The traditional image of an architect is someone who spends their days in an office or on a construction site, poring over blueprints and discussing plans with colleagues and clients. However, with the rise of technology and the increasing demand for flexible work arrangements, the question arises: can architects work from home?
This is a topic of great interest, not only for architects themselves but also for firms and clients who may be considering the advantages and challenges of remote work. In this article, we will explore the possibilities and limitations of working from home as an architect, and what this trend could mean for the future of the profession.
Can architects work from home?
Architects have the flexibility to work with clients from a wide range of industries and undertake projects of varying sizes. As a result, it’s not uncommon for some architects to work from home.
Thanks to technological advancements and the ability to communicate with other team members online, architects can remain in touch with their colleagues and continue to operate as creative professionals from a home-based environment, with several employment models to choose from:
Freelance architects typically work on smaller or one-time projects for individual clients. They may have limited responsibilities, such as designing or planning a building or space, which makes this employment model suitable for professionals who prefer specific tasks over others.
For instance, they may excel at making drawings or 3D models based on their calculations and unique vision.
Architects who opt for a home-based solo entrepreneurship model often collaborate with freelancers or contractors to complete projects for multiple clients concurrently. They typically operate under their own name but may establish a small company with a unique brand identity.
Since there is a diverse range of architectural jobs available in almost every industry, solo entrepreneurs can specialize in a particular industry or project type and prioritize it when selecting clients to work with.
Part- or full-time employees working remotely
Architects can of course also work as part- or full-time employees for an architecture firm while operating from home. In this scenario, they may need to visit the office a few times a month or once a week for critical meetings or to travel to clients’ offices to discuss projects.
This employment model is ideal for architects who prefer to concentrate on designing and may not enjoy dealing with business-related aspects of work. It is also a great option for professionals who value job stability but desire a more flexible schedule.
Reasons for working from home
Homeworking has been on the rise long before the pandemic gave it an almighty boost! The uptick in freelance contracts is one obvious reason for this, but many employers have also started to recognize there are good reasons for their staff to work from home.
The nine-to-five doesn’t suit everyone, particularly those with caring responsibilities or who live far from their place of work. Homeworking is also advantageous for people who are fit to work but have limited mobility, and many other groups beside.
As architects, we may sometimes find that a site is far from our office but close to our home, and in this case, it also makes sense to base ourselves at home. And needless to say, for architects who are self-employed as sole practitioners a home office is the logical, cost-effective choice.
How much space do we need?
For architecture firms that rent office space, rent payments often make up the largest single expense. However, a study conducted in June 2020 found that the majority of jobs in the architecture and engineering fields can however be carried out entirely remotely. This creates an opportunity for firms that are used to housing all employees in one space to significantly reduce overhead costs by maintaining a certain number of permanently remote staff.
It’s important to note that certain tasks cannot be performed from home. For example, regular project site visits during construction administration are location-dependent, and face-to-face contact can greatly enhance the back-and-forth process among architectural teams during key phases of a project’s life.
Additionally, some individuals may benefit from the dedicated, professional setting and experience of commuting to a workspace, even if only occasionally, which could have a positive effect on their quality of life and productivity.
To find an efficient middle ground, firms could consider renting an office space that is sized to accommodate only a portion of their staff. The use of this space could then be divided among employees based on their position or the project phase, with rotating schedules.
This approach could allow some positions to remain entirely remote, while others may rotate in and out of shared desks on a regular or flexible basis. Given the relative success that many firms experienced with the abrupt transition to remote work in 2020, this approach could be a viable solution for balancing the benefits and limitations of remote work.
Advantages of working from home for architects
There is now convincing evidence that a healthy work-life balance increases productivity, and allowing employees to work from home plays no small part in facilitating this.
Remote work provides several advantages for architects, many of which contribute to improved work-life balance, productivity, and cost savings for firms. Below are some of the key advantages of working from home for architects:
Flexibility and autonomy: One of the most significant benefits of remote work is increased flexibility and autonomy. Working from home allows architects to set their own schedules and work at their own pace, which can lead to increased productivity and job satisfaction.
Additionally, architects can choose a work environment that best suits their needs, whether it’s a quiet home office or a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi.
Cost savings: For firms that rent office space, rent payments are often the largest expense. By allowing employees to work from home, firms can significantly reduce overhead costs. This could allow firms to allocate resources toward other areas of the business, such as marketing, research and development, or employee training.
Improved work-life balance: By working from home, architects can spend more time with their families and pursue personal interests without sacrificing work responsibilities. Remote work allows for greater flexibility in managing family and work commitments, which can lead to reduced stress and increased job satisfaction.
Increased job opportunities: For architects who live in remote areas or have family commitments that prevent them from working in a traditional office, remote work can increase job opportunities. By allowing architects to work from anywhere, remote work eliminates geographic barriers that can limit job prospects.
Challenges of working from home for architects
While working from home offers many benefits, it also presents several challenges for architects. Below are some of the key challenges of working from home for architects:
Collaboration and communication: Architecture is a collaborative field that requires close communication and coordination among team members. Working from home can create barriers to this collaboration, making it more challenging to discuss design ideas, review drawings, and provide feedback on projects. Communication can also be hindered by technological issues or distractions in the home environment.
Inspiration and creativity: Architecture is also a creative field that draws inspiration from the built environment and social interactions. Working from home can limit exposure to new environments and social interactions, potentially leading to a decrease in creativity and inspiration. Remote work can also reduce opportunities for informal interactions that often lead to new ideas and perspectives.
Home office setup: Working from home requires a suitable home office setup that is conducive to productivity and focus. This can include a designated workspace, high-speed internet, and ergonomic equipment. Without a proper home office setup, architects may experience distractions and physical discomfort, which can hinder productivity.
Lack of boundaries: Working from home can blur the boundaries between work and personal life, leading to longer work hours and reduced downtime. This can lead to burnout and decreased job satisfaction if not properly managed.
Given these challenges, architects and firms need to take proactive steps to address them. This could include implementing clear communication protocols, providing resources and support for a suitable home office setup, and establishing clear boundaries between work and personal life.
By addressing these challenges, architects could successfully navigate the transition to remote work and take advantage of its many benefits.
Key items of equipment
To ensure successful remote work, architects need to use the right tools and strategies to manage their work and stay connected with their team members. Below are some key tools and strategies for successful remote work in architecture:
Software and tools
Remote work relies heavily on technology and communication tools to facilitate collaboration and coordination. Architects should invest in the right tools for their requirements, such as project management software, video conferencing tools, and cloud storage solutions. These tools can help architects share information, review drawings, and provide feedback in real-time.
Thankfully, today there are plenty of online tools to make remote working easier. Premium apps come with hefty price tags, but often there are copycats that can be downloaded for free. Below is a list of the most common types of online tools.
Communication is essential for successful remote work in architecture. Architects should establish clear communication protocols and standards to ensure everyone is on the same page. This could include regular check-ins with team members, regular status updates, and virtual design reviews.
Many organisations are now moving away from email and on to communications apps like Slack (paid) or Chanty (free; up-gradable), which have dedicated spaces for separate projects instead of one unwieldy inbox.
Remote work can be isolating, which can impact job satisfaction and productivity. Architects should prioritize maintaining social connections with team members through regular check-ins, virtual team-building activities, and informal chats. This can help create a sense of community and shared purpose among team members.
Although Skype (free; up-gradable) has been the video conferencing standard for years, the Covid-19 outbreak brought Zoom (free; up-gradable) to many people’s attention.
The latter is considered particularly stable, and the paid version can handle up to 1,000 people in one video call.
Working remotely requires effective task management to ensure that projects stay on track. Architects should establish clear project timelines and milestones and use project management software to track progress and deadlines. This can help team members stay organized and focused on their tasks.
Project management tools allow you to plan work, allocate resources, share information and schedule tasks. Basecamp (paid) and Trello (free; up-gradable) are two popular packages for managing projects.
For many people Evernote (free; up-gradable) remains the go-to note taking app, not least because of its Web Clipper extension that lets you save whole web pages with one click.
If you’re more of a minimalist, however, you might prefer something like Google Keep (free).
While good old Google Drive (free; up-gradable) is adequate for personal and even small business use, larger companies might prefer IDrive (paid) for ease of use and the huge storage space it offers.
IDrive continuously syncs your documents and retains up to 30 previous versions for peace of mind.
‘Productivity’ is a somewhat vague term that could encompass communication, project management and note taking apps. In sum, though, a productivity tool should help you do more work in less time. For an app that behaves like a personal assistant, you might like to try ToDoist (free; up-gradable).
The well-established QuickBooks (paid) certainly offers everything you need for small business accounting, but ZipBooks (free; up-gradable) gives it a run for its money by offering unlimited invoicing and bookkeeping.
Remote work can blur the boundaries between work and personal life, leading to burnout and decreased job satisfaction. Architects should establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, such as setting regular work hours and taking regular breaks. This can help maintain work-life balance and prevent burnout.
There are well-being tools to take care of your physical and mental health when homeworking, and that’s where apps like Insight Timer (free; up-gradable) – for meditation and mindfulness – or Pocket Yoga (paid) can help.
Online architecture courses and training
If you’re homeworking, you might be considering how to maximize all the extra hours in your day. And what better way than to take an online course? Here are a few options to improve your knowledge and skills.
To improve your software skills, whether it’s in AutoCAD or more general-use programs like Photoshop and InDesign, you might like to try lynda.com (paid, but a free month’s trial is available), udemy.com (paid) or skillshare.com (free and paid versions available).
On masterclass.com you will find affordable courses by industry-leading professionals, including Frank Gehry on design and architecture. edx.org also has a wide range of free courses from 3D Modelling from Architectural Drawings to Zero-Energy Design.
If you’re considering working for yourself, you might be interested in the course Architect + Entrepreneur available on teachable.com (paid).
History and theory
All kinds of free MOOCs are available on platforms such as edx.org, coursera.com and futurelearn.com. Oxford University offers short, online courses in various aspects of architectural history (paid), but you can also educate yourself while libraries are closed by reading blogs, e-books and open source journal articles. There are plenty of documentaries and lectures on YouTube and TED, as well as podcasts such as Young Architect and the long-running Design Matters.
Working at home for architecture students
Let’s be honest: studying from home is harder for some subjects that others. Subjects with practical elements, such as architecture, are always going to be tough, but certainly not impossible.
Make sure you’re got the right equipment and software, as set out above. If you’re going to be working from home for a long time, you will also need model-making tools and supplies.
Effective homeworking as an architecture student is not only about equipment, however. You will have to adapt to a new way of working that involves considerable self-discipline.
Set yourself a schedule and follow it. Make sure you know when online lectures and seminars are taking place, prepare for these as thoroughly as you usually would, and log on early so you can troubleshoot any technical issues.
There is also the issue of community. Working in isolation can be especially difficult when you’re used to bouncing ideas off your peers. Make sure you stay in touch via video conferencing apps, and set up WhatsApp groups to exchange ideas or just check in on each other.
Finally, don’t lose touch with what’s happening in the industry just because you are stuck at home. Choose a handful of architecture websites and blogs that are regularly updated, and try to stay on top of any important industry developments.
Tips for architects working at home
Remote work has its advantages and disadvantages, including the challenge of maintaining balance throughout the day. It’s essential to avoid overeating, remaining physically stagnant, or feeling stir-crazy. While several tips can contribute to a well-balanced mind and body, here are a few suggestions to help maintain balance while working from home.
Start the day strong: The first half an hour of your day sets the tone for the rest. Try to get some fresh air before you sit down to work. Scientists think there may be a link between vitamin D (from exposure to the sun) and brain function, so go for a run, cycle round the block, take the dog for a walk, or just stretch in your garden.
Don’t wake and work: It can be tempting to crack on with work as soon as you wake up, but this is rarely a good idea. Moving directly from a mindset of rest to one of productivity means you eliminate potential time for creativity. That’s another reason why a morning routine is so important.
Have a designated work area…: Even if your living space is small, don’t work from your bed. Create a space that is solely for working, so the boundaries between work and relaxation don’t get blurred. If you’re really struggling to find room, consider whether pieces of furniture can have separate daytime and night-time functions, or whether objects can be more cleverly stored.
…and make it personal: You’ll work best if your workspace is comfortable – and not only physically. Since you have no co-workers, you can turn up the heating or throw the windows open as you prefer. Play music or work in silence. Burn a relaxing candle or don’t. Your home, your rules!
Always keep your eye out for interesting work: It’s always a good idea to check out the Competitions and Opportunities Board on Archdaily, the Competitions page of the Architectural Review, and the Latest Competitions page of the Architects’ Journal. However, many interesting jobs come though contacts, so don’t let homeworking be an excuse for not staying in touch with yours!
Remember homeworking isn’t limited to your home: The low buzz of public places such as coffee shops and libraries can actually be conducive to work. If you travel a lot, you can also work on trains and planes – basically, anywhere with a decent internet connection.
Let the light in: Try to avoid working in a windowless room. (If you have to do this, take regular breaks in a lighter space.) Position your desk next to a window whenever possible, as a view of the outside world can be both calming and inspiring, especially if you’re surrounded by plenty of green.
Make use of tools and apps: Take advantage of online tools such as Zoom and Trello that are described above. Today there’s almost no task that you can’t get help with!
Enjoy the flexibility…: Working from home allows you to plan your day on your own terms. If you’re not a morning person, shift your day back by an hour. Want to work through lunch today? No problem. Feel the need to stretch your legs for half an hour? Do it. As long as you deliver everything you’ve promised to, how you do so is up to you.
…but don’t abandon routine and boundaries: Though flexibility is great, it’s essential still to maintain some kind of routine, as well as personal boundaries. You should try to work the same number of hours each day, so you’re not tempted to slack off. Keep your door closed so others in your household understand you’re not available, and tidy your workspace at the end of each day.
You’ll feel much better starting work the next morning with a clear desk.
Pick up the phone: Email is helpful, but calling someone (especially with video) mimics real-world communication much more effectively. If you miss the busy vibe of your office, pick up the phone and chat to a colleague.
Clear your inbox: There’s nothing more dispiriting than hundreds of emails sitting in your inbox. Unless you’re expecting something urgent, experts recommend dealing with emails twice a day. Turn off notifications so you don’t think about them outside of these times.
And deal with emails as soon as you’ve read them: if it’s something straightforward, reply; if you need to gather further information, add it to your to-do list; and if it’s not relevant, delete it.
Take regular breaks: Your productivity goes down when you work for long periods. Try to take a five-minute break every hour, and a 30-minute break every four hours. Stand up, stretch, grab a glass of water and a healthy snack, or step outside for some air.
Get dressed: It’s easy to slob about in pyjamas when you’re working from home, but that won’t put you in the right mindset for work. You’ll feel more motivated if you get dressed, and try to be grateful that you don’t have to make the same effort as when you go into the office.
However, make sure you look smart if you have any video calls scheduled that day – on your top half, at least!
Have a regular cut-off time: As well as working the same number of hours each day, try to have a regular cut-off time for work. It doesn’t have to be five o’clock (or whenever you usually finish), but keeping it the same every day lets you make a clear psychological distinction between work and leisure time.
Use the garden: If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space, make the most of it. In the summer months, why not take your laptop into the garden? Even opening windows and doors, and letting a breeze come inside, can bring about the same positive feeling.
Consider using a VPN: Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) any time you connect to public wifi. For added security, you might also like to use one at home. Your location and activity will be hidden from prying eyes, and as an added bonus you can access content that is normally restricted to particular geographical regions.
Try to eat healthy food: One of the biggest problems with homeworking is that a healthy diet can quickly go out of the window. It seems easier to cook instant noodles than assemble a salad, but the difference in time and effort is minimal. If you’re a snacker, aim for healthier choices like nuts, seeds and fruit that are thought to improve cognitive function.
Don’t forget to relax: As a homeworker, you will often be told you are ‘lucky’, but in truth you are likely to suffer many of the same stresses than office-based employees do. Nobody ever really escapes deadlines, or that one irritating colleague who rubs you up the wrong way! Step away from your computer if you feel tense, and consider yoga or meditation to help you stay calm.
In the past, working from home might have seemed impossible for many architects, but today’s technology has made it a workable – even enjoyable – reality for many. Even if you were forced into homeworking for public health reasons, you might feel a certain reluctance to return to your old routine!
There is no getting away from the fact that homeworking requires discipline. You need to be determined and consistent – but also to be kind to yourself.
The shift to remote work has become a reality for many architecture firms, and it presents both opportunities and challenges for the profession. Remote work provides many advantages, such as increased flexibility, cost savings, and improved work-life balance. However, it also presents challenges, such as reduced collaboration, inspiration, and communication barriers.
To address these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities presented by remote work, architects and firms must adopt effective tools and strategies to manage their work and stay connected with their team members.
These include using the right technology and tools, establishing clear communication protocols, prioritizing task management, maintaining social connections, and balancing work and personal life.
As we continue to navigate the evolving socio-professional landscape, the future of remote work in architecture remains uncertain.
However, by embracing the benefits of remote work while addressing its challenges, architects and firms can achieve success and contribute to the continued growth and success of the profession.
FAQ’s about can architects work from home?
Can architects ever be location-independent?
There is no doubt that homeworking offers more freedom than working in an office. But go one step further, and you have location-independence: working from ‘home’ when home could be a Thai beach hut in January and a Portuguese farmhouse in July. Lots of people dream of combining work and travel in this way – but can architects ever really be location-independent?
The short answer to this is yes. The long answer is yes, with a lot of preparation!
First, you will need to register your company (even if your company is a one-man band) and get a business address for correspondence. That doesn’t mean you have to rent a physical space; there are companies who provide mail receipt and forwarding services for a small fee.
You will also need to set up a bank account that will meet your international needs, which involves talking through your plans with an advisor.
Another thing to consider is Professional Indemnity Insurance. This is a legal requirement for Architects, and will cover you in case of neglect, error or omission while working on a project.
How many hours a day does an architect work?
The number of hours an architect works can vary depending on a range of factors, including their specific job responsibilities, the size and complexity of the projects they are working on, and their employment arrangement. In general, architects typically work full-time, which can mean around 40 hours a week.
However, architects may work longer hours, especially during project deadlines or when working with international clients in different time zones. Additionally, architects who are self-employed or work for smaller firms may work more extended hours to manage administrative tasks or to find new clients.
Overall, the number of hours an architect works can vary depending on several factors and is not limited to a set number of hours per day or week.
Do architects have free time?
Like any other professional, architects have free time outside of work, though the amount of free time they have can vary based on their workload, projects, and employment arrangement. Many architects work full-time and may have demanding schedules that require them to work long hours, especially during project deadlines.
In contrast, some architects may work part-time or have a more flexible schedule, allowing them to have more free time. Additionally, architects may work on weekends or evenings to meet project deadlines, which can limit their free time.
However, it’s essential for architects to maintain a healthy work-life balance to avoid burnout and maintain their creativity and productivity. Architects may use their free time to pursue personal interests, spend time with family and friends, or engage in activities that promote their well-being.
Do architects get days off?
Yes, architects are entitled to days off and vacation time like other professionals. The number of days off that architects receive may vary depending on their employment arrangement, location, and the specific company they work for.
In many countries, full-time employees are entitled to a minimum number of paid vacation days per year, which can range from two weeks to several weeks, depending on the country’s laws and the company’s policies. Architects who are self-employed or work for smaller firms may have more flexibility in scheduling their time off.
Regardless of their employment arrangement, architects must ensure that they take the time off they need to maintain a healthy work-life balance and prevent burnout.
Do architects sit at a desk all day?
Architects may spend a significant amount of time working at a desk, but their work involves a wide range of tasks and activities beyond desk work. Architects often work on design and construction projects that involve planning, site visits, client meetings, and presentations.
They may spend time on construction sites overseeing the progress of a project, meeting with clients, or working with engineers, contractors, and other professionals involved in the project. They may also spend time researching materials, visiting suppliers, and attending industry events.
While a portion of an architect’s job may involve desk work, architects need to be versatile and flexible in their work to ensure the success of their projects.