Architecture Australia

Work-related mental wellbeing in architecture: Getting beyond the loop

Concerns about mental health and work-related wellbeing within the architecture profession are not new. For some years, there has been a strong shared perception, and growing anecdotal evidence, of a challenging work environment and high levels of stress and anxiety among architectural practitioners and students alike. Discussion in the architectural press – particularly in the UK-based Architects’ Journal, but also across almost all of the online and print publications in the Anglophone world – has been both widespread and emphatic, with many arguing that we have real issues with work-related mental wellbeing, that these problems are widespread and systemic, and that they are at least ongoing and perhaps getting worse. Australian commentators including Sandra Kaji-O’Grady,1 Byron Kinnaird2 and Peter Raisbeck,3 among others, have addressed the issue in widely discussed essays.

Individuals at every level of the profession, from recent graduates to senior leaders and academics, have their own stories to tell: of practitioners and students pushed to the brink, with mental health challenges becoming more common, more complex and more serious, far exceeding “normal” (even beneficial) levels of everyday stress. Further, many of us have our own direct experiences to reflect on: the often quite profound effects of work-related stress on physical and mental wellbeing, which have caused some to burn out and depart the profession altogether.

But while many of us think there may be a problem in architecture, or know it at a personal and experiential level, we can’t prove it. We lack a detailed understanding of whether, how and why it is true across the whole profession. If there is a systemic problem, we don’t know its precise nature, what exactly is causing it, or which aspects are particular to architectural

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