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…
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.
January 3, 2017
Working with colleagues across different geographies and time zones has become the norm since an increasing number of organisations now integrate and seek collaboration at a global level. Interestingly, according to Cisco, 62 percent of workers now regularly collaborate with people in other countries. These globally integrated enterprises (GIE) aim to draw in the best talent from across the world, delivering maximum innovation and efficiency. The rise of global and distributed teams has been further encouraged by the popularity of remote working, with 71 percent of office workers now choosing greater flexibility to work from various locations instead of travelling to the office everyday . And the trend only looks set to gain pace, with 56 percent of senior leaders in large global companies expecting global teams to increase in the next one to three years.
January 3, 2017
Over the last few years there has been something of a widespread backlash to the idea that we need to have constant access to information and our colleagues to work effectively. The touchstone for this movement is of course the open plan office but it has become something of a scapegoat given the universality of the problems of interruptions and distractions. One of the most vocal proponents of the idea that sometimes we need to work quietly and alone is Susan Cain, the author of Quiet and the person responsible for the TED Talk presented below on sound and acoustics. But she is not alone, as we suggested in this feature. Nor is the message new. Nearly 70 years ago, Aldous Huxley bemoaned the din of technology in his 1946 essay Science, Liberty and Peace, which covers a range of topics including this prescient piece on silence:
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.
December 26, 2016
The Winter 2016 issue of Work&Place is now available to view online. In this edition… Neil Usher, Workplace Director at Sky offers a first hand account of the story behind the firm’s remarkable new offices at the Osterley campus in London; Kate Langan explores some of the implications of the growing digitisation of the workplace; Jim Ware looks at how the challenge of creating effective meeting spaces is now a strategic concern; John Blackwell tries to make sense of falling productivity levels when we have all the tools and know how to increase it; David Woolf makes the case for designing better collaborative spaces; Mark Eltringham looks forward to an almost entirely unpredictable future for workplaces in the 21st Century; and Karen Plum and Andrew Mawson set out the factors that drive knowledge worker productivity. The PDF edition is available to view and download here. Or view online here.
December 22, 2016
Insight publisher Mark Eltringham recently took part in a conversation with Ian Ellison of 3edges. The podcast was recorded before the recent publication of The Workplace Advantage from the Stoddart Review but looks at its potential opportunities and challenges. The range of topics also include the growing role of workplace professionals in shaping workplace thinking, the differences between the FM and workplace disciplines, the trouble at the BIFM, the self image of various professions and why it’s unwise to believe that the most interesting examples of workplace design are indicative of how most people work. You can listen to the podcast online on Acast or iTunes. Other editions of the podcast are available here. Image: Sky Central designed by Hassell. Photographer Mark Cocksedge.