30.03.2020 Jakob Schoof

Digital Pioneers and Destitute Employees: Covid-19 and the British Architects

More than one-third of all architects receive no pay in cases of illness; 15% are still required to appear for work, and 35% have already had projects cancelled or put on the back burner. This is a rough impression of the results of a survey carried out among nearly 600 architects and published by Architects’ Journal on 24 March. 

Thirty-seven per cent of those surveyed indicated that they will no longer receive their regular pay should they contract covid-19. Unlike in Germany, in Britain there is no continued pay for employees who become ill, but only statutory minimum sick pay of just under £100 pounds a week unless different, more generous stipulations have been outlined in the employment contract. This is often unaffordable for employers, and particularly for smaller architecture studios.

For many British architects, the road to the home office has clearly been an easy one: more than 35% of respondents indicated that all their employees are now working from home. A further 25% said that most of their employees are now working in their home offices. However, for 15% of the studios, nothing has changed, and a few of the respondents told the surveyors that their superiors are still forcing them to go to work in person. With London’s long commutes, this is often impossible without the − currently dangerous − public transport system.

Naturally, teamwork from home offices can seldom be organized without some sacrifices. British architects expect to see the most significant losses in productivity (24% of all respondents), communication (22%) and team coordination (19%).

Among the most frequent software solutions used by British architects working from home, it is no surprise to see CAD programs, the Adobe Creative Suite and − with some limitations − BIM. The long-term consequences of the coronavirus are naturally unclear. Nonetheless, 33% of the architects reported that some of their projects have been put on ice, while 2% have had construction projects stopped and 38% expect projects to soon be put on hold or even cancelled. In addition, more than half of those surveyed said that they expect to have to work from home for at least two months, or that they will lose their current jobs entirely.

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