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Coronavirus: Sheppard Robson facing questions as offices remain open

Hounslow Civic Centre by Sheppard Robson 1

Sheppard Robson chiefs have sought to reassure employees they are not forcing staff to come into the office but say they have no plans to close the practice’s offices entirely

It is understood at least half of the company’s approximately 250 London-based staff are still working in its Camden headquarters, despite prime minister Boris Johnson’s recent call for firms to introduce homeworking in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

A whistleblower contacted the AJ to complain that some of the practice’s workforce had felt pressurised to travel into central London to work in the office. But the company responded by insisting that no one was ‘’obligated to work from the office if it made them uncomfortable’.

Alan Shingler, chairman of the practice’s management board, said: ‘We are not forcing people to come into the office … The vast majority of the staff understand that we have an obligation to keep the business going on behalf of the staff.’

He added that, at present, ‘we have no plans to shut our offices entirely but we will follow government guidance. What I can say is that we have been working hard over the last two weeks to ensure remote working is as efficient as it can be.’

Shingler insisted that staff were being kept up to date with developments, saying the practice issued daily updates to all staff. He said plans were in place to introduce remote working in stages and that the 380-strong practice, which also has offices in Manchester and Glasgow, was ’gearing up to have everyone able to work from home by the end of tomorrow (20 March)’. 

Shingler told the AJ that home-working had so far been introduced for individuals on request, with roughly 100 employees having taken this step, and that many staff had chosen to come in to work in the office environment.

The situation at Sheppard Robson is in marked contrast to that at Foster + Partners where only a small, skeleton staff of the company’s more than 1,000 employees are currently working from its Battersea base. 


Readers' comments (33)

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  • They should force everyone home like all the other big practices. It's civically irresponsible not to do so and it also shows lack of interest towards their staff: business over people.

    Future post Covid-19 will be a gamble: end of capitalism?

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  • Either Sheppard Robson has an army of unsusceptible drones or, more likely, a workforce who will now be begrudgingly fulfilling their daily ‘seat time’ in order to keep their jobs, pay their mortgages and feed their families? All the while risking the health of not only each other but everyone they come into contact with whilst commuting and those they live with. All so the company can keep functioning at its usual capacity, which of course it won’t because their work force has now identified that their team leaders don’t actually give any thought to their well-being and are effectively expendable...

    Would a mass exodus of staff post-corona be unexpected? For them probably, given they’ve clearly got their heads up their ‘rear foundations’

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  • At times like this, I feel that the architecture community would do well to support one another and not make unsubstantiated claims.

    I am not an insusceptible drone, nor am I of the impression that the practice I have worked for for a number of years doesn't care about my well-being or that of the community.

    As a current Part 3 student, the support of this practice is absolutely fundamental to my development and I have been given every opportunity to work remotely if I wished with their continued support.

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  • I feel like there is an element of post-rationalisation going on here. It was only a week ago official advice was to carry on as normal and wash ours hands and it was only two days ago we were told London is being affected more than the rest of the country. In one week they have gone from none to all 250 staff working from home? Seems fair to me.

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  • Stiliyana Minkovska

    I have worked at Sheppard Robson for the past three years. I arrived here as a mother of a 1-year-old toddler and as you could imagine, I have constantly needed to take time off or work from home, which has never been an issue. I received my Part 3 in 2018 and the support and flexibility throughout the office has been immense.

    In fact, I have just completed a residency programme with the Design Museum throughout which I was part-time for over 9 months, working only 3 days a week, which was rather challenging for my team. The moment the residency was complete, I returned back full-time on the instant. There was never an issue going part-time as well as returning back full-time, both times happened on the instant upon my request...not sure how many other offices out there would allow
    their employees such flexibility and personal growth. It is beyond inspiring and I am greatly appreciative.

    Since last Friday, the 13th of March, more than half of the staff have been working from home. I am currently in the office, NOT because I HAVE to, but because I WANT to. And if schools weren't to shut down next week, I would have continued to come in.

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  • Industry Professional

    Strong clear leadership from the RIBA is required.
    Unfortunately, I guess all the oldies are stuck at home trying to figure out how to warn up their fax machines. The deafening silence from them reminds me of their response to the economic crisis back in 2008, a crisis the profession struggles to learn from, nor recovered. Despite my employer offering to pay for membership (assume it looks good in the annual polling) I decline to sign up to this illustrious club.

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  • It's quite upsetting that these false allegations are being published at a time when we should be coming together.

    SR management has been open, supportive and continually forthcoming with daily updates during the entirety of the current situation. At no point have I, nor my teammates felt like we've been forced to come into the office to continue working.

    SR management have and continue to work tirelessly to provide us all with the ability to work from home if I we so wish.

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  • Honestly....when did the AJ fall under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch? Sensationalist headlines and trash talk. Now more than ever the architecture profession needs supportive representation and positive, factually accurate dialogue.
    Yours, from my living room!

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  • Disappointed to see the headline - which seems to wish to cast a negative light on this practice.

    Personally I see that management acted quickly to this unprecedented crisis, and has since been doing its utmost to help the staff work from home, and minimise disruption to the business - in these times the industry should be striving to minimise the impact on all architectural practices.

    The article above does however state some facts i.e.
    - Staff are not being forced to come into the office
    - the practice is working to allow everyone to work from home
    - Staff are being updated on the situation daily
    - the staff that are working in the office today have chosen to come in

    In response to some negative comments above - the person that imagines anyone would begrudgingly continue to work while risking the health of those they live with has little or no experience of the attitude of SR management - I would hope that they can manage to leave the establishment in which they formed that opinion, and someday find a more progressive work environment such as Sheppard Robson's.

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