even take a step further.
Personally, I feel grateful to be a part of a community first and foremost that tries to understand me as a creative and goes the extra mile to help me be the best creative I can be. Whether it is creating a space for the members who want to be licensed to study or creating resources for those who struggle sometimes, it is appreciated and it is rare.
That being said, what I most appreciate Is the continuous effort to be better and adjust. A firm that tries to be its best version every day will always be a valued firm within the creative space.
We strive to make ARC a wonderful place to grow and discover what’s best in ourselves. Whether designing buildings or culture-building, we know that listening, iterating, adapting, and growing together is key to our success.