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Mixed views about future workload indicate a profession in flux – RIBA Future Trends June 2020

Architects’ views on future workloads have improved significantly since the lock-down low in April, but the profession remains pessimistic.

16 July 2020

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index moved towards positive territory, climbing to –17 in June, from -49 in May, and the unprecedented low of -82 in April. The latest survey results show 40% of architects expect work to decrease over the next three months and nearly a quarter (23%) expect an increase (up from 13% in May).

The Staffing Index improved by 9 points in June; 77% of practices expect the level of permanent staff to remain the same over the next three months, 18% expect a decrease (from 26% in May) and 4% anticipate more permanent staff.

There was an increase in prospects across all sectors; the private housing sector returned a figure of -3 (from -40 in May), the commercial sector was at -32 (from -41), the community sector was at -19 (from -33) and the public sector returned a figure of -12 (from -27). Despite pockets of shared optimism, current workloads remain at significantly reduced level – down 28% compared to June 2019. 70% of respondents expect profits to fall over the next 12 months and within that, 7% consider that their practice is unlikely to remain viable.

The findings from this month’s survey also show:

  • 19% of architectural staff have been furloughed – a reduction on last month’s figure of 22%
  • 1% of architectural staff have been made redundant; 1% have been released from a ‘zero hours’, temporary or fixed-term contract.
  • 32% of projects had been put on hold since the start of March.
  • 22% of projects which remain active are at stages 5 or 6 of the RIBA Plan of Work.
  • Among small practices (1 - 10 staff) there were a higher percentage of practices working fewer hours (20%).

RIBA Head of Economic Research and Analysis, Adrian Malleson, said:

“Economic uncertainty remains, with many architects expressing concerns about future workloads and significant challenges ahead. The global pandemic, coupled with the risks of a no-deal Brexit, continues to impact our sector.

However, in June we saw an increase in some architects’ confidence and the early signs of returning workloads. More sites are beginning to reopen and practices, particularly those in the residential sector, reported a sharp rise in new enquires. Design work is being carried out, despite the challenges that come with home working.

The RIBA will continue to advocate on behalf of the profession and provide support to members and practices, to help guide them through this challenging time and build resilience for the future.”

Members with concerns or queries are encouraged to email info@riba.org.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

1. For further press information contact Emily.Stallard@riba.org or 020 7307 3813

2. Completed by a mix of small, medium and large firms based on a geographically representative sample, the RIBA Future Trends Survey was launched in January 2009 to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architects’ profession.

3. The survey is carried out by the RIBA in partnership with the Fees Bureau. Results of the survey, including a full graphical analysis, are published each month here.

4. The definition for the workload balance figure is the difference between those expecting more work and those expecting less. A negative figure means more respondents expect less work than those expecting more work. This figure is used to represent the RIBA Future Trends workload index.

5. The definition for the staffing balance figure is the difference between those expecting to employ more permanent staff in the next three months and those expecting to employ fewer. A negative figure means more respondents expect to employ fewer permanent staff. This figure is used to represent the RIBA Future Trends staffing index.

6. To participate in the RIBA Future Trends Survey, please contact the RIBA Practice Department on 020 7307 3749 or email practice@riba.org. The survey takes approximately five minutes to complete each month, and all returns are independently processed in strict confidence.

7. Visit the RIBA COVID-19 hub for guidance on the COVID-19 outbreak.

8. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates.

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