At some point in their career, most architects experience job burnout. Unfortunately, that is the simple truth.
Architects are not machines.
With the amount of stress coming from endless deadlines (something that starts from Year 1 in architecture school) and costly consequences from errors or omissions in an increasingly specialized industry and demanding market, something is inevitably bound to break.
In this fast-paced business, architects are very susceptible to job burnout. If you want to be successful, then hustling and availability 24/7 are two prerequisites.
Being a people-pleaser is a plus to earn your way, making both clients and employees happy. But after a time, stress takes its toll.
For the sake of staying in the profession, you need to identify the cause of your burnout and find what works for you to fix and prevent it.
Here are nine ways on how to deal with job burnout for architects.
1. Be Organized
As simple as this is, being organized wins you half the battle.
Know what comes next so you can plan and execute the tasks one at a time to prevent stress build-up.
Keep a Clean Desk
Whether you work from home, office, or both, a clean desk is essential.
Taking the time to organize desk supplies and files will pay off in the long run. As the saying goes, “a place for everything and everything in its place.”
This is a valuable quote because if you have to search for folders, files, or even a pen, it can not only be frustrating but a time-waster.
If you keep office work and supplies organized, you can go straight to the source without feeling overwhelmed.
Have a Daily and Weekly Plan
On your computer, phone, or desk calendar, record any appointments or meetings for the day and week, review daily and at the start of the workweek.
Checking out the whole week won’t leave you with an “unexpected” meeting that cuts into your already hectic schedule.
You can also set reminders on your phone and computer. Apps are another way of staying organized as long as they do not get so complicated that they add to the stress.
Keep the Upper Hand Over Your Inbox
Have a set schedule to check your emails in the morning and evening before leaving work. Time in-between is for productive work.
Your goal is to tackle only the emails that move the projects forward.
Learn to identify “junk” in your inbox (yes, including those that are work-related) and don’t let them hamper productivity.
Use Your Phone More – for Conversations
Telephone conversations save you time; you get straight to the point without emailing back and forth, leaving extra time for other tasks. Efficiency reduces stress.
Try Not to Multitask
Concentrating on one job at a time makes for fewer errors. Multitasking can become confusing and be counterproductive.
Always Be on Time
Clients do not appreciate it when you keep them waiting, and neither does your supervisor or colleagues. It gives a bad impression and places unnecessary stress on you.
2. Speak with Your Supervisor or Boss
If you are dealing with burnout and the ratio of work you have is way out of whack compared to what one human being can do, you need to speak with your supervisor or boss.
Sometimes bosses don’t realize the load you are carrying unless you call it to their attention. If you act like everything is no problem, that is what they will assume.
Speaking with your employer may give them the idea to hire an assistant for you, have another colleague share your burden, or even hire another architect.
3. Take a Vacation
Another way of handling job burnout is to take a vacation. The world will not end, nor will the company fold without you. It is an excellent way to help your mental health and well-being.
Your vacation, however, will be just that; a week or two of R & R.
You should specify before leaving that you won’t be taking any calls, reading or sending emails, and absolutely no communication with the office.
The break is not only good for you but whoever you are vacationing with. No one likes to go on holiday with someone tied to the phone. That is not a vacation.
BUT, if you expect urgent matters requiring your attention while away, fix a short time window at the end of each day when you will communicate with one colleague in your office to get updates and pass on your instructions.
Nobody else. Not the clients, not even your boss.
You shall take no phone calls or read/reply to emails outside that time window. Let it be an agreed arrangement before you leave for your vacation.
Only you will be in a position to judge if this is necessary.
4. Identify the Source of the Burnout
Identifying why you are burnt out is an excellent way to try and resolve the issue.
Is it your job as a whole?
Are certain aspects of your job overwhelming you?
Is it a colleague that rubs you the wrong way or does not pull their weight?
Once you have identified the source, it may be a more straightforward fix than you thought.
5. Learn to Say NO
Sometimes you have to lose the people-pleaser mentality and say no. You can’t do everything or please everyone, even when you say yes.
You may think you will be fired and out of work. Chances of that are incredibly slim.
For one thing, your boss is unaware that there are some things you don’t want to do. It would help if you spoke up.
He won’t fire you for saying no. Every employee carries value to the firm. Unless, of course, you have grossly underperformed in other areas in your job.
Clients work in the same way. They don’t always grasp safety and design issues. Often, you need to set them straight and say “no” if their request does not work.
6. Learn to Identify the Burnout Early
When you begin to feel stressed, with headaches, digestion problems, fatigue, etc., this is the time to address the issue before it gets out of hand.
Dealing with burnout early on is easier before it becomes a forest fire. It will be less difficult to fix sooner than later.
Dealing with burnout also does not always have to lead to the question: Is architecture really for me?
It could also be that you have overworked and need some time off to recharge, and you will be back on your feet.
7. Dedicate One Day a Week as Work-Free
Everyone is entitled to at least one day a week off. Take one day every week as a work-free day.
Your phone should be silenced to work-related calls, allowing only social calls.
(You could also get a separate phone line for work – if the cost is not an issue- which you will switch off on the work-free day)
Use your computer for games only; no email.
You can call it a mental health day, helping your sanity and mood.
8. Meditation, Relaxation, and Exercise
Three useful remedies for job burnout are meditation, relaxation, and exercise.
- Don’t knock meditation until you have tried it. It can help you feel mentally calmer and more mellow while supporting your physical health.
- Relaxation can be reading a good book, watching a game, taking a nap in the middle of the day, or just hanging out with friends or family. During your workday, always make sure to take a break and lunch. Aim for some relaxing time away from your desk or outdoors.
- Exercise helps your entire mental and physical state. It enables you to blow off steam and gets you in shape. Just a simple stroll around your neighborhood can leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
9. Change Your Job
Unfortunately, sometimes you can try to change your workplace’s atmosphere and problems, but that does not always work.
This situation is when you seriously need to consider changing jobs by seeking employment at another architectural firm, starting your own freelance business, or if the architectural field is not for you any longer, switch career.
(Architects have varied skills; there are many alternative careers for an architect).
But before you hastily change career course, remember that you should not always be too hard on yourself. Maybe it is not because architecture is not for you; it may be the firm that is not right for you.
But you need to identify the source of your burnout first. Only then will you be able to chart your next course of action.
Burnout for architects is a real problem. If you are dealing with job burnout in your current firm, try out some of the suggestions listed above.
A simple, straightforward change may put you back in the game.