A round-up of stories you may have missed on your way back to work

A round-up of stories you may have missed on your way back to work 0

workplace designStill catching up after the holidays? So are we. Here are seven recent stories we loved belatedly and think you will too. 1. GM is set to stake its claim as part of the nascent network of self driving cars. 2. Yet another round-up of 2016 trends, this time focussed on HR. 3. A new initiative attempts to cement the UK’s position at the frontier of the smart city movement. 4. A film about the world’s ongoing love hate relationship with the office cubicle. Mostly hate. 5. A reminder to architects that they need to think about the design of sound, too. 6. A look back at the year in which sit-stand desks finally made their mark (just don’t mention the countries that have loved them for years in the non English speaking parts of Northern Europe). 7. Goldman Sachs produce an interesting chart about the fall in space per worker, but provoke a possibly faulty conclusion from the author. Just because people are given less space, doesn’t mean the office is dying. Main image courtesy of Herman Miller.

How to compile your own Top Ten list of the World’s Coolest Offices

How to compile your own Top Ten list of the World’s Coolest Offices

facebook1The year draws to an end and making a list of what you claim are the world’s coolest offices or making claims about what makes an office cool is a great way of generating some much needed fin de siecle PR. That’s presumably why there are so many features about what constitutes a cool office. You can find them everywhere including in the Telegraph, Fortune, EsquireInc and Forbes. Or, like search engine Adzuna, you can openly boast about how much PR you’ve generated with your list and then do it again every year. If you want to tap into this meme,  the great thing about it is that you don’t even have to know anything about or even visit the offices you deem cool enough to make your top ten. You can even choose offices from other people’s lists. All you have to do is follow a number of simple and interrelated criteria to come up with a list that is pretty much the same as all the others and say the same things about them.

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From workplace wellness programmes to a positive workplace culture

From workplace wellness programmes to a positive workplace culture 0

wellnessResearch presented at the recent 2015 Global Wellness Summit (GWS) titled “The Future of Wellness at Work” forecasts that workplace wellness investment will “explode in the next 5 to 10 years”. Results from the research revealed that 87 percent of employees surveyed feel disengaged at work, with 38 percent experiencing excessive pressure and stress. Despite more than half of the employees having access to a structured wellness “programme” only three out of ten actually use it in practice. The generally human resources led workplace wellness programs perform poorly because they don’t always address the issue at hand. They instead choose to focus on health issues experienced outside of work, rather than looking internally at the workplace itself. The design of an office has been proven to have a material impact on the health, wellbeing and productivity of its inhabitants.

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A reminder to look beyond what we see every day of our working lives

A reminder to look beyond what we see every day of our working lives 0

_87223357_8_my_pod_by_peter_murrell cropThe Chartered Institute of Building has just announced the finalists of this year’s Art of Building Photographer of the Year. The competition attracts thousands of entries from around the world each year and you are free to vote on your favourite to determine this year’s winner. The image that struck me most from this year’s shortlist was one that told its own stories about the way we live. The photographer Peter Murrell has called his picture My Pod to describe both our personal immersion in the digital world but also how we often cocoon ourselves in the physical world too, adopting spaces temporarily like hermit crabs. This idea is part of the daily experience of commuters but is beautifully encapsulated by the photographer here. The image, fully rendered on the next page, is also a reminder to step out from what we see each day and look for narratives and meaning in the mundane.

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Seven essential workplace design trends to keep an eye on during 2016

Seven essential workplace design trends to keep an eye on during 2016 0

Workplace design trendsWhat has become increasingly apparent over recent years is that the office isn’t just a place to work, but also a driver of competitive advantage. We’ve always known this to a greater or lesser extent, but the dynamic and ever shifting nature of the modern world is presenting organisations with new and evolving challenges that they must address with all of the tools at their disposal. At the heart of this complexity is the physical workspace. Its design touches on every aspect of the changing workplace and the objectives organisations set for themselves and their employees. Although it has lots its primacy as the main place of work, you could also argue that the focus on the office’s key strengths makes it more important than ever within the context of overall working cultures. So, with that in mind, here are ten of the most important current trends in workplace design and management we foresee for 2016.

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Focus on women on boards masks other determinants of female leadership

Focus on women on boards masks other determinants of female leadership 0

women-on-boards-blog-bannerHigh profile initiatives such as Lord Davies’ report are doing their bit to increase gender composition, but according to the latest research, based on current “business as usual” trends, women are unlikely to comprise 30 percent of directorships in publicly held companies until 2027. This is despite the fact that the latest research of companies in the MSCI World Index with strong female leadership generated a Return on Equity of 10.1 percent per year versus 7.4 percent for those without. Although a direct causal link between women directors and better outcomes has yet to be established, many institutional investors are increasingly focused on the gender composition of company boards. Some studies show significant outperformance by companies with women on boards, though no one can show a direct link between the two. Focusing exclusively on the make-up of boards however, can mask other important dimensions of female leadership.

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When performance management really can produce positive results

When performance management really can produce positive results 0

Performance management examplesPerformance management processes have come under regular fire for being ineffective, time consuming, and quite frankly not fit for purpose. And it’s no surprise to discover exactly why employers are so justifiably disappointed in outdated performance management processes. Recent research from Towers Watson demonstrated that only 36 percent of companies consider their performance management process to be valuable, and some companies have even decided to scrap performance management altogether. While many of us don’t disagree that as a whole performance management processes aren’t producing the results that they should be, that doesn’t mean companies should be eliminating performance management from their organisation altogether. Instead, companies need to take steps to find a performance management process that gets positive results.

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Six human resources costs you might avoid by choosing the right office

Six human resources costs you might avoid by choosing the right office 0

1573_24-04-2015_8503According to a report from Colliers International, the majority of commercial office space in Australia and New Zealand is occupied by government departments and firms working in the business services, finance and insurance sectors. Other than government and the Not for Profit (NFP) sector, a prime motivation for every CEO, business owner and manager is the search for increased profitability. In most instances, a business has three pathways to increasing profitability. The first is through increasing turnover or sales (assuming the cost base remains equitable), the second is through reducing costs, and the third is by improving productivity. I have previously written quite a lot about the relationship between office space and productivity increases, but this article will explore one of the most insidious elements associated with any businesses cost base (including government) and that is staff turnover.

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Linear equations are no longer enough to determine the size of offices

Linear equations are no longer enough to determine the size of offices

sardinesIn 2013, the US Census Bureau announced that the official human population of the Earth had exceeded 7 billion for the first time. This provoked people to raise concerns that were couched in Malthusian pessimism. Although people might have assumed we’d left behind this kind of flawed thinking, there is obviously something appealing about the idea that exponential population growth is unsustainable when resources increase only in arithmetical terms. We’ve got a problem but what we should have learned in the two centuries since Thomas Malthus first popularised the idea is that there are complex factors that can influence the resources we need to survive, not least in terms of greater efficiency in the way we produce them. A similar debate is also apparent in the way in which the commercial property market is able to offer the right sort of buildings for modern organisations.

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Lack of talent will hold back any investment in infrastructure and building

Lack of talent will hold back any investment in infrastructure and building 0

talent shortageWhen faced with inconvenient facts, there is always a temptation to just ignore them. It’s a temptation to which the big thinkers of the political class readily succumb, especially when they’re selling an idea. So it was with George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, which maintained the Chancellor’s commitment to using public sector spending on infrastructure to boost the economy. This intriguingly Keynesian way of thinking seems pretty seamless, especially while the memory endures of what happens when you use credit to grow the economy. But it rests on the assumption that there is a limitless supply of the right people to build things in the first place. The flaws in this way of thinking are already becoming evident with HS2, a project that continues to drain talent away from the rail network’s already disastrous investment programme. A growing number of voices are raised to point them out on other issues too.

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How our preconceptions can lead us to fail the office design bench test

How our preconceptions can lead us to fail the office design bench test

Logan Offices New YorkThe office furniture design scene certainly came alive in the early 1990s. New ideas and new technologies wove themselves into the grand narrative of new ways of working. Everything was possible and there was no longer one best way of doing things. In New York, Chiat Day’s offices featured touch-down desks, garish crimson floors and walls and a reception framed by a huge pair of plastic, glistening lips. In Helsinki, Sol Cleaning Services did away completely with ideas as outmoded as desks and working hours. In the UK, British Airways gave their staff olive groves and indoor streams to work alongside. And in London a small media company called Michaelides and Bednash had offices that consisted of a room furnished with a single 20m long serviced table for its 20 staff to share. Such workplaces were surely one-offs, mere footnotes to the grand narrative.

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Despite its drawbacks, LiFi has the potential to revolutionise office design

Despite its drawbacks, LiFi has the potential to revolutionise office design 0

LiFiDuring 2016, we can all expect to be hearing a lot more about a new technology called Li-Fi, which uses light to transmit high speed data. Li-Fi has already been trialled extensively in lab conditions and now for the first time it has been installed in an office in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. It may even be substantially quicker than standard Wi-Fi. The people behind it claim it is already able to transmit data at a rate of 1 GB per second, which is around 100 times faster than Wi-Fi. Using light as a medium, however, does mean its main drawback is that it cannot penetrate walls. Designers and managers may also have concerns that the way it transmits data – basically by flickering the light from an individual LED like a massively sped up signal lamp (pictured) – but the developers claim this is completely imperceptible to the human eye and so has no consequences for individuals.

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