The Wellbeing of Architects project has released two major focus group reports, now available for download. Both the Practitioner and Student reports cover a wide range of complex issues and discuss solutions and ways forward for the profession.
The focus group study built on the findings of the major practitioner and student surveys conducted in 2021. This identified a range of issues, including time management (deadlines, long hours, overtime), financial and resource management (fees charged, remuneration paid), and the broader societal and individual valuation of architectural services. Parlour is currently working with The Wellbeing of Architects research team on a series of Guides to Wellbeing that tackle these themes.
Practitioner focus group report
The Practitioner report outlines findings from a series of focus groups from May and June 2022 with nearly 70 people working in Australian architecture. The focus groups set out to examine the survey themes in more depth: to explore a more nuanced, qualitative and conversational approach to those themes, through the lived experience and direct expression of people working in the architectural profession. The ultimate aim was to explore ideas for solutions and resources to better support wellbeing in these areas.
The report reveals how working in architecture has had both positive and negative effects on the wellbeing of people, often in complex ways that intersect. The report is brought to life by insightful excerpts from the discussions.
The research shows that there are many aspects of working in architecture that positively impact practitioners, notably a sense of passion and fulfilment gained from contributing to people’s lives and communities through their work. Participants also found satisfaction in the process of the work itself, including complex problem solving, close collaboration, the continual learning involved, and the diversity of roles available in practice.
The focus groups also described a range of complex issues that negatively impact their wellbeing, notably the ways that time and labour are managed in practice, stressors within the wider industry such as low fees and procurement practices, and negative perceptions of value. Overwhelmingly, the perception was that architectural practitioners have little or no formal management training, and this is the source of compounding issues at many levels of experience.
The contributors emphasised the correlation between low fees and the compromised capacity for a practice to appropriately fund labour, with the flow-on effect of long-hours, unpaid labour, financial losses, stress and anxiety.
Student focus group report
The Student report presents the findings of a series of focus groups in April and May 2022, conducted with 21 students studying architecture. Discussions covered the effect of study on student wellbeing and suggestions for improving the wellbeing of people studying architecture.
Themes that emerged out of these sessions included studio culture (norms, expectations, pressure and passion); personal concessions and sacrifice; equity and empathy; identity and affiliation; independence and support; autonomy and growth; and self-comparison. There were also broader explorations of structural processes, models and support mechanisms, as well as suggestions for improving wellbeing for students of architecture.