The full extent of the profession’s shift to home-working in response to the coronavirus crisis has been revealed in early findings from the AJ’s Covid-19 survey
A fifth (22 per cent) of those asked said their entire office was working from home as urged by prime minister Boris Johnson yesterday (16 March).
A further 60 per cent of all respondents said that either ‘some’ or ‘most’ of their colleagues were working from home.
However, there were significant regional differences in the responses to today’s survey, which has already received more than 300 replies from architects, architectural assistants and students.
For instance, 11 per cent of architects working in London said they were still being asked to come into the office, compared with 28 per cent of those outside the capital.
The online questionnaire also paints a mixed picture of practices’ readiness for working through the lockdown, with nearly 10 per cent saying they had still not made plans to deal with the crisis.
Cv19 survey wfh combined 17 march coronavirus
One said: ‘[There has] been zero consideration from our directors, aside from “constant hand-washing” and the complete ignorance of government advice to be working from home.’
Another added: ’Currently there are no plans in place to work from home. On the contrary, the directors are persistently pushing the idea that we cannot work from home.’
The comments echo concerns raised by architecture’s new trade union, which has criticised the profession’s response to the coronavirus outbreak as ’overwhelmingly slow’
The United Voices of the World – Section of Architectural Workers (UVW-SAW), which was launched in October last year and has over 100 members, said many practices had shown a lack of care for their staff’s health and wellbeing.
Many practices, the union claimed, were not sufficiently equipped to allow employees to work from home, and most are still asking workers to continue to come into the office.
However, many respondents to the AJ survey praised the measures put in place by their employers. One commentator said: ’The practice leadership has made plans. We have trialled home-working over recent weeks with remote connection into our office desktops via VPN. As of today, we are all working from home. Only the IT team is in the office to smooth out the transition.’
Another added: ‘We went to full-time home-working using our digital platform to work as a team, no matter where we are. We want to avoid being part of the problem for others.’
Earlier today (17 March), chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £330 billion package of financial measures to companies and small firms in the face of the unprecedented economic emergency.
Sunak said: ’This is not a time for ideology and orthodoxy, this is a time to be bold, a time for courage. I want to reassure every British citizen this government will give you all the tools you need to get through this.
’That means any business who needs access to cash to pay their rent, their salaries, suppliers or purchase stock will be able to access a government-backed loan or credit on attractive terms.’
Responding to the news, RIBA chief executive Alan Vallance, said: ’We welcome the government’s ‘unprecedented package’ of financial support during these unpredictable times, especially the extension of businesses eligible for loans. But more will be needed to support SMEs – most architecture practices – who are already feeling the pain of this pandemic.
The government must provide clarity on how it will keep the planning system operating
’The government must ease the cash squeeze faced by many practices and their clients, and provide clarity on how it will keep the planning system operating and construction sites open so that projects can progress.’
He added: ‘We are writing to the chancellor and secretary of state for housing to outline the specific support required for architects.’
Planning committees around the country have been cancelled in response to the crisis, including in Basildon, Carlisle and Westminster.