Magic, psychogeography and the limits of workplace design

workplace design like a rabbit in a hatDerren Brown is clearly on to something. And if you’ve read his books you’ll know that what he’s on to is finding ways to tap in to our fascination with how our thoughts and actions can be manipulated using some well-defined and researched techniques and principles. Add in some showmanship and what you have is something that is indistinguishable from magic. You can believe in the magical and mystical if you like, but Derren Brown is a creature of the Enlightenment and has no truck with any of that. He’s got psychology and science on his side. The magic is in our own heads. It’s not just Derren Brown who has used the findings of psychologists to find ways to control people. Many of our current beliefs and the very workings of our society are based on this sort of manipulation. You can also see its workings in the way we think we think we can use workplace design to influence the feelings and behaviour of others.

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Podcast: bonuses, motivation and why business leaders might do well to steer clear of politics

carrotI recently took part in a podcast hosted by business transformation consultant Rita Trehan. My fellow guest for the CEO Outlook podcast was Hari Kalymnios, author, trainer and Leadership Speaker at The Thought Gym. The episode featured a lively discussion focused primarily on two topical issues. First asking whether bonuses are really needed to motivate staff and what business might do to take a more sophisticated, informed and nuanced approach to motivation. Then secondly, and against my better judgement, in the light of Jeremy Corbyn’s recent spat with Richard Branson, whether CEOs and business leaders should steer well clear of politics and politicians and how they might make judgements about what is appropriate in terms of the topics with which they should engage and how they might disentangle themselves from the wider issues that often result. You can listen to the podcast here.

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Up to a quarter of employers fail to monitor sickness absence

sickness-absenceNearly a quarter (23 percent) of employers still don’t record, monitor or even bother to manage sickness absence within their organisation, claims research from Group Risk Development (GRiD). Staff absence has remained static or is improving for the majority of employers, and of those that did record staff absence, 25 percent of companies say their absence has improved over the last 12 months, while for 10 percent it has worsened. Over half (55 percent) of employers said that, on average, their employees take five or fewer days off sick each year, 4 percent said on average their employees took more than 15 days off. It’s stating the obvious but given the fact so many employers disregard absence management, GRiD advises that the starting point is for companies to establish an absence policy. Their staff need to know what action to take if absent – such as who to call, and any absence needs to be recorded and monitored; as when companies know why their staff take time off work they can put appropriate measures in place.

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Worldwide progress in creating sustainable building regulations is slow

green-transparency-sustainable-regulationsThe level of transparency in the reporting of the environmental performance of commercial real estate is growing across the world, but the pace of new sustainable building regulations remains slow. That is the key finding of JLL’s Real Estate Environmental Sustainability Index, which measures the availability of a range of environmental transparency tools in 37 countries. Whilst 17 countries have improved their overall scores since the last survey two years ago, 13 have remained static and three have declined. Half of all country index improvements have been driven by the introduction of voluntary minimum energy efficiency standards for existing buildings. This year France topped the Index for the first time, thanks to the consistent roll-out of mandates to transition to a low carbon economy. Japan has moved up from the transparent group to join France, Australia and the UK in the highly transparent group.

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Apple agrees to lease half million sq. ft. office at Battersea Power Station

apple_logo_black-svgApple has confirmed the rumours that began in the Spring of this year by announcing that it is to relocate its UK headquarters from its current base in the West End along with several other sites to the redeveloped Battersea Power Station. The site’s developers say that Apple will become the largest office tenant at the £9 billion Battersea Power Station mixed use development occupying approximately 500,000 sq. ft. across 6 floors of the central Boiler House inside the iconic building. Apple is expected to move into the Power Station in 2021 at which time the office will account for circa 40 percent of the total office space in the whole development. 1400 Apple employees from existing offices around London will relocate to one of London’s best known landmarks. Apple has added, that this is a great opportunity to have its entire team working and collaborating in one location while supporting the renovation of a neighbourhood rich with history.

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Offering flexible working to mums could boost economy by £62.5 billion

flexible-working-mumMore than two thirds of stay-at-home mothers with young children would go back to work if flexible working was an option, a new study from Digital Mums and the Centre for Economics and Business Research claims. The survey of 1,600 mothers also suggests that more than a third of those already in work would put in more hours if they had better childcare arrangements based around flexible working. The WorkThatWorks report claims that women (and presumably some fathers) would contribute billions to the economy if more organisations were to offer parents more flexible work conditions. The report claims that currently, some 2.6 million mothers are out of the labour market although two thirds (68 percent) feel unable to return to work because of the lack of flexible working options. In addition, 60 percent of mothers already in work do not have access to flexible work despite the introduction of legislation in 2014 that offers them the right to request it.

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Nearly third of workforce believe daily commute is a waste of time

commutingThe anytime, anywhere connectivity potential of mobile technology has supposedly made the daily commute more bearable, but a new survey claims it is still regarded as wasted time for nearly a third of professionals. Regus surveyed its customer base (which presumably includes those already partial to using flexible workspaces) to establish whether commuting time was viewed as personal time, work time or simply wasted time. For 31 percent of UK respondents, the daily struggle to and from the office is regarded only as time wasted. According to the TUC, UK commuting times rose by three minutes a day between 2004 and 2014, from an average of 52 minutes to 55 minutes. For many professionals, this time could be usefully spent responding to emails or drafting copy. At the very least, commuters want the time to themselves to read, make personal calls or listen to music. However, the nature of today’s commute means that neither work nor personal tasks can be completed.

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Gig economy boosts UK employment rate despite Brexit summer lull

gig-economyThere were fewer job vacancies on offer in August, due to the traditional summer lull and the after effects of the Brexit vote, but employment levels were maintained by a rise in self-employment and the growing gig economy. The latest UK Job Market Report from Adzuna.co.uk reveals that 1,123,365 job vacancies were advertised in August, dropping 2.7 percent from 1,154,993 in July. The post-Brexit summer period of uncertainty, combined with a seasonal slowing in the market, lay behind this blip, but hiring is 0.6 percent higher than six months ago and the jobs market is proving resilient in the face of political uncertainty. Despite vacancies falling, the employment rate was 74.5 percent – its joint record highest level since comparable records started in 1971, according to the ONS. This has been partly propped up by the rise of the gig economy and growing self-employment as job-seekers look to alternative forms of employment amidst the growing entrepreneurial environment.

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UK commercial property market ‘back to normal’ after Brexit vote

london-commercial-property1The UK’s commercial property market remains robust in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union, although a weaker economic outlook may see some prices dip over the next two years, ratings agency Moody’s claims in a new report. The news comes as commercial property fund Standard Life announced that it has reopened trading, which was suspended in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote.  Moody’s said that the June 23 vote still has the potential to create significant uncertainty in the longer term, but that the fundamentals underpinning the UK commercial property market remain sound. Much will depend on the country’s broader economic prospects, Moody’s claims. If unemployment remains low and jobs growth continues, these two factors will do much to maintain demand for both domestic and commercial property although London’s market may be affected even if the national economy is robust, as firms may choose to relocate anyway.

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Nearly all UK cities lagging behind European average for productivity

victoria_square_birmingham_at_duskThe UK’s major cities are lagging behind their European competitors in terms of skills, innovation and productivity, claims a new report from the Centre for Cities think tank. In Competing with the Continent, the authors argue that the onus is on the UK to come up to speed with the 330 cities covered in the report, especially if they want to compete in the new post Brexit European landscape. However, the report notes that the UK has a number of existing, structural advantages over other countries. UK cities generate around a fifth of Europe’s total economic output and contribute more to the national economy than cities in other countries. Major British cities contribute 60 percent of national GDP, compared to just 36 percent in Germany and 32 percent in Italy. The report shows that UK cities lag behind on a range of indicators including skills, innovation and productivity and a number have an industrial mix that has more in common with cities in Eastern Europe than those in the West.

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