Monday, September 26, 2022

This is How it is (Not Supposed to Be) in Architecture – Part 2.

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Sudarshan Uppunda
Sudarshan Uppunda
Born & brought up in Bombay, based in Bengaluru, Sudarshan is an ambivert who can be outgoing-open and reserved at the same time. It all depends on the vibes! He deeply believes in vibes and personal energies. As an Architectural Journalist and Architect, he aims to write in a way that his content is relatable for all. Design is what interests him the most and he keeps trying his hand at different design verticals such as graphic, UI & UX design at times. He likes to write and explore varied topics on Workplace environments, Architecture, and Culture. He is quite active in architectural content writing and has written for various platforms like RTF, The Arch Insider, Gharpedia, etc. He strongly believes that whatever one does in life, one must do it with passion & be happy with it.

The state of the Architectural profession is disrupted, no doubt! We see a huge imbalance in the work culture and immense frustration among practicing architects. With the recent SC ruling of No bar on architecture work for not being qualified and registered under the law; the architectural profession is further going on the path of decline. High stress, negative work culture, overworking, and underpayment have led to elevated levels of inefficiency and burnout throughout this profession.

To start combating unhealthy work culture in architecture, one must first acknowledge that- yes there is an issue! Secondly, one must resort to voicing it out and analyzing the solutions to emerge out of such decaying environments. If it is not a fit for you, moving away is not a bad idea! A career pivot will always yield high results. Last but not least Stop Normalizing the Unhealthy WorkCulture in Architecture.

In Part 1 we discussed why we need to stop normalizing injurious work cultures in architecture and how we need to raise our voices against exploitation. Now, let us discuss the various aspects that exist in this profession that unfortunately are leading to burnout and workplace frustration. 

Disengaging work culture

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Disengagement affects employee productivity at work

So, what is dis-engagement exactly?

Well, the answer is intuitive but nuanced. Disengagement is a result of chronic stress that is built up due to unnecessary and continued overworking. This arises as this industry has lost the humane approach and treats employees as slaves; expecting them to work day in and day out without proper monetary remuneration, employee benefits as well as verbal appreciation. All work and no pay make architects dull the whole day!

Therefore, disengagement is the physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress which can be dealt with by saying no to demeaning work cultures. Employers must understand that disengagement is, in turn, going to affect their work quality. Thus, working towards employee engagement and happiness is the way to a proactive business.

The legacy of exploitation 

Employee exploitation has been normalized in architecture to such a level that a major chunk of architects considers it as a ‘way of work’. Young architects and interns experience this the most! The ever-growing negative work environment has impacted them to follow this as a tradition. Moreover, when they go up the hierarchy they too resort to similar exploitation of fellow young architects and interns.

Therefore, rather than learning something valuable and worthy, it is sad that we hear a lot of exploitation stories where architectural interns are made to work for free. Now one might argue that free internships are a part of every industry. True, but offices do not depend on interns in other industries, they are just exposed to a minuscule of the actual work, giving them just an experience of the real world. Though this does not justify unpaid internships, it is still not in bad shape in other industries. Whereas in architecture, it is sad to see that there are offices that hire only interns and depend on them as they can get maximum work done for free from them without paying or paying very little. This is the major scene in the firms established by young graduates.

Is this right for the interns as they are overworked, exposed to the wrong style of working, and also do not gain any practical knowledge as some of these firms are managed by extremely young professionals who themselves are in the stage of learning.

The fault in our perspectives

Read any of the articles on burnout in the architectural industry and you will come across two prominent notions put forward by employers and established architects

  1. The shortcomings in the education system. I even came across a quote of a famous architect saying that -Architectural schools send untrained graduates to which puts stress on offices. 
  2. The clients at the apex of this industry do not pay well / on time which is why employees end up suffering being underpaid.

I would like to burst both of these myths. 

Well, young graduates are not trained to take up the entire work pressure right from day 01 in any of the fields. It is simply not feasible. When you hire someone you cannot expect them to outperform right from the moment they step into your “offices”. If your office depends on young graduates then there is a shortcoming in your business strategy not in the education system. 

Secondly, why do you think the same clients do not hesitate to pay for other service industries like IT, media, technology, etc. It is because these industries are well structured. So, I think when clients see the architectural industry that is unstructured in itself normalizing exploitation, they tend to try their hand at it too!

It is high time architects realize these things and most importantly accept them in the right spirit. Speaking about it and finding a solution is the only option unless architects want to continue this legacy of exploitation.

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