The effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have permeated almost every aspect of our lives, from our environment to our economy, and to our collective and individual physical and mental health.
For all of society – including the architecture profession and particularly our members – looking after our mental health is now more important than ever.
In recognition of World Mental Health Day on 10 October 2020, we collated a range of resources for our members. This includes practical guidance and support as well as articles and projects which investigate and discuss the link between good design and mental health and wellbeing.
Supporting mental wellbeing
At the beginning of the pandemic, we spoke with Architect Priya Aiyer, wellbeing ambassador for Architects Benevolent Society (ABS), to explore some of the challenges working from home presents to our personal and professional lives. In this blog, Priya shares a series of strategies architects can use to keep a healthy work-life balance.
What is it about the architecture profession that affects mental health specifically? What have we learned about mental wellbeing during the coronavirus pandemic that we can take back into the workplace? How can we look after our own wellbeing?
In this podcast, architects Jane Duncan OBE from Jane Duncan Architects, Priya Aiyer from Mace and Sean Peacock, Head of HR at Stride Treglown, discuss mental health and architectural practice.
There has been a growing recognition of mental health issues in professional environments over the past few years and, encouragingly, more and more employers are aware and understanding of the pressures that mount up on their staff.
If you don't feel comfortable talking to your employer, however, contacting the welfare team at Architects Benevolent Society (ABS) is an alternative route. The ABS gives people a chance to talk about their situation and discuss the next step to accessing help and support confidentially. It has a well-established partnership with Anxiety UK that offers Mental Health Support via the charity’s UK-wide network of therapists.
To help practice leaders support staff during this time, we worked with the Architects’ Mental Wellbeing Forum (AMWF) to create a COVID-19 support toolkit for architects.
We also spoke to several members of Assael Architecture, a practice which chairs the AMWF. Drawing on additional guidance in the AMWF Architects’ Mental Wellbeing Toolkit, we have pulled together five areas of focus for practice leaders including top tips to help them keep staff happy, healthy and motivated.
Support for students
Created in partnership with the Architects Benevolent Society (ABS) this video features a facilitated discussion with a panel of speakers including students, practice leaders and mental health experts, as they discuss the topic of uncertainty and mental health.
Hosted by students from Nottingham University Architecture Society, this podcast focuses on mental wellbeing while studying architecture. In a discussion with Melissa Kirkpatrick, Part 2 Architectural Assistant, and Ben Channon, RIBA Chartered Architect, Head of Wellbeing at Assael Architecture and Author of 'Happy by Design', they examine factors in education that contribute to poor mental health and how students are affected.
Designing for mental health
Designing buildings for healthy people is innately linked to a prosperous natural environment. We spoke to interior designer and author of Wellbeing in Interiors: philosophy, design and value in practice Elina Grigoriou and architect and author of Biomimicry in Architecture Michael Pawlyn on why they both believe this to be the case.
Elina argues that the three pillars of sustainability, as advocated by the UN, are intended to represent the intersection of environmental, economic and social factors. As architects strive, though, to achieve challenging technical environmental targets in relation to the climate emergency, the quality of life of buildings inhabitants can all too easily be overlooked.
In this feature, Ben Channon talks about how findings from neuroscience and psychology can be incorporated into design choices. A resident’s sense of control over their environment, for example, should be a fundamental consideration for a project: placing the user first should be at the heart of a design.
In the summer of 2020, the RIBA commissioned a survey of 1,500 homeowners, aged 24 to 64, from across the UK to investigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on how people want to live and work at home.
The survey results reveal that homeowners are demanding environmentally efficient properties that better support their new ways of living, as well as their mental health, happiness and family cohesion.
Working with a range of expert spokespeople, including Eleanor Ratcliffe, Environmental Psychologist and Lecturer at University of Surrey, and Ben Channon, RIBA Chartered Architect, Head of Wellbeing at Assael Architecture and author of book, Happy By Design, the RIBA will be using the results of the topical survey as a discussion point with the media – promoting the impactful role that RIBA Chartered Architects and Practices play in creating good design in support of mental health and wellbeing in our homes.