Architects, lawyers, accountants, bar workers – plenty of employees and business owners work long hours.
Do architects work long hours routinely?
Why do architects work long hours, and is this a bad or a good thing for them and their clients?
Do Architects Work Long Hours?
Anecdotally, from chat rooms and surveys, some architects routinely work a 60-hour week, most work at least ten hours of unpaid overtime per week.
Around 20% of architects are self-employed, running a business with all the extra administration layers that it imposes. You would expect that many architects work long hours.
What Hours Do Architects Work Per Day?
The number of hours an architect works in a typical day depends on where they work – private practice, public offices, self-employed, or some other role.
The average hours that architects work per day range from 8 to 10 hours. However, it is not surprising to find architects who clock longer hours, either routinely or due to project demands.
Architects working in public offices (like town planning) generally work routine office hours around seven or eight per day.
Some architects working in private practice are working a six-day week – around ten hours per day.
Other architects working for consulting firms will work in concentrated bursts with plenty of downtimes in between projects.
However, some architects have an excellent work-life balance – just like every other professional career-minded person.
Why Do Architects Work Long Hours?
The reasons why architects work long hours are the same as other people working long hours with some reasons specific to architects.
1. Degree Studies
Most young adults studying to pass exams approach it with a mixture of almost planning and panic.
Long hours trying to meet impossible deadlines and a lack of training in time management and planning means most students opt for a quantity approach to their studies.
Architecture students are in a culture of feeling that they need to work long hours in the studio when everyone else is partying, to get their work done.
They are encouraged to put in plenty of working time, and they are with their peers behaving in the same way. They leave university with a working long hours culture.
2. Working Culture
Architecture work is project-driven; This generates the idea that you need to work longer hours to squeeze everything into a short time frame and deadlines move because of external events.
Plus, the work is creative – a start and finish point are hard to define when you have many options for a design or a client brief.
Architect’s offices and workplace environments will influence the architects’ working habits – peer pressure and fitting in with how everyone else works in the office influences the “standard” working day expected from employees and partners.
Architecture students get familiar with packing in as many hours as possible before their deadlines. This habit then spills over into their working lives.
Add in a lack of experience when starting an internship and feeling that you must work longer to be good enough, and you have conditioning that promotes a young architect putting in longer hours.
It is a known aspect of human psychology that most people underestimate the amount of time it will take them to complete any task – they set unrealistic deadlines for themselves and others.
The pressure of trying to meet an unrealistic deadline results in longer hours approaching the deadline.
Deadlines are powerful motivators in most industries, but an excessive focus on overworking to meet deadline after deadline inevitably leads to burnout and exhaustion – some of the major health risks architects face in their job.
On the other hand, the work-life balance for architects comes with the experience of pacing projects and commitments.
The working day contains plenty of distracting jobs and attention grabbers that, frankly, waste time.
For example, work emails get filled up with newsletters and trivia, and a large portion of every day fills with non-priority tasks.
Architects are not alone in finding the day filling up with non-work and then feeling compelled to spend extra time making up for the unproductive parts of the day.
5. Demanding Clients
Other people tend to be unreasonable in their desire to get their demands met – unconsciously or consciously.
Most people who have a client portfolio know that some clients will always call when you want to go home – for a chat, a request, or a complaint.
Many architects work directly with clients – demanding clients – and these clients have a lot invested in their project.
Most clients call when it is convenient for them and not for the architect. It does not take many catch-up chats to push the working hours up.
6. Waiting for Others
Any work that involves a team of people can encounter bottlenecks – everyone else needs to do their work before you can do yours; in management speak, this is sub-optimal workflow.
It can be frustrating to wait for a part of the project to complete before you can start working.
This delay reduces the time available to you to meet your deadline, and you need to work longer hours to compensate.
7. Staff Shortages
Modern management sees staff costs as an overhead rather than productive investment, resulting in a push for more work with less staff.
The trend began with the industrial revolution and continues today. The impact is that there is too much work to be completed in the available hours.
The motivated staff tries hard to complete the available work, and this pushes up the working hours. The job gets done, and there is an expectation that the work will continue to get done.
8. Work Family
For many people (especially those that work long hours), the workplace is their happy space; they meet their friends, get to chat, and socialize, and it is more fun to be at work than at home.
Again, this is not exclusive to architects; young people living miles from their families create social bonds with their work colleagues.
The long hours worked by architects (and others) reflect the preference for the workplace family.
9. Job Satisfaction
Architects are creative people – they make things for a living, drawings, designs, and plans.
Creative people enjoy their work far more than someone stuck on a production line of doing any job purely for the paycheck.
Anyone with a creative hobby knows it is possible to get so caught up in what you are doing that the time slides past like an express train.
Architects who get their teeth into an enjoyable project typically work long hours because it does not feel like work.
Work Smarter Not Longer
As an architect, you don’t need to join the cult of working long hours just because it seems to be the way architects work.
Working large amounts of unpaid overtime reduces your enjoyment of your career and devalues your work.
How can you avoid working long hours as an architect?
1. Start Early
Getting to your desk before everyone else gives you some time free of interruptions – you can use this to do intensely focused work or get ahead of your routine administration.
The early start is only a viable strategy if you ruthlessly protect your going-home time.
2. Minimize Distractions
The capacity to multitask is a myth.
If you respond to every email popping up, you can’t give your full attention to your drawing or report or whatever else you are working on.
Nor can you not answer your emails and phone.
What you can do is chunk your day into sections, so you deal with emails, phones, and other administration at specified time intervals. Then you can put your whole focus onto the work and achieve more and to a higher standard.
3. Keep a Detailed Timesheet
Professions that bill by the minute, like accountants and lawyers, keep a detailed timesheet because the aim is to bill someone for every productive minute.
As an architect, you are not billing clients by the minute, but it is still worth keeping a detailed time log for yourself – there are apps to help, but a diary works as well.
Tracking your time lets you see how productive you are and when you get sucked into browsing social media or chatting with a colleague.
It also gives you accurate information on how long a job takes, so when you set deadlines, you have the practical experience to decide on the time needed.
4. Task Management
Task management is a fancy term for a prioritized ‘to-do’ list. Human nature is to do the easiest and most enjoyable tasks first and put off the more difficult and time-consuming ones.
This habit has the unfortunate result of creating minor crises as jobs that were not urgent become urgent with looming deadlines.
There are plenty of techniques for dealing with workloads, from a simple list to a workflow timetable, there will be a method that works to improve your working day.
Find a technique that works, and use it.
5. Be Realistic
You can’t create more hours and minutes in the day. Assess the amount of work you need to complete to see if it is possible.
Sometimes you need to accept that you can’t do everything on your list, even if you gave up sleeping and eating.
What you can do in those circumstances is to choose what you are not going to do and accept it.
Do All Architects Work Long Hours?
Some architects work long hours, and some do not – ultimately, the choice is down to the individual architect.
Workplace culture may push you into accepting long hours for no additional money, but you need to consider your options.
Architects are not the only people who face pressure to give more of themselves to their employer, and it is up to the individual to assess the value they place on their time and how they want to spend it.
Being an architect does not automatically mean long working hours, and many architects work standard hours.