Managing a work-life balance isn’t solely a women’s issue

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Maintaining a work-life balance isn't solely a women's issue

Two reports published this week show that a cultural change is needed to stop employers assuming only female workers have families or other personal concerns that could impact on their workplace performance. A report into workplace equality by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (BIS) has called on the UK Government to do more to tackle female underrepresentation in sectors of the economy and to dispel the myth that any type of flexible working is a ‘women’s issue,’  problematic and cannot work. In the US a study by employee assistance providers Bensinger, DuPont and Associates (BDA) into stress has found that men are more than twice as likely to receive formal disciplinary action when the stress of a personal problem impacts on their work performance. More →

Half the time it’s management, not the design that makes the workplace stink

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There is a general consensus around the workplace cognoscenti that design can and does impact upon the productivity and effectiveness of people in the workplace. That’s reflected in research, data and anecdotal exchanges, online and at events. What’s not often done is in linking this data to HR results, from employee surveys. While driven by professionally conscientious HR teams, their goal is shaped by the ever present desire to improve performance and hence save cash and enhance margins.  In other words it’s a management initiative. But half the time it’s management who are the problem.

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Five essential things to consider before you implement a BYOD policy

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BYOD is far more than just allowing your staff to check their email on their personal mobile. It’s about the security of corporate information – we’re all demanding more flexible working to fit our lifestyles, but with flexibility comes personal responsibility. Are we rushing to join the BYOD party without realising some of the more serious considerations. A recent article on OfficeInsight considered a Gartner survey which suggested that BYOD would be prevalent by 2017. The article implied that companies should embrace this as an inevitable change. Before we get too excited, though, let’s explore some of the issues that BYOD should be raising for employers – including the technical demands that these policies make on IT departments and infrastructure, and the compliance IT departments will demand of staff.

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The democratisation of the workplace is changing how we work

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Citizen Smith & why democratisation of the workplace is changing how we work

Work. We all, with some noticeable exceptions, are obliged to do some. If we are lucky we receive remuneration for our labour. This for me is at the heart of work. We are professionals. specialists, generalists, doers, thinkers, strategists or the people on the front line – but we all go to work. So, shouldn’t the people in charge – and just as importantly, the consultants they talk to about us workers – find out what makes us tick? Obviously, that is exactly the argument that many workplace consultants are making via Office Insight, via Twitter and in the property and FM media. Engaging with employees, via workshops forums or surveys such as Leesman or the more intelligently crafted employee surveys – I agree with all of it, but I think we might be missing something. We need to get back to what work is about.

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It’s sunny side up for office furniture designs at this year’s Neocon

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Landing “sunny side up” in Chicago is always a pleasure. While we’re here for work, the city has so many additional benefits for the seasoned international business traveller including a deep-rooted jazz culture, a beach, restaurant service to die for and – the reason we were there in the first place – the Neocon expo, amongst other things an exhibition of the finest new American and international office furniture trends which takes place every year at the enormous Merchandise Mart in the centre of Chicago (above). Quite a lot “snapped my celery” this year, and while, under normal circumstances I find the Milan furniture fair is the front-runner in terms of defining trends while the rest of the world slowly catches up, This year it was refreshing to see Neocon marking those trends right on the button.

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Real demographic challenge as number of older workers tops one million

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The latest employment figures published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show an interesting demographic trend. Beneath the rather unexceptional news that employment rose by 24,000 and unemployment fell by 5,000 in the three months to April, is what Jim Hillage, Director of Research at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) describes as “underlying structural changes in the labour market”. The number of employed people over 65 in the UK has now reached more than a million (1,003,000), the highest since records began in 1971. This means that almost one in ten of over-65s are now in work.

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Niels Diffrient redefined what we know about ergonomics and office furniture

Niels Diffrient redefined what we know about ergonomics and office furniture

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Niels Diffrient, who passed away over the weekend at the age of 84, did more than any other designer to further the principles of ergonomic design as we now understand them. He is perhaps best known for his work over the last two decades on seating for Humanscale, including the groundbreaking and truly iconic Freedom chair, but his interest in function and comfort predated that by some time. As far back as the 1950s, Diffrient was one of the first people to x-ray a human spine while its owner was sitting and moving in a chair. He discovered that people will generally adapt to whatever they are sitting on without adjusting the seat. To Diffrient this suggested that the chair should be designed to adapt to the person rather than the other way round.

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NeoCon and ThinkFM offer two different views of the facilities management elephant

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This week sees two events taking place on opposite sides of the pond that should hold a mirror up to the way we currently design and manage workplaces. In Chicago, it’s time for NeoCon, the annual office furniture behemoth held in the vast Merchandise Mart and attracting some 40,000 visitors, while in London it’s the distinctly  low-key Think FM conference from the BIFM held at the Royal College of Physicians – for today only, as they say. While these are two very different events in terms of scale, content and format and both are nakedly commercial, only one strikes me as particularly meaningful. And even that is only about the meaning of one part of the facilities management elephant.

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Roger Sterling of Mad Men’s guide to letting someone go

Roger Sterling of Mad Men’s guide to letting someone go

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One of the least appealing duties of any employer is breaking bad news to an employee, and the worst of this is, of course, the ‘we’ve had to let you go.’ In an attempt to avoid a costly employment tribunal claim, many organisations fall back on frankly horrible phrases like ‘downsizing’ and ‘rationalisation’. On one memorable occasion I heard a group of shell-shocked staff being assured that the company was planning to give them a ‘soft landing’ by bringing in careers counsellors to help them make the most of ‘fresh opportunities’. Personally, in these situations I think a little more honesty is preferable – but perhaps not with such blatant  glee as Roger Sterling of Mad Men when he explains to Burt Peterson just how much pleasure he’s getting from firing him….again. Burt’s response contains some strong language.

The future of retail – High Street Bladerunners and Apple in Wonderland

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AT&T Flagship Chicago

AT&T’s flagship Chicago store

I was going to write this week on the manifesto from MANTOWNHUMAN – subtitled “TOWARDS A NEW HUMANISM IN ARCHITECTURE” but frankly the dystopian visions it conjured up drove such a bulldozer through any human sensibility as to prove thoroughly depressing. You can find it here if you’re that way inclined. I’d be interested in your views. Instead I’m following up on a faintly hagiographic article in Adweek which recently hailed a new frontier in physical retail spaces, building on the success of Apple’s uber-cool high street playgrounds for bored teenagers and husbands. The store in question and an example of what many are hailing as the future of retail is AT&T’s new flagship on the self-styled Magnificent Mile in Chicago.

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UK public sector leading the way in procurement and sustainable building

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Nottingham City Council's Loxley Building

Nottingham City Council’s Loxley Building

Over the last few years, the UK Government has grown increasingly interested in finding ways of making its £30 billion property portfolio more efficient. Both the last Labour government and the current Coalition administration have been driven by the opportunities offered them with the advent of new technology, new ways of working and new procurement models. They’ve pursued these issues to cut costs by reducing and changing the way property is designed and managed but have also found how that can also help to establish best practice in sustainable building. What is increasingly apparent, especially given recent news from the Major Projects Authority about cost savings in procurement is that the public sector is now leading the way as models of good practice.

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Crowds brave the grey weather to enjoy Clerkenwell Design Week

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Clerkenwell_Design_WeekIn contrast to last year when the sun shone and temperatures were giddily high, Clerkenwell in late May was distinctly chilly, with a constant stiff breeze, on and off rain, and even a hailstorm. The weather may have been unseasonably cold but that didn’t stop the crowds flocking to the most popular venues and showrooms, and several of the evening parties were so crowded they had to close their doors. The signs had been good, even before the show opened. Advance registrations were over 46,000, compared with last year’s 22,000 visitors and by the end of the show, total registrations had reached 55,000.

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