1 August 2021

New technologies can help us complete tasks more quickly and efficiently, as well as offering us increased accessibility and convenience – but there is a downside. The sixth section of the Architects Mental Wellbeing Toolkit warns against us becoming slaves to new technology, with increased stress and information overload.

On the surface, it is easy to assume that technology has made life easier for architects.However, it brings with it its own stresses, such as software crashes, lost files, and the frustration of the spinning loading wheel. All of these reduce the amount of control we have over our work – decreasing autonomy and making us feel less empowered. It also makes it harder to predict how long a task will take. A great deal can depend on how the software or server is performing on any given day – which creates ‘unknowns’ in trying to plan your time.

On top of this, CAD and now BIM bring with them the perception of increased working speeds for clients, who are expecting increasing amounts of work and levels of detail in less and less time. This creates additional stress, and the potential of more overtime.

Developing communication technologies have made remote working much easier. However, convenience and increased accessibility often comes with expectations of 24/7 access by colleagues and clients. With more people at home, the lines between work and domestic life are becoming blurred, leading to increased employee overload, exhaustion, stress and burnout. It’s important to set boundaries and prioritise time away from screens, emails and social media.

Tips for practices

  • Put systems in place to create an efficient working methodology (with a good backup system!) Ensure that employees are well supported when working from home.
  • Invest in good equipment (and training). Software and hardware are expensive, but can save money in the long-term.
  • Provide good technical support systems.
  • Consider the impact of mobile technologies on staff wellbeing and work-life balance when supporting remote working.
  • Consider policies around tech-free time.

Tips for individuals

  • Speak to your team leader if you feel training may help with a lack of software knowledge, or seek out online tutorials.
  • Dealing with constant emails can make us less productive, and rest time is vital to good performance. Adopt a mindful, intentional use of digital technology to ensure your tech use doesn’t drain your time, energy and feeling of wellbeing.
  • Everyone has different preferences and priorities. Set personal boundaries around your email accessibility,  particularly outside work hours.

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.