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Third RIBA COVID-19 survey: key findings

How is the crisis continuing to impact the profession? Read the summary of findings from our third survey, carried out between October and November 2020.

03 December 2020

Between October and November 2020, over 200 architects responded to the RIBA’s third coronavirus survey to share their experiences on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on them as professionals, on their practices and projects.

Many of these issues will feel familiar. A large part of the profession continues to be affected by additional personal stresses on areas such as increased working hours and a disruption to work/life balance. The news has been filled with headlines on the potential associated with various vaccines for COVID-19. Until there is any certainty on that front, government decisions on lockdown measures and financial support are at the forefront of the mind of architects.

People

Changes to lockdown rules, a shift to greater numbers of people working from home, and job uncertainty is impacting on work/life balances. This is not just likely a reflection of increased working hours but shifts in personal circumstances. Since the second RIBA coronavirus survey in May schools have largely reopened, and while this may have made working life easier for some architects with children, many survey respondents stated that they still had additional caring responsibilities to manage around their working lives.

  • Only 4% of respondents said that they hadn't experienced changes to their own lives as a result of the pandemic
  • There has been a significant shift in working hours, with 45% of respondents stating that their hours have increased and 23% seeing a reduction in working hours
  • 40% of people reported that their work/life balance has gotten worse, against the 25% of respondents that state that they have seen an improvement
  • Even in places where employment has remained stable for architects, economic uncertainty is causing problems in the wider economy, with 55% of respondent reporting a reduction in household income
  • 48% of respondents are reporting a negative impact on mental health: an increasing issue within the profession, up from the 39% in May and 23% in March.
  • Additionally, 34% have reported an impact on their physical health

The RIBA has published a guide to looking after mental health and wellbeing, as part of our advice and guidance on dealing with coronavirus.

Practices

Coronavirus has had a significant shift in the way that many people work across the economy. The RIBA’s Future Trends surveys closely monitor shifts in business confidence. This includes a slow return to confidence from the historic lows in April 2020.

  • 25% of respondents believe their employer has navigated changes to the workplace well
  • However, 10% of respondents stated that they believed that their practice was not following good or lawful employment practices

The RIBA’s Recovery Roadmap offers a digest of resources to support practices in responding to current challenges on different areas of their business. Architects that are concerned about the practices of their employers should report it to the relevant authorities, such as the RIBA, HMRC, or ARB.

Projects

Economic disruption continues to disrupt construction projects, with 7 out of 10 respondents reporting project delays, and half reporting project cancellations.

Construction sites have been instructed to remain open during lockdown. With new measures coming into effect across nations, we asked architects to tell us where they would feel the greatest effect.

  • Unsurprisingly, lockdown of construction sites would be deemed to have the most significant impact, with 52% of respondents citing this as a cause of disruption
  • 39% stated that rescinding access to private residencies for work purposes would be disruptive – the second highest response
  • One third of architects stated that closing schools/childcare facilities would be disruptive – a finding that is in line with concerns about shifting working hours and negative impacts on work/life balance

Policy

Government support, on a regional and national level, has aimed to support businesses and individuals through the ongoing impacts of coronavirus. We asked architects what the priorities for current and future government support would be:

  • Survey results showed that nearly 7 in 10 architects want to see measures to keep people in employment
  • 52% want to see greater investment in public sector projects
  • Half of respondents want greater clarity in lockdown measures
  • 46% wanted the introduction of higher standards in areas such as sustainability
  • 42% wanted further flexibility in the planning system to accommodate for delays

The RIBA continues to publish updates on its work to lobby government on core issues such as coronavirus, Brexit, and sustainability.

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