January 23, 2017
At this time of every year, the media is just getting over its predictable annual fixation with with retrospectives and forecasts. The last few of these workplace trends pieces are now dribbling out, many of them indistinguishable and based on some very familiar tropes and assumptions. These days such things tend to be shaped into lists, because that’s how the Internet likes these things. That is all perfectly natural and we are free to make our own mind up which of these features are meaningful and which are the cookie cutter products of the permanently unimaginative. No football pundit was ever fired for stringing together clichés rather than thinking and talking, and no marketing person has ever lost their job for publishing a list of Ten Trends. One thing all of these lists seem to share is an assumption that many of the ideas they reflect are new. That’s understandable. Nobody wants to think that what they consider to be on trend has all been seen before. The young people currently roaming around with wedge haircuts and ripped jeans won’t thank you for telling them they are 80s throwbacks.
January 23, 2017
Visitors to Barcelona may still see Jean Nouvel’s iconic, phallic Agbar Tower as a welcome sight on the city’s skyline, but the building is less loved by its owners and tenants according to a report in Spanish newspaper El Pais. Inaugurated in 2005, the 34-storey skyscraper has been sold twice in three years as tenants have vacated and plans drawn up to either refurbish it or turn it into a hotel. The latest plan from new owners Merlin Properties is to spend €13 million on a refurbishment that will include a multi-occupier space for companies working in Barcelona’s thriving tech sector, centred on the Innovation District that is home to the Torre Agbar. The refurb aims to deal with the most common complaints from previous tenants which, according to the report, include a dysfunctional doughnut shaped layout, poor sightlines, inappropriate location, small windows with no view, inadequate shutters and an unwillingness to work in a building with such an overwhelming brand identity. Image: Ralf Roletschek
January 19, 2017
Every physical setting sends distinct signals to meeting participants – signals that set the tone and provide a context for the conversation, even when they are subtle or not in anyone’s conscious awareness. You understand instinctively that the place where a meeting occurs has an impact on the nature of the conversation. Just imagine the difference between a conversation around a large formal conference table with expensive executive chairs and one that takes place in an informal employee lounge, with the participants seated in a circle on soft bean-bag chairs. Or consider the classic image of a boss seated behind a large desk, in front of a large window framing her silhouette as she delivers a performance review to a “lowly” subordinate sitting across the desk in a low, hard-back chair. Now think about that same performance review being conducted on two softer wing chairs of equal height, with a low coffee table between them. Or in a nearby restaurant or coffee shop. Or on a trail in the woods adjacent to the corporate office. Which of those conversations do you think will evolve in a more caring, respectful, and supportive mode?
January 16, 2017
So here it is. Blue Monday. Officially the most depressing day of the year. We say ‘officially’, but like the idea of ‘Body Odour’ its common usage hides the fact that it was originally created as part of a 2005 PR campaign. For Sky’s travel channel. The whole idea of Blue Monday is couched in a pseudo-mathematical equation which includes factors like the weather, levels of debt, time since Christmas, low levels of motivation and, apparently, an unspecified variable known simply as ‘D’. Yet for many people, work always appears to get them down. Negative attitudes to our working lives have been consistent in the way work has been reflected by artists for at least the past hundred years.
January 14, 2017
In this week’s Newsletter; Neil Usher describes the vision behind Sky Central’s new activity-based workplace in London; and Mark Eltringham argues the European Display Screen Equipment Regulations are no longer fit for purpose. CRE’s attempts to advance corporate strategic goals often take a back seat to cost savings targets; the Hushme voice masking device for mobile phones promises a quieter office; and organisations are encouraged to “detoxify” their work environments to improve employee wellbeing. Why employees are prepared to move jobs if employers fail to offer flexible work; a quarter of people with money problems say it undermines their work performance; and the World Economic Forum cites unregulated technological progress as one of the greatest threats to work. Download our Briefing, produced in partnership with Boss Design on the link between culture and workplace strategy and design; visit our new events page, follow us on Twitter and join our LinkedIn Group to discuss these and other stories.
January 13, 2017
Although the world’s major corporate real estate occupiers retain a focus on managing the costs of their workplace when it comes to making the big decisions, there is a growing emphasis on offsetting this against issues such as staff recruitment and retention. That is the key finding of a new report from Cushman & Wakefield into the priorities and decision making of large corporate occupiers. It claims that firms are now far more focused on striking the right balance between goals that are often in direct opposition to one another. The study, produced in partnership with CoreNet Global, was based on interviews with 266 occupiers, three quarters of whom have more than 25 offices worldwide. The survey examined not only how location and workplace strategy are viewed as corporate value drivers, but also CRE’s alignment with business strategy.
January 12, 2017
The January blues are well documented but aside from the usual clichés which abound around this time of year, there is some evidence of the impact of winter on people’s mental health and wellbeing, According to a new survey from Peldon Rose over two-fifths (44 percent) of employees say winter has a negative effect on their mental wellbeing, half (51 percent) believe it adversely affects their mood and 30 percent state winter affects their productivity. Over a third of respondents (35 percent) even identify themselves as suffering or having suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – a type of depression that becomes more severe in the winter and three-quarters (76 percent) have experienced or are currently experiencing stress in the workplace. But the report concludes, effective workplace design can help combat some of these ill effects.
January 10, 2017
It’s drummed into us from an early age that we can’t have it all, as a result we consider choices as being a binary either/or situation. The workplace design brief (where it’s actually undertaken, an entirely separate discussion) positions choices similarly – open or closed, focussed or collaborative, modern or traditional – the decision point existing along a sliding scale from one natural extreme to the other. Yet there is a way to consider workplace design as an attempt to achieve the “unity of opposites”, an idea proposed by the pre-Socratic aphoristic philosopher, Heraclitus, the original thinker on change. This holds that the existence of an idea is entirely dependent on the existence of its opposite, that one cannot exist without the other. The framework is considered here in its application to the recently completed Sky Central in Osterley (West London), a newly constructed 38,000m2 NIA activity-based workplace over three floors that is home to 3,500 of the total 7,500 people on the Campus. It may be considered as tool for aiding workplace brief development, or for understanding how a workplace has been conceived and functions.
January 10, 2017
Businesses need to shift their focus away from functional issues, such as cost per square metre, and towards the productivity boost that can be delivered through well-designed work spaces which engage employees and make them feel valued. This is according to a new study produced by Interserve, Designing and delivering effective workplace experiences – a practical guide, which argues employers should adopt teams of ‘workplace guardians’ to curate work spaces that support employee wellbeing and overall business performance. The report sets out a six-stage programme for businesses to create effective workplace experiences which it says should be led by a team of experienced workplace coordinators or ‘guardians’ – a process that sees workplaces shaped by employees, for employees. more…
January 6, 2017
Knowledge management (including its creation, transference and storage) within an organisation is now widely considered to be one of the primary drivers of a business’s sustainability. Driven by changing demographics, businesses are recognising the ways in which valuable knowledge is lost when employees leave the organisation, including when they retire or are made redundant in response to changing economic conditions. Geyer, an Australian design practice, is just one organisation that has undertaken important research to understand the role of the physical environment in knowledge management.The aim of the research was to explore the kinds of environments and their attributes (if any) that could support the management of knowledge in an organisation. The research also aimed to expand the focus of existing knowledge management literature; from information technology to workplace design.
December 29, 2016
We know, and have for a long time, that the workplace is in a state of near constant flux and so we often fall into the trap of assuming that there is some sort of evolution towards an idealised version of it. That is why we see so many people routinely willing to suspend their critical facilities to make extravagant and even absurd predictions about the office of the future or even the death of the office. This is perniciously faulty thinking. However we can frame a number of workplace related ideas in terms of evolutionary theory, so long as we accept one of the central precepts about evolution. Namely that there is no end game, just types progressing and sometimes dying out along the distinct branches of a complex ecosystem. As a nerdy sort of guy of a certain age, I’ve tended to frame my thoughts on all of this with reference to an idea from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by the great Douglas Adams.
December 28, 2016
The science of the workplace has gained a lot of interest over the last few years, highlighting recurring patterns of human behaviour as well as how organisational behaviour relates to office design. In theory, knowledge from this growing body of research could be used to inform design. In practice, this is rarely the case. A survey of 420 architects and designers highlighted a large gap between research and practice: while 80 percent of respondents agreed that more evidence was needed on the impact of design, 68 percent admitted they never reviewed literature and 71 percent said they never engaged in any sort of post-occupancy evaluation. Only 5 percent undertake a formal POE and just 1 percent do so in a rigorous fashion. Not a single practitioner reported a report on the occupied scheme, despite its importance in understanding the impact of a design.