About Gary Chandler

Gary Chandler is the CEO of Fourfront Group

Posts by Gary Chandler:

From the archive: A new approach to office design is redefining property

From the archive: A new approach to office design is redefining property 0

office design At the end of the 18th Century it was becoming apparent that overpopulation was something the human race would need to address for perhaps the first time. Advances in technology and the urbanisation that followed the Industrial Revolution had created a new set of challenges. These were most famously laid out in a 1798 book called An Essay on the Principle of Population, written by an English cleric called Thomas Malthus.

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The era of work personalisation is upon us

The era of work personalisation is upon us

work personalisationYou may have heard it said  that any idea repeated often enough develops some form of legitimacy. We’ve had plenty of reason to reflect on whether this notion is true or nor over the past year, especially as all-encompassing pronouncements about the future of work have proliferated and intensified. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that around 80 percent of people only read headlines. This can be a particular issue when you see a headline like The Death of the Office Desk is Upon Us above an article that suggests the death of the personal desk is upon us, when the reality is rather more about the personalisation of work. More →

Creative firms have most to lose from a loss of serendipity

Creative firms have most to lose from a loss of serendipity

creative office designMost of the analysis about the effects of the 2020 pandemic on people’s working lives has tended to involve grand statements about new normals and the death of this or that, as if everybody wants the same things, has the same personal circumstances, works in the same ways, the same places and same sectors. More →

Coworking and a new golden era for the workplace and the people who inhabit it

Coworking and a new golden era for the workplace and the people who inhabit it

coworking officeThe idea of coworking is starting to resonate with a growing number of businesses and for a growing number of reasons. People new to the concept, or those who are aware primarily of its roots, may discover or retain a notion that it is a way for start-ups and freelancers to share space as a way of keeping down costs or networking with similar organisations. There is still a great deal of truth in this, given that the initial growth of coworking was based almost exclusively on the need for small tech and creative organisations to occupy space near to their larger clients, in precisely those urban enclaves that demand eye-watering rents and conventional leases.

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When it comes to change management, culture sometimes eats strategy for breakfast

When it comes to change management, culture sometimes eats strategy for breakfast

21st Century organisations are under constant pressure to evolve. They are beset by a number of forces that demand they change constantly. These include the need to restructure the organisation, adapt to new technologies, respond to competitors and changes in the economy and legislative environment. Inevitably, this constant need to change affects both people and the built environment in very profound ways. However, according to a study of Culture and Change Management published by the Katzenbach Center, only around half of all transformation initiatives meet their objects over time. Among the biggest obstacles to successful change management cited by the study is change fatigue, which is characterised by a lack of empathy and a widespread failure to engage with the change process.

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Coworking is breaking away from its cultural and geographical stereotypes

Coworking is breaking away from its cultural and geographical stereotypes

There is a persistent image of a coworking space as a sort of glorified serviced office for tech and creative startups who can’t afford the eye-watering rents in the areas they need to be. This is usually in the technology hothouses of the world’s major cities where they can work alongside the corporate giants and fellow innovators that thrive there. The reason such perceptions exist is because they are largely true. It’s no coincidence that coworking spaces have thrived up till now in the world’s most expensive property markets – in London, Hong Kong and New York, serving exactly the sorts of start-ups and freelancers who rely on proximity to their potential clients.

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There are at least some reasons to be optimistic about the UK’s tech sector post Brexit

There are at least some reasons to be optimistic about the UK’s tech sector post Brexit

Making detailed predictions about the economic consequences of Brexit has proved a mug’s game many time over the past couple of years. The most accurate summation of what is happening might be ‘mixed’. Most recently, a report from the CBI has highlighted the resilience of many sectors while bemoaning a lack of skills in the economy. Meanwhile former Commercial Secretary to the Treasury Lord O’Neill also recently conceded that the UK economy had been more robust than he had expected following the Brexit vote, which he attributed primarily to the thriving world economy. An argument almost immediately dismissed by the economist Ruth Lea writing for the LSE, who put forward a more nuanced and mixed explanation. The same picture of tempered resilience is also evident in specific sectors, and especially those that were seen as the most likely to feel the consequences of the Brexit vote, including London’s crucial tech sector.

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What we may be missing about IBM’s decision on flexible working

What we may be missing about IBM’s decision on flexible working 0

In May, the Wall Street Journal reported that IBM had announced that it was obliging a significant number of its staff to give up on remote working and instead move back to corporate offices, many of them regional hubs. Although we had been aware of the change in policy since February, the issue only went viral as a result of the WSJ story. Comparisons were quickly made with Yahoo’s poorly received decision to summon staff back to its corporate HQ in 2013 and commentators expressed dismay that such a major corporation would be willing to return to the command and control structures of a previous era, especially given its sector and track record of encouraging flexible working. What such commentary missed was a particular nuance of the story that might suggest this is more of a continuation of existing IBM policy than they have been given credit for.

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The new normal arrives for the commercial property sector

The new normal arrives for the commercial property sector 0

wework-coworking-new-yorkTraditionally, the two principle vectors for change in the commercial property market have been lease lengths and space standards. Both have shrunk markedly over recent years, subject to the miniaturising effects of technological and cultural change. Even so, the effects of this contraction have taken place within an existing paradigm so have been easily understood, if not always acted upon.So it has been that major property organisations such as the British Council for Offices and CoreNet have been able to produce guides and reports based on well understood principles and without challenging the business models and assumptions of developers, landlords, workplace designers and occupiers. For most the challenges remained the same, not least how to resolve the sometimes conflicting timescales of people, place, property and technology that is the defining tension at the heart of office design and management.

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Embracing the inevitable rise of the robots in the workplace

Embracing the inevitable rise of the robots in the workplace 0

387773-computers-circuit-board-hdWe often have reason these days to speculate on the truth of an idea known as Amara’s Law. First coined by the researcher Roy Amara it states that “we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”. But defining what we mean by short and long term can be very difficult when technology is changing so quickly. Nothing better illustrates this than the issue of how automation will transform society and workplaces. For the past few years, the effects have mainly been the subject of academic and scientific research alongside some lurid headlines in the mainstream media. So, a fairly typical 2013 paper from researchers at Oxford University assessed the risk faced by over 700 professions and discovered that nearly half of all jobs in the US could be categorised as at high risk of automation. Less academic studies such as a report published last year by Deloitte draw similar conclusions.

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Beyond branding – how workplace design can express a firm’s culture

Beyond branding – how workplace design can express a firm’s culture

ODD-05-highres-sRGBWhen it comes to the incorporation of branding and identity into a workplace, there is a simple option, which is to produce a design that faithfully incorporates the firm’s logos, colours and straplines in the interior. There’s nothing wrong with this, except for the fact that it is literally superficial and so may miss the opportunity to create an office design that scratches beneath the surface to reveal what lies beneath. When you get past the layers of branding and identity, you uncover something that we call culture. This can take things to a whole new level because the challenge becomes how to create a workplace design that communicates and fosters both the identity and the culture of the organisation. The benefits to the organisation can be enormous, not least because this approach bridges a number of disciplines such as human resources and office design and so drives a number of strategic objectives.

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