BT&P

Market Update: Melbourne Architecture & Interior Design, August 2020

This market update covers industry activity, recent recruitment trends, onboarding within COVID-19, and the challenges the industry is overcoming under stage 3 and 4 restrictions. We hope you find this market update insightful. 

The impact of the recent spike of COVID cases within the Victoria has seen massive changes to the construction industry for the short-term future. With current conditions all but putting a complete freeze on current construction, we sought clarity from our wider design Client base. What are the immediate impacts of Stage 4 Restrictions? What has changed this time compared to March? What difficulties has WFH bought?

When we initially entered the WFH era in March, leaders within the Architecture and Interior Design sector focused on upwardly managing their practices, turning to their clients to seek clarification on their current and future pipeline of work. Whereas now, practices are adapting to stage four restrictions by outwardly managing their studio, turning to builders to ensure their immediate pipeline of work can continue under the new legislation and working through a series of revised on-site programmes.

From a project activity perspective, there has been an increasing trend for Architects, Interior Designers and Project Professionals with luxury residential, community facilities (such as libraries, aquatic centres) as well as pharmaceutical and defence project-based experience, these are the areas with most recruitment activity.

We have also seen practices request higher levels of experience within their next hires, mainly upwards of 8 years’ experience. However, there are exceptions to this. Additionally, we are working across many strategic hires, with practices realigning their position within the market and strengthening in house expertise – across health projects and luxury residential.

Confidence has always been a driver in the industry, and we have seen a correlation between the daily COVID cases and recruitment decision making in past weeks, despite the daily COVID case numbers fluctuating in Melbourne which almost gives each day its own personality. Lower COVID case numbers result in recruitment confidence with Directors more likely to make offers on days with lower COVID numbers.

With most of the industry WFH for coming up to five months, we are witnessing many Directors work under sustained pressure to keep projects moving forward to maintain office efficiency, many putting in an extra four or five hours each day to maintain the magical 90% efficiency from their teams. This presents a new recruitment need, within many practices, a role that sits between Project Architects or Associates and Directors, for Senior Architects to assist busy Directors. Additionally, we have seen many new opportunities for Project Architects who can work autonomously, with minimal supervision from Directors, strong communication, and team management skills in the WFM setting.

Recently, unemployment numbers increased by an additional quarter of a million in Victoria due to new restrictions. Thankfully, the industry has not experienced large amounts of redundancies in comparison to earlier this year. Some sizable practices that did not qualify for Job Keeper in March, April and May are now eligible for Job Keeper. We have not seen substantial redundancies since the introduction of stage four restrictions; instead, studios are opting to stand down employees to retain the relationship while the business qualifies for Job Keeper.

We recognise the difficulties the new restrictions present, particularly for parents who are homeschooling while working. But also for job seekers who were getting close to securing work, but now cannot commit to working fulltime as they need to care for young children or home school.

From a technology perspective; onboarding during stage three saw successful recruits either pick up software from the studio, in rare cases we’ve seen studios courier computers to a contractor’s residence. Most will access the server from the contractor’s personal hardware through remote access. Under stage three lockdown restrictions, appointments have usually conducted their first day in the office then will WFH. We must remember to have an onboarding ‘buddy system’ for all appointments, including senior appointments, so new recruits are not stuck trying to resolve trivial tasks and wasting corporate time. We’ve facilitated engagements under stage four restrictions, with recruits joining a studio without meeting anyone face to face. They are mainly accessing the company server from their own hardware, with the exception of one contractor who had computers couriered across the country to them when they were unable to return back to Melbourne.

Increasingly, we’ve had requests for contractors to have their own REVIT subscription. This will mean the contractors will be eligible for an additional software hire payment in addition to their hourly rate. If you work under this arrangement, the software loading will not be taxed.

Overall, we are witnessing hard work and determination from equity owners, employees, and job seekers. It’s essential to ensure we are kind to everybody, from overworked Directors, who are under extreme pressure, through to project team members who are homeschooling or living alone, and also those who are feeling burnt out from job seeking or at worst, being out of work for the first time in their careers. For those who are struggling, there are so many resources available – please contact the office if you would like assistance.

In all, we know it’s a challenging situation for most – we speak to some who are stressed because they are so busy running a studio that is lucky to have a strong workflow but needs extreme hours to make it work, and others who are stressed because work has slowed right up – and the many who are at home who have lost their jobs – it is an unprecedented time that really has no precedent in our work history and we at Bloomfield Tremayne are aware of what everyone is going through and are here to help.

Finally, we are working with a number of studios who are strategically looking at specific roles given their current circumstances, which means we are working hard on real roles actively.

At the same time, if you are looking to engage contractors or make a strategic hire, please reach out.

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