The surprising struggles for architectural studios post lockdown

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As we finally start to see light at the end of the tunnel, architectural practices across the UK are feeling far more optimistic about future prospects and are incredibly busy with new work. For many firms who had reduced their headcount during the pandemic, they are actively looking to rebuild their teams from what they expect to be a large pool of talented architects who were made redundant during the recession. This however couldn’t be further from the truth. Following Brexit, sadly it was very noticeable how many EU architects had decided the UK was not where they saw their future and the pandemic expedited the decision to leave. With far fewer Architects also coming to the UK and the dramatic increase in workload, firms are coming out of a big recession without the ready workforce many expect.

The above in theory should result in a perfect candidate’s market where they get to pick and choose from a selection of jobs offering higher salaries, flexible working arrangements and strong career progression. Sadly, although firms are desperate to recruit, in many instances, their hands are tied and confidence is still quite short term. Most of our clients comment on projects only getting a commitment to move forward one stage at a time before having to bid again. Fees are very tight and with a lot of staff still working from home, it is difficult to provide training and the career progression many are seeking. Studios, therefore, tend to be very risk-averse and are only looking for Architects who require minimal training to get up to speed. Candidates will often have to have experience within a very similar role, on similar projects and using the right CAD system. Although salaries have probably regained their losses from last year, it doesn’t feel like they are making the leap forward many are hoping for and often candidates are deciding it is not worth risking the move for a similar position with no real change in package. Although we are always receiving enquiries from Architects looking to work client-side due to the better pay scales, this has certainly increased recently and will further reduce the talent pool. It will be interesting to see whether, over the next few months, the need to hire will reach a point where firms have to relax their requirements and do more to attract the best staff.

Apart from salaries, one contentious area that will become a battleground will be around flexible working arrangements. Following the recent easing of lockdown restrictions, there has been a noticeable increase in staff returning to the office. This appears to be starting with 3 days/week in the studio and 2 days of flexible working which I expect will be a very positive start for more junior architectural assistants who have probably missed out the most during the last year and had careers put on hold. Many more senior staff however have preferred the flexibility of home working and have no desire to return to the office 5 days/week. Practices are therefore weighing up whether they can create a company culture, mentor junior team members, provide training and keep productivity high without staff being in the studio full-time.

If you have found your career has been put on hold during the pandemic and are considering new options, although salaries are still struggling, we are witnessing a very high number of jobs from some particularly high-quality studios at the moment. If you would like to discuss further, do give us a call or take a look at some of the latest opportunities below.









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