Office Culture & Overtime

31 July 2021

Successfully managing stress levels within the workplace is an important component of long-term health for anyone. The first section of the Architects Mental Wellbeing Toolkit covers the importance of a good healthy office culture, effective time management and prioritising time away from work.

Having an office culture that supports and promotes healthy habits will reap many benefits – increased productivity, reduced absence, employee engagement, creativity, reduced staff turnover. A team with long-term healthy working habits will work sensible hours, take full lunch breaks, take annual leave and rest after busy periods.

The ideal is a workplace where individuals work hard and productively during core hours, but have the time to take care of their own lives and health – whether that be playing sport or going to the gym, seeing friends and family, putting time and effort into hobbies and interests outside of work or relaxing in order to get a good night’s sleep. When people feel frazzled, overwhelmed and exhausted they are less likely to give their best, focus, be creative and have patience – attributes that are vital for any architect to be successful in their role (in the short and long term).

Tips for practices

  • Work with the team to develop shared values and a respectful, positive culture.
  • Lead from the front! Encouraging senior staff to leave at a sensible hour can have a trickle-down effect through the practice.
  • Monitor hours and take action to address the development of a long-hours culture.
  • Encourage transparency and open, honest communication and consultation.
  • Consider ideas such as flexible working, time off in lieu or paid overtime, which foster trust in staff.
  • Train staff in ‘soft skills’ such as time-management and communication.

Tips for individuals

  • Plan out your work and goals each morning before you start.
  • Aim to work smart and hard – it is possible to achieve more in a productive 8 hours than a sluggish 14.
  • Keep a ‘daily habits’ diary for a few weeks and honestly review the way you work.
  • Reconsider the way you approach tasks – read up on ‘chunking’ systems such as the Pomodoro technique.
  • Avoid multi-tasking – it is a false-economy!
  • Look up the 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle) and try to resist perfectionism.

Useful references

This is an excerpt from the first edition of the Architects Mental Wellbeing Toolkit (Australia), an edited version of the UK Toolkit, which was compiled by members of the Architects Mental Wellbeing Forum in the UK – a group that John Assael and Ben Channon set up in late 2017 with the ambition of improving mental health across the profession.

This toolkit includes content and resources specific to Australia. We would like to thank Ben Channon and the AMWF UK for their generosity in allowing us to tailor this Toolkit for the Australian profession. Thanks also to Artemis Nikolopoulou, who designed the UK Toolkit, and Siân Rearden for the illustrations.