Architects should accept that other people do have a right to an opinion

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Paternoster Square, London

Paternoster Square, London

All professions tend to wallow in a mire of their own existential angst, perpetually complaining that they are misunderstood, undervalued and misrepresented. But any members of the human resources, facilities management or other professions which come across as habitually concerned about their role, public image, direction or esteem in which they are held might want to contrast their situation with that of the UK’s architects. This is a profession that wrestles not only with the common professional gripes, but also with what it perceives as a fall from public grace coupled with falling fees and complete disdain for what muggles – non-architectural folk – think. And all in a country in which literally anybody is allowed to design buildings.

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3D printed pizzas – the future of fast food for (very) remote workers

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Astronaut-1The printed word may be on its way out, but how about the printed lunch? Last year, an Indian engineer called Anjan Contractor was commissioned by NASA to develop a working 3D pizza printer and has now announced his first prototype. The machine prints each pizza in layers with dried ingredients from cartridges that Anjan Contractor claims can last up to 30 years and cook in just over a minute. If NASA pushes ahead with the idea, it will mean that astronauts will be able to enjoy at least some semblance of fast food in space, while the rest of us can speculate at the implications for the UK’s growing army of homeworkers and road warriors currently subsisting on biscuits, coffee and Ginsters’ pasties.  Video (if you must) below.

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Latest generation Y survey reflects characteristically idealistic thinking of youth

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Latest generation Y survey confirms characteristic idealistic thinking of youth

Maybe it’s the cynicism of middle age, but the most recent exploration of arguably, the most over-analysed cohort of workers in history – Generation Y – seems to reflect the archetypal idealistic thinking of youth. For example, while most Millennials (74%) believe business is having a positive impact on society by generating jobs (48%) and increasing prosperity (71%), they think it can do much more to address society’s challenges in the areas of most concern: resource scarcity (68%), climate change (65%) and income equality (64%). And quelle surprise, 50 per cent of Millennials surveyed wanted to work for a business with ethical practices. You have to wonder wouldn’t an examination of the hopes and aspirations of the last couple of generations of younger workers reveal similar ideologies, albeit without the benefit of their digital sophistication? More →

Working from Home Week: good idea, but it doesn’t suit everyone

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Meeting the management challenges of caring for home workers

Yesterday was hyped as the most depressing day of the year, but it also marked the beginning of Working from Home Week (20-26 January 2014). The idea will resonate with anyone struggling to get out of bed and join the January commute. There are many advantages to home working; but depending on your personality and personal circumstances there are also disadvantages. Yes, you’ll avoid traffic jams/crowded trains, take the dog for a walk when you fancy and can concentrate on a project without annoying interruptions. But working from home has its disadvantages too; including feeling isolated and finding it difficult to remain motivated. Rather like those who decide to move to the country but find it’s too quiet – for some people the buzz of the workplace is vital to their productivity and wellbeing. More →

Blue Monday hype obscures the real debate about workplace happiness

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BlueSo here it is. Blue Monday. Officially the most depressing day of the year. We say ‘officially’, but like the idea of ‘Body Odour’ its common usage hides the fact that it was originally created as part of a 2005 PR campaign. For Sky’s travel channel. The whole idea of Blue Monday is couched in a pseudo-mathematical equation which includes factors like the weather, levels of debt, time since Christmas, low levels of motivation and, apparently, an unspecified variable known simply as ‘D’. Now, of course, none of this is either easy to define or measure and while we mock the idea, it’s not so far removed from Prime Minister David Cameron’s attempts to measure ‘happiness’ as an alternative to GDP.

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The BYOD conundrum remains how to strike the right balance about control

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Sawing off branchWe predicted that the practice of Bring Your Own Device would remain an insoluble conundrum for many firms throughout the year and two recent pieces of conflicting advice on the subject make the point point for us. On the one hand, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK has issued fresh guidance to organisations about the possible perils of BYOD and the need to establish formal policies and procedures, including the ability for the firm to wipe ALL data from lost or stolen devices, determine applications and operating systems and decide on what happens to devices at the end of contracts. On the other hand a Gartner analyst has predicted that the dead hand of organisational control will mean around a fifth of BYOD policies will fail within the next two years, rendering the efforts at control completely counterproductive.

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SkyCycle. Great idea, but how realistic is it really?

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Cycling in London

 A cycle lane in the sky is a brilliant concept. The very name conjures up visual images of 21st century transport networks that HG Wells might have been proud of. But wedged above the Enfield Town to Liverpool Street line or its equivalent it seems very unlikely. So let’s assume this is an exercise in marketing, making use of good research and creative design as a means to kick start the debate about how we get to work and how we can accommodate more different and more sustainable methods of commuting. And let’s not restrict this to London either. The capital might have more obvious issues, more publicity; a larger than life Mayor; plus too many cycling fatalities, but they are problems shared across the UK.

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The nine enduring workplace tensions to keep an eye on in the year ahead

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The nine enduring workplace tensions to keep an eye on in the year aheadThere were a number of workplace issues that wouldn’t go away during 2013. And there’s no reason to believe we will resolve many of them during 2014 either. We can try to explain the recalcitrance of such things by referring to the enveloping fog that emanates from the commercial interests who promote problems to their customers so they can provide the solutions, but many are more deep-rooted. Technology and its constant radicalising effects is almost invariably the major driver of change, but it is only one thread in a complex web of social, professional, demographic, cultural and commercial changes. So here, in no particular order, are the issues we expect to spend the most time talking about on Insight over the next year. More →

Why we should be wary of expert predictions for 2014

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Dart throwingAs ever the first day back at work coincides with a flood of forecasts about what will happen in the world in the year ahead. But predictions are often more interesting in retrospect than they are in their own time. For example, each year The Economist produces its one-off ‘The World in…’ publication which asks well-informed academics and writers to tackle an issue that relates to their own specialism. This year these relate to issues such as Scottish independence (it’s a ‘no’, by the way), the rise of African economies and a potential customer backlash against technology businesses and the rich geeks who own them. Interesting though it is to read all of this, The Economist is at least honest in publishing a list of its hits and misses, whereas most people appear to just pretend the misses never happened.

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The most read stories on Insight in 2013

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Apple 11It’s been one year since Insight first hit the digital streets and it’s been fascinating to see what people have been most interested in. One of the great things about online publishing is you cannot escape from what people think. Printed trade magazines can tell you they send out 12,000 copies or whatever, but they can’t tell you whether the recipients are interested enough to read them or share their contents. Online, that is all made transparent. So it’s been great to start a publication that after just a few months was demonstrably the UK’s most widely read title covering workplace design and management issues. We even know what people like the most. So here, in no particular order, are our most widely read stories from 2013, ranging from the technical to the esoteric, news stories, case studies, the bursting of bubbles and the challenges to received wisdom.

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Driving home for Christmas? Forget Chris Rea and try Sigur Ros

Driving home for Christmas? Forget Chris Rea and try Sigur Ros

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Six in ten commuters travel by car. This was the finding of a survey conducted by the RAC earlier this month. Inevitably a busier road leads to congestion, and therefore stress. It’s no shock to learn, according to a Sky News report, that almost half of British drivers claim to have been involved in some form, with road rage. In fact, Britain is the shamed ‘winner’ of the highest road rage (Daily Mail), a surprising truth for such a stereotypically polite-prone nation. Road rage is a worrying occurrence – both for stress levels – but also for road safety. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents attributed ‘aggressive driving’ to the deaths of 122 and the serious injury of almost 1,000 in 2011. It goes without saying, that lowering these high-stress experiences for drivers is a necessity.

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BA becomes first European airline to allow electronics use throughout flights

BA becomes first European airline to allow electronics use throughout flights

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Butterfly cocoonThose of us who feel bereft when we are forced to abandon our links to a world beyond our immediate surroundings and companions for even a few minutes will be delighted at the news that British Airways has become the first European airline to allow electronic devices to be switched on for the whole time passengers spend on their aircraft, including take-off and landing. However, it’s not all good news for Europe’s presenteeist army of solipsist tech addicts as they will still not be able to text, call or use wireless connections. But they will at least be able to use their phones, tablets, e-Readers or laptops offline rather than talk to somebody, read a book or newspaper or even take the slightest interest in what is happening right in front of their eyes.

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