ACA findings show activity up, while job market tightens


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Above: Watch Leigh Monro discusses the Pulse Check findings with Angelina Pillai, ACA CEO

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Latest data from the Association of Consulting Architects (ACA) shows that workplace flexibility is “now the norm” and highlights the industry’s tight employment market as industry activity picks up.

Pulse Check no 6 is the latest instalment to the ACA’s ongoing longitudinal study into the impacts of COVID-19 on the industry, and asks respondents to reflect on the challenges faced over the last six months across staffing, project management, and business operations. 

The survey, conducted from 18 July to 1 August, received responses from 352 small to large-size architectural practices, representing more than 7,000 staff across the nation.

The most common staffing challenges related to higher than usual rates of illness, followed by upward pressure on salaries not being matched by increased income, difficulties attracting experienced staff, and exhaustion. However, the respondents also reflected on opportunities presented by the pandemic, with the majority saying that it was a chance to rethink how they practice.

Below we take a closer look at some of the ACA’s key findings.


Sector changes & levels of work

According to the ACA, activity across most architectural sectors has increased and is now similar to pre-COVID levels. The profession, on a whole, is picking up with 77% of practices reporting they are “busy”, which includes 44% saying that are “very busy” (119 practices),

Activity for practices involved in all types of housing has increased compared to pre-COVID levels (Figure 1). There are still fewer practices involved in aged care, education, and retail, while conversely, hospitality, health, community, and urban design have experienced slightly more activity.

Figure 1: Sectors of work, now vs pre-Covid

> Watch: Leigh Monro and Angelina Pillai discuss sector changes here (3 mins)


Staffing changes & challenges

Increased activity has also been reflected in the job market, with staffing levels rising significantly since the ACA’s previous April/May 2021 Pulse Check no 5 (Figure 2).

Encouragingly, 60% of architectural practices (180) reported to have employed new staff (960 new jobs), while only 14% had to let people go. The ACA notes that this reflects “the general busyness of the profession.”

Figure 2: Number of new staff employed, Pulse Check 6 vs Pulse Check 5

Around half of the practices had staff leave of their own choice, with the majority choosing to pursue different types of work, while 42% of employees left for higher salaries (Figure 3).

However staffing challenges remain. Overwhelmingly, respondents reported (70%) that they have experienced difficulties in employing new staff, pointing to challenges in sourcing suitable mid-career and senior staff.  One respondent commented, “Everyone’s looking, (it’s) hard to find people with the right technical capability,” while another said “Our reputation attracts good staff.”

Several respondents also commented that “intense poaching” is now occurring between practices. “We’ve lost two staff, and stopped another two leaving by offering salary increases 10%+”, said one respondent. 

Figure 3: Reasons given by staff for leaving

> Watch: Leigh Monro and Angelina Pillai discuss staffing changes & challenges here (8:04 mins)


Mental wellbeing

Overall respondents were positive about the wellbeing of their practice, however when asked to rate wellbeing now as compared to the start of the pandemic, only one quarter reported that their mental wellbeing is better than at the start of the pandemic, half felt no significant difference, while 25% consider it worse (an increase on the 15% of Pulse Check 5). 

Many point to exhaustion and fatigue, ongoing global uncertainty, and the correlation between levels of work and wellbeing as the main impacts. According to one respondent, employee wellbeing is influenced by “impacts at home, particularly on those with children, the cost of living increases, and uncertainty.”

The most widely offered support across practices is ‘informal catch-ups with management and/or team leaders’ and ‘shared company activities aimed at supporting wellbeing’. The ACA also asked what types of support would help improve workplace wellbeing, with practical guides to best practice ranking as the most helpful. 

Figure 4: Assistance that would help improve wellbeing

> Watch: Leigh Monro and Angelina Pillai discuss staff wellbeing here (6:12 mins)


Flexible work 

The ACA says that “flexibility is now both the norm and the future”, with 69% of responding practices expecting to operate with flexible or hybrid working models in the long-term. There have also been significant increases in workplace flexibility, in both where (73%) and when work is performed (51%). 

The ACA notes that the use of hybrid and flexible working models falls into three similar sized groups: 

  1. Over one third of responding practices are leveraging experiences during the pandemic to embed long-term flexibility.
  2. Around one third have been working flexibly since before the pandemic.
  3. While the final third see flexibility as a short term, last resort, or are not working flexibly at all. 

However, the survey also reveals that flexibility is now actively sought by staff, with individual and ad hoc flexibility the most prevalent models. 

Figure 5: Percentage of staff working remotely in the week of the survey  n.b: % figure shown represents the number of staff working remotely


Figure 6: Types of flexible and hybrid working in use 


> Watch: Leigh Monro and Angelina Pillai discuss staff retention, reasons for leaving & flexible work here (8:54 mins)

To view the full survey results, visit the ACA website.


Leigh Monro, Associate Director

Leigh Monro is our Design Recruitment Consultant and Associate Director. He is a specialist in Architecture, Interiors, Urban Design and Landscape Architecture. He is a true expert in the field and has been recruiting in this space since 1997.


Connect with Leigh on LinkedIn

Contact: 0451 674 977,




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