BTP Covid-19 Impact Survey Report

23rd September 2020 / Market Updates Tips & Advice

So how is everyone really going?

Early this month we sent out a short survey to hundreds of our Clients and Candidates – a few questions on how the global Pandemic has affected individuals or businesses within the Architecture and Design community – all with the aim of gaining a comprehensive insight into your experiences and sharing the results in what we hope will be an informative and of course interesting read.

Pleasingly, we had an overwhelming response and we would like to thank all those who took the time to participate and contribute, your time and input is appreciated and valued.

Employees & Candidates… The Workers

Firstly we were keen to know if the Pandemic had changed work conditions, unsurprisingly this was a big yes – only 6% of Candidates said their work conditions had not changed, for everyone else…it was WFH all the way.

A big topic of conversation with our Clients and Candidates is about how the rocket speed forced transition to WFH was handled, we know the smoother the move the happier people were or at least less frustrated! By and large the results were really positive, over 67% of Candidates felt satisfied or very satisfied and only a tiny % completely dissatisfied, so the industry should congratulate itself, a mammoth task bred through necessity but embraced nonetheless. In regards to the systems companies used….well the big winner was Microsoft teams – nearly everyone mentioned they engaged this software and most also used Zoom.

The remote workplace…. what works, what doesn’t….

This then takes us to where are we are now – we’ve mostly mastered the WFH thing, so what does everyone prefer? How desperate are people to get back into an office?

This was super interesting…almost half preferred working from home and no surprises as to why:

Interestingly some of the reasons to stay home were also the reasons to get out…

The in betweeners at 25% felt there was a benefit to both and were championing flexibility….the ability to choose – have the best of both worlds if possible.

When we dug a little deeper on what people missed about not being in the office, overwhelmingly it was the communication, social interaction, and connecting with people and being face to face that was most commonly mentioned. So whilst they don’t miss the commuting, time wasting and the lack of flexibility it seems what people do miss is being with other people – simple as that.

The “P” word…. Productivity

Whether working from home improves focus or has too many distractions, it seems that most people feel productivity has remained the same or slightly improved, with some saying there has been a big improvement and a few others experiencing a minor reduction in output. The fairly even mix of results here, coupled with preferences about working from home are no doubt linked – it make sense that those who find WFH to distracting or difficult may feel there is a reduction in productivity whilst those who feel their focus is better at home will likely be feeling much more positive about output.

In terms of how Employees are being managed – most people feel they are being managed about the same as before although it is worth noting 21% indicated they felt they were being managed worse in a remote working environment and only 14% said it was better than in the office.

Remotely managing staff can be tough and very new for some people, we’ll investigate what Clients had to say shortly.

Top Tips!

We asked what the best tip people had to give about WFH….let’s have a look at some of the most popular pointers we got….

A good internet connectionTo do lists
RoutineNo PJ’s or trakky daks
DisciplineBe motivated
Health and Wellness breaks and
regular exercise
Communication is the key

On the ground advice…

So now we have tops tips on working from home, we asked advice would people give to companies running teams remotely…so anyone running a business out there… best have a look, there were many.

JobKeeper, the job search and redundancies

We all know the economic impact of this global Pandemic has been incredibly hard on so many. Numerous countries have tried to offer some type of financial support or relief – here in Australia the JobSeeker allowance for the unemployed increased and the Government introduced JobKeeper.

It seems at least every second Candidate we speak to is or has been on JobKeeper and the stats appear support this with a whopping 61.35% of survey respondents indicating that indeed they are on JobKeeper; interestingly the majority at 42% indicated that their hours had remained the same with a small percentage saying hours increased and the rest citing a decrease to a complete stop.

Clearly with such an uptake in Jobkeeper, the question on redundancies becomes interesting – when we asked whether people were made redundant as a result of the Pandemic, the vast majority at 80.5% Indicated that they had not – the remaining 19.5% who had unfortunately been made redundant felt it was both a question of fear and as a result of projects being placed on hold.

Further to that, we were keen to know whether those who had lost their jobs, had managed to find work and over 75% had not managed to secure a new role, and understandably over 95% have found the job search difficult in this current market.

Getting back into the office and how this looks now and in the future is the topic of much discussion, and over 75% of our respondents felt the workplace had been permanently altered by the Pandemic, how remains to be seen but most people felt that they felt their Employer would be more flexible to allow people to work from home at over 70%. Still on the topic of getting back (or already being back) into the office we asked people whether their company has and follows a COVID safe plan, pleasingly 66% answered in the affirmative but there was still over 32% who said no or they weren’t sure! So perhaps a tip to companies?

So what’s next?

Looking forward whilst we are living in a time of great uncertainty is never easy, and predicting what work will be coming through seems almost presumptuous but overwhelmingly (and unsurprisingly) the bets went to infrastructure, health, education and defence with smaller dibs going to residential, industrial and defence. Time will tell no doubt.

Let it all out….

Lastly, we felt it only fair to ask people to let it all out and tell us in one word how they would describe 2020……this without a doubt only further highlighted the difficulty of this year for many and the unity of our sentiments. Here’s how people felt:

Employers & Clients… The Bosses & Managers

In addition to many discussions with Architects and Designers working or looking work, we have spent many hours talking to our Clients – as business owners or company leaders, the perspective and trials and tribulations of 2020 are slightly different to Employees, or are they? Let’s see what our Clients had to say…will it match Candidate sentiment?

Some 90% of Clients indicated the Pandemic had resulted in a change in work conditions and most of this at 77% occurred in March. A minuscule percentage of small firms indicated that due to size some kept working in their office to maintain a life/work balance.

Staff redundancies… how was it?

What affect did the Pandemic have on companies? 62% of our Client respondents said they didn’t need to make redundancies but it was still a fairly large percentage of 37% that were unfortunately required to let go of staff.


Somewhat interestingly the split of new hires was almost identical – 37% of firms have made new hires since March whilst 63% have not. This certainly does reflect what we have seen at the coal face at Bloomfield Tremayne – some companies are in fact busy, whilst others are making redundancies, reaffirming the unpredictability of the market in 2020.

Jobkeeper – industry impact

What about JobKeeper? Has it helped as many Employers as it has Employees? Well from our respondents it has helped more! – 80% indicated they are utilising JobKeeper and 73% indicated that this has assisted in avoiding the need to make redundancies. Seems the relief package has indeed served a purpose for many in our industry.

Less hours?

We have spoken to many Clients and Candidates about hours of work and at various stages throughout the year many have been on reduced hours, at the time of our survey 33% of our Client respondents indicated that they had staff on reduced hours. Digging deeper we had 47% highlight staff were working between 26-35 hours per work as opposed to 36% working 35-40 hours, and only 10% of companies had staff working more than 40 hours per week.

Melbourne – Stage 4 impact

In the early days of the Pandemic, most states endured restrictions of some sort but after this, daily living conditions started to change. The outbreak in Melbourne led to tough stage four restrictions, and we were keen to know if this further impacted workflow in an already difficult year.

When querying our Melbourne respondents, some 35% of our clients indicated that there had been no real change to their workflow, whilst a combined total of 64% felt there had been an impact – ranging from a moderate amount to a great deal. Hard times without a doubt.

WFH –Managing staff and ensuring smooth operations remotely

We asked Candidates how they have found remotely working… but how was it for those trying get it all happening? What (if any) difficulties have they experienced in particular with managing staff?  Let’s see what they said:

Client remote working top tips!

Did it work?

When we asked about productivity and whether it increased or decreased – over half at 51% indicated that there was a slight decrease with 31% saying it remained the same….only 6.9% highlighted a major decrease and with 10% indicated they saw either a minor or major increase

Who wins…zoom or teams?

As per our Candidate response, we have found most firms opted to use Zooms or Teams…and actually it was a pretty even split – but others also mentioned included Slack, Splashtop, Hangouts, Harvest to track time, Asana, Ninja and Clickup…. lots out there to choose from depending on what you need.

In terms of the design process and in line with remote work considerations we were interested to note that 77% felt COVID had impacted the process; and remote working also changed the amount of time spent on each phase for most at 73%, so not just as simple as work from home and then business as usual that’s for sure!

Project predictions (are there any?)

By and large it has felt like the only certainty in the market has been the uncertainty. At this stage whilst we have Jobkeeper, overall government spending on building projects has not appeared to be a great focus – reaffirmed by over 80% indicated they have not benefited from any spending in this sector.

Bearing this in mind however what did companies feel might be the next project typologies to increase?

Social housing seemed to be a big prediction as well as health, schools, industrial and defence – interesting some felt there would be an upswing in adaptable workspace and hospitality outlets offering greater diversity…

Conversely areas deemed to potentially see a decrease included tertiary institutions, retail, hotels, apartments and commercial.

So mixed responses with some clear trends towards more government based work being the leader of predicted project increases.

Getting back into the office…. or not.

As we saw with Candidate responses, some people are desperate to go back into the office and others would much prefer to stay at home and others would like a blend…so what do companies see happening?

A whopping 46% OF Clients see staff coming definitely back full time, with an additional 28% probably seeing this occur. A smaller 21% felt they probably wouldn’t see a permanent full time return and only 3% said definitely not! So maybe a mix is what the future will bring – depending more on the company and individual.

Office readiness…all sorted?

Have offices got a COVID-Safe plan? Is more space needed?

Pleasingly over 85% of Clients indicated they did have a COVID safe plan in place, yay! Get out that hand sanitizer!

In regards to space needed very few firms felt they would require more space to accommodate socially distanced working or were not sure, where 86% said they had enough space – interesting – so does this mean the workplace will change dramatically or not? Something to consider.

Letting it all out…again

So Candidates had their turn to let it all out…and now it’s the Clients turn – how did they describe the year in one word… let’s have a look…similar sentiments or not?

So there we have it, the good, the bad, the ugly. We hope this survey report has been of interest and we are hugely grateful to all who took part such that we could compile this independent report for the industry. It has been a challenging year without a doubt as has been reflected in many of the responses.

As we look towards 2021 – whilst it is hard to know what lies ahead, and perhaps too early to reflect on the ‘year that was’, we wish and hope for a better year globally and locally and for everyone affected in our industry.

From all of the team at BT&P.

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