Infrastructure of long-term benefit

Malcolm Jones , 3 August 2020

ACA – WA President Malcolm Jones from Meyer Shircore Architects reflects on JobKeeper, future stimulus and the flexible workplace.

Are you registered for JobKeeper? Did you have difficulty applying? What are your observations about the first and second phase of JobKeeper? 

Meyer Shircore Architects is registered for JobKeeper. We found the process reasonably easy, albeit with assistance from our accountant.

It was quite easy to compare our monthly financial records for the previous financial year with those for March, April and May this financial year. Of course, being a business that is related to construction, architect’s monthly income is likely to vary somewhat anyway. The Government’s design of the JobKeeper package was relatively simple and could be subject to manipulation; however, I assume (from the government’s point of view) the benefit of the system to the business community outweighed the cost of design and compliance of a system that was 100% accurate.

I believe the revised system is a logical extension of stage one. We were not anticipating the system to extend past 28 September, so this is really a bonus.

What are your impressions of the government stimulus announced so far? What do you believe needs to happen to support our profession and the wider building industry?

The JobKeeper allowance and Cash Boost Payments from the Government have greatly assisted the financial performance of our business to date. They have allowed us to continue operating with all our staff employed, except one part-time casual who was employed over the Christmas period. The extension of the JobKeeper will allow our business and others to adjust to the new ‘normal’ business conditions (whatever they are!).

In order to assist our profession and the wider industry, I believe the Government needs to direct more funds and resources towards new infrastructure projects. The payment of JobKeeper, Cash Boost and other subsidies have been necessary in essence to keep the economy moving and prevent wide-scale unemployment; however, in order to provide a longer term benefit, Government needs to spend money on infrastructure projects that will be a short and long term benefit to the community (perhaps not pink batts in roofs). If future generations are going to be saddled with a huge government debt that will eventually need to be paid back via levies and taxes, at least ensure something is built that provides a long-term benefit.

How has the pandemic affected workflow and productivity within your office? What strategies do you have for dealing with these challenges?

In Perth we have been fortunate to have avoided the worst of the lockdowns. Most offices have returned to ‘normal’ working conditions, albeit that may include some staff working remotely for some periods of time.

In our office we are certainly far more flexible with staff requesting to work remotely, as we now know this can be done without any major impact on productivity.

Has your practice returned to the office, in part or whole?  How are you ensuring a COVID Safe workplace? What additional measures have you put in place?

All our staff are back in the office, and fortunately we have the space to ensure separation.

Has your practice returned to ‘business as usual’ or have you incorporated additional flexibility in your employment arrangements? (work from home, staggered starts, etc) How is this working?

Although essentially our practice has returned to business as usual, we are now far more flexible with staff wishing to work remotely. However, flexibility of starting times, work from home, and adjusting hours worked were already in place before COVID.

What measures have you put in place to support your employees’ mental wellbeing? How is this going?

We haven’t put any specific measures in place.

Malcolm Jones is a registered architect in Western Australia and Tasmania with over 25 years of experience. He is the Managing Director of Meyer Shircore Architects, a medium sized Perth based practice employing around 25 team members, with extensive experience over a wide range of market sectors.