Video: reimagining work to help people become happier and more productive

Video: reimagining work to help people become happier and more productive

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Most companies are engaged in an attempt to help employees become happier, more productive and – yes –fitter at work. Firms do this because they are nice people or in the commercial interest of the business, or both. The problem is they are not doing it with a fixed set of criteria. Not only do they have to cope with changing commercial and economic conditions and legislation, they have to do it while the very nature of work evolves rapidly and in very different ways for different organisations. This is not so much like somebody moving the goal posts as it is like one of those games on It’s A Knockout where a contestant tries to do something while other people are shaking the platform they are standing on, squirting them with water, running into them, hitting them with things and yanking them back with ropes.

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Why the serviced office sector needs to put more effort into its customer service

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Serviced offices at Cheapside

Serviced offices at Cheapside

It’s National Customer Service Week, a week-long initiative set up to inspire businesses to take a step back, look at their customer relations and promote excellence in customer service amongst their teams. Across every business in every sector, excellent customer service is key to gaining and retaining custom, and this is particularly the case when it comes to the serviced office industry. Average customer retention rates are just eight months in the officing sector, so addressing this through improved customer service can have a huge impact on the bottom line. I believe the serviced office industry can do more. There is a danger that low retention rates cause companies to place a greater emphasis on winning new businesses, with existing clients’ needs coming second place. More →

More than half of twenty-something UK men would like all male offices, claims survey

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boys-clubsAt Insight we report surveys from firms on an almost daily basis. We generally do so without too much comment, trusting that readers are smart or jaded enough to apply their own filters based on whichever company is responsible and the number of people surveyed before dusting them all with a liberal pinch of salt and coming to their own conclusions. Even so, here’s one that may need more seasoning than most. According to a new survey from business supplies company Expert Market, slightly more than half of the UK’s male workers under the age of 30 would like to work in an all male environment, mostly based on the idea that this would mean less flirting, fewer arguments and more work.

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United States and Europe; closing the gap on flexible working law

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Tortoise and hareVermont became the first U.S. state to enact a law requiring employers to consider workers’ requests for a flexible schedule without fear of retaliation. The law, signed by the governor in May, includes a statutory process which requires “good faith” discussions relative to the employee’s needs and the company’s business operations. Despite Vermont’s efforts to make the workplace more accommodating, the United States still lags behind Europe when it comes to flexible work schedules and accommodating family life issues. For example, Vermont is already a decade behind the United Kingdom which passed similar legislation in 2003. The reasons for this are not cut-and-dried either.

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Don’t let the sofas fool you; work can still be red in tooth and claw

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Herbert James Draper: Ulysses and the sirens

Herbert James Draper: Ulysses and the sirens

We keep filling our workplaces with sofas, coffee shops and other lifestyle touches while our homes are being slowly eroded by the trappings of work. First it was the fax machine. Then the mobile phone. Then working from home. The places available for us to work is seemingly more diverse than ever. But does this acknowledged trend towards domesticity make the workplace a kinder, gentler place? Maybe on the surface but beware to those who dare succumb to the siren song of these things. Using them could mean the end of your career.A recent conversation I had with an executive highlighted the problems inherent in the mixed messages this “softening” of the work environment brings.

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What’s wrong with adopting a more positive approach to work and workplaces?

What’s wrong with adopting a more positive approach to work and workplaces?

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Has there ever been a UK government more interested in the workplace than this one? Most of it has been about cutting costs of course, so the majority of announcements emanating from the Cabinet Office have been about procurement, design and environmental performance. David Cameron even at one point announced that he wanted to measure people’s happiness. The questions needed to work out how happy we are proposed by the Office for National Statistics as a result would have had a very familiar feel for anybody who has ever completed a workplace satisfaction survey even if they miss the most blindingly obvious point that when you’re skint and in mortal fear of losing your job, most other things about work lose their lustre.

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The rehabilitation of the cubicle and other lessons from 100% Design

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UniteSE from KI

UniteSE from KI

As we’ve said before, acoustics has become the dominant theme at office design exhibitions over the past three or four years. That’s been true at shows in Milan, Cologne, Chicago and London and was certainly the case at this year’s 100% Design at Earl’s Court. A quick whizz around the office zone at this year’s event – which is a useful way of getting an impression before you stop to talk to people about the detail of what they’re doing – revealed that well over half of the exhibitors were showcasing products that addressed the issue of acoustics. And yet things have also moved on from recent events, not least in the rehabilitation of that most demonised of all office furniture pieces – the cubicle.

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100% Design: Holding a mirror up to the way we design and manage workplaces

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Hanging Room

Hanging Room at 100% Design

If art holds a mirror up to nature, shouldn’t the design of workplace products hold a mirror up to the way we work? By definition, the things with which we surround ourselves should tell us something about the way we see ourselves and what we do. It should be possible to infer from the design of the products suppliers offer to the market what is changing in the workplace. This isn’t always the case, of course, especially for those firms who see design not so much in terms of putting lipstick on a gorilla as telling you that what you’re looking at isn’t in fact a gorilla at all. It’s Scarlett Johansson.

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When it comes to transparency, most businesses might fail The Peacock Test

When it comes to transparency, most businesses might fail The Peacock Test

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The HR profession took a savaging yesterday in a Daily Telegraph article by Louisa Peacock following what many felt to be a disastrous appearance by the BBC’s head of HR, Lucy Adams in front of the Public Accounts Committee. You can see a brutal excerpt above. A thread of sensationalism runs through the Telegraph piece but some good points are made that have broader lessons for the commercial world. There have been acres of coverage generated by the debacle at the Beeb, but there is a real sense of “there but for the grace of God go I” and schadenfreude about much of the commentary and chatter from the business community.

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We deserve better than a polarised debate about cellular v open plan offices

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Jacques Tati's Playtime

Jacques Tati’s Playtime

Stimulated by a number of rather unsubtle commercial interests, the ‘in’ workplace discussion seems to have swung from ‘collaboration’ i.e. organisations need more new spaces for formal and informal collaborative interactions, to ‘distraction’ i.e. open plan workplaces are creating a loss of productivity because people whose work requires concentration are impeded by constant interruption. The implication of the latter is that people should keep their ‘cubes’ and open-plan should be avoided at all costs. You can see pretty quickly where the commercial axes are being ground can’t you.

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Open-plan office workers need time out from the madding crowd

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Open plan offices

Open-plan offices are now the most popular workplace layout, primarily because they save on space, enable flexible working and, it’s argued, foster better communication and collaboration between employees. Yet open-plan still has some way to go to convince occupants of its merits. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, of over 42,000 US office workers in 303 office buildings, workers in private offices remain the most satisfied with their surroundings. However, what constitutes a satisfactory workspace differed, according to the employee’s current office layout. So while noise was the most important consideration for open-plan workers, light and ease of interaction topped the satisfaction list for those housed in cellular offices. More →

Facilities managers should harness information to show the value of what they do

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empty-toilet-rollOf the various myths that plague the facilities management profession, the most pernicious may well be that the role of facilities managers is largely to carry out what the early feminists called shit-work – the kind of job that only becomes visible when it is done badly or isn’t done at all. Conversely, when it is done well, nobody seems to notice or even care that much. The proto-feminists of the 50s and 60s applied the term to housework, but the term is equally apposite for the work of many facilities managers who may only come to the attention of their organisation when the air-conditioning stops working, the toilet floods or there is a problem with the car park.

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