International telecommuting: an architect’s experience

13 July 2022
Posted byBy

The concept of working from overseas was inconceivable for many architectural and design practices prior to the pandemic. Jump to 2022, and now at Carr we have two team members dialling in from opposite sides of the world.

Senior Architectural Designer Sean Nolan and Associate Richard Beel are long standing members of the Carr team. While they both commenced their roles in Melbourne, family commitments saw them needing to relocate abroad. With the world forced to adjust to remote working, the opportunities for telecommuting for architects and designers went from seemingly impossible to possible; Sean and Richard tell us how.

Sean and his son make it a morning ritual to walk along Ocean Beach in San Francisco before he dials in to the Carr team in the afternoon.

First up, where are you currently based in the world? What does your workday look like?

SN: My family and I are based in San Francisco, where we live close to Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach.

The 17-hour time difference means my work week is Sunday to Thursday, with my hours 2pm to 11pm (SF time). This allows me to nearly mirror the Melbourne team’s work hours.

These adjusted hours allow me to look after my son and newborn daughter in the mornings, which is such a nice opportunity to spend more quality time with them. Prior to starting work, I cycle to Ocean Beach for my son’s preschool drop-off, before returning home to start work in the afternoon (for my night shift!).


RB: I’m currently working from the south-east pocket of Ireland. As it’s currently summer, I start my day when the sunrises at 5am. The nine-hour time difference allows me to cross over with the Melbourne team for half the workday.

Having not lived in Ireland for 11 years, it took some readjusting to the extended summer daylight hours and the little nuances of another country. People here tend to stay up a lot later during the summer months, meaning you might have a friend wanting to catch up at 10pm because the sun is still shining.


Sean's local cafe in San Francisco, which has his Melbourne-coffee tick of approval. Sadly Richard is yet to find an Irish equivalent where he lives.

How have you adapted to telecommuting in terms of running projects, collaborating and your overall wellbeing?

SN: As I have a seven-hour overlap with Melbourne, collaboration, discussions and meetings with the Carr team, clients, consultants and authorities are able to run as usual. Productivity comes down to being motivated, organised, and disciplined with my time; as well as making the effort to maintain clear communication internally with the team and externally with clients and consultants.

While I do miss being in the studio and the creative environment, for me personally, this opportunity to re-join the Carr team is one of the few silver linings to come out of the pandemic. Utilising all the remote collaboration, online meeting tools and learnings that resulted from the pandemic has meant that I feel part of the office and team in spite of the distance.


RB: Initially what I found the most challenging was how bad the coffee is here in Ireland! Managing a full day’s worth of correspondence with my team and builders into the four-hour window without a good coffee – what could be harder?

The time difference does have its up sides. I enjoy being able to action tasks that are discussed in my morning and having them ready to issue for the Melbourne team when they log on the following day.

All that being said, all of this wouldn’t be possible without a progressive and trusting employer.

Digital collaboration allows for quick on-screen design resolutions between team members, regardless of location.

Sean – You have been recently working through early design phases of a few projects across different sectors, how do you stay engaged with clients, consultants and collaborators?

During certain project phases like town planning, design development and concept design, I have found remote meetings are suitable, and in many ways, more convenient for everyone.

Maintaining regular and consistent team and consultant meetings and touchpoints helps to ensure effective and clear channels of communication are maintained. And while nothing can truly replace in person, face-to-face meetings, in my experience, virtual meetings and screenshare capabilities make these meetings efficient and effective.

Richard – You have a few major projects on site, can you explain some of the workarounds put in place to ensure the project needs are met?

If 20 years ago you told me that in 2022 I would be walking around and looking at details on site via Facetime, I would have laughed at you. It’s truly amazing what we can do now.

Nevertheless, for complex projects like The International Brighton, an on-site presence periodically is still required. Fortunately, at Carr our experienced team can support this on the ground. Having proactive builders that are willing to continue this practice also helps this be possible.


Read about ‘boomerang employees’ as People and Culture Manager, Denise Passmore, contextualises why people are returning to their previous jobs.