A field guide to workplace terminology (part 2)

devils-dictionaryA year ago we published the first part of Simon Heath’s acid lexicon of the terms people use to obscure the reality of what it is they actually mean. Part One can still be read here. While much has changed over the past year, we are fortunate that Simon’s corrosive, witty and informed take on corporate bullshit, and especially that applied to the parochial field of workplace design and management remains constant. He’s part of a long tradition of those who apply satire to skewer logorrhea, doublethink and obfuscation, the best example of which remains Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary which is quite remarkably caustic and spares no one. First published in 1881 it maintains much of it power and topicality, for example in its definition of Conservative as:  “a statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

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The workplace of the future is one founded on uncertainty

workplace of the futureWe now know for a fact that the good people at the UK Commission for Employment and Skills take heed of what they read on Workplace Insight. After Simon Heath recently eviscerated the idea of the year 2020 as a useful marker for the ‘future’, a new report from the UKCES draws its line in the sand a bit further on in 2030. It means they can’t have a ‘2020 Vision’ and for that we should be very thankful.  Yet the report still falls into the same traps that are always liable to ensnare any prognosis about the workplace of the future, notably that some of the things of which they talk have happened or are happening already. Then there’s the whole messy business of deciding what will emerge from the chaos; a bit like predicting the flavour of the soup you are making when a hundred other cooks are secretly adding their own ingredients.

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Innovate or die? Why facilities management must embrace change to survive

Innovate

According to recent reports on workplace, facilities management and corporate real estate, the support services sector needs to change. Some even say it needs to innovate or die. That might be a little harsh, but the current model that the majority of FM service providers work to and that their clients take for granted is tired and has not kept pace with the evolving business environment. Zurich Insurance’s report of late 2012 into CRE & FM said the sector was at a cross roads; in 2013 Jones Lang LaSalle said something similar and picked out five global trends to which CRE and FM had to respond. IFMA & CBRE have taken a similar line, but are more specific – namely FM had to embrace its softer side, focus on people skills and develop them to ensure success. More →

New data suggests that London no longer belongs to the UK, but the World

London at night

Image: London Snap

One of the subjects touched on in the first episode of Evan Davis’s BBC documentary series about the economic distinctions between London and the rest of the UK Mind the Gap was the impact of investment by the global super-rich into London property. At one point he asked the Malaysian investor behind the £8 billion Battersea Power Station redevelopment whether he’d considered investing in other cities in the UK. The response was a straight no, but the accompanying glance said rather more. London is no  longer a British city but one that belongs to the world, it said, so any comparison with Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Cardiff and Edinburgh is meaningless. You might disagree with this point of view, but a raft of new data appears to make it very evident indeed that London is now shaped by global plutocrats in a way that cannot be mirrored in the rest of the UK.

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Musculoskeletal disorders rate highlights scale of ergonomic challenge

Back to basics may be needed to address modern ergonomic changes

More working days were lost last year to back, neck and muscle pain than any other cause. The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that although there has been an overall downward trend in sickness absence in the UK over the last two decades; with 131 million days lost in 2013, down from 178 million days in 1993, at 30.6 million days lost, the greatest number of staff sick days in 2013 were due to musculoskeletal problems. Regulations and guidance relating to ergonomics in the workplace (the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992), were published over 20 years ago; and despite being amended in 2002, that’s still aeons in technology terms. The typical modern worker now routinely uses tablets, mobiles and other digital devices; whether at work, on the move or at home.

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HS2 is a project for today projected into an uncertain future

Barely a day passes in the media without some new battleground opening up in the debate about the UK’s plan to develop HS2, the high speed line connecting London with Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and, for some reason, a place nobody’s heard of halfway between Derby and Nottingham called Toton (pop. 7,298). While the debate rages about the cost, the economic benefits, regional rebalancing, environmental impact, route and why the Scots and others are paying for a project that may leave them with worse train services,  one of the fundamental flaws with the case for HS2 goes largely disregarded. It is that this is clearly a project designed for today, but that won’t be complete for another twenty years. The world then will be very different and, unfortunately, time isn’t quite as malleable as the movies would have us believe.

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Latest issue of Insight now available to view online

 

General Motors Technical Center designed by Eero Saarinen in 1956

General Motors Technical Center designed by Eero Saarinen in 1956

In this week’s issue of Insight: we question why so many people still bother going to work given that the costs associated with it keep rising dramatically at a time when pay is standing still; Sara Bean reports from the Workplace Futures conference; we discover why so many construction industry leaders feel the UK Government will fail to meet one of its key targets for the uptake of BIM; Mark Eltringham applauds a Silicon Valley office that takes its design cues from the Jetsons and modernism (and not a slide to be seen); how Google Glass is making its mark at work; and we report on the BIFM’s latest attempts to carve out a more significant role with the launch of new professional standards.

A Silicon Valley office that embraces classic design to create its buzz

A Silicon Valley office that embraces classic design to create its buzz

3026372-inline-oplusa-giantpixel0098It is now common for tech and media businesses to take inspiration for the design of their offices from their local Wacky Warehouse, with treehouses, slides, acid coloured cushions, chairs, play areas and other sub-juvenilia thrown into the building in the name of both ‘fun’ and an assumption that the Gen Y employees they are so patronisingly fixated on are only recently off the teat. Meanwhile some are clearly drawn back to the more sober, rational and classic styles that have long attracted corporations, especially in the US. There is something familiar about an HQ like that designed for San Francisco based software developers Giant  Pixel by Studio O+A which evidently harks back to the era of modernism and post war futurism associated with architect/designers like Eero Saarinen.

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Why do we bother going to work? Good question.

CommutingWhile the UK Government continues to explore new ways of getting people back to work more quickly following (or even during) illness, there are a number of counterpart questions that they continue to fastidiously ignore, one of which is ‘why bother?’. We might all ask ourselves that from time to time, whether petulantly or as a pressure-relieving alternative to ramming a co-worker’s head through a window or a laptop in a dumpster. But there are also reasons to raise the question coldly, rationally and with full awareness of all the facts, not least when it comes to assessing the increasing cost of going to work in the first place. Put simply, for many people it makes little or no financial sense to go to work.

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

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

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

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 →

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