The future belongs to those who leave themselves choices of how to deal with it

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unknown-futureEverybody likes to talk and read about the future. It’s one of the reasons we see so many reports about what the ‘office of the future’ will look like. Often these attempts at workplace prognosis are overwhelmingly  rooted in the present which might betray either a degree of timidity or lack of awareness of just how far along their standard list of trends we really are. Even when such reports appear to be bang on the money, they tend to disregard one of the most important factors we need to consider when trying to get a handle on the future, which is the need to leave ourselves choices. This is important because not only will the future be stranger than we think, but stranger than we can imagine, to paraphrase J B S Haldane.

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Control over their work space helps satisfy people’s basic emotional needs

Control over their work space helps satisfy people’s basic emotional needs

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Control over their work space satisfies an individual's basic emotional needsIn the second of two pieces to mark the seventieth anniversary of Abraham Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ Annie Gurton writes: Workers need an element of control in their surroundings. As Maslow said in the 1940s, humans are fundamentally, simple creatures. We need air, water, food and security, but along with those basic physiological needs we have a set of emotional needs. If these are not met we do not die, but we become emotionally distressed. When it comes to designing office space, it is important that our basic emotional needs are met if we are to feel happy. Workers need to have privacy yet feel connected to others. They need to have a sense of community yet feel that they are respected.

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How a 70 year old happiness model is still helping us to define wellness

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People climbing the Great Pyramid 1This year marks the seventieth anniversary of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the model that still introduces most of us to notions of what makes people happy and fulfilled. Maslow first proposed the model in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review, developing his ideas throughout the rest of his life. His work has been parallelled and built upon by other researchers since, but few have had the influence and longevity. Maslow’s hierarchical characterisation of human needs by category is ingrained into the minds of students all over the world. In the first of two pieces to mark this anniversary, Cathie Sellars of Workspace argues that Maslow continues to offers us the ideal definition of wellness.  

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What the death of the landline tells us about how we work

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TelephoneOne of the items that always used to grace the brochures of office furniture companies when I started work in that particular industry was a telephone table. For the uninitiated, this was used as a home for the office landline, shared by a team of people, who were often expected to take turns to answer when it rang. It came with a shelf for telephone directories, fax machine and a Rolodex. This might all seem quaint or, if you’re under 25, make absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it was under twenty years ago. One by one the items involved in this particular workplace scenario have vanished. But like the Cheshire Cat’s smile, the telephone itself has remained. Until now, that is.

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2020 vision is a useless metaphor for far-sightedness in a number of ways

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Looking in telescope wrong wayThe year 2020 is a mere seven years away. Yet the designers of the future workplace and those who invite them to talk about it are still referring to it as if it marks the next frontier of human endeavour and as if we weren’t already up to our collective armpits in the 21st century. The idea of 20/20 vision is considered, in ophthalmological circles at least, to represent “normal” visual acuity and is dependent on the sharpness of the retinal focus within the eye and the sensitivity of the interpretative faculty of the brain. In practical terms, this means it’s about seeing and interpreting what is directly in front of us at a distance of around 6 metres. So as a metaphor for farsightedness regarding the future of work or workplaces it’s always been a poor one. And as we get closer to the eponymous year, it becomes worse day by day.

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Zero hours contracts: Are they really such bad news?

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Zero hours contracts

Zero hours contracts have hardly been out of the news in recent weeks. The overwhelming majority of the media coverage has been negative, suggesting that zero hours contracts are exploitative of workers and should be outlawed. The pressure gauge has risen to such an extent that, in September, the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, announced that there would be a consultation process to tackle any abuse discovered. The Labour Party has also announced it will be conducting its own review. But why all this sudden interest? Zero hours contracts are not a new phenomenon… and, on the face of it, they provide employers with the type of flexibility which the Government has been so keen to introduce, allowing employers to maintain a flexible workforce capable of meeting short-term staffing needs.  More →

Interview: Dave Coplin of Microsoft on Big Data, engagement and culture

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Microsoft Thames Valley 1Dave Coplin joined Microsoft in 2005, and is now its Chief Envisioning Officer, helping to envision the full potential that technology offers a modern, digital society. He is a globally recognised expert on technological issues such Cloud computing, privacy, big data, social media, open government, advertising and the consumerisation of technology and is the author of a recent book called “Business Reimagined: Why work isn’t working and what you can do about it”. He is also one of the main speakers at this year’s Worktech conference in London on 19 and 20 November. In this exclusive interview with Insight he offers his thoughts on the lack of engagement between firms and employees, the most common misunderstandings about flexible working and the challenges facing managers in IT, FM and HR.

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Working Time Directive – why the CBI calls for a permanent opt-out

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Working Time Directive - why the CBI calls for a permanent opt-out

The UK’s opt-out of the maximum 48 hour working week being proposed by the EU is yet again under the microscope. This follows the recent publication by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) of a report which highlights the frustration felt by UK businesses regarding the Working Time Directive. “Our Global Future: The Business Vision for a Reformed EU”; focuses specifically on the continuing concerns for UK businesses around the extensive level of involvement EU legislation has on how they operate their business. It shows that the majority of businesses still favour the opt-out and the flexibility it provides. Interestingly however, many did not see the need to change the current entitlement to paid holidays or rest breaks. More →

Workplace Week highlights the changing shape of the office

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'High Street' at Network Rail's Milton Keynes base

‘High Street’ at Network Rail’s Milton Keynes base

This year’s Workplace Week  which took place last week was a great success, with more people participating and more money raised for charity. Across the week, over 500 people took part, visiting innovative workplaces, attending the Workplace Week Convention or going along to one of the many Fringe events. Workplace Week is organised by Advanced Workplace Associates and supported by CoreNet Global, BCS, RICS, FMA and BIFM. All proceeds go to the Children in Need charity. Around 60 people joined the speakers at the headquarters of PWC on London’s Southbank for the Workplace Week Convention to discuss ‘Driving productivity through the connected organisation.’ The informal atmosphere and roundtable format encouraged participation, with a focus on developments in organisational design, change management and technology.

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UK leads the world in talent, but it needs the right culture in which to thrive

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London at nightWe should never take the UK’s talent base for granted. According to a new report from Deloitte, when it comes to employment levels of people in knowledge based jobs in high skill sectors such as digital media, banking, legal services, software development, telecoms and publishing, London is comfortably the world’s leading city. The study found that London employed 1.5 million people in the 22 sectors surveyed, compared with 1.2 million in New York, 784,000 in Los Angeles, 630,000 in Hong Kong and 425,000 in Boston. The report also predicts that London will enjoy rapid growth in employment levels in these sectors over the next seven years, adding around 100,000 more people and that while a decline in employment is foreseen in financial services, this will be more than offset by strong growth in creative and media businesses.

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Looking back on a year in which the office sought a clearer sense of identity

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JanusIt’s not often that workplace management becomes national business news but that happened at the end of February when  the world became very interested for a while in the way we design and manage offices. The reason for this was the decision by Yahoo to ban homeworking for staff at its headquarters.  The resultant period of shirt-rending at this challenge to received wisdom told us more about the changing view of the workplace than the actual decision by Yahoo. As the dust settled, we discovered that the Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer had based her decision to change working practices on data from the company’s network that showed people working from home didn’t log on to the company Virtual Private Network as much as those in the office.

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The journey to get more Women on Boards is one worth taking

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The journey to get more Women on Boards is one worth taking

There has been so much written lately about women on boards and what is holding women back from becoming board members. The evidence highlights that gender diverse companies are less volatile, have a higher ROA and a lower employee turnover rate, yet this still seems not to have spurred on employers to take up the board equality issue. My question is why have so few women progressed to board level? Personally, I disagree with quotas, believing that the best candidate should be appointed. Do we really need a quota to swing the pendulum into a more balanced position? Regardless of your view, the evidence is clear; companies with gender mixed leadership outperform those who have little or no senior female representation. Why then would companies choose to not reset their gender balance in senior positions? More →

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