Market Update: Melbourne Architecture & Interior Design, October 2021

12th October 2021 / Market Updates
Photo: Jesse G

It’s been an intriguing 2021 and what’s next we ask?

We’ve had the pandemic, unrest in the streets, earthquakes…. Please, just don’t mention the plague or pestilence!!!

With that as a starting point, it seems remarkable that we have seen such a strong first 9 months of 2021!

The market has shown strong demand and created a clear shortage of available talent, with this being most pronounced between March and September.

Whilst we all celebrate a busy market, the imbalance of demand vs supply has created its own bubble, with Architecture and Interior Design studios in many cases having difficulties recruiting the ideal numbers and backgrounds they need in order to service the projects that are underway.

So, let’s have a look at what’s driving the market currently.

Photo: Michael Lee

We are recruiting for most project sectors, so interestingly, activity is across the board. Apartments, high end residential, health, education, defence, research and mixed-use projects with retail, commercial and residential elements are all part of the mix. Interiors has followed this same path, with demand in apartment, hotel, hospitality (to lesser extent), corporate workplace, retail, and institutional sectors, all with high demand.

The private sector saw numerous projects commence in the early part of the year, apartments, commercial and mixed use, (with a few boutique hotels), many of which were held up from the uncertainties and lack of commitment in 2020.

Photo: R Architecture

Institutional projects in the health, research, education, and infrastructure sectors resulting from increased Government spending have largely hit the market at the same time, further compounding the increased demand for staff.

Subsectors such as corporate interiors are being driven by different factors, related to re purposing workplaces or downsizing for the “post Covid” workplace, with many smaller interiors and D&C companies pumping at the moment.

We anticipate this demand to stay at similar levels into early 2022, and although early to say, it feels like this demand has plateaued at a strong level rather than expectations of continuing to climb further.

In real terms, this demand has had the effect of increased salary expectations from those changing roles, or requests for higher salaries to remain in current roles, to the point where we have seen instances where offers have come in well above market, or bidding wars for people with multiple offers, which has created unrealistic remuneration levels in some instances. Early in 2021 we saw the majority of those displaced from roles last year return to the workplace, however demand continued well past this uptake. This has been compounded further with no working holiday makers from overseas for the second year now, many of whom usually fill much needed 3-to-6-month contracts in a busy market.

Photo: Jacqueline Liddicoat

All of this in Lock-down the 6th (I like a Royal name) where most studios are still working from home, delivering projects with teams communicating online and everyone still hoping for a return to some kind of normality later in the year. There is a real sense of determination out there to make sure this is working well. The duration of our lock-downs (now around 250 days in total for Melbourne) however, sees a number of issues that need to be managed going forward. “Lock-down fatigue” is a real thing.

Photo: Surface

Whilst many studios are now used to on boarding new team members remotely, we continue to see video interviews as an essential part of the recruitment process and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future – put simply, it’s not going away. With quality candidates in high demand, it’s a real two-way street, so applicants are interviewing studios as much as the other way around.

Preparation is key for both sides during this process and it is important for clients to be prepared to explain company culture, share project images and “sell the dream” to really inform candidates of what the studio, role and opportunities are all about. So, whether it’s the first, second or even final interview, make sure both sides have the best tools available at the ready to make that online discussion really works.

For clients in this market, we also highlight that speed in decision making and getting a firm offer through to that talent you want is done as quickly as possible – “if you snooze, you lose, if you like, you strike” is the mantra!

Photo: Yasmina H

Looking ahead, then, with such a positive description of the last 9 months, what do we see ahead?

As always, grey clouds and blue sky – it’s never plain sailing.

The likely Evergrand demise out of China has many “less than grand” tinges, which has ramifications across the world. Let’s watch this space – its bigger than me to be able to comprehend!

With a range of private sector projects committed across different scales, new ones moving forward and close to commitment, and other immense projects underpinned by Government spending, our run into 2022 looks busy and we are excited about what the next 6 months holds.

Photo: Linda Xu

Our congratulations to all our talented candidate base, clients, and support people around Bloomfield Tremayne for getting through the lock-downs over these last 18 months, with all the trials and successes that we have enjoyed – it has been both a remarkable and rewarding experience. We are lucky in many respects that we exist in a sector that can work from home quite successfully; we think constantly of our front-line workers, retail and hospitality friends, and others than are still unable to work, along with those who have family members, elderly and young whom we have not been able to visit, or those with family overseas who we hope to be able to hug eventually. We understand it has not been easy, but we commend everyone on getting to this point with amazing tenacity, commitment, and pride in what they do.

The road out of lockdown will not be easy, there will be a range of workplace and social issues around who returns to workplaces, what we can do and when, vaccination status and what that means for people and their employment situation going forward. There are many things that need to be ironed out and we all need to be flexible in our thoughts and expectations about what working and living in Melbourne in 2022 means.

Photo: Connor Sexton

Many of our clients are describing a hybrid work from home + people in studio approach, others pushing for a back to the office and fully staffed model as soon as possible, so realistically there is no one approach that will work for everyone and there are bound to be issues as there is no fix to every situation.

We look to Government to give us as much clarity as possible, however now, it looks like businesses must start making plans as what suits their model as best as possible and be mindful of what Government may mandate.

Thanks, as always for having a read of our thoughts, I would love any feedback, questions, or thoughts you might have on [email protected]

Oh, and just quickly, we are so proud to announce the new BT&P website, which features many of our favourite clients work, along with many enhanced features that will help us all work together!

Thanks for having a read!!

Bruce Whetters

Partner – Melbourne

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