How facilities management brings organisational values to life. Or not

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A story about facilities managementWe have used stories to pass on information for thousands of years and they remain the most powerful way we know to communicate. Indeed, the power of story is magnified in today’s super-connected, transparent world – the truth gets out fast and can be widely communicated – to millions of people all over the world – in such a short space of time. Here is a story which illustrates how employees’ “felt experience” every day strongly shapes their perception of an organisation and how the impact compares to official “corporate messaging”. This, in turn, highlights the critical (often under appreciated) role played by facilities management in reinforcing organisation brand and values. What are the implications for the role of FM and the wider HR agenda?

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It’s worth exploring alternative forms of finance for office fit out

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Fit-out-1You can’t help but notice that there has been a shift in recent years for us to become the consumers of things we were once obliged or wanted to own. We watch films on Netflix, listen to music on Spotify and share cars with strangers through BlaBlaCar. As both individuals and businesses we rent software rather than own it and in the growth of serviced offices and co-working spaces we see the same forces at work. The attractions of this approach are obvious, not least in keeping down the costs of things we may not want to keep in the long term and leaving ourselves free to make different choices in the light of rapidly changing circumstances. So it’s no surprise that economic uncertainty is just one factor that has driven an increase in asset financing at the same time that we have seen a permanent change in spending patterns.

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How a big, stupid idea can be more attractive than a small, effective one

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StrataWe’re going to be hearing a lot of big ideas over the next few weeks. Politicians will be sharing their ‘visions’ with us and letting us know exactly how ‘passionate’ they are about them and anything else Twitter tells them we care about. It’s going to be boring and infuriating, but we only have ourselves to blame. We fret when politicians don’t give us a handy label on which we can rest our hopes or lay the blame, depending on whether we agree with whatever the big idea is or not. Of course, David Cameron’s vision of choice when he became Prime Minister in 2010 was The Big Society. I won’t get into the rights and wrongs of that but I think we can all agree that The Big Society has been kicked unceremoniously into The Long Grass and we won’t be hearing much about it in the build up to this year’s General Election. Nor will we be hearing much about another of David Cameron’s pet projects even though that has actually gone on to be something of a success.

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The UK’s enduring and understandable love affair with Scandinavian design

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scandinavian designThe British have an enduring love affair with Scandinavia. From Norwegian Wood to Ikea, Abba to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and all the other manifestations of Nordic noir, the country’s love affair with everything Scandinavian shows no sign of abating any time soon. We have a particular affinity with Scandinavian design, which is both familiar to our shared Northern European sensibilities and exotic at the same time. Its influence extends way beyond Sundays spent assembling a Billy book case. Like all the best design, we love its simplicity and functionality, its order and attractiveness. The influence of Scandinavian furniture design in particular has been palpable in the UK since the 1950s when the first waves of modernism crashed on these shores and were lapped up by a population eager to build a new world following years of war.

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The financial services sector leads the way in how we think about office design

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Office design and the cityThe office as we know it may continue to change, but that doesn’t mean its vital role at the heart of the organisation will diminish. The recent downturn meant some tough decisions had to be taken by many companies. It certainly focussed more attention on the way firms design and manage their workplace, based on a clear understanding of their economics. It is one of the most commonly cited truisms about office design that after staff, buildings are easily the second highest item of expenditure for the majority of organisations. The conclusion often drawn from this is that there is a compulsion to reduce space through new working practices or more efficient office design and management. Which may be true but the challenge is to take advantage of these opportunities without adversely affecting the company’s most expensive and valuable asset; its staff.

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Over half of workplace support staff are privy to confidential conversations

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Over half of workplace support staff are privy to confidential conversationsFacilities managers often remark that ensuring their staff gain the recognition they deserve for a job well done is much less common than fielding criticism when something in the workplace goes wrong. The fact is that when support staff are doing their work well, they fade into the background. For many office workers, the people who clean the workplace, deliver the mail, keep the building secure and make sure everything in the office is running smoothly; are all but invisible. But, as a new US survey by CareerBuilder suggests – support staff may know more a lot more about the occupants of the workplace than would make those people comfortable. Fifty-three percent of support staff workers have overheard confidential conversations at work, and 11 percent of support staff workers have stumbled upon information that could cause someone to be fired.

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Design Museum Awards: the buildings may be accessible, but the language isn’t

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UC Innovation CentreOne of the fundamental challenges when asked to offer a critique of something is that you may find that you actually like a great deal of what you are presented with. And this is precisely the challenge offered up by the shortlist for The Designs of the Year awards, organised annually by London’s Design Museum to honour work “that promotes or delivers change, enables access, extends design practice or captures the spirit of the year”. It would be churlish indeed to take issue with projects that seek to address the provision of education in deprived areas; remove pollutants from the air and from the oceans; advance technological solutions to help people with impaired sight or mobility and improve sanitation to eliminate the diarrhoea which kills approximately 1.8 million people annually, primarily children under the age of 5.

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Why would you want a Google office when you can create your own?

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You don't want a Google office do you?Google has dramatically shaken up the world of the Internet and also changed the face of the traditional office environment forever. Nothing has ever been the same, since the ubiquitous four-colour logo first appeared on the worldwide web. Everything that Google does creates a ripple in the business world. Whether it’s giving employees 20% of their time to focus on their own projects, allowing them to form teams to peruse the idea of their choice or installing slides instead of stairs many are asking “should we also be doing that?” And it’s not surprising. All companies want to be successful and there’s no better success story around than Google. So let’s try and model ourselves on or imitate Google, right? I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard “could we have an office a bit more like Google?”

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Our personal choices can tell us a lot about the state of the economy

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Pantone_Color_of_the_Year_Marsala_ChipDriveThe announcement by Pantone that its Colour of the Year for 2014 was a muted reddish brown called Marsala was met with the annual carping about the subjectivity of the whole thing. Yet there are two things we know for sure. One is that Pantone puts a lot of time and effort into making its decision and looks at a range of social and economic factors, fashions and tastes before making its decision. The other is that this idea that you can gauge trends by tracking changes in taste has some high profile adherents. One of them is Alan Greenspan, perhaps the world’s most famous living economist, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve and a great believer in the idea that you can get a good idea of the health of the economy by looking at the length of women’s hemlines and heels and the amount of money men invest in underwear and ties.

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This isn’t a golden era for small business; it’s more interesting than that

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small businessesYesterday, the Prime Minister’s Enterprise Advisor Lord Young produced a report into the key trends experienced by the UK’s small businesses over the past five years. According to the headline figures presented by the report, this is a ‘golden era’ for small businesses in the UK, with a record number of small firms in the country. The reported 5.2 million small firms represents an increase of 760,000 over the five year period covered by the study. The report concludes that the main drivers of this upsurge are the growing belief people have in their own ideas and abilities coupled with the technological wherewithal to make them a commercial reality. Lord Young also claims the Government deserves some credit for providing the business landscape for this to happen. But is it really that simple?

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The open plan remains an important office design element

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office designFor half a century the default office design model in large parts of the world has been the open plan. Even though that continues to be the case, a growing number of voices are questioning this hegemony and suggesting there may be better ways of designing offices that balance the advantages of the open plan while eliminating or mitigating drawbacks. On the face of it, the case for working in open plan offices is clear cut. Not only are they believed to be more conducive to collaborative work, open plan workstations take up around half the space of cellular offices. As well as taking up less space, a crucial consideration is that fit-out costs are typically around 25 per cent lower, even in eye wateringly expensive commercial property hotspots such as London.

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Staff calling in sick could be a symptom of management malaise

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If your office seems strangely quiet this morning it might be due to the fact today is ‘national sickie day’. The first Monday in February is the day of the year which traditionally sees the highest number of workers calling in sick. It’s been argued that many of these people could in fact be looking for a new job, but whether your staff are sick or on a job interview, these absences may be indicative of a deeper problem, and it in all probability lies with the quality of their managers. According to recent research, one in seven people (16%) have had to take sick leave due to a bad manager and a fifth of people would turn down a job offer if their new manager had a bad reputation. The research also found that those who find themselves being poorly managed are more likely to take radical action and leave a job than tackle the issue with their HR department.

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