Norman Alston
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Norman Alston

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From the Desk of an Architect: Norman Alston, FAIA

Norman Alston, FAIA shares his home office and tips for working from home this week for "From the Desk of an Architect"!

I am fortunate to have a small room that has become my study now that  all the kids are grown. It's very comfortable and I have worked a noticeable amount of time from home since long before the coronavirus.

My coworker's are Cole the dog. He's my Lab tech. He never takes a day off. The cat is Shadow. Oddly, Zoom meetings appear to make him hungry. That's  when he comes in and demands to be fed. There's another cat who cannot be bothered with any of this, the Lady Sadie of Downtown Tabby. One of my detail shots is of the conference id badges. Somehow, I seem to be collecting them. And they are grouped with other event gear so that is presented as a five second video. I included the hats because you can't see them in the other views. Yes, I wear them. The Tyrolean is actually a gift from our daughter Karen and her husband Mack, who bought that for me during the Las Vegas celebration following my Fellowship investiture. The cool weather hat display will soon be swapped out with the warm weather straw hats.

Have fun and wash your hands.

What is your favorite/most meaningful object at your workspace? 

Full of meaningful stuff: Wife's photo, Fellowship medal (Usually awards and such things are at the office, but not the medal. Hanging on the wall right in front of me), parents' high school yearbooks, my high school scrap book, our kids' artwork,

What are your tips for staying productive while working from home? 

Don't work from home if productive is the primary concern. Work from home should reflect more balance than work from office.

How are you staying connected to your team? To your clients? 

Through every means possible with a focus on  more personal phone calls and maybe a little less email, which is my preferred method. In the last 10 days I've worked with perhaps every teleconferencing program out there. I am now writing guides for others who are challenged by Zoom.

How would you manage complex projects with large teams remotely? 

That's SOP every day.

If you had a problem when the rest of your remote team was offline, how would you go about solving it? 

Also SOP

What’s your biggest concern about working remotely?

No concern. My practice has been built for working from anywhere for years. However, forced to work remotely exclusively will surely take a toll on making and maintaining personal relationships.

What would be on your playlist of top 5 go-to songs for work? Have a favorite Spotify playlist for work? 

Not songs but a genre. Sounds pretentious, but I came up listening to classical music at work, so Handel, Hayden, Vivaldi, Bach, Beethoven, Locatelli, the standards. I listen to lots of stuff, but when I have to bear down, it's classical.  Or for really hard and important stuff, it's silence.

How do you unwind after working from home?

Usually that means a  walk with the dog. Also reading, watching movies made before 1960.

How are you staying active?

I'm not. High on this week's  to-do list.

Any tips for maintaining balance and separating work from home-life?

No. There has never been a clear demarcation for me between work, home and volunteer work. And that drives my wife nuts when we try to "go on vacation."  However, I enjoy them all very much and don't feel motivated very often to use one as relief from the other.


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