January 25, 2017
The office of the future should be defined by the age of its inhabitants. But not in the way you think
The office of the future is most commonly seen as the habitat of Millennials. But there are all sorts of flaws in this assumption. Apart from the casual stereotyping of a diverse demographic of people, the most glaring is the fact that the workforce is ageing rather than getting younger, and that most offices must now meet the needs of a wider range of age groups than at any time in their history. A new report from Totaljobs seeks to redress the balance in this regard. It suggests that some of the key features of the office of the future will not be slides and ping pong tables but flexible working areas, quiet spaces, spas and private medical rooms. The study claims that the fixation with Millennials means that a large number of older workers now feel that the design of offices does not meet their needs.
January 25, 2017
In an era in which the digital workplace is just as prevalent as the physical office, organisations that create spaces, technologies and social networks specifically focused on enabling more collaborative work, perform above their direct competitors in their respective industries – in employee connectedness and responsive leadership. This is according to research conducted by Nick van der Meulen of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research (CISR). The report assessed on a basis of five indicators, including growth in market share, profit growth and employee satisfaction, and found that trusting employees by giving them autonomy is the key to making a success of the digital workplace. The survey of 313 organisations showed that the high-performing organisations have an integrated and company-wide approach to greater employee connectedness.
January 24, 2017
Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman introduced the concept of Loss Aversion in 1984, highlighting people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. Most studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains. Lose £100 and we will feel a remorse that easily outweighs winning £100. In a similar fashion we find it very hard to see future positives when confronted with short term loses. We understand easily what we have lost but cannot imagine what there is to be gained. Furthermore, as Frederic Bastiat wrote in an 1850 paper, “That Which is Seen, and That Which is Not Seen”, man has a tendency to “pursue a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come, rather than a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil”. Put these together and it is no wonder that, by and large, the future of work, corporate real estate and the workplace is so widely misunderstood.
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
Not enough musicians draw inspiration from the office or office furniture, and for very good reasons. Nevertheless, it’s worth saying that the office is routinely used as both a setting and a symbol in movies even if workplaces are generally seen as mundane or dehumanising in stark contrast to whatever troubled romance / disaster is befalling the protagonist. Offices are usually depicted as dystopian (Brazil), soul-destroying (Office Space, American Beauty) or a backdrop for whatever else is going on (name your own romcom). Most musicians, on the other hand, shy away from office life in general and office furniture in particular. But not all. So here is a list of some of the greatest songs to deal with the arcane subject of office furniture. It won’t include anything by Dolly Parton or Sheena Easton (too obvious) nor anything from the French composer Erik Satie’s genre of ‘furniture music’ because that wasn’t really anything to do with furniture, except in the sense of something that surrounds us all the time.
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.