29 April 2020

The Architecture and Interior Design industry are experiencing one of the biggest challenges of its time; COVID-19. With the pandemic lockdown, restrictions on travel and social distancing rules in place, we are all having to adapt to how we do business.

People are working from home, have become furloughed or unemployed, fewer jobs are available in the marketplace, and people feel apprehensive about their uncertain futures in Architecture and Interior Design.

The aftermath of these unprecedented times will bring change in how practices operate and ultimately how people are recruited, who will be available in the market, how they will work and how they will be employed. 

I share my predictions on what the future of the Architecture and Interior Design marketplace may look like post-COVID-19.

A surge in flexible employment solutions

Practices will require more flexible employment solutions. I see a rise in contract-based recruitment. Some practices will favour an employment profile with a more significant share of contract employees over permanently employed staff.

With contract work comes the risk that top talent may become more mobile, and retention will become an issue for hiring managers.

An uptick in home working

The UK Government has urged employers to allow their staff to work from home amid the pandemic. Whilst this is a matter of health and safety right now, I predict that there will be pressure from employees for this to continue on the other side.

Our research in 2019 found that only 21% of Architecture and Interior Design employees were offered the option to work from home but I see this increasing significantly with the possibility of home-working being on offer to over a third of the employed staff.

Increased pressure on employment costs

Coming out the other side practices will be under pressure to complete projects that have been paused amid the pandemic. These will still need to be delivered in line with tendered costs whilst also trying to retain profit.

Practices will look to reduce operating costs, including employment. A recent article from the Architects Journal stated that pay had already been reduced in many practices* (April 2020). I do not see these pay cuts being reversed any time soon. 

Combined with shorter-term contracts, I see pay in Architecture and Interior Design either stagnating or even decreasing to enable practices to stay in business. 

Reactive hiring will return

Since 2017 practices have progressively made headway in recruiting with a more strategic, long-term approach, especially for positions where there are skill shortages in the market.

With pressure on spending, uncertainty and an increasingly lean workforce, I foresee practices returning to the times of 2009 when reactive hiring was the way. Recruitment will resume back to being a distressed purchase. With ‘just-in-time hiring’ for urgent projects, practices will need to be careful that recruitment doesn’t once again become a hit and miss affair.

New graduates and the less experienced will find it the toughest to find work

Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in practices offering paid internships over the traditional unpaid types. However, as the pressure increases to keep operational costs down, I foresee unpaid internships becoming the norm again.

Simultaneously practices will favour employing more experienced staff to get the job done, and there will be a reduced need for candidates with less experience. This will force these candidates into taking these unpaid positions if they want to develop their careers in the industry in the future.

I always welcome feedback on our findings and would be delighted if you would like to discuss any of the trends in further detail.

Please contact me here

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