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The Coach: ‘How do I stop my staff from working all hours?’

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Careers expert Matthew Turner advises an architect frustrated by employees’ insistence on putting in long hours

I am the founding partner of a successful practice with a good reputation. As directors we try hard to promote a balanced approach to work, and we have adopted a number of policies to encourage flexible working, and a good work-life balance. Yet however much we try, some of our employees put in long hours of their own choice, and I think it is a bad influence. What should we do?

Matthew turner

The habits of the architecture student clearly run deep. Such is the legacy of our studio way of teaching, where an underlying premise pervades that graft is necessary, and working more and more on a solution is always going to be better. Some architects seem to revel in a machismo of 110 per cent commitment, and confuse perfectionism with inefficiency of decision-making. It sounds like, having built up and run a successful firm, you know the benefit of judging how much is enough, and knowing when to stop.

This is essentially about efficiency, which I think is a strong motivator for many architects in a design context. Maybe there is a way to redirect some of this workaholic enthusiasm to the use of time, and you could try and work out ways to make this an attractive challenge for your team. It is almost as if you need to imagine a creative and non-confrontational way to talk about time spent on an activity, and when to recognise the point at which a given activity becomes wasteful.

Some might immediately think you were trying to clockwatch them, but I think an effective counter to this can be pointing out the relationship between time and billing in your office, and the role of the architect. After all, the perceived diminuation of the stature of architecture has a relationship to valuing the cost of time, and therefore the value of the service offered. 

AJ coach Matthew Turner is an architect and careers consultant who runs the Building on Architecture consultancy. To contact him with your questions, tweet @TheAJcoach or email him in confidence at hello@buildingonarchitecture.com 

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