26 February 2021
26 February 2021
London set for a gradual recovery post-pandemic after a hiring halt last year
2021 Global Salary Guide
After a halt in hiring when the pandemic struck and minimal activity in the months that followed, we saw an upturn in enquiries from practices looking to hire in Q4 last year and since then, in spite of a succession of lockdowns, the London market remains surprisingly buoyant. As a result, we are cautiously optimistic and expecting a slow but gradual recovery.
The succession of lockdowns and restrictions across the UK have undoubtedly had a negative impact on recruitment in the industry. Some sectors have fared well during the pandemic; luxury housing and high-end private residential and unsurprisingly, healthcare remained resilient throughout last year and continues to thrive this year. SMEs with a strong pipeline of work appeared to manage the challenges more effectively than the larger global studios. In line with the general economy, firms specialising in hospitality and workplace suffered badly from the outset and this is where most redundancies across architecture and interiors have been seen.
Due to the ever-changing economic landscape, many companies are opting to hire contractors to remain flexible and allow them to react quickly to unpredictable workloads, although typically specific skillsets and software are sought. Some astute firms are hiring individuals who have their own equipment and software, expanding their teams which are no longer limited by the physical number of workstations or desk spaces they have.
Strategic hiring was back on the agenda for many in Q4 last year and positions that were in play pre-pandemic are being revisited. Strong leadership is going to be key as we move into the new post-pandemic era and forward-thinking studios are working on their leadership strategy. As firms begin to rebuild their teams and focus on new business, we envisage our strategic hiring team will be incredibly busy and this will continue throughout 2021.
In the last couple of months there has been a noticeable increase in hiring for business support roles, many of which were the first to go at the beginning of the pandemic. Companies appear to realise that a strong operations team will be vital for success now more than ever. Demand is high and competitive for business developers, marketeers and strategic HR.
"Strong leadership is going to be key as we move into the new post-pandemic era and forward-thinking studios are working on their leadership strategy."
The pandemic has seen many firms question whether productivity is impacted by remote working. Companies who may have resisted this in the past have adapted well and some believe that the 9-5, five days-a-week office-based model is a thing of the past. Others are less convinced and highlight the impact on design quality, communication and the social impact on mental health and well-being. The eventual outcome and the impact the pandemic will have had on our working patterns remain to be seen. Whatever the future of the workplace looks like, we envisage that the route each business takes will impact on their ability or otherwise to access the best talent. We also envisage there being more protracted negotiations. For some global businesses, more engagement virtually is proving to be a positive with international colleagues embracing video calling and forming better connections with team members based in other locations. However, for most, the need for an office for team design collaboration remains important with many firms opting for shifts of socially distanced office time when official guidance allows.
As the UK has left the EU and free movement has ended, restricting the stream of talent from Europe, we will inevitably see the candidate market shrink. As we emerge from the pandemic, until we have a workable system established to bring talent into the UK, we will likely see skills shortages, and salaries may increase. The positive news on the proposed points-based system is that it will allow practices to import talent from outside of the EU, effectively opening the doors to the rest of world. Firms looking to hire foreign nationals will, however, need to be registered sponsors, and if the current system to do this remains unchanged it will be a cumbersome and time-consuming process. This could be a prohibitive route for smaller firms to employ talent if they lack infrastructure to manage it.
The UK market has continually proved resilient and able to adapt to changing conditions. Be it the challenges posed by the GFC, Brexit or the pandemic, we are optimistic we will see a recovery this year and look forward to the new post-Brexit, post-pandemic future.
Author: Jimmy Bent, Managing Director, Bespoke Careers