About Simon Heath


Simon is a freelance consultant, illustrator and commentator on workplace and facilities management issues and was formerly Head of Operations, Global Workplace Strategies at CBRE.

Posts by Simon Heath:

What happens in a designer’s mind and Mac can be very different to reality

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by Pieter Bruegel

Social media is inarguably closing the gap between organisations and consumers of their services. Advances in the way we interrogate the opinions of building users are lifting the veil on some sharp practices in management and the negative impacts of poorly thought out design or badly executed installation of designs into the built environment. The positive impacts of this new, more open world are evident in changing attitudes to mental health and other wellness issues that affect us in the workplace. And it is becoming ever more evident in the response to a clear disconnect between what happens inside the designer or architect’s MacBook and its effect on the physical spaces with, and within which, we interact.

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When it comes to transparency, most businesses might fail The Peacock Test

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The HR profession took a savaging yesterday in a Daily Telegraph article by Louisa Peacock following what many felt to be a disastrous appearance by the BBC’s head of HR, Lucy Adams in front of the Public Accounts Committee. You can see a brutal excerpt above. A thread of sensationalism runs through the Telegraph piece but some good points are made that have broader lessons for the commercial world. There have been acres of coverage generated by the debacle at the Beeb, but there is a real sense of “there but for the grace of God go I” and schadenfreude about much of the commentary and chatter from the business community.

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BIFM partnership with DWP may prove an ill-advised and short-lived union

Las Vegas WeddingRather like someone who collects friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter with the obsessiveness of the avid lepidopterist completist, news reaches us from the British Institute of Facilities Management concerning yet another partnership. Not content with the recently announced merger with Asset Skills, the Facilities Management Association and the Cleaning and Support Services Association, this time it’s the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) that is the object of BIFM’s affections. Not that BIFM are considering moving in to Caxton House and a run for Parliament in 2015 (at least not that we are aware of). But while BIFM are, understandably, trumpeting the signing of this joint agreement, the DWP are not. In fact, if one searches on www.gov.uk using the search terms “BIFM” or “British Institute of Facilities Management” no results are returned.

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The three Rs of the RIBA Awards winners – risk, reticence, recession

Risk, reticence and recession are the 3 Rs  that leap out from the education dominated RIBA awards winners. The premise being that only a really bold architect would design something daring at a time of economic constraint. However, given what vanity has been displayed in recent years one would have supposed that boldness would not have been in short supply. It is the reality that falls some way short. A largely egg- and shoe-box inspired collection with windows best described as minimalist, the common theme is seemingly one of modesty. Even the big public projects seem derivative and cautious. Images of the visitor centre for the Giants Causeway (above) in Ireland suggest an attractive scheme but bring to mind Stonehenge, another early attempt at brutalist monolithic human construction with a spiritual dimension. Unless I’m missing something.

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The future of retail – High Street Bladerunners and Apple in Wonderland

AT&T Flagship Chicago

AT&T’s flagship Chicago store

I was going to write this week on the manifesto from MANTOWNHUMAN – subtitled “TOWARDS A NEW HUMANISM IN ARCHITECTURE” but frankly the dystopian visions it conjured up drove such a bulldozer through any human sensibility as to prove thoroughly depressing. You can find it here if you’re that way inclined. I’d be interested in your views. Instead I’m following up on a faintly hagiographic article in Adweek which recently hailed a new frontier in physical retail spaces, building on the success of Apple’s uber-cool high street playgrounds for bored teenagers and husbands. The store in question and an example of what many are hailing as the future of retail is AT&T’s new flagship on the self-styled Magnificent Mile in Chicago.

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CBRE WorkShop concept is interesting, but is it workable?


I’d like to deal in this article with the arrival yesterday of the long-awaited white paper from CBRE’s thought leadership exercise, The CBRE Workshop. However, I should declare an interest for the sake of transparency. Until June 2012 I was employed by CBRE and reported directly to a couple of the people who are heavily involved in The Workshop idea. I would reassure readers that I am not a disgruntled former employee. I have a huge amount of respect and warm regard towards my erstwhile colleagues and nobody will be happier than me to see them do well.

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Seven thoughts on the UK facilities management association merger

New broomWith breathless excitement a press release announces the proposed merger of all of the UK’s major facilities management and support services trade associations, or rather notes that they: “have agreed to the concept of forming one single and united body to represent facilities management and support services.” With a sense of crushing inevitability the first step has been to form a steering group to address how these and other organisations could come together into this single body to meet the needs of the industry and the professionals that work within it. With this in mind, I proffer a few pieces of advice in the form of seven thoughts for those involved in these discussions.

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High wire act: balancing attitudes and expectations in the workplace

This week, with some fanfare and a modest splash on social media, CBRE, the Global real estate services provider launched The Workshop Idea. One of its stated aims is the revitalisation of our high streets and, with the introduction of local venues in a number of differing guises, an increase in the degree of choice and flexibility of places in which to work when not travelling into the office. A whitepaper is due out shortly and we will cover this specific initiative once that has been given the proper consideration and thoughtful analysis it deserves. However, it raises some initial thoughts on expectations, attitudes and behaviours that need to be overcome in the way we view our high streets and places of work and the degree to which those who provide services respond.

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Time to mothball facilities management’s stuffed shirts

Stuffed ShirtMuch hand-wringing and angst in the world of Facilities/Workplace Management at the moment. The usual existential paranoia about relevancy and the need for a seat at the top table; the search for differentiation when pretty much the whole industry does the same things in the same way; hoping to standardise as much as possible under the guise of best practice and looking for ways that add value that won’t put a further pinch on already tight margins. As ever, new legislative and regulatory frameworks will keep the talking heads occupied and BIM (and other new tools) will continue to keep the cash tills ringing at software companies.

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Building designers should pay more heed to what users need

The future for London's skyline

The future for London’s skyline

These past two weeks have seen me playing and working in what I believe is fondly referred to as “That London” by those who live and work in the rest of the United Kingdom. Whilst resisting the temptations of the capital’s fleshpots, I’ve had the time to reflect on the design of public spaces and wonder at the architectural munificence that gave us, within a single square mile or so; The Shard, The Gherkin, St Pauls Cathedral and the engineering marvel of Tower Bridge (I also had the chance to sample Japanese octopus balls, but that, as the saying goes, is another story altogether).

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A Field Guide to Workplace Terminology

As the ecosystem around the workplace industry grows ever more complex, so too does the language we use to describe it. In an attempt to bring order to chaos, guest writer Simon Heath presents here a glossary of terms, acronyms and abbreviations to help you navigate these linguistic waters. (For example Business Intelligence – A commonly used oxymoron.) For more of Simon’s worldly, wise and witty writing on all things work and workplace related, visit his blog at https://workmusing.wordpress.com.

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