Team spirit and resilient work processes are a necessity – Funktion Design

The team at Funktion Design experienced the challenges of keeping up the morale of their personnel during fears of the pandemic. The studio had identified ways of enlivening their workspace to maintain the team’s vibrancy and increased the spirit between members. The studio’s relatively fresh experience with cloud working systems has helped them realize the importance of resilient in-studio work processes to pre-empt any future challenges like this pandemic.

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Tell us about some important projects that your studio was involved in just before the lockdown. 

We designed a 9-acre campus for a leading construction equipment manufacturer. We also competed in an international competition for a rock climbing arena for the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, where we came 2nd. The submission was on the day the lockdown was announced!

Which were the biggest challenges and fears you faced because of the lockdown? 

The biggest challenges and fears we faced because of the lockdown were attrition of staff, loss of projects, and shelving of projects at a conceptual level. 

What were the challenges you faced with the monetary flow in your practice and how are you handling them? 

During the lockdown, we didn’t have billing, as client offices were closed and certain stages of work were not achieved due to the pandemic, which resulted in serious cash flow issues.  We were also one of the few offices that paid all our employees 100% of the salary through the lockdown. We have been more prompt in our billing post lockdown and fast-tracked several ongoing projects to not only speed up work but also achieve our billing milestones. 

How are you strategizing to adapt to the new conditions of work upon resumption of office post the lockdowns? 

The lockdown allowed us to find ways of working and collaborating remotely with various stakeholders. It also provided us with a window into a world with minimum site meetings and physical interactions, which one can do without and save a lot of time.

The pandemic also provided us with a better assessment of our team in qualitative terms. We have figured that the way to go ahead is to have a very lean and dynamic core team. 

Were any new methods of work evolved during the lockdown? 

We used cloud access for all our work for the first time and realized its potential for both WFH and collaborations. 

How were the coordination issues resolved with the studio staff and on-site team? 

This was the most challenging time for our team and people at the site as many of our consultants were not working out of their office post lockdown. It took us almost a couple of months to get our act together post lockdown by having video calls and using zoom calls. 

What were the biggest learnings from the pandemic? And which decisions and new work methods you feel your studio will continue with for the future? 

The biggest learning is that studios have to be process-driven and not entirely personnel-driven. We have also understood that if these situations are to reoccur we need to be equipped with processes and equipment to work seamlessly. We also have understood that these situations can result in severe mental stress among the team members.

We have now placed our focus on team-building and recreation in the studio. We have replaced workstations with a table tennis table! We have created mini-events for the team at regular intervals to build that sense of bonding and ownership of the workspace among team members. 

How have your contractors and labour network been influenced by the lockdown and what measures have you made to sustain or revive them? 

We faced issues with availability of labour-force. Some skilled labourers migrated out of the city. Labour-force affordability has also become expensive.

About the practice:

Please let us know about the founding year, principals, team and studio. 

Funktion Design was founded in 2010. The studio is a team of 8 members working in our closely-knit studio at Sanjaynagar, Bangalore, with their principal architect Madhusudhan Sridhar. 

What are some of the processes and work methods unique to your practice? 

We are an office that deals with a wide variety of projects, right from residential, industrial, commercial, and institutional projects. We follow structuralist minimalism in all our projects irrespective of the typology. 

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