What is a reasonable way to work?
There is a discussion on the AJ’s LinkedIn page about methods of working that can reduce the long hours culture. It was kicked off by the decision of architect Baumann Lyons to start working 38 hours in a four-day week, and shut the office on a Friday.
The thinking, presumably, is that most people will feel after they have done a solid 9.5 hours that they cannot give any more and will simply go home – that the extended day will not be able to stretch any further and so overwork will vanish – and presumably will any presenteeism which leads people to hang around doing not very much, or extending their work over a longer period just so that they look better.
The intention is certainly admirable. But can it work in practice? There are several things against it. First, as commenters on the thread have pointed out, is the fact that clients are unlikely to be happy that the office is not manned on a Friday. Will project architects be picking up so many calls on their iphones that they would prefer to have gone in?
Secondly, my point above about 9.5 hours being ‘enough’ is probably not true for architects. Having come through an education system that encourages the ‘all nighter’, it is a habit that many are likely to fall back into, particularly when entering competitions.
The other problem is with flexibility. This week’s AJ is a special women’s issue, showcasing the shortlisted practices for its second Women in Architecture awards and also providing the results of a survey. It is no surprise, unfortunately, that many women are still overlooked and underpaid, nor that the biggest impediment to the success of women comes from the difficulties of marrying work and childcare. And of course this should not be a women-only issue. The best employers, such as Walters and Cohen, acknowledge that parents of both sexes benefit from flexibility.
I am sure that Baumann Lyons has thought about this and has an answer, but on the face of it working four long days looks extremely inflexible. This inflexibility of course is necessary if people are to be ‘prevented’ from overworking. For everybody – not just architects – work and leisure are creeping into each other’s spaces. The real challenge is to offer flexibility yet still prevent overwork.