Putting a new approach to office design in the frame

Putting a new approach to office design in the frame

The traditional ways we think about office design need to be rethought in response to the new and emerging challenges businesses now faceIt is now a truism to suggest that the traditional ways we think about office design need to be rethought in response to the new and emerging challenges businesses now face. Most people accept this but are still trying to work out the implications for the way we design and manage the physical workplace. The office needs to tell a new story. And one way to structure this narrative this is to borrow ideas from the movie screenwriting process. More →

Should work help to define your identity? Perhaps, but first consider this…

Should work help to define your identity? Perhaps, but first consider this…

Dr Tracy Brower considers how work ideally forms just a part of our identity The last few years have put work at the forefront of our consideration as individuals and our discussions as a society. Globally, people are thinking consciously about their work, its meaning and its place in their lives. This focus will surely create the conditions for a great reinvention —a reset of how we work as well as where, when and for whom. Identity is an important part of the dialogue: Should work be central to someone’s identity? Is it healthy for work to occupy our focus? And how much is too much? More →

 It is possible to balance the positives and negatives of stress at work

 It is possible to balance the positives and negatives of stress at work

It’s important to know the difference between helpful and unhelpful stress and what this means for employers looking to improve workforce wellbeingStress is an inevitable part of everyday life, and our bodies are hard-wired to respond to it. However, it’s clear stress takes a regular, negative toll on organisations across the country. Last year, 17 million days were lost due to stress, depression or anxiety, which accounted for 51 percent of all work-related ill health cases and 55 percent of all working days lost due to ill health. Poor mental health costs employers between £1,205 and £1,560 per employee, per year. Some of the main causes of stress in the workplace include mounting workload pressures, increased responsibilities, and a perceived lack of support from senior management. More →

Are you ready for the latest family friendly employment laws?

Are you ready for the latest family friendly employment laws?

Three new ground-breaking employment laws will transform the employee benefit landscapeIt’s increasingly important for employers to have family-friendly employee benefits and policies to support recruitment and retention. These need to recognise the diverse needs and responsibilities of employees today and enable them to effectively balance their work and family life. Now to support employees and give them more protection in law three new ground-breaking employment laws will transform the employee benefit landscape. More →

We need better evidence to help protect people at work

We need better evidence to help protect people at work

Understanding what works to protect people at work needs better use of evidenceWe make decisions at work every day and for those in complex roles or in fast-changing situations, it can feel like a continuous process. In business, of course, the choices we make can have a significant impact on the bottom line and, more importantly, our people, the environment and the communities we’re operating in. With so much riding on what we choose to do, our decision-making processes must be designed to maximise our chances of successful outcomes. This is especially so when our decisions involve how to protect people at work so can be literally a matter of life or death. More →

To boost productivity in the UK, we need to think big and different

To boost productivity in the UK, we need to think big and different

olicymakers, businesses, and society must recognise the importance of productivity and collaborate to implement the necessary reforms and initiatives to unlock the country's full economic potentialThe decline in UK productivity since the Great Recession of 2008/2009 has been a matter of concern for business leaders, policymakers, and economists alike. Despite hopes that the pandemic would act as a catalyst for transformation and boost productivity, recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK still lags behind several other G7 economies. More →

Generations in the workplace: setting the record straight

Generations in the workplace: setting the record straight

A middle aged man and a younger male colleague sit in comfortable chairs having a conversation to illustrate a conversation between generations of workersIf there were an algorithm to create a word cloud in response to searches for ‘What millennials want in the workplace?’, you’d expect to see Google spew out terms such as ‘flexibility’, ‘meaning’, ‘fairness’, ‘equality’, ‘inclusivity’, ‘opportunity’, ‘connections’, ‘socialising’ and ‘experience’. Do the same with ‘Gen Z’ replacing ‘millennials’ and – guess what – you’ll see the exact same word cloud, although perhaps in a different colour and order so you don’t think it’s based on the same homogeneous assumptions about younger generations. More →

Understanding the power of mindset and what it can do for you

Understanding the power of mindset and what it can do for you

Understanding mindset, its power, and how to change it, can be transformative on both an individual and team level.An individual’s mindset influences everything that they do. Built around a set of established values, beliefs, and attitudes, your mindset frames your outlook and guides your behaviour, demarking your perceived limitations. It’s something that influences every area of our lives, from the relationships we form to the way we approach challenges and change. When you’re working with people, implementing policies, and trying to get the best from your available talent, it’s vital that you understand what motivates your team members – and what’s holding them back. Understanding mindset, its power, and how to change it, can be transformative on both an individual and team level. More →

A balanced approach: making hybrid working work, and accepting it isn’t optional

A balanced approach: making hybrid working work, and accepting it isn’t optional

For most, there needs to be an acceptance that hybrid working is a long-term project – even if there is some short-term painHybrid working is back in the headlines – not that it ever really left. A recent report from the Centre for Cities warns hybrid working will result in an “unintended economic impact” and is calling on national government and the mayor of London to do more to remove barriers to getting people back into the office. It suggests a freeze on commuting costs and calls for better collaboration between the private and public sectors to make working in cities more appealing. More →

Are workplace gyms and other perks out of step with hybrid working?

Are workplace gyms and other perks out of step with hybrid working?

Are workplace gyms and other traditional workplace perks still as relevant in the hybrid working era, asks Anthony ThompsonIt should go without saying that looking after employee mental health and wellbeing is important. If employers do not prioritise employee wellbeing, the whole team can feel the impact of this. There is compelling evidence that suggests strong employee wellbeing is a precursor to a more resilient workforce, which enjoys better staff retention, engagement and productivity, as well as reduced absenteeism. More →

Businesses need to take real action to create a more sustainable workplace

Businesses need to take real action to create a more sustainable workplace

What action is actually being taken, including in the creation of a sustainable workplace?For the last decade, if not longer, we’ve heard businesses saying they are focused on reducing their environmental impact. It’s been written in annual reports and immortalised in pledges shared with stakeholders, but the question still remains – what action is actually being taken, including in the creation of a sustainable workplace? More →

Embrace the chaos: the office must find a new purpose, conference concludes

Embrace the chaos: the office must find a new purpose, conference concludes

The British Council for Offices (BCO) annual conference, this year hosted in Dublin, addressed the purpose of the office in the context of the evolving world of work

What is the purpose of the office? That was the central question at this year’s British Council for Offices (BCO) conference which took place in Dublin. A big ask.

Nonetheless, the speakers and delegates that arrived in Dublin were up for the task. In the opening address, BCO senior VP & conference chair Despina Katsikakis promised delegates the conference would explore and untangle the intricate elements of the ecosystem that must seamlessly merge tech-led work, play and… well, survival. The focus of the two-day event (or three for those who like golf) was to devise strategies to design, build and manage vibrant and inspiring workplaces that foster the wellbeing and advancement of the individuals and communities they serve, all while promoting social, economic, and environmental sustainability.

As one would perhaps expect from a BCO conference, several speakers made a case for the office, including Davina Saint, director of the Irish National Assets Management Agency. Nobody relates naturally with screens or virtual protocols, she said, so we need to embrace the idea of social capital: “It makes organisations go around,” she said. “It’s the electricity in the machine. The shift to remote working has dented social capital. There’s less connection and more isolation. Productivity and innovation have also taken a dive.”

“I believe strongly in the office,” said Niall Gaffney, CEO of Ireland’s largest office landlord IPUT, during the developer’s panel. Fellow panellist Kevin Nowlan, senior advisor to Hibernia Real Estate Group, agreed: “Culture and life comes from people being and working together.” The workplace will play a key role in reinventing cities, they chimed in unison. Why? “Because the office is where the magic and inspiration happen,” Saint said. “It’s where the social heart of an organisation can beat.”

As the audience were reminded throughout the conference, many people meet their partners at work

But it goes beyond business. As the audience were reminded throughout the conference, many people meet their partners at work. If marriages are born out of proximity rather than heaven, perhaps that means there will be fewer weddings, fewer children. That musing may well prompt a shrug in response but it’s worth noting there’s already a dwindling workforce. Yes, borders are clamping shut, but it may also be because people aren’t having children as often as they used to. Last year, the Financial Times, citing Office for National Statistics data, revealed that the “natural population of the UK will begin to decline by the middle of the decade, leaving the country dependent on migration to increase the working-age population”. But freedom of movement is not so free anymore. Dublin, we have a problem.

 

Stupid cupid

While it might not be up to workplace professionals to channel their inner cupids, you can bet your bottom dollar the population crisis will be on future BCO conference agendas. Until then, however, there’s a more relatable challenge in play. The industry needs to focus on the role of the office in a rapidly changing world. Bill Hughes, global head of real assets at Legal & General Investment Management, looked at the old and new definitions of an office. The traditional definition is “a room or set of rooms in which business, professional duties, clerical work are carried out”. Today, it’s where important face-to-face interactions and teamwork happens. It’s where culture is built. “It’s where knowledge transfer and learning through osmosis occurs,” Hughes said. “It’s about energy and having fun.”

The future of the world of work is an obsession for bosses

“The future of the world of work is an obsession for my bosses,” the BBC journalist Simon Jack said, during the ‘business of politics’ discussion. “Because it “affects the lives and livelihoods of our audience.” And that’s perhaps why there’s so much focus on the employee experience. Billions have been spent on the customer experience. Many of the speakers stressed that it’s time we do the same with the employee experience.

In a session on the purpose of place, Andy McBain, head of future of workspace & design at NatWest, shared that the bank’s workplace strategy focuses on experience, events and an element of experimentation. But experience can’t be a fluffy add-on, he suggested. It must be measured and tracked if it’s to evolve and deliver ultimate impact. To that end, McBain’s team uses Audiem, an advanced employee feedback analytics tool, that allows heads of real estate not only to get the flagship quantitative scores that they need to track and manage performance but also dive deep into the qualitative data, helping them understand the drivers behind satisfaction at a granular level. “It’s allowing us to develop specific approaches we know directly addresses employee concerns because we can see what they’ve said about it and how it’s affecting them,” said McBain.

Vernon Blunt, head of global workplace operations at Ericsson, and Paul Casey, global real estate EMEA director at IBM, agreed that hybrid is here to stay, though the jury’s out when it comes to the effectiveness of mandates. While employee experience remains the focus, cost-cutting is coming to the fore because for the CFO must be kept as happy as the CPO. It’s a cost and experience juggling exercise. There also seems to be less focus on how to get people back to the office, but more energy going into how to self-organise around the busy days.

These occupiers want and demand more flexibility and shorter leases. Rob Harris of Ramidus Consulting urged that contract and service level agreements need to change to become more flexible, especially for SMEs who he called the “growth engine of the economy”. There’s also a recognition that there might be too much space. Avison Young’s Nick Axford highlighted that one third of office space could be re-used for community initiatives, but the infrastructure isn’t yet there to make this happen. Also calling for a systemic transition was Indy Johar, co-founder of Architecture 00. “Forget about building new workplaces, we need to build a new UK,” he said.

The conference delved into workplace design, management and communication principles that foster culture, health and wellness, and collaboration. During various sessions, speakers and attendees examined the strategies employed by occupiers in their quest to navigate the challenges of the present and forge a path towards a better future. We have a long way to go on that front, but the will is there.