January 20, 2017
Toss a sliver of information into the great stream of accepted public narrative and see what happens to it. There it goes, briefly visible on the surface then consumed; part of the stream but no longer to be seen. A perfect example of this is provided by a recent piece of research carried out by the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health into the effects of standing at work on a small sample of call centre workers. While the results of the study are impressive, notably a 46 percent increase in productivity, by the time the story was reported on Inc.com, the 167 call centre workers had suddenly morphed into ‘everybody’. It should go without saying that the headline ‘Your Productivity Will Increase by 46 percent if You Stand at Your Desk’ does not reflect the conclusions of the original research. The statements by the researchers suggesting that the study is significant with regard to call centre staff but merely indicative of a wider issue go ignored.
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 18, 2017
Design and build firm Interaction, has completed the design and fit out of a Grade II listed Victorian ‘castle’ in Cirencester as the new head office of financial comparison website money.co.uk. In 2015 the firm was ranked the second fastest growing business in the UK by The Sunday Times and needed its workplace to reflect this growth, convey its culture and attract new talent. The core concept was a juxtaposition of the traditional architecture of The Castle with a contemporary interior. The design features include a bespoke Star Wars themed cinema complete with popcorn machine, two gyms, hand painted suits of armour as well as ‘Rolling Stones’ and ‘Steam Punk’ themed bathrooms. The new office incorporates a number of settings for informal meetings, private work, training, relaxing or socialising. This includes an ‘ice cave’ which can be used for an informal meeting, or to eat and socialise. There is also a ‘ski lodge’, which can be accessed through a secret door. more…
January 17, 2017
The debate around designing a workplace that works for millennials and now Gen Z is a public one. Every week a new article highlights what is required to create a workplace that millennials want. However for large companies with a diverse workforce, more than the desires of just one generation must be considered to make the workforce effective. Is it possible to create a universal workforce that can work across generations to serve the needs of all employees, and should that be the goal for workplace design? Right now, we know that tech firms are drawing more top talent than they did before. It can be seen in the a comparison of Harvard MBAs in 2007 and again in 2014 that went into banking (13 percent down to 5 percent) vs tech (up from 7 percent to 17 percent). Following their lead, broader design has shifted to adopt a tech feel in their own offices, with open layouts trending upwards. Office amenities from ping pong tables to slides are also rising as companies try to bring a fresh approach to the workplace.
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 European Display Screen Equipment Regulations were first introduced in 1992 as a way of improving the posture and wellbeing of people working with computers in the office. Although welcome at the time as a way of promoting good ergonomics practices in a rapidly digitising world, that’s now a long time ago and the workplace has changed a great deal in the meantime. Here’s a list of thing that have happened in the intervening years: 1. The Internet. Actually, we can stop there. Any piece of workplace legislation that predates the Internet almost certainly won’t be fit for purpose, especially one that is based on how we should work with computers, let alone other devices. Yet there it all is on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website. It’s all so hopelessly out of date, it’s like starting a farm using a paleolithic cave painting as your guide to animal husbandry. The guidance is even called Working with VDUs which is certainly quaint, if nothing else.
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 11, 2017
Last year we ran a piece which looked at some of the outlandish ways designers have offered people the chance to get some peace and quiet at work. The extremes people will consider as they deal with the challenge of office acoustics is enlightening. All of those examples relied on the principle of keeping at least some of the racket produced by colleagues from entering the ear. But a new prototype product launched at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas frames the issue differently by going back to source. The Hushme is a voice masking device for mobile phones. It has integrated earbuds and comes with a range of masking sounds such as wind, rain, monkey, Darth Vader and squirrel. You have to wonder who it’s aimed at but the makers suggest it is all about privacy. Then again, it may make an ideal gift for some and could be popular for this year’s Secret Santas.
January 11, 2017
While most organisations recognise the importance of keeping their employees safe, not enough focus is being given to wellness, and those organisations that do not prioritise employee wellness and design their workplaces accordingly will lose talent and potentially face bottom line repercussions. This is according to AECOM, which is urging organisations to “detoxify” their work environments to improve employee wellbeing. With 9.9 million working days lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in Great Britain in 2014/151, employees’ health and happiness can have a direct impact on business performance. Making improvements to the physical environment can help organisations create spaces and working cultures that encourage creativity, support wellbeing and increase job satisfaction. more…
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…