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Bespoke Careers

06 December 2023

06 December 2023

How to Manage the Live-Work Culture in a Design Studio

Across studios large and small, workplace flexibility — especially the hot topic of remote work — is an issue presenting significant challenges and opportunities. 

Questions about where employees work most effectively, and whether effective design collaboration can occur remotely, are becoming increasingly important factors in talent attraction and people management. 

Against this backdrop, fostering a healthy and communicative live-work culture becomes increasingly vital for studios. We’ll delve into the key issues surrounding remote and on-site work in the context of flexibility and wellbeing for architecture and interior design jobs, and what managers could consider when shaping their workplace policies. 

Expanding the Definition of ‘Flexibility’ in Architecture Jobs 

We’re seeing the unmistakable trend of studios pulling employees back into the office, an issue reflecting the broader pattern currently reported in business and mainstream news media.  

On one hand, many organisations are hardening their stance on teams working more hours in the office, for enhanced collaboration and accessibility. On the other, employees are determined to preserve the flexibility they have come to cherish while working remotely in recent years.   

Many people seek to maintain a balance, reserving 1-2 days per week for remote work, particularly with the rising costs of living and stagnant salary growth. Those facing lengthy commutes each day find it challenging to conform to a five-day in-office schedule, which can impact their well-being and reduce time for essential activities like exercise. 

However, we’re also seeing that employers are more willing to provide options that recreate the flexibility of working from home within the studio. In practice, this may look like longer lunch breaks to accommodate a gym session, or the ability to shuffle work hours around family commitments and hobbies. 

And, employers are more determined to foster a sense of togetherness and community amongst their teams, with an increased emphasis on creating a social environment in the form of community lunches and relaxed office environments.  

Managing Expectations for Overtime  

These days, working until 2 am to complete a drawing package is much more likely to be frowned upon – a sign that attitudes towards work-life balance have undergone vital change. 

That said, studios do have an imperative to establish clear boundaries around overtime. In hybrid work settings, the lines between professional and personal time can become even more blurred, as creatives find it harder to switch off and put aside an absorbing work problem until tomorrow. 

Recognising this, several of our clients have introduced ‘buffer zones’ around what they deem acceptable levels of overtime throughout the working week. Overtime worked within that buffer zone is compensated with pay, while any time clocked up beyond that buffer zone requires management sign-off.  

It’s important to keep on top of legal and industry codes for preserving worker well-being, including their mental health. In Australia, for example, new work health safety regulations require businesses to manage psychosocial risks in the same manner as physical risks — including remote work, high job demands, and inadequate reward and recognition.  

Tips for Effectively Managing Live-Work Culture  

1. Leadership Role Modelling: Leaders can model a diverse range of work patterns to demonstrate that success isn’t tied to a specific work style, or the number of hours spent at the desk. A great organisation thrives on a variety of types and work styles. 

2. Strategic Resourcing: Assign a practice manager or leader responsible for resource management, to ensure projects, data, and resources are tracked efficiently. A neutral figure, ideally not a project director, promotes effective collaboration and facilitates internal changes. 

3. Transparent Communication: Clearly communicate policies on overtime and how it is defined. Create an environment where compensation for extra hours is transparent, fair, and consistent, preventing any awkwardness for employees seeking it.   

4. Proactive Culture Monitoring: Watch for signs of a negative work-life balance and perfectionism culture. Proactive measures can help address these issues before they impact the psychosocial well-being of employees. Giving space for regular, candid one-on-one conversations can empower employees to voice their concerns and challenges.  

5. Consider How to Best Nurture Junior Employees:  

Studios that hire graduates should consider how they can nurture and mentor these employees in the critical early stages of their careers. If all senior staff are working off-site, it’s worth considering how junior employees may miss out on those vital moments of serendipitous learning that come from informal interactions, such as casual conversations with colleagues or overhearing a client meeting.  


Building and maintaining a thriving live-work culture requires a thoughtful approach that combines flexibility, effective communication, and strategic leadership. By embracing a diverse range of work patterns and prioritising employee well-being, your design studio can create an environment that fosters both creativity and productivity. 

Engaging a reputable architecture and design recruitment specialist can give you essential insights into how workplace flexibility issues are affecting candidate decisions.  

To learn more about the forces influencing talent attraction for your organisation, connect with Bespoke Careers’ friendly and knowledgeable teams in the UK, US and Australia. Contact us today for a tailored strategy that places skilled designers in your business.   

Author: Krista Shearer, Bespoke Careers

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