From the archive: Preparing ourselves for the coming era of the boundless office

From the archive: Preparing ourselves for the coming era of the boundless office 0

Originally published in Feb 2016. Ever since people first started working in modern offices just over a century ago, we’ve grown accustomed to the idea of a constantly evolving workplace. Trends in office design have tracked those in management thinking, social attitudes, technology, demographics, architecture, the economy and legislation. Yet for most of that elongated century, there were some underlying principles that remained pretty constant. More →

Creating great cultures will be one of the main drivers for firms

Creating great cultures will be one of the main drivers for firms

Workplace design is – or should be – inextricably linked to both an organisation’s identity and its culture. The issue of workplace culture, and why it might succeed or fail, has become a matter of a great deal of study as the basis for work has moved on from the scientific management theories of the early to mid-20th Century. This aped the hierarchies, structures and forms of factories. It once prevailed but even now its vestiges remain, often in spite of the decades of research and a changing world of work that show us better ways of getting things done.   More →

The economic challenges of the post lockdown world become clearer

The economic challenges of the post lockdown world become clearer

There are so many unknowns about the ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic will shape our world in the coming months and years but what it has highlighted are the strengths and weaknesses in the global and UK economy and their implications for the commercial property sector. In its latest white paper, property consultancy and chartered surveyors Bruceshaw examines the macro and micro economic challenges that will shape the property sector for many years to come. More →

The links between coffee, shared ideas and the office go back a long way

The links between coffee, shared ideas and the office go back a long way

cafe culture in office design and the workplaceThe BBC recently published a piece on its website to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Ridley Scott’s movie Alien and what it could tell us about office design and the workplace (of whatever sort). One of the interesting points raised in the piece was how the depiction of the conditions on board the spaceship Nostromo did away with the gloss and swish of previous visions of the future, replaced by grime, exposed services and strictly utilitarian interiors. The environment was one of the characters, a trick Ridley Scott later repeated in Bladerunner. More →

From footprint to footfall: how the experiential workplace is set to take over the world

From footprint to footfall: how the experiential workplace is set to take over the world 0

collaborative_main_dof_v5From the archive. This piece was originally published in 2016. The culture within which we work determines how effective, successful, fulfilled and well we are in both our professional and personal lives. The organisations for which we work – on whatever basis that might be – the physical surroundings they create, and the other places in which we choose to work are now woven into the fabric of our lives as never before. The technological immersion that allows us to work in new ways also means that each day becomes a series of experiences. Because we are free to work wherever and whenever we choose, we are increasingly able to determine the nature of those experiences. For those who design and manage offices this represents both a great opportunity and an unprecedented series of challenges.

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The square and the tower: why meetings and meeting spaces are more important than ever before

The square and the tower: why meetings and meeting spaces are more important than ever before

In his 2018 book The Square and the Tower, the historian Niall Ferguson argues that over a period of hundreds of years the world has been shaped primarily by two distinct organisational forces: networks and hierarchies. These are the square and the tower of the book’s title. Their interplay has been at the heart of major world events and the lessons that arise apply to what we now mistakenly assume to be a uniquely networked era. More →

Sound and vision: why the distracted workplace is about far more than noise

Sound and vision: why the distracted workplace is about far more than noise

The idea of a cocktail party might be a bit dated, but it is the perfect metaphor for describing one aspect of the most common complaints about modern office design. An idea called the cocktail party effect has been known to neuroscientists for decades. It describes how we are able to filter out a large amount of noise and focus almost completely on just one source of sound. So, while we clutch our Manhattan, we can listen intently to just one person and ignore the babble of voices that might otherwise drown them out. We can tune in to the source we think is important and tune out everything else.

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White Paper: the magic of disruption and what it means for the workplace

White Paper: the magic of disruption and what it means for the workplace

In a 1973 essay called Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination, the science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke sets out Three Laws regarding our relationship with technology. Only the third of these is well remembered these days:. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. He was one of the first writers to coin the sort  of law that have now become commonplace on the subject of the way our world, including the workplace, can be disrupted by technological developments. They include a corollary to Clarke’s:  Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced (Gehm’s Law)

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White paper: How the workplace is pioneering the use of data in organisations

White paper: How the workplace is pioneering the use of data in organisations

In 2017, a content creator called Oobah Butler decided that he wanted to do something with the experience he’d gained writing fake positive restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor. What if, he wondered, he set up an entirely fictitious restaurant based in the shed in his garden and then started to manipulate TripAdvisor ratings?  What happened surpassed his wildest expectations. In just six months, The Shed at Dulwich became the top-rated restaurant in London, even though nobody had ever actually eaten there, based solely on fake reviews, fake pictures and the word of mouth created by a complete inability for anybody to book a table.

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White Paper: intuitive design and the changing face of workplace interactions

White Paper: intuitive design and the changing face of workplace interactions

In his famous 1988 book The Design of Everyday Things, the cognitive scientist Donald Norman suggests that the way we interact with objects and our surroundings is determined almost entirely by their design. People cannot be the primary reason things succeed or fail, because they are constant, while the design of the object itself is the variable. People can expect to learn how to use things better, but without an underlying people-centric and intuitive approach to design, the design will fail to some degree or other. He concludes that the designer should focus their attention on the interaction between people and the design of objects and surroundings. This principle becomes more relevant with each passing day, as the number of interactions we have with designed objects increases. This is most obvious with regard to our interactions with technology, but it is also apparent across our entire lives.

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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

White paper: a new world of learning environments

White paper: a new world of learning environments 0

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.

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