We asked alumni to share how they were handling the COVID-19 crisis and adapting to working at home. Alumna Denise Blankenberger, BArch ‘16, a designer at Payette, shares her experience how Payette is handling the crisis and how she tries to stay motivated while working remotely.

“I work at Payette in Boston, a firm of roughly 170 people that specializes in science and healthcare design. Five days after the city declared a state of emergency, we went fully remote. We are very fortunate to have an excellent IT team who has made this quick transition possible.

Payette has a long history of accommodating reduced hours and other alternative working arrangements for employees to best balance their lives, and this situation most certainly applies. To help keep us collaborating and in touch with one another we have threads for parents to share teaching tips and work/life balance strategies, virtual pin-up boards to post team progress for everyone to see, online office-wide design presentations called “alcove discussions” – a staple of the firm for collaborative design.

To keep everyone engaged in a fun way we have a firm-wide virtual Fridays at 4:00 happy hour. (Dan Woodfin’s Fridays at 4 live on!)

Payette specializes in healthcare design so some of our architects have been involved in tasks forces seeking ways to respond to the patient surge due to COVID-19.

As for me, working remotely has certainly changed my work situation, but I have done my best to maintain some degree of normalcy. Early on, I set a schedule for myself. I basically pretend that I’m still going to the office every day. I wake up and get ready, then I go walk, which ends up taking about the same amount of time as it would if I were taking public transportation to the office. I try to save chores around the house for non-work hours. At the end of the work day, I go on an afternoon walk or do an at-home workout. While in work-mode, we use Microsoft Teams to instant-message teammates and coordinate design discussions. My teammate and I often message each other with little words of encouragement. That alone has made all the difference in helping to keep me motivated.

Denise Blankenberger

Alumna Denise Blankenberger, BArch ‘16

That said, I am certainly not perfect. The most difficult transition to working from home was letting go of my expectations of productivity and motivation. I have had really unproductive days. What I have learned, though, is that if I am having a hard time staying focused, I have to ask myself, “Why?” If I am anxious or tired, I let myself take a break: go for a walk, have a snack, or take a nap. If I try to power through, often my work will be half-baked and unproductive. I have found it is far better to commit to either working or breaking.

I do miss the connection with my co-workers! However, I am very happy with the things Payette has done to keep the spirit of collaboration alive.”

On another note, during the recent One Ball State Day giving drive I was happy to hear CAP is supporting students who have been directly affected by the COVID-19 crisis with the loss of job and internships. I hope to do a small part to support these students financially. I feel very fortunate that I still have a job and consistent paycheck, and although that is also subject to change, it is critical for those of us that are stable to share our fortune. Moving forward, the ones who are most likely to be affected by this crisis are students just entering the workforce. I wish them all the best.