March 8, 2017
This is the second of two responses to an excellent article by Antony Slumbers, the first being this perspective from my mirrored room, in this instance offering that his views offer a far too presumptive picture of how technology will shape our work future. The paragraph headlines are from Antony’s original article. One person’s optimism is another’s pessimism. A decade ago the dream of liberated commute-free teleworking was, to many, the nightmare of enforced seclusion to the soundtrack of the dishwasher. The deployment of robots for the performance of menial tasks creating time and wealth for leisure is another’s horror at the loss of employment and resultant anomic fragmentation and decay. The fatally pointless optimism of Candide’s Dr Pangloss was agnostic in regard to every such outcome. It was positive only because there could be no alternative, and therefore no better alternative.
March 7, 2017
A survey of more than 423,000 NHS staff has shown their experience of the workplace is improving, despite the huge financial pressures and public demand on healthcare in the UK. Responding anonymously to the annual NHS Staff Survey, staff reported small but measurable improvements in 26 of the 32 key workplace categories, including having confidence to raise concerns about clinical practice, feeling supported by managers and recommending their workplace for employment or receiving care. The report is published by the national NHS Staff Survey Co-ordination Centre on behalf of NHS England and was carried out in October and November 2016.
March 7, 2017
In his book The Greatest Show on Earth, the evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins devotes a section to the biological rationale for pain. Although this is an ethical issue as far as humans are concerned, and most of us might think it’s one thing we could easily do without thank you very much, Nature is not particularly bothered about whether something is good or bad, just whether it serves a useful purpose as a way of perpetuating a particular genome. So the answer to the question of why we don’t just have some sort of a red flag rather than pain to warn us when we are doing something harmful is that we would find it very easy to ignore whatever non-distressing signal we’ve been given, given that we are also capable of ignoring pain. But at least with pain, we are never in any doubt that we should try to stop whatever is happening to us and we have a strong incentive to stop it as soon as possible.
March 7, 2017
London-based architecture practice Jump Studios has designed the first UK office for tech firm Cloudflare in London. The company, headquartered in San Francisco, is one of the fastest-growing start-ups in the world and is classified as a Unicorn1 company. The new office is a refurbishment of a former paper factory in London’s Southwark area. The refurbished 7,000 square foot office includes around 100 desks with large social areas connected to the outside terrace space. The central area of the office is a form of ‘spine’ constructed from OSB (Oriented-strand board). This spine maintains physical and visual connectivity throughout the floor and forms walls, rooms, storage and shelving units for Cloudflare to display tools, gadgets, books and awards. Informal meeting spaces sit within and around the spine for employees to relax and hold meetings in throughout the day.
March 6, 2017
Younger workers are less and less loyal to employers, which is driving firms to place greater emphasis on benefits, empowerment and a better working environment, according to a study from ReportLinker. The small scale online study of 500 people found that Millennials are less likely than older generations to say they’re highly committed to their employer, with just 40 percent saying they somewhat agree with this statement compared to 66 percent of older workers say they’re highly committed to their organisation. The report concludes that this is encouraging employers to introduce new ways of winning the loyalty of employees. For example, 87 percent of employees who are more involved in decision-making are also more likely to say they are committed to their employers although, as always, we should be wary of the distinction between correlation and causation.
March 1, 2017
Very few organisations are ready to manage a workforce where the latest technologies and people work side by side. Just 13 percent of UK companies are ready to respond to digital disruption and create “the organisation of the future”; despite 88 per cent believing this has become a priority. This is according to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, which tracks the top trends shaping the agenda for HR and business leaders. However, while UK companies believe they are ill-prepared for the change brought by digital disruption, this has not stopped many of them from embracing disruptive technologies. 42 per cent report that they have adopted robotics, cognitive and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies within all or parts of their workforce. Another 42 per cent are running pilots in certain areas of their organisation. But only 16 per cent say they are ready to manage a workforce with people, robots and AI working side by side.
February 24, 2017
The traditional structures of work and education were forged in the fires of the Industrial Revolution. They shared many characteristics. They were rigid, hierarchical and based on a patriarchal approach to achieving their aims. In education, this manifested itself in the traditional didactic form that was, until recently, seen as the ideal model, based on teachers, tutors and lecturers imparting knowledge and learning to their pupils and students as part of an agreed curriculum and to an approved timetable. How well this process turned out was checked with periodic testing. For some time now, people have been questioning this structure and, with it, the design of learning environments. Over the past few decades, we have not only developed the technologies to allow us to learn in new ways, we have also developed a far better understanding of the processes involved.
February 22, 2017
As any smartphone user could attest, the things we own sometimes end up owning us. Equally, the things we create can end up owning us. The most famous item designed by Charles Eames is a moulded plywood, leather upholstered lounge chair and matching ottoman that are timelessly iconic, have spawned thousands of rip-off versions, invariably feature in any anthology of classic Twentieth Century design and are now part of a permanent exhibit at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Yet Eames himself never intended it to go into production in the first place and didn’t even view it as his best product. In an interview in Time magazine he reveals that it was originally designed as a gift for a friend. ‘I made it as a present for Billy Wilder,’ he said. ‘Billy had made a picture in East Germany and found a Marcel Breuer chair and brought it back to me and this was a return present.’
February 21, 2017
Older workers are at risk of being marginalised in the workplace according to a new survey of office workers from workplace consultants Peldon Rose, which claims that there are significant differences in the wellbeing, attitudes and motivations of the workplace’s oldest and youngest employees. The over 50s now account for more than 30 percent of the UK’s working population (9.4million people), but according to the study older workers are the least content of all employees with less than a quarter (23 percent) of the 55+ age group feeling appreciated by their company and 80 percent suffering from or having suffered from workplace stress. In contrast, the workplace’s newest recruits, the under 25 year olds, are the office’s most positive employees with over half (55 percent) feeling appreciated by their company and 60 percent – the lowest of all age groups – suffering or having suffered from workplace stress.
February 16, 2017
The majority (79 percent) of workers say reliable and modern technology is more important to them than office aesthetics, while accessories such as ping pong tables, slides, hammocks and wacky office designs may look good in pictures, but they don’t necessarily make employees any happier or productive. The is according to a survey, conducted by storage firm Kiwi Movers, which found that 86 percent of UK adults who work in an office said fun features were of no specific value to their working life, 11 percent said they were nice-to-have and of some value and 3 percent said they were very valuable. The most popular office perks are those offer an immediate tangible benefit to the employee, but even so, as many as 23 percent don’t take advantage every day; while 71 percent overall said they’d like more space in their office and of those, 58 percent believe that could be achieved by removing non-essential items. The research also found that younger workers were more likely on average to take advantage of ‘environmental’ perks like chill out areas and recreational equipment.
February 15, 2017
In shows and the media, we are often invited to pass judgement on products and ideas that have been created by other people. The reviews that follow often cement some form of accepted view, even if we often outsource the decision making to people who are better placed to decide, or at least better enabled to express an opinion. Such judgements would not function at all in this regard unless there was some underlying consensus about what constitutes good and bad design at the same time that we all believed we know what good taste is and we all know a good piece of design when we see it. In so far as the consensus is universally accepted, we are all right. But how much do we really understand about the things that surround us and their design? And how meaningful is the consensus? In JG Ballard’s novel High Rise, recently made into a film, he writes of the disdain Anthony Royal, the architect of the eponymous tower has for the tastes of its residents.
February 14, 2017
There is a typically telling and intelligent Pixar moment in the film A Bug’s Life in which an already well lubricated mosquito goes up to a bar and orders a ‘Bloody Mary, O Positive’. The barman plonks a droplet of blood down on the bar. The mosquito sinks his proboscis into it, sucks it down in one go and promptly falls over. The main point is that the mosquito doesn’t need a glass because that is for animals that have a problem with gravity. For insects the major force in their lives isn’t gravity at all, but surface tension. The cleverness of the illustrators lies in them seeing this from the perspective of an insect when most of us ignore this kind of thing because our day to day lives are completely dominated by the invisible forces that define not only how we function but the form of our bodies and how we look and behave. As the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould put it, “we are prisoners of the perceptions of our size”.