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Confidence surges but actual workload remains 5% lower – RIBA Future Trends January 2020

20 February 2020

The RIBA Future Trends Workload Index surged into positive territory for the first month of 2020 with a balance figure of +17 – up 19 points.

Small practices led the surge returning a balance figure of +14 (up from -6), and medium and large-sized practices followed suit with a combined balance figure of +47 (up from + 38).

All regions expected workloads to increase over the next three months: London sprung to +2 (up from -18); the Midlands & East Anglia rose to +24 (from -13); the South of England to +15 (from 0); Wales and the West +25 (from +14); and the North of England +26 (also from +14).

In terms of different sectors, the private housing sector (+18) rose significantly by 16 points, and the commercial sector (+3) returned a positive balance figure for the first time since May last year. The community sector also climbed out of negative territory (sitting at 0) and the public sector rose by one point (to -3).

The RIBA Future Trends Staffing Index also rose slightly, with a balance figure of +5 – up from +2. But while 32% of practices expect workloads to grow, only 11% expect an increase in full-time staff.

RIBA Head of Economic Research and Analysis, Adrian Malleson, said:

“While January saw the largest confidence rise since Future Trends monitoring began, and the highest balance score since June 2018, for architects, this has not yet translated into real workload growth.

Workloads remain on average 5% lower than they were a year ago, and 20% of respondents told us they were personally under-employed due to a lack of work.

While some practices pointed to an active housing market and felt political stability brought by the election result could have a positive impact on workloads, long standing concerns over Brexit remained. Until trade agreements with the EU have been crystallised and government spending plans have been made clear, we can continue to expect reports of a competitive market and hesitation on the part of clients.

Nevertheless, this month’s results are good news; growth in confidence can be a good indicator of real growth to come.”


Notes to editors:

1. For further press information contact: or +44 (0) 20 7307 3811

2. Completed by a mix of small, medium and large firms based on a geographically representative sample, the RIBA Future Trends Survey was launched in January 2009 to monitor business and employment trends affecting the architects’ profession.

3. The survey is carried out by the RIBA in partnership with the Fees Bureau. Results of the survey, including a full graphical analysis, are published each month here.

4. The definition for the workload balance figure is the difference between those expecting more work and those expecting less. A negative figure means more respondents expect less work than those expecting more work. This figure is used to represent the RIBA Future Trends workload index.

5. The definition for the staffing balance figure is the difference between those expecting to employ more permanent staff in the next three months and those expecting to employ fewer. A negative figure means more respondents expect to employ fewer permanent staff. This figure is used to represent the RIBA Future Trends staffing index.

6. To participate in the RIBA Future Trends Survey, please contact the RIBA Practice Department on 020 7307 3749 or email The survey takes approximately five minutes to complete each month, and all returns are independently processed in strict confidence.

7. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates.

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