Will the Great Trade Association Merger have any impact on office design?

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Ceci n'est pas un bureauAnybody who has been working in and around the facilities management sector for any length of time will know that the FM profession/discipline (delete as appropriate) regularly undergoes protracted periods of existential angst about its role. It strikes me however that this is actually quite an easy question to deal with because the answer is the same as it is for similarly amorphous professions such as marketing. It all seems to depend on who you are and what you are trying to do. That’s the twist. The average facilities manager, like the Urban Spaceman, doesn’t exist. I might think that but it won’t stop the associations and institutes currently working together to establish a new super-body for FM in the UK having to continue the debate.

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How ingrained assumptions about the workplace are eroding

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Ad agency RKCR  © Jefferson Smith

Ad agency RKCR © Jefferson Smith

The first day at a new job used to mean getting the answer to that all important question: “so which is my office?”  In today’s mostly open plan environments, the same psychological attachment has been transferred to the desk – ‘my’ desk. However the current trend for flexible approaches to where people work means that even the concept of having one’s own desk is now under attack. So how much does having your own desk matter to the UK office workforce these days? We have been asking employees how they feel about having their own desk. The results seem to be that more than half, on average 56% (of a total of 2,653 employees surveyed at 5 recent client projects), think that it is ‘very important’ and a further 25% think it is ‘quite important’.

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Green Office Week kicks off with a focus on individual behaviour

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elephant-in-the-roomThis week is Green Office Week. Obviously it’s corporate sponsored, self-designated and arbitrarily timed with all the ways that leaves it open to criticism. It also offers pretty standard advice for the most part and many people and organisations will be well aware of it.  What is interesting is that so much of the advice is about individual behaviour, across the daily themed topics. In some ways this is a welcome reminder that the solution to environmental issues is as much about personal behaviour and management as it is  technology. The answer to needlessly burning lights should be somebody remembering to turn them off, rather than a movement sensor. Or it should be both. In practice, people don’t meet their own stated commitments to the environment and there are some pretty good reasons for this.

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The biggest challenge is building flexibility into an office design

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Flexible pencilThe design of offices and the furniture that fills them matters because of what they tell us about how we work, how organisations function and even what is happening in the economy. If you want to know what’s going on, take a look at the places we work and the things with which we surround ourselves and how they change over time. Because the way we work changes so quickly, buildings need to have flexibility built into them so that they meet our needs today but anticipate what we will need tomorrow.In his book How Buildings Learn, Stewart Brand outlines the process whereby buildings evolve over time to meet the changing needs of their occupants.

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Office design goes to the movies. Part 9: BladeRunner

Office design goes to the movies. Part 9: BladeRunner

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Ridley Scott was one of the pioneers of a film aesthetic that mashes the past with the future, the grime and the gleam. It was a pioneering idea at the time but it’s familiar now. We now accept that the future looks a lot like the past and that goes for the office design in this scene. BladeRunner is also a film about dreams. The dreamy setting here is a telling  contrast to the dirt and sleaze in the City below and the scene in the office in which Deckard (Harrison Ford) interviews the classic femme fatale Rachel (Sean Young) also supports the unresolved notion that Deckard may be a replicant himself. Clearly the workplace smoking ban had been repealed by this time, but then where would a femme fatale be without a cigarette? Even if she is an android.

Seven thoughts on the UK facilities management association merger

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New broomWith breathless excitement a press release announces the proposed merger of all of the UK’s major facilities management and support services trade associations, or rather notes that they: “have agreed to the concept of forming one single and united body to represent facilities management and support services.” With a sense of crushing inevitability the first step has been to form a steering group to address how these and other organisations could come together into this single body to meet the needs of the industry and the professionals that work within it. With this in mind, I proffer a few pieces of advice in the form of seven thoughts for those involved in these discussions.

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Video: “sitting is the smoking of our generation”

Video: “sitting is the smoking of our generation”

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In which a businesswoman rejoicing in the name Nilofer Merchant argues that one of the major causes of ill health in the world today is our sedentary lifestyle, and suggests a small idea that just might have a big impact on your life and health: Next time you have a one-on-one meeting, make it into a “walking meeting”. She is arguing the increasingly well established principle that good ergonomics is not about posture but about movement. This point has been argued before on Office Insight, including here, but the point cannot be made often enough. It’s true that the best chair designs encourage movement for those times when we cannot avoid sitting but, as ever, this is as much an issue of management as it is design.

Resistance to workplace change marks the passing of the old order

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ChangeWhen Vodafone announced in March that the UK’s businesses could save up to £34 billion with the more widespread application of flexible working models, the research to support the claim had two very familiar components. The first was a crystal clear business case, the second an admission that the message was still not quite getting through to those at the top. In fact, Vodafone claimed, around two-thirds of business leaders continue to insist their business can’t afford to reduce the number of workstations they use despite all evidence to the contrary. A third haven’t even considered the idea of reducing the number of workstations they use as a way of cutting costs.

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What Søren Kierkegaard can teach us about workplace design and management

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KierkegaardSøren Kierkegaard was a Nineteenth Century Danish philosopher and proto-existentialist. Not for him the hazy, romantic ideals of many of his contemporaries. He was one of the thinkers who gave birth to the Twentieth Century with its focus on the individual, reality and life in a sometimes uncaring world, although he was no atheist like many of the true existentialists. If he’s generally well known for anything these days it is for a single quotation that reads like a greeting card aphorism but is no less true for that. He said: ‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.’ Looking back can give you a real handle on the present. I moved offices recently and as these things happen, a number of books that I routinely ignore fell open while I was looking for some displacement activity.

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Female-friendly employers named as progress of women in boardrooms stalls

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Top 50 Employers for Women named

In an interview this week on BBC’s Newsnight, Facebook’s CFO Sheryl Sandberg, revealed how she’d come to notice a growing gender imbalance as she moved up the corporate ladder. As her new book Lean in, points out, 30 years after women became 50 per cent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions. This is just one of many reasons why the publication this week of the Times Top 50 Employers for Women list of the UK organisations that are leading the way in gender equality in the workplace is to be welcomed.

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High wire act: balancing attitudes and expectations in the workplace

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This week, with some fanfare and a modest splash on social media, CBRE, the Global real estate services provider launched The Workshop Idea. One of its stated aims is the revitalisation of our high streets and, with the introduction of local venues in a number of differing guises, an increase in the degree of choice and flexibility of places in which to work when not travelling into the office. A whitepaper is due out shortly and we will cover this specific initiative once that has been given the proper consideration and thoughtful analysis it deserves. However, it raises some initial thoughts on expectations, attitudes and behaviours that need to be overcome in the way we view our high streets and places of work and the degree to which those who provide services respond.

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Is facilities management evolving into workplace management?

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EvolutionNot so long ago, there used to be a lot of talk about the overlap between facilities management and professions such as HR and IT, much of it to do with the endless search for the true meaning of the nascent FM profession. Now there is open talk of convergence of these three and other disciplines as we adapt to the changing world of work. The nature and implications of this new order for those professions, and the role of facilities managers in particular, is the subject of a new book called Moving On: Facilities Management to Workplace Management by Graham Jervis.

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