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Workload expectations hit historic low – RIBA Future Trends April 2020

14 May 2020

The latest RIBA Future Trends survey results show the worsening impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the architecture and construction industries.

During April 2020, the RIBA Future Trends Workload Index dropped to an historic low, with a balance figure of -82 (from -11 in March). Architects’ workloads are 33% less than they were twelve months ago.

84% per cent of architects expect their workload to fall in the next three months with balance figures ranging from -80 for small practices to -100 for large practices.

All work sectors and all regions also showed a significant drop in confidence. The private housing sector fell furthest from -7 to -72; the commercial sector fell from -5 to -60 and the community sector fell from -8 to -50.

The Staffing Index also saw the largest monthly drop on record from 0 to -30 with 31% of practices (saying they expected to employ fewer full-time staff in the next three months. 68% said they expect staffing levels to stay the same.

Survey results also indicate:

  • 39% of projects have been put on hold since the 1st March.
  • Of the projects that remain active, 21% are at stages 5 or 6 of the RIBA Plan of Work - so vulnerable to site restrictions.
  • 14% of practice architectural staff have been furloughed.
  • 29% of small practice staff (1 - 10 staff) are working fewer hours.

RIBA Executive Director Professional Services, Adrian Dobson, said:

“This is a crisis is like no other. While a reduction in architects’ confidence has previously been an early indicator of a contraction in the construction sector – because design work comes first – this time, work on site was immediately disrupted.

Workload recovery will depend on the speed and nature of our move out of lockdown, and on how much architectural and construction capacity has been preserved.

As the sector adapts to new ways of working, the RIBA will lobby for continued protection of jobs and businesses and push the Government to invest in the housing and public sector projects the country desperately needs. This also means harnessing the expertise of architects who have the skills to re-mobilise communities and enable safe returns to workplaces and school.

We will continue to advocate on behalf of the profession and ensure members have the guidance and information they need to navigate the coming weeks and months.”

Members with any concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak are encouraged to email


Notes to editors:

1. For further press information contact

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 email 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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