October 25, 2016
This summer’s headlines have been full of discord, a cacophony of angry voices either directed at continental Europe, or at the Brexiters who voted for Britain to leave the European Union. But EMC, a global leader in information technology-as-a-service which has recently been acquired by Dell, is a leading light of European integration through its One Team approach to workplace management and design across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Over the past three years, the EMC Global Real Estate and Facilities Team (GREF), which supports more than 12,000 people in around 130 office locations across 50 countries in EMEA, has transformed from a group operating independently, to a fully-aligned team which provides a uniform and standardised approach to workplace delivery and management to enable greater business success.
October 18, 2016
Technology doesn’t just transform the world, it reshapes our language. So, we all need to get used to the word uberification as well as the idea of it. Based on the success of the on demand taxi service Uber, the word refers to the way a product or service becomes available to customers on demand via the Internet. Customers book a service only at the point of consumption. This represents an entirely new commercial model and is the defining characteristic of the new 21st Century economy. Uber may have provided the tipping point, going from start up to market valuation of $66 billion in just 7 years, but its success has given us a name for a process that is reshaping businesses and customer experiences across the entire economy, including in the commercial property sector.
October 10, 2016
A great deal of current research and anecdotal evidence suggests that engaged employees are much less likely to leave their current organisation, are more productive and take less sick days that their disengaged colleagues. But according to a recent survey by Deloitte while 87 percent of organisations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges, almost two-thirds of executives do not feel they are effectively driving this desired culture within their business. A global study by my own firm Steelcase found that one-third of workers across 17 of the world’s most important economies are actually disengaged. The findings make worrying reading for employers around the world, as engagement is so demonstrably linked to business critical outcomes such as employee retention, productivity and even profits. It certainly raises the question of what more can be done, including in terms of workplace design, to boost engagement levels amongst these employees.
October 1, 2016
Flexible working has developed a reputation as something of a silver bullet. It is the perceived solution to almost any of the major workplace problems you care to mention, including the gender pay gap, work life balance, churn, property costs, staff engagement, personal autonomy, stress, physical wellbeing, productivity and – of course – as a way of meeting the needs of those alien beings we now call Millennials. There is some truth in all of this, as we have known for some time. There is no question that there are major problems with the way many people work and that flexible working, hand in hand with new tech, is a way of solving them to one degree or another. And yet, as one of the most interesting yet overlooked recent pieces of research into the effects of flexible working has made clear, the reason behind this may be more complex and fragile than we might suppose and has an antecedence in research that is now approaching its centenary.
September 21, 2016
My trade is to ask questions about the workplace then make sense of the answers. That has been a particular challenge with the question, ‘what are offices today?’ What seems clear is that the various actors in the workplace ecosystem look at offices through very different eyes. Urban planning and development professionals still view offices as a distinct category of real estate and most real estate professionals view offices in terms of the delivery of floor space. Some things have changed,however. For some time, the hybrid economy of serviced offices has turned the product into a service. But, in many cases this has simply made the leasing of space simpler and more flexible. As Neil Usher says in his workessence blog, “while co-working is declared to be disrupting the institutional stuffed shirt that is the commercial rented sector, the sprouting centres come to increasingly resemble the corporate world at which their earlier incarnations cocked a snook”.
September 13, 2016
The future of London is the subject of a new and wide ranging collection of essays from Think Tank Localis. It includes contributions from the likes of Boris Johnson, Terry Farrell, Peter Bazalgette and Justine Roberts. Its core theme is that while London has established itself as one of the world’s great financial and cultural powerhouses over the last thirty years, it now faces a number of new challenges and intransigent problems that it must address in a new globalised era. These have taken on a new perspective as the UK prepares to negotiate a new relationship with the EU, something which the report repeats was not the choice of Londoners, but which did perhaps reveal a neglect of the rest of the UK as the Government focused too much attention and investment on the capital. So, while the report focuses on London it also tries to create a vision of a London better integrated with the needs of the rest of the UK and based on a new partnership with the EU.
August 18, 2016
The world of work is changing rapidly and profoundly in a way that we haven’t seen since the time of the industrial revolution. Yet even as we stand at a momentous, game-changing inflexion point, the 21st century workplace strategy sector is still dithering about whether to join in the revolution. They are like the industrial mill owners of 19th century England who adopted a ‘make do and mend’ approach to business and failed to invest in new technology only to be forced out of business by foreign competitors who had invested in radical new, state of the art technology.Today the technological game changer is digital technology rather than weaving technology, but the effect is the same. Unless the workplace strategy sector embraces change and builds bridges between the ‘people’ side of the business and the ‘place’ side with other workplace specialists, their industry will become as dead as a dodo.
August 16, 2016
When former Google employee Marissa Mayer joined Yahoo as its CEO in 2012, she inherited the company’s vast problems. Though it was once seen as one of the first tech behemoths, Yahoo’s inability to come up with ground breaking products like Google and others, put it in a slow, steady decline. Mayer was immediately tasked with trying to reinvigorate the stagnating company. Her focus was to find a way to identify and retain talent, while phasing out ineffective employees. However, Yahoo’s new management policies have brought about much debate and criticism from HR experts. A controversial book by journalist Nicholas Carlson titled “Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!” paints a highly critical view of Mayer’s first years as CEO. In response others have defended her, arguing that she has done the best she can with the resources available, but has become a scapegoat for poor management, like so many other women in powerful positions.
July 14, 2016
In France, we might have been the first to behead a King and hold a revolution, or to stand on barricades and die for ideals of justice and equality, but when it comes to change – especially in large organisations– we always seem to lag behind. You could blame it on a number of factors: a cultural bias towards tradition, the legacy of an interventionist and ever-present state, spawning bureaucratic models of large state-owned corporations, the everlasting grasp of the elites stifling innovation and the ability to “think outside the box”… Whatever this may be, the debate around remote working – a type of work organisation which allows employees to work regularly away from the office – in France has always been articulated around the preconception that France was behind. And that while its Anglo-Saxon or Nordic European neighbours displayed a boastful 30 percent of the working population as remote workers, France struggled to reach a meagre 9 to 10 percent in 2010.
July 13, 2016
Gensler has announced the results of its Workplace Survey 2016 for both the UK and the US. Key claims of the UK report based on a study of 1,210 respondents include that the UK workforce seems to be divided into ‘haves and have-nots’, with mid and lower-tier workers confined to poor quality environments, 67 per cent of the workforce feel drained due to their office environment at the end of each day and that ‘innovators’ spend just 3.5 days of the working week in the office, highlighting the need for greater flexibility. Meanwhile, the key finding of the US study of 4,000 respondents is that a statistical link between the quality and functional make-up of the workplace and the level of innovation employees ascribe to their organisation, and found that a workplace that prioritises both individual and group work creates ‘an ecosystem of innovation’ across organisations and is a crucial predictor of how innovative an employee sees their company to be.
June 20, 2016
Today is World Productivity Day and no doubt procrastination will be getting its usual bad rap. Because it’s linked to psychological factors such as the need to do something we deem pleasurable to something we don’t, it’s becoming more of a problem as we surround ourselves with more and more distractions. “Why”, we might ask ourselves, “should we write that 900 word feature right now when we could be taking the dog for a walk in the sunshine, watching just one more YouTube video or making ourselves yet one more cup of coffee, daydreaming, checking email and text messages or inviting a digital affirmation of our wisdom, attractiveness, exciting life or hilarity from somebody on social media?” Theoretically, of course. This is the golden age of procrastination according to Dr Piers Steel who knows a thing or two about it and has shared his thoughts, research and proposed solutions in a book called The Procrastination Equation.
January 3, 2016
The average worker is interrupted or distracted every three minutes and it takes them fully twenty-three minutes to return to a task after being interrupted. Office workers are overwhelmed by distractions, due mainly to a lack of understanding of how to manage attention. Distractions and the inability to focus negatively affects productivity, engagement, wellbeing and overall performance in organisations. We long to be more effective, but the harder we try, the more tired our brains become. Attention meltdowns are epidemic because workers do not understand what attention is, how to manage it or have access to the best places to support their tasks. In workplaces throughout the world scenarios of near constant distraction have become the norm, to such an extent that often people do not even feel compelled to comment on them and their consequences.