Where flexible working employees really want to work? Starbucks.

Starbucks CafeLeaving aside the fact that most surveys are designed to further the commercial interests of the firms that commission them, most offer a deal of insight into what drives people and organisations, some of it unwitting. Most telling are often the specific details that lift the veil on the motivations and attitudes of individuals. So it was with a recent survey from Overbury that headlined on the idea that poorly designed offices hamper creativity, but also contained a question that was answered in a way which suggested that the place most staff would like to work would be something akin to their local Starbucks.

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The UK’s five worst public art projects

Tracey Emin Roman StandardThat is obviously a misleading headline. The two worst public art projects in recent memory are evidently the Diana Memorial Fountain, which wasn’t much of a fountain never mind a memorial, and B of the Bang, Thomas Heatherwick’s glorious but spike-shedding testament to the then eternally popping dreams of Manchester City fans from 2005. But we all know about them, their failures were primarily functional rather than aesthetic, both are now defunct and they’ve got more than enough stiff competition thanks to the enduring desire of companies and councils up and down the land to make a statement in our public places with little regard for aesthetics or practicality.

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Landmark buildings can lead to an identity crisis for tenants

A new generation of landmarks

A new generation of landmarks

Companies want to brand themselves in lots of ways and for lots of reasons. There are all the usual reasons to do with marketing but when companies talk about brand and how it is integrated with architecture and the design of their offices they are equally likely to be concerned with attracting staff and making what they think are the right statements about their business. The problem is that while nearly everybody wants to brand their workplace, the design solutions can become overly literal. There’s nothing inherently wrong with logos in the carpet but successful design will be about far more than that. It usually has to be rather less literal and rather more intelligent.

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Flexible working: Falling out of fashion

 Image credit: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/photo_8784138_young-attractive-female-fashion-designer-working-at-office-desk-drawing-while-talking-on-mobile.html'>nyul / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Just as ACAS concludes its consultation on flexible working, the practice has been declared démodé by none other than Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue. Writing in response to the recent news that Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer ordered the company’s 11,500 staff back to the office, the Vogue editor has argued that working from home is not an adequate alternative to showing your face in the workplace. Ms Mayer goes on to note that in a creative environment, important opportunities are missed when absent colleagues are tottering, undressed around their kitchens. The best stories, she says, arise from chance remarks, gossip and jokes between colleagues working alongside each other. More →

Time to mothball facilities management’s stuffed shirts

Stuffed ShirtMuch hand-wringing and angst in the world of Facilities/Workplace Management at the moment. The usual existential paranoia about relevancy and the need for a seat at the top table; the search for differentiation when pretty much the whole industry does the same things in the same way; hoping to standardise as much as possible under the guise of best practice and looking for ways that add value that won’t put a further pinch on already tight margins. As ever, new legislative and regulatory frameworks will keep the talking heads occupied and BIM (and other new tools) will continue to keep the cash tills ringing at software companies.

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Video: The greening of the workplace should begin with individual behaviour

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There is an understandable temptation when we consider the ways in which we might green our buildings and organisations that we focus primarily on designed and engineered solutions. But as this blog on Greenbiz points out, we can achieve a great deal by looking at the behaviour of individuals. It is a point made in an entertaining way by my favourite TED Talk of all time, delivered by  Rory Sutherland (above). It’s fair to say that if he were to consider ways in which to change the behaviour of individuals, the printed note above the photocopier and the label on the light switch wouldn’t display enough innovative thought for him.

Buying green products should involve a closer look at the supply chain

Green chainLast year’s unrest in the Chinese factory that is a principal manufacturer of the iPhone5 shone a light into one of the usually dark corners of modern life. Namely that beneath the sleek facades of the products we buy lies the story of their production, transportation, marketing and eventual demise. Look further back than the factory and it usually starts with a hole in the ground; and, in the case of the iPhone, an open-cast rare earth mine in the Nevada desert which produces the raw materials for the cutting edge technologies that make our lives tick.

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Video: another prediction from the 60s gets it a bit right and a bit wrong

 

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The latest in our series of videos looking at how the world in which we now live was predicted a generation or so ago. This time a clip from a 1967 documentary called 1999 AD. Although accurate in many respects including the use of online shopping and e-commerce as well as e-mail it betrays its origins in the use of devices with discrete functions, which is reflected in the clearly defined and – to our eyes – jarring description of gender roles.

Challenge for Ecobuild is reducing greenwash and white noise

White noiseToday is the first day of Ecobuild, which claims to be the world’s largest exhibition dedicated to sustainable construction and fit-out. Some 1,500 organisations are taking part in the event in East London which last year attracted 58,000 visitors from around the world. While undoubtedly successful, influential, with great intellectual content and a showcase for some truly innovative and effective products, the approach of Ecobuild invariably begs the question: in a world in which every supplier claims to be environmentally friendly, how are their customers expected to make the right choices?

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Using the office treadmill to fight the flab

Office treadmill

While shopping recently for a new arm chair, I noticed the prevalence of “snuggle chairs”, marketed as wider than average chairs in which two people can sit cosily together. However, judging by some of the customers checking them out, they appeared much more suitable for use by individuals with a wider girth. You don’t have to people-watch in a furniture store or visit the town of Tamworth, which this weekend the Daily Mail branded ‘”the fattest town in Britain” to notice people are getting fatter. Could a new “office treadmill” help address the obesity problem?

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Google and Yahoo office strategies teach us the value of the velvet glove

Velvet gloveIt’s a week now since the whole Yahoo-ha kicked off and since that time everybody has had their say on the matter including – refreshingly – those in the mainstream media. The story has followed its own narrative arc, from the initial gasps of horror at Yahoo’s audacious challenge to a cherished piece of contemporary received wisdom (coupled with the reminder that Yahoo still exists) to something more thoughtful and circumspect as we learned more about the thinking behind the decision.What has become apparent is that Yahoo’s actions were based on a tacit understanding that people work better on certain tasks when they are together.

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Working ‘proper hours’ may no longer be possible

I'm alright JackToday is the Trades Union Congress’s self-styled ‘Work Your Proper Hours Day’. Last week the TUC announced that it had used Government statistics to calculate that more than 5 million UK employees put in an average of over 7 hours of unpaid overtime a week, adding around £28 billion a year to the economy. Like me, you might be surprised the figures are that low and certainly I think a lot of people would be delighted to only put in an extra 7 hours a week. You might also be dismayed the TUC is advocating workers add less of their time into the economy by clocking off on time today. However, the bigger problem is surely with the language and ideas put forward by the TUC.

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