A lot has been written about the challenges of striking that appropriate WORK life balance. Architecture as a profession has a particular reputation for elevating the WORK portion of that equation, and as emerging professionals we are expected to join in with the established guard. Sacrifices for deadlines, both immediate and eminent, are expected, not asked for. Salaries that are based on a minimum of 50 hours a week, with up to 80 during crunch times? Why not, that’s basically what we did for our studios, and for free!
Being the optimist I am, however, this blog post is not about that. This one is about striking the appropriate LIFE work balance. A simple inverse I know, but one with serious ramifications. I’m sure we all know at least two or three practitioners who have a story of sacrifice, either of personal relationships or personal health. Heart attacks at young ages, missing life’s milestones for deadlines. Why, as a profession, do we do this to ourselves?
But things are not always as they seem, and stereotypes are often made to be broken.
While it is true that being an emerging professional today brings with it a record low economy and high levels of competition for employment/work, we are also facing a shifting of the guards. I’m going to go ahead and put forth the notion that the entire culture of architecture as a profession is changing, and for the better.
There seems to be a more cognizant recognition of the importance of spending time away from work. Flexible hours, gym memberships, bike share programs, these are all things that are no longer only heard of in fields like high tech. Architecture is as creative a profession as any other, thriving on the input of its practitioners, and for those practitioners to thrive they need to be performing at their best.
Architecture is a mentally demanding field. It is said that the only true asset of an architecture firm lies in the collective knowledge of its people. So doesn’t it make sense then to pay particular attention to the maintenance of that asset? To the health of ourselves, our employees, and our co-workers?
I think the established guard is starting to get it, and things are starting to change for the better.
Now I’m not saying that every position is the same, and some firms are going to be slower to adapt than others. I’m also not saying there isn’t a very definite need for design professionals to sit down together around a table and hash out project specifics and alternatives, but in this day and age is anyone really needing to be stuck in an office/cubicle, chained to a desk for 16 hours a day? And the sad fact is that there will always be those crunch times when an 80 hour week is required, but those should be few and far between.
In full disclosure, I am writing all of this with a 14 week old in the next room, so maybe it’s just my own personal sense of priorities shifting. What do you think?