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Architecture, Interior Design and Visualisation
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Mental health and well-being at work

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Mental Health

There has been much talk about the impact that the global pandemic has had on our mental health. In our Architecture & Interior Design Employment and Industry Review 2021, we asked respondents if they had been affected and overall 60% agreed. Notably, those who were currently unemployed were more affected than those who were employed in Architecture and Interior Design.

81% of those unemployed said it was due to the pandemic. Whether it is temporary or permanent, unemployment can lead to stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges. Uncertainty related to COVID-19 only adds to the angst. Loss of purpose and identity, being scared, jealous or angry, are all normal feelings when faced with unemployment. Of course, not everyone will have these feelings but even those coping well may experience some of these emotions from time to time.

What was also interesting was how the age of the respondent affected their answer. 77% of 25 – 34 year olds agreed their mental health had been affected, whereas only 22% of 55 – 64 year olds agreed.

Controversially we considered whether the younger respondents mental health had been more affected than their older counterparts or whether they are simply more comfortable talking about it in their generation. Are older people aware enough of what mental health is and are they happy to talk about it, or are they simply just more resilient than younger people? After all, this is not the first significant crisis in Architecture and Interior Design history they have had to go through.

We wanted to hear from the people themselves about how it had impacted them:

Unemployed and mental health has been affected

  • “I truly believe that each person has experienced a change in their state of well-being. Most of us had more than one challenge during this time, one of which being the lack of or fewer job opportunities, very long interviewing processes, less feedback or no feedback from hiring managers, as well as less active recruiters etc.”
  • “It has made me reluctant to return to the stressful lifestyle and excessive hours in Architecture.”
  • “The pandemic and other accelerants have made me realise what is important in life and focus my time and energy to pursue a different vision.”

Employed and mental health affected

  • “It was very difficult to cope with full-time work and taking care of the children while the schools were closed. I had no support from my practice or my colleagues, no flexible hours and poor communication.”
  • “I now suffer from anxiety and doubt myself more than I have ever done before.”
  • “I have anxiety and I am lacking motivation.”

We continued in this line of research to allow respondents to pick the top three words or phrases that best capture their state of mind.

Understandably, the top answers were ‘stressed’ (39%) and ‘worried and anxious’ (38%). Concerns over COVID-19, job security and unemployment, make it natural that many would note this as a concern. This is backed up by the figures we highlighted that felt their mental health had been impacted.

What was positive is that 33% felt ‘productive’ and 31% felt ‘optimistic’. This shows a level of resilience across the industry. We predict that the news in November 2020 of the vaccine for COVID-19, will have certainly elevated the respondents’ sense of optimism.

A situation like this can quite literally induce ‘fight or flight’. We were pleased to see so many feeling positive and productive in such a difficult time. That can’t be easy with all the uncertainty that we have seen.

We continued in this line of enquiry by asking what impact the pandemic had on respondents overall. The top answer to this question was that 42% felt it had made them stronger and they felt more resilient. This was encouraging to see, particularly in the youngest age group of under 24 year olds who were the most likely to feel this way.

Building resilience in young people helps them gain skills for life that will help them deal with, and manage, challenging situations and circumstances that are unfortunately unavoidable. These can include managing unexpected change, going through transitions, dealing with daily hassles or a range of other stressors. Whilst there have been many negatives from the pandemic, making young people more resilient has got to be seen as a positive out of this.

For our final question in this section, we asked whether the pandemic had made them reconsider their career. Whilst 64% said they were happy to stay in Architecture and Interior Design, significantly a third were considering a career change. 46% of those who were unemployed felt this way. Those with three to five years’ experience were the most likely to be reconsidering their career, with 47% agreeing.

Whilst a reduction in the number of candidates in Architecture and Interior Design right now may not have an immediate impact on the operations of practices, we predict that if this percentage of people were to change career, hiring managers are going to have a tough time ahead. Practices will potentially need to start planning for the future fallout now.

You can read the full Architecture & Interior Design Employment and Industry Review 2021 here