The latest issue of Insight Weekly is available to view online

Insight_twitter_logo_2In this week’s issue; Paul Goodchild reviews Chicago-based office design event Neocon; Andrew Mawson describes a major new research project on knowledge workers and Dan Callegari argues the business case for green building design is changing. Mark Eltringham finds we are often best able to understand the way people function by using symbols of mechanisation; asks whether the environment could now be something of a non-issue for building managers and suggests employers like open plan offices because they allow them to keep an eye on what people are doing. We reveal that working while on holiday is fast becoming the norm for many workers and that new evidence is published on the positive influence of good ergonomics on performance. Subscribe for free quarterly issues of Work&Place and via the subscription form in the right hand sidebar for weekly news, follow us on Twitter and join our LinkedIn Group to discuss these and other stories.

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One in five Americans would change jobs for better work-life balance

One in five Americans would change jobs for better work-life balance More than half of US and Canadian employees report feeling overworked and burnt out (53 percent), yet the overwhelming majority (86 percent) say they are still happy at work. According to the inaugural Staples Advantage Workplace Index employees are working longer days, with about a quarter of them regularly working after the standard workday is done. A key motivator is to advance in the organization, with nearly two-thirds of respondents seeing themselves as managers in the next five years. Though employees are largely conditioned to working longer hours, about one in five do expect to change jobs in the next twelve months. Steps employers can take to improve happiness levels include; adding more office perks, improving office technology and providing a better office design. Alongside this, with employees working longer days and on weekends, the biggest request is for employers to provide more flexibility. more…

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Over half of workers feel required to work on holiday, and it’s becoming the norm

Working on holidayMobile technology is acknowledged as a boon to flexible working, but can very easily spill into an unhealthy work/life balance. This is most in evidence around summer holiday time, as illustrated by the latest poll on the subject by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM). It surveyed more than 1,000 UK workers and managers to find that more than half of workers (61%) feel obligated to work while on leave. The ILM suggests this is the negative side effect of modern technology, as people are contactable anytime and anywhere. 64 percent read and send emails during their time off, 28 percent take business phone calls and 8 percent go into the office. Meanwhile, only 28 percent of those surveyed reported that they had had arguments with friends and family about their working on holiday, down from 37 percent two years ago, which seems to indicate that it is fast becoming the norm to be constantly switched on.

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Employees prefer diverse working experiences to traditional career ladder

Climbing the career ladderEmployees value a varied working experience and flexibility over traditional, linear career progression, a global study published by the Top Employers Institute claims. The Career & Succession Management Report identifies the global developments forcing employers to rethink career and succession management strategies. These include skill shortages resulting in a global competition for best talent and an increased risk of losing business-critical knowledge due to the ageing of the workforce. There is also a new generation of workers seeking diverse work assignments and flexibility, who are taking greater responsibility for their own career management, resulting in less loyalty to employers and less interest in the traditional step-by-step climbing of career ladders. The findings suggest that HR needs to move from assuring the smooth succession of leadership to concentrate more on wider long-term staff engagement and retention.

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Scientific management and the enduring love of the open plan office

PanopticonThere are many reasons why organisations like open plan offices. When it comes to making the business case for them however, firms prefer to talk about some more than others. So while they prefer to focus on the argument in terms of how openness can foster better lines of communication, collaboration, teamwork and team spirit, they talk rather less about the fact that the open plan is a lot cheaper than its alternatives and how they like it because it allows them to keep an eye on what people are doing. In theory, a great deal more of this surveillance now happens electronically so the need for physical presence should be less pressing, but the residual desire to see with one’s own eyes what people are doing remains. This is the instinct that constrains the uptake of flexible working and also means that there is a hierarchical divide in who gets to decide where they work.

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Three ways in which the business case for green building design is moving on

ODD 02The case for sustainable building design used to be based on two straightforward principles. The first was that buildings had to offer up some sustainable features to comply with the ethical standards of their occupiers. The second was that there was some financial benefit. Often these principles went hand in hand, especially when it came to issues such as energy efficiency. They remain the foundations of the idea of green building design and are applicable across a range of building accreditations such as BREEAM as well as standards relating to specific products and policies. Over the past couple of years, however, we have become increasingly aware of other drivers that might make us all re-evaluate how we approach sustainability. These drivers are based on a more sophisticated understanding of green building design and the benefits for all of those involved.

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Takeup of flexible working remains sluggish in UK SMEs claims Microsoft study

flexible working womanIt’s now one year since the UK Government extended the right to request flexible working to nearly all UK permanent employees. Two new surveys have been published to coincide with the anniversary and gauge the effects of the legislation. Both surveys, from EY and Microsoft UK, paint somewhat mixed pictures, with uptake considerably slower than might have been expected. The study by Microsoft, one of the UK’s great champions of flexible working, found that just 22 percent of workers in SMEs have requested flexible working as a direct result of the new legislation. The report also found that over half (55 percent) of British office workers are still required to work from the office during set working hours. A similar proportion (44 percent) claim it is not possible for them to work remotely under any circumstances.

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Settings, silence, serendipity, wellbeing and other lessons from Neocon

WHY_Provocations_05The trick with visits to exhibitions like Neocon, the huge office design event which has just wrapped up in Chicago, is to stay focussed on the wood as much as the trees. So as well as identifying new products, you can also work out the themes pursued by the exhibitors and organisers which are invariably based on the ideas they are currently discussing with their clients. The show becomes a microcosm of what is happening in the outside world. At this year’s Neocon, some of the most readily identifiable themes included the dissipation of the workplace, the creation of work settings, privacy, ergonomics, wellbeing and serendipity. With the possible exception of the age old problem of ergonomics, these all relate to our changing relationship with work and workplaces, not least how we can work from anywhere and what this means both functionally and aesthetically.

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Is the environment now a non-issue for building occupiers and managers?

SustainabilityThis week, I took part in a series of debates in London and Manchester. The discussions, led by Rob Kirkbride of the US workplace design trade journal Monday Morning Quarterback, will focus on workplace trends in North America and Europe, based on the issues that dominated the recent Neocon show in Chicago. This in turn is based on the premise that what suppliers talk about when they present their products in public reflects what their clients are saying to them. However, one subject we didn’t cover in any detail was the environment, because nobody was talking about it very much at Neocon. Indeed nobody seems to talk about it very much at exhibitions anywhere these days. While few would deny that sustainability is an important subject, could it be that it is now something of a non-issue for building occupiers and their suppliers?

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Number of mobile workers in US will exceed 105 million by 2020

US mobile workforce will surpass 105 million by 2020 Mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3 percent) of the US workforce by 2020, thanks to the increasing affordability of smartphones and tablets and  growing acceptance of corporate Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) schemes. According to a new forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC), the US mobile worker population will grow at a steady rate over the next five years, increasing from 96.2 million in 2015 to 105.4 million in 2020. Innovations in technology such as biometric readers, wearables, voice control, near-field communications (NFC), and augmented reality are already increasing productivity and enabling workers to work in completely new ways. In a recent IDC survey, 69.1 percent of those responsible for  managing mobility within their organisation had seen a reduction in costs as a result of implementing BYOD programmes.

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