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Addressing burnout amongst architects

by Madelein
Addressing burnout amongst architects

Monograph recently surveyed 225 architects to better understand burnout and architecture.

Burnout in architecture in 2021 was a concern, leaving many people asking, “When am I not burnt out?” The findings were staggering.

Reasons for burnout in architecture

Architects have a heavy workload, work long hours (often after hours), and have limited control over their work, with numerous dependencies. They are in a high risk profession where many people are reliant on their skill, knowledge and expertise.

Burnout isn’t a medical diagnosis but feelings of depression, a lack of well-being, and may even include physical symptoms like shortness of breath. Some architects feel unhappy and tired, and stop enjoying their work altogether.

A summary of the key findings in the report suggests:

  • 96.9% of architects experienced burnout in 2021 
  • The Coronavirus pandemic didn’t cause burnout but worsened it for 90% of respondents
  • The leading cause of burnout is working overtime 
  • Efficient workflow and processescan alleviate burnoutin architecture
  • Flexible working options and support and recognitionare things employers should investigate to improve burnout 
  • Burnout impacts creativityand the quality of work
  • Mental and physical health are impacted

Creativity needs physical mental energy

It takes a great deal of physical and mental energy to work in a creative field. When working long hours in a stressful competitive environment, developing fresh creative ideas is hard. It is often accompanied by feelings of failure, which leads to working more which leads to more burnout. Burnout is not only limited to architecture and affects engineering and other areas of expertise.

Overtime, the main stressor

The major reason for burnout is overtime and overwork. While the pandemic has made matters worse, even before COVID-19, architects operated in a high-pressure environment. Some architects argue that the“all-nighter trend begins in college” and carries over to their professional working life. Architects may also work overtime without compensation, adding to the already stressful situation. Hence the importance of tracking your time to prevent burnout.

Mental health: The struggle is real

Architects need time off to look after their mental health and even a paid day off can help with burnout. Sometimes just respecting the max 40-hour workweek can help maintain a work-life balance. Expecting teams to work their 40 hours and do overhead non-billable work on top of that is a recipe for burnout.

Efficient workflow can alleviate burnout

The impact of long hours only gets worse with poor planning and workflow management. Although it is a creative job, a balance must be maintained between the business and operational side. By having the right tools and processes in place, projects can run smoothly, especially before a deadline – often another cause of burnout. Inconsistency in the workflow is another stressor. Keep the right processes in place to save time and improve workflow.

COVID-19, the culprit

According to a Stress in America survey, 84% of individuals have experienced their highest stress levels since April 2020, with the pandemic contributing to burnout, even though burnout started long before the pandemic happened. The additional stress of the pandemic added to an already stressful job, pushing many to breaking point.

When changes are happening because of the economy or global events like COVID, it’s a good time for firms to shift in other ways. Architect, author and professor, Randy Deutsch, sees this as an opportunity for architects to change culturally. “Anytime there’s an economic downturn, it’s a huge opportunity within the professional field and markets to actually make a cultural change. Because we’re working remotely now, that’s a cultural change, something intellectually nobody agreed to, but now we’re doing it, and we’re all benefiting from it.”

Remote/hybrid working options

Some architects asked for remote or flexible working hours to alleviate burnout. Since the pandemic, most firms have set up cloud-based project management tools and staff can work from home. More employees are working remotely than ever before and the advantages in the overall workplace seem to be clear:

  • 77% of remote workers say they are more productive when working from home.
  • 74%of remote workers say that by working remotely,the likelihood of leaving the company decreases.

However, the debate about remote work continues in the industry. Some architects feel that remote work has made their work-life balance worse by blurring the boundaries between work and home. In most instances, communication between leadership and team members is key to set a realistic work/life balance.

Architects feel unsupported

Two major challenges were identified causing employees to feel disengaged from their job: lack of recognition and unclear career paths. Employee recognition doesn’t just help with burnout, it helps with team morale and relationship building. Some architects lack a clear career path, thus staying motivated is hard because the rewards aren’t clear. A clear policy that outlines employees’ career paths will help them to stay on track. Some also felt disengaged from their jobs, which had an impact on their quality of work. It is a fast-paced environment, but many need a slower, more thoughtful creative process to do their work, reduce burnout and increase engagement.

Burnout not just reserved for juniors

Anyone, from team member to associate, is equally susceptible to burnout, primarily because of the constant change of schedule and stress of finding new work. Create a healthy culture by demonstrating good examples like taking a mental health day and asking for help.

Openly share burnout experiences with colleagues and work together to address the issue.

You can read the full report here: https://monograph.com/blog/state-of-burnout-in-architecture-2021

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to https://monograph.com/  for the information in this editorial.

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