Dubai architects and designers work 23% more than their contracted hours and feel pressured to stay overtime

According to designMENA’s work/life balance survey, designers and architects work on average 23% more than their contracted hours.

Respondents said they are contracted to work on average 40 hours per week, while actually working 49 hours.

Architects claimed longer contracted working hours (44 hours) and on actual working week averaging 52 hours. Interior designers are contracted to work 39 hours, with an actual average working week of 48 hours.

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In general, architects reported more pressure to work longer hours.

Little difference is seen in working hours across small and large firms. However, results reveal that senior designers and members of higher management work on average 50 hours a week across both design disciplines.

Elie Choucair, associate partner at Godwin Austen Johnson (GAJ), said that working overtime has become a norm in the design and architecture industries.

“It is impossible to be a designer, and be able to count on finishing a project within your contracted hours. It is a competitive industry and if success is your goal, then spending longer hours seeking perfection is perfectly normal in our industry,” he said.

He, however, stressed the importance of allowing employees to “unplug from work”.

“Long working hours can affect our thought processes and increase stress levels, reducing creativity and production. It is the responsibility of each of us to set a boundary so that we have time to disconnect from work and to do other things. Coming to the office refreshed with new ideas can have a positive impact on the design process,” he added.

The survey findings also revealed that 54% of respondents feel pressured to work long hours, with 51% claiming that they don’t feel fairly compensated for overtime. These results are similar across genders, seniority, company size as well as family status.

Diane Thorsen, principal at Perkins + Will Dubai office, said that establishing an office where employees support one another is crucial to maintaining a balance between work and leisure time.

“The Middle East is very fast-paced, and deadlines are often unrealistic. We have created a family type working environment where the teams support one another.

“As managers, we do our best to give time back for long hours spent and offer a flexible working arrangement. The hours are long, and if this stress isn’t balanced by individuals with rest and exercise it will take its toll,” said Thorsen.

At Studio Bruno Guelaff working overtime isn’t something that is expected of its employees.

“We really try to end work at a certain hour. Of course, if an employee wants to work extra hours to compensate for an activity the following day that is welcomed but we stress not to go over the typical working day,” said Bruno Guelaff, founder of the company.

The online survey took place during the working month of May 2017 with a total of 126 respondents.

The survey also found that Dubai-based architects are less satisfied with work/life balance than interior designers. 

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