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New guides to address architecture’s wellbeing woes

New guides to address architecture’s wellbeing woes


Researchers have created five guides to support the wellbeing of architects, after a survey found architecture workers had a lower-than-average quality of life compared with Australia’s general working population.

The Wellbeing of Architects: Culture, Identity and Practice study found two-thirds of architects experienced at least some level of psychological distress. Five new guides have been designed in response to the three-year research project led by RMIT professor Naomi Stead in collaboration with Monash University researchers and 11 architecture industry partners, including advocacy group Parlour and architecture practices BVN and SJB.

A lower quality of life for architecture workers 

The ARC-funded research also found more than one-quarter of respondents had experienced moderate to severe psychological distress, while 42 percent reported their work had a generally negative impact on their wellbeing.

Many of the research participants indicated there was a discrepancy between effort and reward in architectural work, given the relatively low pay, long hours, pressured deadlines and intense risk and complexity.

“Sometimes, in architectural work, people feel like the juice isn’t worth the squeeze,” Stead said in a statement.

Younger workers suffer most

Poor wellbeing was most acute in respondents under 36 years old. This group was nearly twice as likely to report moderate to severe psychological distress compared to respondents in older age groups.

“Rather than flourishing, parts of this community can best be described as languishing,” Stead said. 

“One of the most notable and concerning findings was that in 2023, the wellbeing of respondents was significantly lower than the Australian population in general and was substantially lower again than our earlier survey in 2021.

“All items from the personal wellbeing index were rated lower in 2023 than in 2021. This was particularly notable in relation to future security, achievement in life, health and standard of living.”

The launch of the Guides to Wellbeing in Architectural Practice 

Stead will launch the series of five guides at a two-day symposium, which starts today at Collingwood Yards, Melbourne. The symposium will present the study’s findings, as well as propose and discuss actionable recommendations to address the mental health and wellbeing issues prevalent in the architecture community.

As a free online resource, the downloadable Guides to Wellbeing in Architectural Practice will outline ways to improve wellbeing within architectural offices. It will provide practical suggestions and advice for practices, professional bodies and individuals – including advice for people on how to improve their own wellbeing within their workplace. 

In an article published by The Conversation this week, Stead and co-author Vicki Leibowitz, an RMIT research fellow, said many architects characterised the challenges to wellbeing in the profession as “systemic”.

“Our research found they’re not just a result of isolated instances, nor the “fault” of any single group, professional role or practice type,” Stead and Leibowitz wrote.

“This is a structural situation to which the whole profession is subject, and is certainly not something that can be fixed with individual self-care.”

Australian Design Review’s 30UNDER30 program seeks to give a platform to young architects, designers and innovators working in the built world to discuss similar industry challenges and solutions. Find out more about the program here.


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