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

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

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

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

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

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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Sometimes health and safety failures can be a laughing matter

Wile E CoyoteOne of the regular refrains from those involved in health and safety management is that while they aren’t killjoys, protecting people from harm is no laughing matter. Well actually yes, sometimes it is. And if the health and safety profession wants to shake off the po-faced image it claims is unjust, it needs to realise that some of the people it is trying to protect are just bloody idiots. And however much you try to make things idiot-proof, you’re unlikely to make them bloody-idiot-proof. Some people will always come up with something you haven’t thought of and a new way to put themselves in harm’s way.

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Forget Gen Y – the future workplace is multigenerational

Old dog new tricksThere is quite possibly more guff talked about the impact of Gen Y on businesses and the workplace than any other management topic. However, it’s not only wrong to characterise the people of Generation Y as some homogeneous blob with stereotyped attitudes that set them apart from the rest of humanity, but also to miss the point that the workplace is and will remain multigenerational. In fact, according to new data from the Department of Work and Pensions, there have never been more over 50s in work in the UK than there are right now.  There are 2 million more over-50s in jobs than there were 15 years ago and they will form a third of the workforce by 2020. And they will want their own say on things just as much as the much talked about millennials.

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UK Government making slow progress on commitment to spend more with SMEs

DollsThere is no doubt the UK Cabinet Office has been responsible for some commendable improvements in the Government’s approach to property and procurement. Yet, like most government departments it is also prone to fudging or spinning the outcomes of projects that don’t quite cover the department and its initiatives in glory. One of the sure signs of this is that the head of the department, Francis Maude, is busy doing other things on the day mixed reports and bad news come out. And sure enough, a new report from the Cabinet Office which shows that Central Government is already way off course in its aim to spend 25 percent of its budget with SMEs by 2015, has been released quietly, in August and fronted by a junior minister.

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UKIP quip that women not competitive enough for business obscures real debate

UKIP comment on women not competitive enough for business obscures real debate

The comment by UKIP treasurer Stuart Wheeler that women are not competitive enough to merit a place in the boardroom grabbed all of the headlines from an important debate on the introduction of gender quotas on City boards. The news broke on the same day that employment body the CIPD issued a warning that businesses will continue to lose talented female workers if they don’t offer them a better work-life balance.  With research showing that around half of female managers choose not to return to work following maternity leave, how far should employers be going to retain female talent and encourage workplace diversity, and does gender equality really require a legislative stick? More →

Progress made on proposed FM bodies’ merger but membership consultation to wait

Progress made on proposed FM bodies' merger but consultation to wait

The British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) reports that merger talks with fellow FM and services related bodies, Asset Skills, the Facilities Management Association and the Cleaning and Support Services Association are progressing, but says a membership consultation must wait for the findings of the steering and working groups. As Simon Heath pointed out in his comment on the merger in May there is a sense of “crushing inevitability” that the first step in the process has been to form a steering group rather than letting members have some say in the early discussions.

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