About Charles Marks

https://www.freshworkspace.com

Posts by Charles Marks:

How the way we interact with technology is changing the way we think

How the way we interact with technology is changing the way we think

workplaceWe are all familiar with the emoticon, the little symbol we use to strengthen whatever it is we really mean or would like to convey in a text, chat, message or email. The symbols have become more important as these forms of communication have supplanted some forms of face to face contact. Researchers have now learned that our brains no longer treat emoticons as a form of punctuation, but have started to respond to it as if it were a real face. A study published in the journal Social Neuroscience found that the part of the brain that is activated when we look at real faces is now triggered by smileys too. It’s yet another example of how our brains are adapting to the changing demands placed on them by technology, a subject that not only has profound implications for the way we relate to technology but also the way we work and the ways we design and manage our surroundings and especially how we maintain focus and interact with our colleagues.

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How our noisy world was foreseen by the 20th Century’s great minds

How our noisy world was foreseen by the 20th Century’s great minds

Over the past few years we’ve become more aware of the problems associated with the pace and clatter of modern life and not least among them its noise. Authors like Susan Cain have highlighted not only how distracting noise can be for everybody but how it affects different personality types in different ways. She is perhaps the world’s most high profile proponent of the idea that sometimes we need to work quietly and alone and is the author of Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking and the person responsible for this now famous and archetypal TED Talk presented on the effects of sound and the need for more silence and privacy. But she is not alone in making these claims, nor is she the first person to do so and the warning signs have been around for quite some time. The first calls for people to heed the racket of modern life came at least a hundred years ago as we began the 20th Century transition to office based life with its distractions of noisy things and people.

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How designers copy nature to create new and extraordinary forms

How designers copy nature to create new and extraordinary forms

Humans have a long track record of turning to Nature for inspiration. When Leonardo da Vinci turned his mind to the challenge of acquiring the power of flight for mankind, his sketches show he believed the solution lay in mimicking the form and function of bat wings. We’ve learned a lot about aerodynamics since the fifteenth Century but nature continues to provide a blueprint for the way we design materials and structures. Researchers at the University of Alabama have recently won a grant from the US National Science Foundation to explore how the scales on the wings of butterflies (pictured) help the creatures to fly in the hope that it will help engineers design better and more efficient aircraft.

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Insight Briefing: the business case for design and build

Insight Briefing: the business case for design and build 0

office-reception-design-and-buildThe best way of getting what you want is invariably to follow the simplest route. Research, experience and common sense tell us that in most cases, simple systems achieve better, faster and less expensive results and that the success of any project will often be in inverse proportion to the number of people involved in the system used to implement it, the number of decisions these people have to make between them, and the number of times they have to communicate with each other. Complexity is the enemy of success. Simplicity is all. And it is this that is the underlying principle behind ‘Design and Build’; often the best, fastest and least expensive method of developing and implementing an office design project, yet also one of the least understood, especially with regard to its ability to deliver exceptional design. This White Paper is aimed both at those who want to find out more about this uniquely effective method of completing a project, but also at those who may have mistaken preconceptions about Design and Build. This is an idea whose time has come and it is all based on the most fundamental of all fundamental principles: by keeping things as uncomplicated as possible, it can often deliver the best value, best design and the best response to a brief in the quickest time and at the lowest cost.

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Charles Marks is the Managing Director of office design and fit-out company Fresh Workspace. www.freshworkspace.com

Flexible working is not a magic bullet for workplace ills

Flexible working is not a magic bullet for workplace ills 0

magic-bulletAccording to Oxford Dictionaries the word of the year for 2016 is post-truth. This is a slippery little adjective because while some things are pretty much objectively true, the use of post-truth in many contexts is merely a way of shutting down opinion. It’s especially pernicious when it comes to ideas and philosophy because it assumes that the person using it knows what the truth is, yet the world’s sharpest minds can’t always agree on that As the great Ambrose Bierce defied truth in his caustic Devil’s Dictionary: ‘Discovery of truth is the sole purpose of philosophy, which is the most ancient occupation of the human mind and has a fair prospect of existing with increasing activity to the end of time’. And there’s a good reason why in the Bible Pilate’s question ‘What is truth?’ is met with silence.

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Multi-tasking and workplace distractions don’t allow us to focus on the essentials

Multi-tasking and workplace distractions don’t allow us to focus on the essentials

workplaceAlthough the structure of our brains is largely the same as that of our hunter-gatherer prehistoric ancestors, that does not mean they are immutable. Research shows that the way our brains change in response to technology and the changing workplace suggests they are subject to a certain degree of ‘rewiring’. For example, a recent study found that the emotional response of adults to smileys in emails and texts is exactly the same as they would have to real faces. Tellingly, however, this appears to be learned behaviour because babies do not exhibit the same response. One other aspect of working life that is now proven to change the way our brains work – and not in a good way – is multitasking. Research published by Kep Kee Loh and Ryota Kanai of the University of Sussex found that “Individuals who engage in heavier media-multitasking are found to perform worse on cognitive control tasks and exhibit more socio-emotional difficulties”.

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Weighing up the pros and cons of the BREEAM environmental standard

Weighing up the pros and cons of the BREEAM environmental standard 0

EnvironmentFor some years there has been a growing awareness of the need to improve the environmental performance of buildings. This is closely linked to both the Government’s own international commitments to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent over the next 35 years and the need of organisations to act ethically and cut costs while they’re about it. Buildings are important in this regard because of their impact on the environment (and the bottom line). According to The Carbon Trust, buildings produce around 37 percent of the UK’s total carbon emissions, 40 percent of it from commercial buildings.This is commendable stuff but the real problems arise when it comes to meeting such laudable goals in practice. We are learning all the time about how to achieve the best results and we are helped in that with the availability of a number of increasingly sophisticated building environmental standards.

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Proofs of the link between workplace design and productivity? Here are three

Proofs of the link between workplace design and productivity? Here are three

workplace design and productivityThree new studies have joined the already extensive body of work linking workplace design and productivity. The most extensive is the research carried out by communications consultancy Lansons which looks at every aspect of the British workplace to uncover the experiences and most commonly held perceptions of around 4,500 workers nationwide. The study is broken down into a number of sections which examine topics such as workplace design, wellbeing, job satisfaction, personal development and leadership. The second is a study from the Property Directors Forum which explores the experiences of occupiers and finds a shift in focus away from cost reduction and towards investing to foster employee productivity. The final showcases the results of a post occupancy survey conducted by National Grid following the refurbishment of the firm’s Warwick headquarters by AECOM.

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Shared office space is redefining commercial property and the workplace

Shared office space is redefining commercial property and the workplace

Hive by Connection

Hive by Connection

The changing way we work presents particular challenges for the development of commercial property as well as those who specify, design and occupy workplaces. As has been highlighted many times before, the days are gone when designing an office was largely determined by the number of people who occupy it and the main determinant of the space needed for them was the size of their desks based on their status and what they did. Now, those are just some of the characteristics that need to be taken into consideration when creating workplaces, alongside others such as how much meeting and shared office space is needed, whether certain people need a dedicated workstation at all, how to give them choices about where they work and with whom and how the building can adapt to changing teams and objectives.

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Why Facebook and other tech giants still apply mainstream office design ideas 0

Facebook-560x480This week Facebook moved into its new offices in Menlo Park, California. As you might expect they are somewhat out of the ordinary. Designed by Frank Gehry, they are bright, open and loaded with quirky and colourful design ideas. Yet upon closer inspection their underlying office design principles are often resolutely mainstream, not least the inclusion of what is billed as the world’s largest open plan office. In fact this has the personal backing of the CEO himself and has long been the core element in the brief because Facebook sees the idea of openness as being an essential part of its mission and business model. Mark Zuckerberg announced the opening of the building on his own Facebook page (where else?). In his official statement, he explains the thinking behind the design in an interesting way and it bears reproducing.

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What the colonisation of new domains tells us about how we work

40-Leadenhall-StreetHeadlines about the world’s accelerating taste for skyscrapers tend to be dominated by the big numbers. This is a world in which size is important, but get behind the focus on height and you find some very interesting data about the rapid and significant changes in what these tall buildings are actually for and how this chimes with broader changes in the way we create and use workplace and shared spaces. According to the most recent annual report on the world’s skyscrapers from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, last year was a record breaker with 97 new skyscrapers completed globally. The devil here is in the detail. While the world’s tallest new building was One World Trade centre in New York, the overwhelming majority of new skyscrapers are to be found in Asia generally and China in particular.

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The financial services sector leads the way in how we think about office design

Office design and the cityThe office as we know it may continue to change, but that doesn’t mean its vital role at the heart of the organisation will diminish. The recent downturn meant some tough decisions had to be taken by many companies. It certainly focussed more attention on the way firms design and manage their workplace, based on a clear understanding of their economics. It is one of the most commonly cited truisms about office design that after staff, buildings are easily the second highest item of expenditure for the majority of organisations. The conclusion often drawn from this is that there is a compulsion to reduce space through new working practices or more efficient office design and management. Which may be true but the challenge is to take advantage of these opportunities without adversely affecting the company’s most expensive and valuable asset; its staff.

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