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

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

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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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Neocon highlights four of the world’s most important office design trends

Neocon highlights four of the world’s most important office design trends

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humanscale-office-iq-float-smartWe live in the Global Village, Marshall McLuhan’s idea from 1962 of an electronically contracted world in which attitudes, cultures and our political, business and legislative framework begin to pull together. Yet each nation is shaped by little differences. That is why the comedy programme The Office found an audience on both sides of the pond, but one that needed Wernham Hogg in Slough to become Dunder Mifflin in Scranton, Pennsylvania for it to work for the local audience. The central idea of the show has a universal appeal but needs a local voice. And what is true for The Office with a big O is also true for the office with a small o. This was the takeaway conclusion of a series of events staged in London and Manchester last week by Milliken and Humanscale. The touchstone for these events was a debate about the main conclusions of of June’s Neocon.

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Do we really think the future of work involves our replacement by robots?

Do we really think the future of work involves our replacement by robots?

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future of workA report published recently by my former colleagues at CBRE called “Fast Forward 2030: The Future of Work and the Workplace” claims that by 2025 so many people will be more interested in being happy and having creative roles that up to 50 percent of current occupations will be defunct. 35 years elapsed between the release of Orwell’s 1984 and the eponymous year and very little of Orwell’s dystopian vision came to pass. 2030 is a scant 16 years away so, even if one takes the exponential pace of change into account, it’s perhaps a bit of a stretch to think robots will have taken their seat at the table in quite the way we appear to think they will. Also unchanged one assumes are the attitudes of those who have a vested interest in the status quo or in dictating where the benefits of change will fall.

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The standard gender pay gap narrative is a myth, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems

The standard gender pay gap narrative is a myth, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems

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gender-payIt is one of the great ironies of modern life that in a world drowning in data, a great deal of public discourse is driven by narratives that have little or no factual basis. If anything, the substitution of baseless and questionable stories. Sometimes these narratives are based on outdated realities. Sometimes on assumptions. Sometimes they are deliberately created and upheld by those with vested interests. Sometimes people lie, including to themselves. However they are formed, they can become pretty hard to dislodge, especially when they become so enshrined that the default response to inconvenient truths is a wall of cognitive dissonance and denial. I’m obviously building up to something here and it won’t necessarily be an easy thing to say or hear. And it’s this. The gender pay gap doesn’t exist. Or at least, it doesn’t exist in the way we normally assume so distracts from related issues that we may be able to address.

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Homeworkers left to fund their own technology by stingy bosses

Homeworkers left to fund their own technology by stingy bosses

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stingyLast week we learnt that for some employers, homeworking is only to be encouraged when it’s out of hours. Now new research from Regus suggests that only around a third of people encouraged by their employers to work from home (35 percent) receive any contributions from their firm to fund the fit-out. The survey of over 4,000 senior business people found that the majority (82 percent) of employers refuse to cover all the costs incurred for creating and maintaining a work space for homeworkers.  This proves costly for staff, as a quarter (25 percent) of respondents said that it would take a whole monthly salary for them to fit-out their home, while the average cost of running a home office in the UK is almost £2,000 a year. Nearly half (43 percent) of workers think that most companies encouraging their employees to work from home are simply trying to transfer the workspace cost onto the employee.

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London transport shuts down ….. agile workers unaffected …..

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agile workers tube strikeLondon’s Financial Times reported this morning, “The worst London Underground strike in more than a decade saw millions of Londoners struggle to get to work”. It is chaos, here in the UK capital – the top global city in PwC’s Cities of Opportunity ranking. It is a sorry state of affairs, as in a scene reminiscent of 1970s union-crippled Britain, the “workers” representatives couldn’t agree with “the management”. “Workers” and “management”…we thought we had overcome that particular divide in business and society, didn’t we? But, some people have a vested interest in keeping it very much alive. In the large, industrialized, unionized industries such as transport, it lives on. Only last year, UNITE union leader Len McCluskey addressed his supporters in Liverpool as “sisters and brothers” like some mid-20th century socialist (which, of course, he is).

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Many employers discourage home working, unless it is out of hours

Many employers discourage home working, unless it is out of hours

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Home workingA combination of tube and rail strikes causing travel disruption in London today, means many businesses will accede to requests to work from home. Yet a large number of UK employers are still reluctant to encourage home working. According to a recent report by Redcentric, despite the fact that that just under a third of UK office workers reported an increase in productivity when working outside of the workplace, 48 percent of respondents claimed that their employers didn’t allow them to work remotely, with 23 percent saying that their business simply didn’t like them doing it, for reasons such as data privacy and loss of productivity. Yet research by PMI Health Group shows nearly a third of staff feel pressured to routinely check and send emails from home, which suggests that employers tacitly encourage home-working, as long as it is on their terms.

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Wind tunnels and Beyoncé’s backside added to tall buildings charge sheet

Wind tunnels and Beyoncé’s backside added to tall buildings charge sheet

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windy-day-400x292As if there aren’t enough reasons to dislike tall buildings already, two news stories drop into our inbox this week which add to the growing charge sheet against these phallic assaults on our senses and sensibilities. According to the first story, it appears that the recent proliferation of towers in London not only means that the city looks more and more like Chicago, it is functioning more like it too. There are a growing number of complaints from the public about the winds that whip around the bases of the capital’s protrusions which were ‘unforeseen by planners’, according to a report in Building magazine. Meanwhile, developers in Melbourne have made the civilisation-ending announcement that the design of a new mixed use skyscraper in the city is based on a Beyoncé music video and make particular reference to the shape of the artist’s backside.

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Humans will remain at the heart of the emerging digital workplace

Humans will remain at the heart of the emerging digital workplace

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HumanThe speed of technological development over the last 30 years has been pretty mind blowing. Of course, some technologies came and went, for instance you would struggle finding fax machines in your office nowadays or people using Pagers to contact one another.  It’s no wonder that in the early nineties futurologists predicted the death of the office. Technology was shaping the way we worked and was leading us away from office buildings towards a digital workplace. Yet videoconferencing hasn’t destroyed the need for business travel. Team meetings haven’t been abandoned because of messaging services like Yammer, Slack, Lync and Webex. We still do a lot of business face to face over coffee in a meeting room. Although technological advances have greatly improved the way we connect and do business, companies still appear to value human interaction.

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Three ways in which the business case for green building design is moving on

Three ways in which the business case for green building design is moving on

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ODD 02The case for sustainable building design used to be based on two straightforward principles. The first was that buildings had to offer up some sustainable features to comply with the ethical standards of their occupiers. The second was that there was some financial benefit. Often these principles went hand in hand, especially when it came to issues such as energy efficiency. They remain the foundations of the idea of green building design and are applicable across a range of building accreditations such as BREEAM as well as standards relating to specific products and policies. Over the past couple of years, however, we have become increasingly aware of other drivers that might make us all re-evaluate how we approach sustainability. These drivers are based on a more sophisticated understanding of green building design and the benefits for all of those involved.

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Settings, silence, serendipity, wellbeing and other lessons from Neocon

Settings, silence, serendipity, wellbeing and other lessons from Neocon

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WHY_Provocations_05The trick with visits to exhibitions like Neocon, the huge office design event which has just wrapped up in Chicago, is to stay focussed on the wood as much as the trees. So as well as identifying new products, you can also work out the themes pursued by the exhibitors and organisers which are invariably based on the ideas they are currently discussing with their clients. The show becomes a microcosm of what is happening in the outside world. At this year’s Neocon, some of the most readily identifiable themes included the dissipation of the workplace, the creation of work settings, privacy, ergonomics, wellbeing and serendipity. With the possible exception of the age old problem of ergonomics, these all relate to our changing relationship with work and workplaces, not least how we can work from anywhere and what this means both functionally and aesthetically.

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Is the environment now a non-issue for building occupiers and managers?

Is the environment now a non-issue for building occupiers and managers?

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This week, I took part in a series of debates in London and Manchester. The discussions, led by Rob Kirkbride of the US workplace design trade journal Monday Morning Quarterback, focused on workplace trends in North America and Europe, based on the issues that dominated the recent Neocon show in Chicago. This in turn is based on the premise that what suppliers talk about when they present their products in public reflects what their clients are saying to them. However, one subject we didn’t cover in any detail was the environment, because nobody was talking about it very much at Neocon. Indeed nobody seems to talk about it very much at exhibitions anywhere these days. While few would deny that sustainability is an important subject, could it be that it is now something of a non-issue for building occupiers and their suppliers?

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