Many women leave the profession due to the difficult combination of poor work cultures, long hours and low pay. But these conditions affect everyone – women and men – as well as the viability of the profession as a whole. Andrew Maynard sets out the issues and challenges the profession to end exploitative and exclusionary working practices.
It is time for architectural work practices to grow up. We must stop deluding ourselves that architectural employees are anything other than a contemporary exploited labour force.
Epicurus argued that humans needed only three things in life to be happy – friends, freedom and an analysed life. All evidence indicates that Epicurus had a rather good time while he was around. Now he is dead. I wonder if Epicurus became a senior associate at Philosopher & Associates Pty Ltd before he died? Surely this was a priority. Does contemporary architectural employment deny us our happiness; our friends, freedom and the opportunity for an analysed life? Many would argue that being employed in architecture and the pursuit of happiness are irreconcilable. It can reasonably be argued that most architects, and almost all recent graduates, are working in conditions that are unhealthy, unsustainable and exploitative.
At 27, like a surprising number of architecture graduates, I cut and ran from commercial architecture. A number of my peers disappeared into graphic design, 3D rendering, fashion and retail. I did my time and mused that, “Life’s too short. I’ll start my own practice. I won’t work for another architect again.” What I didn’t know at 27 years old was how unlikely it would be that my practice would survive. (It was more luck than anything else, by far, that it did).
We all imagine working for ourselves. We become the authors of our own work, we get the credit for our work and, most importantly, we gain full control of our working conditions. After ten years I now have what could be described as a good work/life balance. My office is an old shop front on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy. I live upstairs with my eight-year-old son and my partner. At 5.30pm all staff leave the office, including myself. On some nights I will return to the office after my son has gone to sleep to play video games (mostly COD, SWTOR and BF3). On very rare occasions (perhaps six times a year) I work at night, however, this is done under very specific conditions: Firstly, I am inspired and, secondly, I want to work.
Most importantly, through planning, management and the ability to turn away bad projects, I never allow myself to be in a position where I need to work after hours. I have manufactured this situation with great difficulty over the years and outside of the norms of architectural practice. To generate this work/life balance I have opted out of the overly competitive and patriarchal environment that contemporary architectural working culture demands. My practice fills a tiny niche and I recognise that it is not financially viable for the profession as a whole to do as I do.
After all, the entire profession cannot relegate itself to working almost exclusively on renos and extensions as I do. Commercial architectural firms are the biggest employers of architects and their slice of the pie continues to increase as we see mid-size practices morph and compress. The vast majority of architects will continue to be employees rather than employers.
There is a strange unspoken, yet ubiquitous, competitiveness within architecture offices. Who will leave first? Who has put in the most hours? Who looks busiest? Who gets along best with the boss? Whose timesheet is full of ‘office’ and ‘admin’ hours?
When I worked for one of Australia’s largest commercial architectural firms I deliberately ignored this internal scrutiny. I did not want to compete with my fellow employees and I did not want to be exploited by my employer. I dedicated myself to producing the best work I could within the constraints of my employment agreement.
I would arrive no earlier than 8.30am. I would have a morning tea break daily. I would never work through lunch. I would try to leave at 5.30pm, ensuring that I was gone before 6pm. I would never work on weekends or public holidays.
This attitude, as expected, put me on a crash course with management. When it was clear that I was going to be uncompromising my employer became passive aggressive and easily rallied a handful of fellow employees against me. I was accused of not being a team player. I was accused of not being committed to my projects. The quiet hostility got to the point where I found it necessary to have my employment agreement front-and-centre on my desk, conveniently flipped to the page stating that my work day ceased at 5.30pm and my right to paid overtime should I work beyond this.
Eventually I surrendered to the realisation that I was very much alone in exercising my rights. At no point during informal reviews of my work and attitude was the quality or quantity of the work I produced in question. I performed my contracted task well and received compliments from fellow employees about the care and rigour of my work. There was no evidence that I did any less work than other employees. However, it became obvious that one idealistic graduate commie upstart like myself was not going to change the exploitative office culture of one of Australia’s biggest firms. So I left.
But why was my insistence to work within the time limits, protected by my employment agreement, so confronting and provocative to my employer and so threatening to a handful of fellow employees?
Working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communication. 1
A number of unique conditions, and abundant false logic, leaves young architects exposed to exploitation. Perhaps it’s our left-of-centre university indoctrination to be egalitarian, generous and servants of society and the city? Could it be that ‘all-nighters’ are considered the norm and time management is seen as the enemy of creativity at university? It could be the illusion that one must suffer for their art. Is it simply the need to conform to an office culture?
Regardless, there is the belief that architecture is a profession that demands all or nothing. We are even led to believe that we are working in an industry whose margins are so tight that its very survival is reliant on donated time of architectural employees.
These factors contribute to the ongoing exclusion of many parts of our diverse community; there are many individuals within our community who cannot donate their time due to family or other external commitments. Inclusion of these individuals outside of the architectural norm would no doubt enrich the architectural profession.
Arguably the most pervasive element enabling exploitative office culture is the postmodern trickery of the contemporary working environment. Slavoj Žižek argues that modern employment tactics create the illusion that our employer is our friend. This fabrication empowers the employer while denying the employed the right to vocalise and protest dissatisfaction of their working conditions. “You’re not going to stick around and help out? I thought we were a team? I thought we were friends?”
Žižek suggests that the environment of the workplace has been twisted, using architectural devices, to manipulate employees. Kitchens, ‘break-out spaces’, lounges, free food, free coffee – he postulates that this is a postmodern sleight of hand designed to manipulate and disarm staff. By fabricating the illusion of employer as friend, the employed is denied the opportunity to protest, argue, fight, be adversarial and demand more of their working conditions. These informal spaces are political spaces of control, surveillance and manipulation.
Architectural employees operate within a specific set of broken logic principles that leave them open to exploitation. We tell ourselves ;
If I work longer hours I will get promoted and paid better.
Architects are often the lowest paid person on the building site and the only ones willing to donate their leisure time for free.
I will one day start my own practice.
The proliferation of small practices and their significant cull rate illustrates a pathology unsupported by economic logic.
I’ll rise through the ranks of management.
Architects are a labour force, not a set of managers. The most insidious trick in the corporate world was to begin calling everyone a manager, executive or senior something or other. This created the illusion that everyone was on a relatively even plane with their employer.
We must suffer for our art.
We are suffering for our employers’ profit. After all, how much of your time is spent being the ‘artist’? I spend around 7% of my time being the ‘artist’. I refuse to suffer and sacrifice for all the other stuff.
Long hours make the project better.
Long hours may produce a greater quantity of information, but corporate research suggests that working long hours drastically reduces quality and soon becomes a liability.
My employer is suffering equally for the good of the project.
Each unpaid hour of overtime you work is profit to your employer. Though an employer may articulate otherwise, profit plays a fundamental role in encouraging an environment of extended working hours. If one of my team did an extra hour I could only think “thanks for that extra $210 you just gave me”.
Architectural practices cannot afford to pay overtime.
Like so many other professions, the architectural profession would adapt. It would remodel its spreadsheets. So is the nature of capitalism.
Other professions, such as law, demand extended hours – why not architecture?
Law is one of a handful of professions that has a cultural predilection for extended hours. The fundamental difference between law and architecture is that lawyers are typically paid very well.
Creativity doesn’t necessarily happen between 9am to 5pm.
How creative are you between 5.30pm and 8.30pm? Let me answer that for you; you are not creative at all, you are in fact tired, hungry and keen for a beer. You may get a burst of creative energy at 2am, but those moments are rare and fleeting and they don’t need you to be sitting in your employer’s office for them to emerge.
Once you allow yourself and the staff around you to work past your contracted period of employment you are enabling a culture of exploitation. A commercial office is an instrument to make money not art. There is a hint that gives this fact away – it’s the word ‘commercial’. Yet it is within the practice of commercial architecture that we see the greatest amount of unpaid work and we see the greatest donation of leisure time to an employer.
Deferred Happiness Syndrome and a shift to an Epicurian mode of thinking.
During my time at a commercial architecture office I anecdotally noticed specific behavioural shifts among new young employees.
- As employees worked longer hours their friends became those that they were working with. Is this because they saw their other friends less? This overlay between colleague and friend helps reinforce an office culture of extended working hours.
- Most employees trade their freedom either through a competitive desire to rise through the ranks or a conformity to office culture and the fear of being seen as an uncommitted team member.
- An analysed life. Clive Hamilton writes of the endemic nature of deferred happiness now ingrained within Australian culture: “(a) widespread propensity of Australians to persist with life situations that are difficult, stressful and exhausting in the belief that the sacrifice will pay off in the longer term”. If one worked fewer hours then perhaps one could spend more time exploring an Epicurian ‘analysed life’.
Hamilton argues that the motivations for deferring happiness are various.
- Growing aspirations for more expensive lifestyles, reflected in rapidly increasing house prices, are dominating some people’s lives. The desire to stay in this race leads many to work longer and harder, often at the cost of other aspects of their wellbeing.
- Some workers feel a powerful need to accumulate as much as they can in preparation for their retirement. This is especially prevalent among men in their forties and fifties.
- Some workers are stuck in demanding jobs because they are fearful of the consequences should they change. They become habituated to the stresses and pressures, perhaps until a health problem or some crisis at work or home forces them to consider alternatives.
Within architecture, we should be attempting to erode the competitive aspirational illusion of grinding our way through the ranks or aspiring to all working for ourselves.
Instead we collectively need to start concentrating on securing fair and reasonable working conditions that support a healthy, rewarding and creative lifestyle. One can and should argue that selling one’s daylight hours to an employer must be fully rewarded and no part should be offered for free.
Currently architectural employees appear to have two options of attaining a good work/life balance:
(1) work for oneself and take the very real risk that one may go broke at anytime
(2) leave the profession.
These issues obviously threaten the long-term relevance of the profession. Unsustainable work practices and poor working conditions are a significant part of the overall viability of the profession into the future.
Quite simply, if you are paid to work until 5.30pm then stop work at 5.30pm. You may be able to work for much longer, you may be keen to work longer, you may dream of becoming an associate or one day a director, but along the way you are contributing to an exploitative and exclusive work environment.Footnotes
- Valve Software employee manual.↩
May 14, 2012
Thanks for that Andrew. We’re an office that sends all out staff out the door by 6 at the latest but I thought we were alone! If they insist on staying, we insist on them taking time in lieu, and we make them do it in the same week most times. We’ve been influenced not only by our own desires for a good life but also by my brother in law, a psychologist who has studied productivity and effectiveness. He says you can really only work well doing ‘brain work’ for about 4 hours a day. After that productivity drops radically and continually, so there is really no justification for the long work hours culture! And if the culture of work could be shifted to accept this, then the stigma felt by part timers (women AND men) would no longer exist because part time (say 28 hours a week) would become the new full time !!
And now I think you’ve challenged us to kick people out the door by 5.30pm. The short work hours challenge! Andrew Maynard has set the (low) bar. Who will match it? Who can beat it ? It’ll do more for women’s equality in the workplace than so many other tactics we’ve all tried.
May 15, 2012
Thanks for posting what’s on the collective mind of many. I worked a first career in manufacturing and resisted imbalance to the point of advising my employer that they could suspend every single raise I would ever get, but my family time was, and would always be, more important. Fast forward – boss retired, I got shuffled around for years. Later on, I had a terrible attitude, more or less daring to be fired. I came in late, left early, told my then boss he had terrible ideas over the course of about a year. I was called into a meeting fearing the worst. It was such a Dilberesque existence that I really didn’t care at that point. I got promoted with a salary increase to match! I gave notice less than a week later and haven’t regretted a moment. It hasn’t be easy, but no regrets.
May 15, 2012
NICE ONE ANDREW.
I wish I were as rigorous as you!
This is a great piece.
The culture of selling ourselves short as a profession is long standing, and, as you point out, starts with the competitive nature drilled into students in architecture school – the start of the “all-nighter” culture.
Some additional stats for those who care to read on …
– 1 hr o’time per day every day (so easy to do, arrive 15 mins early, take short lunch, stay extra half hour) = more than EIGHT WEEKS unpaid leave per year (assuming one has actually taken four weeks leave) ~ great for the profit margin, bad for the staff.
– On a large “award- winning” project I once worked on, overtime was unpaid and officially “unrecorded”, I instructed the team to record the hours on time-sheets, depending on how you read those documents the project either made a ‘very small’ profit OR a big loss (avoided in this case).
I am sure you’ve all read this from Annie Choi (it’s on our toilet wall here in the office).
Paul McGillick says:
May 15, 2012
These are insightful comments – and made with conviction. The disease, of course, is not restricted to architecture (try the architecture and design press for a start) and the symptoms are always the same (and perfectly described by Andrew). For those who made it to the Architects’ Conference last week, the issues raised here will resonate with the comments made by Kjetil Thorsten from Snohetta when he described so brilliantly how his own practice is run. There they go home at 5.00 pm – no exceptions! And the work – grunt and creative – is shared and not dumped exclusively on the graduate architects. His snapshot of Snohetta was an insight into the benefits of running a company which provides the space for reflection and genuine collaboration. And few will argue about the quality of the results in the case of Snohetta.
May 27, 2012
Paul – look to your own backyard mate! A year ago your magazines paid your contributors 60 cents a word – ten cents less that Monument was paying 5 years ago I might add. Calculated on the basis that a 1000 word article takes about a week to write, the hourly rate works out at less than $20. Don’t wish to detract from Andrew’s brilliant, timely (and well-written) article, but design writers are even worse off than the lowliest-paid architecture graduates – and 18 year old shop assistants for that matter.
May 16, 2012
I really enjoyed your piece and I’m sure like many others, I had basically the exact same experience. I graduated from my architecture BA in summer 2010, and interned straight after that at a very famous starchitecture office (suffice it to say that it was in Holland).
I’m going to be starting a PhD in Comparative Literature in the next academic year (I’ve always been very literary anyway so it’s not AS bitter as it sounds!).
I wrote a piece at that time to get out some of my frustrations, and I’ve only shown it to close friends in the past. But since it resonates so much with what I’ve read, I wanted to show it to ‘parlour’ members too.
Best of luck with your practice.
May 16, 2012
Thanks, Very well paper to answer to the balance of life.
In my business life, all I see that a success in any business and project is : Experience, Focus & Creativity
Long OTime is a illusion for these 3 factors but actually, its not.
To have focus, you need concentration during the working hours, however, if the time is too long, you are lossing your attention.
Experience and sense is gained through communication and observation, not just by first hand. A movie or a chatting with your best friends will give you insights. Watching a photo taken by someone in BBC will not only enjoyment but also new dimensions to me.
All I found is: a psychological healthly person always outperform a tired, boring lifes guy. Creativity is our imgaination which is not available to a blocked and full loaded mind.
Thanks for sharing,
May 17, 2012
Disregard the bad title – the book ‘Why Work Sucks’ is worth a read. The central idea of the book is creating a results oriented work environment which allows for greater flexibility for employees in choosing when and where they work.
May 17, 2012
I’m sorry Mr Maynard, but this reads like a rant by a disgruntled ex-employee who is upset he didn’t get made an associate at 27 because he thought he was so brilliant.
You need to get over it mate, and drop the simplistic undergraduate industrial relations politics.
It must be so easy for you as a hipster in Fitzroy having the luxury of cherrypicking rennos for yuppie toffs (probably rich family friends) to rant on about graduate ‘rights’.
Touch wood, when your company expands and gets a real large job with real clients, with real budgets and real deadlines and you and your employees need to work your asses off to meet these deadlines or you all DO NOT get paid. Then when you do finish, have to hire lawyers to get your money… Lets see if you can maintain your fairyland office nirvana, then I may listen to you and take you seriously.
May 17, 2012
Thanks for the note WM. This issue is not about me. This issue is about the vast majority of young architects, women and those outside of the stereotypical architecture model that are being pushed out of the profession. You must admit that this is not only bad for them but also for the ongoing viability of the profession. Don’t you think? I understand that “times are tough” and practices are suffering. I empathise with you. However a rough economic climate is never an excuse for requiring staff to work in poor conditions.
In my own defence I offer this; It is a common mistake to make that I inherited a network of wealthy family friends in Melbourne. I can understand that this is a convenient leap to make. The reality however is far less glamourous. I grew up in regional Tasmania, son of a hardware salesman and a full time mum. I moved to Melbourne with no network at all and naively started a practice that relied completely on me busting a nut to survive. I often get accused of being a media slut (which is mostly true) however this was the only way I could manufacture a sustainable network out of nothing. At around the 5th year of my practice I almost packed it in. I had burnout. I was stressed. It was all too much. Luckily Mark, the now co-director of AMA, came along and took a big chunk of the load.
You are spot on, running a practice is painful stuff I have deliberately avoided and turned down larger work simply because I knew that it opened the can of worms that you have described. I knew bigger work would fuck up my work/life balance.
Throughout the years I have also deliberately made it all sound positive and easy. Why would I air the litigation attempts the fights with clients, builders, consultants, councils, the unpaid bills and that 75% of projects go nowhere. Running an architecture firm is hard enough, bitching about it and becoming cynical simply makes it worse. But of course this is all we ever hear, “practice is hard, woe is us at the top of the food chain”. How about we turn our focus on employees for awhile?
Good luck with your practice and keep your chin up.
May 17, 2012
I’m interviewing lots of people for this project and hearing stories about lots of different firms that they have worked in. Some firms with large projects are brilliantly managed and resourced and long hours are defintely not the norm; and they make money. There might be the occasional later night and odd weekend but it’s not the office culture.
And there are other firms which are run on a chaos principle where long hours are expected to cover for the fact that no one is able to organize anything. For others the long hours are about sheer exploitation so that the principals can have seriously large incomes.
It doesn’t have to be that way and arguing that architecture is an art and therefore one must suffer for it… Well the best slaves are the ones that beat themselves.
May 17, 2012
You will find the ‘simplistic undergraduate industrial relations politics’ are in fact law. To pull the conversation back to gender – women leave the profession in such high numbers partly because their work and labour is not treated with respect in so many workplaces. Many go on to highly successful careers in other fields. (See Carla Corotto’s ‘Opting out of Architecture’ https://parlour.org.au/women-opting-out-of-architecture/ Indeed, the viability of the profession itself is endangered by the blind acceptance of illegal and exploitative work practices. We also know that some larger, commercially viable firms are successfully managed without resorting to poor workplace and management practices. We hope to hear from them too. Finally, can I remind all readers of the Parlour etiquette when commenting. We want robust discussion, but personal attacks are not acceptable.
May 17, 2012
I completly agree with Andrew’s opinion here. I have been working insane hours for the last couple of years for many of the reasons listed above. I have however matured to a point where I am begining to not only question what it is doing to me at a personal level but when a collective does it then what are teh implications on the industry?
After many many long and lonely hours in the office I have realised I am not as social as I used to be, slighly reclusive and begining to talk to myself (not yet answering myself, so no need for concern. I feel that such reclusive behaviour puts architects so out of touch with the society they are meant to be creating for!
Additional to this the social, cultural and personal blinkering we do when putting in long hours can lead to the narrowing of inspiration, influence and thinking which I believe also leads to the narrowing of our ideas.
My entire university studies were dedicated to anti-capatist adjendas, questioning the role of the architect, the requirements of space and notions of anarchy and freedom yet my entire professional career has to date been the complete opposite.
Sounds like it is time for change.
May 17, 2012
Sad to see some negative comments over this article – not so much a gender issue, but one beginning to address recent notions of work-life balance and how that impacts on all staff in architectural practice. The thrust of the article, as I read it, is that it’s time for some shared responsibility to tackle the conveniently mythologised exploitation of many employees.
Seriously – the tired old garbage that gets spouted about “real jobs”, “real deadlines” and “real budgets” determining that firms must rely on unpaid overtime to finish projects at the expense of one’s health, productivity and general satisfaction with practice is insulting, illogical and – frankly – an embarrassment to the profession.
If we cannot adjust to current project timelines within the legal parameters of the workplace, then surely we have a professional obligation to advise our clients that it cannot be achieved. Or to employ more people. Or not take on work you know you can’t perform. Is this really a disgruntled rant? Or just basic economic sense?
If we cannot run our business at a profit within the law, when do we as architects start to push back??
May 17, 2012
“If we cannot run our business at a profit within the law, when do we as architects start to push back??”
Law? Evidence of this please.
push back? you mean make the profession redundant? kill architecture? hand it over to the drones? speak to any artist to gain true perspective. These people know what true sacrifice for your love is all about. Is Architecture not an art form?
May 17, 2012
I think that’s actually a good point WM. Is architecture a labour of love and an art form or a profession? I’d argue that as it involves a lengthy qualification period and payment for services, it’s a profession. It’s not unreasonable to expect to be paid within the legal award.
You speak of the law, the following is an extract from the Architects Award 2010 (http://www.fwa.gov.au/documents/modern_awards/award/MA000079/default.htm),
“19.1 The ordinary hours of duty of an employee must not exceed 38 per week, to be worked between 8.00 am and 6.00 pm Monday to Friday inclusive. Provided that the spread of ordinary hours may be altered by agreement between an employer and the majority of employees in the establishment, section or sections concerned.
An employer must compensate an employee for all time worked in excess of normal hours of duty by:
(a) granting time off instead or by payment for such excess time within six months of it accruing. Payment for such excess time must be in accordance with clause 19.2(b);
(b) payment for such excess hours at the rate of time and a half; or
(c) by such other arrangements as may be agreed so long as the arrangement is not entered into for the purpose of avoiding award obligations, does not result in unfairness to the employee and is recorded in accordance with clause 19.3.
19.3 Agreements under this clause must be recorded in writing and kept as part of the time and wages records.”
Food for thought.
May 17, 2012
Timely article considering that this problem runs across many industries, not just architecture. As a freelancer with a partner who is also a freelancer, I’m constantly confronted with the “when should I stop working tonight?” problem. As a woman who just turned 30, I also have to seriously consider where I want my life to go and whether I want children. Or do I even have time for children? Managing your own business with or without employees is hard enough. It’s about time we all seriously acknowledged the fact that there is life outside work. How can anyone truly be creative or inspired if you’re forever enclosed within your work bubble?
May 17, 2012
Andrew. (thank you!!)
• I believe we (architects) live very isolated from the real world, when it comes to negotiation of any kind (fees, time, position, clients) we are very inefficient. We seem not to have enough power and respect in the industry because we lack of information (information is power) and yet our industry (construction) it’s one of the most profitable ones. We just don’t get to see the big picture, therefore it’s impossible for us to negotiate with clients, employees, and employers and bring the best to our practices. The office culture you described I have also lived for many years in large and small practices in Melbourne and Sydney. The GFC (global Financial Crisis) forced me to lose my job more than once, I had experienced no compassion when it comes to unemployment, (and that’s the real world!) long working hours didn’t make a difference when payroll needed to be reduced. Some other industries (eng. manuf. fin) did foreseen the GFC 1 year before it happened, (“information is power”), ….. most architecture practices knew about this with very little time before it happened in Australia!!!, They reduced the payroll (their biggest assets!!, their long hours poor working employees) ….thinking this was the only solution to the problem. I believe this shows how disconnected we are from to the real world, and from business management. How can we demand more from our clients (fees, deadlines, etc) and the construction industry if we don’t understand the variables in which they operate? …… same scenario happens within our practices (not time management or efficiency) ….. and universities….. (isolation….) even our National Conference, very little collaboration from other fields during the talks…… sociology, economics, politics, business…. and yet we work to produce living environments of the real world. (a world base in collaboration)
I’m back in architecture, I’m about to open a new practice, I have studied various courses about finances. MBA (half way), during the crisis produced a channel 31 program with 61,000 people watching it unemployed and with volunteers working as a team to produce it….. had done sales in real estate dealing with the real sharks and problems in our industry…..yet architecture has all the potential to give us a real purpose, a very noble one…… little I care now about climbing the ladder within a workplace in architecture (cause it’s not real), or being unemployed, been there done that.. 😉 what I don’t have thanks to the GFC and large nasty practices, plus my ex-bosses big egos,…. it’s fear…. 😉
May 23, 2012
To slightly expand on my comment and to heed justine’s request to bring it back to gender; i would like to re-title Andrew’s piece as work/life/gender balance. More reasonable hours mean more women are able to participate.
May 29, 2012
I have to confess, I’m one of those women who ‘opted out’. Finished uni, registered, worked for a couple of great architecture firms, then started a part time MBA at Australia’s top business school. After years of trial and error across different professions I now have a fantastic role working in urban policy development for government. It’s a dream job, I get paid 18 weeks maternity leave(!), never work overtime, and have extremely flexible working arrangements around my toddler’ life.
Not once in 15 years have I done unpaid overtime. Except my ‘year out’ where my pathetic student salary had to be topped by weekend work as a waitress, and any extra hours I did in the office were for free. I decided never again!
My first postgrad job I was fortunate to be paid overtime. After 4 years there, I refused to work for anyone who expected more hours for free. Even in the property banking sector (I worked as GM for a listed company) I never did overtime.
I think it’s an attitude thing. Set your expectations, make them clear, and be consistent.
I also make my employees leave on time (or start late) and take time in leiu. It’s only fair, and keeps me (and them) loving the job.
A. Wilson says:
Jun 5, 2012
I happened to stumble across an article titled “Why We Have to go Back to a 40 Hour Work Week to Keep Our Sanity“, when my (architect) husband was out late at work for the 3rd night in a row, I read it at about 11pm, he didn’t get home until 2am. It was a rather depressing coincidence.
I do wonder if the profession is changing somewhat though. My employers are pretty insistent on leaving at 6pm because they remember working in offices where they had to work crazy hours and they hated it. Part of how they get us to work reasonable hours is that they make decisions and stick to them, they don’t constantly fiddle and re-design and generally make their employees lives difficult. They are an award winning practice by the way.
anna D says:
Jun 29, 2012
I am also in a relationship with an architect. He graduated 5 years ago now. It’s been quite a shock to witness the industry, I must say. He worked crazy hours for the first few years and was treated like shit. Then when he finally got sick the director got the shits with him over it – he had one day off! – and was told by the director ‘if you can walk, I want you in here.’ Unbelievable! His next jobs were better, but still, it is stressful, long hours, at least 10 hours a week unpaid overtime and low pay.
I read Andrew’s article, showed it to my partner and encouraged him to leave at 5.30. Turns out that about 1 month later he has been told ‘bye, bye’. No more job. The things is, if one person puts their foot down and tries to change the entrenched culture – great – but the firm he was at got about 10 calls a day from people looking for work – and they know that they can get people to work long hours for them for nothing. I still agree with Andrew – I think the culture is very exploitative and needs to change. I wish I knew how that was going to happen.
Sarie Tardif says:
Nov 25, 2014
I would love to work for you! Your employees are so lucky.