Remote is the trend
Remote work used to be a dream for some – and by now it has evolved into an inconvenience for many. COVID and lockdowns have made remote work a necessity, but one-rule-fits-all is not always the answer.
City planners are sort of stuck in between – due to the nature of their work. There are some parts they can do remotely, while other activities require physical presence.
We’ve worked with hundreds of urban planners while developing PlanMan, and we’ve studied their needs and habits. Most of our clients manage to develop a more location-independent approach to working, and they use a set of tools to help with that.
What remote means for you as an urban planner
Working remotely normally means not going to any office to perform your work duties. Depending on the type of company you work for, skipping office is totally possible as a city planner.
Urban planners that work as consultants, especially at larger firms, have the most remote opportunities in their work. City planners busy in the public sector, on the other hand, are less flexible, because their work is more policy-based, and there are public meetings they can’t skip. Urban planners engaged in the non-profit sector may be the most flexible ones, depending on the culture and rules of their organization.
The thing most city planners note about their work is they spend a lot of their time and effort on resolving conflicts and managing overlapping interests.
Taking care of the politics side of things definitely requires physical presence and excellent communication skills, as you may not get far with calls and video chats.
Still, there is an option to make your job as an urban planner as location-independent as possible. We’ll go over a set of tools and techniques to get there.
Working with data remotely
The most obvious location-independent part of your work as a city planner is working with data. This concerns geographic data, graphics and sketches, modeling, and 3d modeling, and so on.
Building Information Modeling software is all remote-friendly and collaboration-ready as well.
As you design the interaction between places and people, you will have to work with a lot of sociological, demographic, ecological, health, policy and other types of data. Custom solutions that involve big data come handy, and you can improve your decision-making process with proper tools.
Having a convenient cloud data storage is a must, so make sure you use the best options available. We offer a robust document management module for city planners that works well with all the project and client management features as well.
Working with tools like remote sensing and image re-processing is also data-based, so that can be done remotely.
Remote site analysis can be done using Google Earth images and Photoshop, like in this example of urban planning for a site:
Things you can’t skip
Fieldwork is the most obvious activity that you can’t do remotely. Some of the most experienced urban planners report that visiting the location lays the foundation for their work.
Again, make sure you are using the best fieldwork tools and apps – because if you retain maximum details from fieldwork you will spend less time on the location. Our app is mobile-ready and works on all devices, so you can use it on your phone or a tablet on site.
Consultations are mostly virtual but you will need in-person and on-site meetings for larger and more complex projects.
There will be sessions with sociologists, geographers, lawyers, engineers, transport experts and a lot of other professionals. Using Zoom or Google Meet for calls could work, but in-person meetings and brainstorms may be more effective.
Otherwise – most calls and discussions can be done remotely one on one.
If your work has even a bit of sales or business development, you will have to talk to some of the clients and stakeholders in person, and there is no way around that.
On your own but not alone
Working as an independent consultant gives you the most flexibility, diversity and drive – provided you have the right tools.
Sign up for the free trial and see how much more location-independent your work can get.