Indoor air quality and the quest for a breath of fresh air in the workplace

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indoor air quality

Edward Hopper, Office in a Small City, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY

The modern workplace has to work harder than ever before. It must reflect corporate values, express something of the organisation’s brand, allow people to work to the best of their ability as well as look after their wellbeing, keep touch with the pace of changing technology and meet the demands of an ever changing legislative environment and keep costs down. All of these issues conflate around the challenge of providing a sustainable, comfortable and productive working environment in buildings that are filled with an increasing number of people and computers. It is estimated by the Building Research Establishment that even in a typical office each person and their technology will generate some 1500 W of energy per hour, the equivalent of the sort of fan heater that the EU is now keen to ban outright.

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The culture of presenteeism is not all just fun and games

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PresenteeismTen or so years ago an office seating manufacturer commissioned me to prepare a report on the games industry. The idea was to target a market the company had decided was primed to hear their message about ergonomics and the deleterious effects of long hours spent sitting and peering at a screen. Not only would this develop a new market for the business, it would also showcase a new product they had launched specifically to target a younger and hipper audience, even one that was overwhelmingly male. All of the elements of a successful campaign appeared to be there – the right product, a sedentary workforce that often worked around the clock to hit deadlines in an industry that epitomised youthful cool and was willing to spend money to prove it.

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Exam board introduces workplace issues to psychology A Level syllabus

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workplace issuesOne of the UK’s five main national examination boards is to introduce a range of workplace issues as part of its updated Psychology A Level syllabus from next year. Cambridge based OCR claims that Psychology is the UK’s fourth  most popular subject at both A and AS level and is also one of the most popular subjects at degree level too. The issues will be introduced to the syllabus as part of an Environmental Psychology theme and will consider as issues such as the effects of allowing desk clutter on individual wellbeing (although it didn’t do much for Kanji Watanabe in Akira Kurosawa’s film Ikiru, above), gender roles in workstation personalisation and so on. Students will be expected to carry out their own research into the topics as well as draw on established sources of information. OCR also suggests that the subject may help to develop the emotional intelligence of those who take the subject.

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The latest issue of Insight is now available to view online

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2.Insight_twitter_logo smIn the latest edition of the Workplace Insight newsletter available to view online; Colin Watson argues the urban environment is an increasingly important part of the ‘virtual’ workplace; Nigel Sikora describes how we’re learning to strike a better balance between distraction and privacy, between noise and quiet; and Justin Miller bemoans a lack of balance in the way the media wants to expose ‘waste’ in public sector purchasing. In news, why London offers the best returns on office refurbishment of any city in the world; the publication of two reports from the UK’s National Audit Office alleging poor management and a low priority given to the country’s public sector procurement function and we report on a discussion document by the BIM2050 Group on the digital future of the built environment.  We also include a link to the new issue of Work&Place, the journal we publish in partnership with Occupiers Journal.

Report claims workplace fails to support employees with musculoskeletal disorders

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musculoskeletal disordersWhen determining what constitutes a well-designed office, it’s easy to overlook the overriding need to ensure a workplace is designed first and foremost to be inclusive. Given the fact that musculoskeletal disorders remain the largest single cause of days of work lost due to sickness absence, it’s worrying to discover that many organisations fail to meet the needs of those dealing with such conditions. The new report ‘Self-management of chronic musculoskeletal disorders and employment’ from the Fit for Work UK Coalition and The Work Foundation found that despite sufferers’ efforts to remain at work, many are forced to ‘self-manage’ their condition without adequate support; with for instance an employee being forced to partake in a hot desk policy when they required their own, fixed workspace. As the report states, this lack of help is ‘all the more perverse’ when you take into consideration the role that work can play in helping to contribute to mental and physical wellbeing. More →

Workplace design is increasingly interwoven with the dynamics of the city

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workplace designThe Workplace Strategy Summit, held near my adopted home town of Reading in June attracted some of the world’s most renowned experts on workplace design and management. As is the case these days, much of the talk focussed on urbanisation, both in its own right and in terms of its influence on the design of work and workplaces. One speaker, Andrew Laing of Aecom argued convincingly that the city is just as much a part of the modern workplace as the traditional office. ‘As we explore the future of work and place, we are beginning to see a shift towards an urban scale in how we frame the workplace problem,’ he said. ‘Our starting point is perhaps no longer the office but the city at large. And what we mean by the city may not be the bricks and mortar urbanism of the twentieth century, but a bricks and mortar urbanism imbued with digital information and connectivity: a powerful combination of the physical and digital.’

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London ranked the best city to invest in major office refurbishment

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office refurbishmentLondon offers the best returns on office refurbishment of any city in the world, according to a new report from ARCACDIS. The firm’s survey of buildings more than 20 years old in thirteen cities found that returns on capital invested in major refurbs (which extend the life of the office by up to 20 years) in London were nearly ten percent, significantly higher than second placed Warsaw (7.5%) and Milan (6%). However, London was only ranked second for return on investment in minor office refurbishment, defined as a refurbs that aims to extend the life of the building by up to 5 years. Top place in this instance went to Madrid (9.6%), followed by London (8.5%) and Shanghai (7.9%). The least attractive market for office refurbishment was found to be Dubai, which the report claims is due to the large supply of new office space.

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The myths and the memes of public sector purchasing waste

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There has always been a certain degree of skepticism within the UK’s business community about the way the public sector goes about buying goods and services. Some of it is justified but some is unfair. The efforts of successive governments to address the problem demonstrates that there is always a will to improve things. So while a recent BBC Panorama documentary highlighted claims from one report that the NHS loses billions each year thanks to a range of errors and fraud in its procurement processes, we might also ask whether an equivalent private sector organisation with an annual budget of £109 billion would not also be open to a wide range of eye-wateringly expensive failures and inefficiencies. Unfortunately there is a tendency in the media to want to expose ‘waste’ in public sector purchasing, which can politicise what are perfectly reasonable decisions, when you examine them.

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Increased use of mobile devices give office workers space to move

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Office workers now spend up to six hours a day working on mobile devices rather than using desk computers; with men generally working with three or more mobile devices while women choose to work with a maximum of two. This is according to the intermediate results of a Global Posture Study carried out by Steelcase to identify which type of work environment fits different workers best. It reveals that the Millennial generation, born between 1979 and 2000, change posture during the course of the day more than any other age group. Female workers tend to choose postures where they can withdraw from the environment, while men prefer open seating postures where they can lean back. The results of the posture study underlines the fact that employers must take an increasingly innovative approach to creating working environment which supports the various ways of working of the employees to guarantee their wellbeing and productivity. More →

Office planting improves workers’ quality of life and productivity finds study

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Office planting improve office workers’ quality of life and productivity finds studyClaims by office designers and suppliers that office planting has wider health benefits for occupiers than just making the place look more attractive have been given a boost in a new academic study which provides some empirical evidence.  In the first field study of its kind, researchers found enriching a ‘lean’ office with plants could increase productivity by as much as 15 per cent. The study, which involved academics from the University of Exeter; the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, and the University of Queensland, Australia examined the impact of ‘lean’ and ‘green’ offices on staff’s perceptions of air quality, concentration, and workplace satisfaction, and monitored productivity levels over subsequent months in two large commercial offices in the UK and The Netherlands. It concludes that ‘green’ offices with plants make staff happier and more productive than ‘lean’ designs stripped of greenery. More →

New issue of Work&Place is now available to download and read online

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Work&PlaceThe September issue of Work&Place has today been published and is available to download or view online. Amongst this month’s highlights are: Ian Ellison’s review of June’s Workplace Strategy Summit; Jim Ware offers up a case study of workplace transformation at NEF from the perspective of the  firm’s CEO; Agustin Chavez and Laurie Aznavoorian consider how the workplace can help firms to manage knowledge; David Karpook meanwhile characterises the role of the facilities manager as akin to that of a stage manager; Wim Pullen explores the multi-generational workplace using empirical evidence; Erik Jaspers looks at how workers are colonising the world’s cities; Pawel Lenart and Dominika Kowalska report on how one specific country – Poland – has seen a transformation in the way it creates and uses workplaces over the past twenty years; and, on related themes Nancy Sanquist explains how IFMA is driving the agenda on urban FM and Charles Marks looks at how the UK’s regions are looking to capitalise on the Smart Cities movement

Hotels allocating more public space to meet the needs of business travellers

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Business TravellersPresenteeism isn’t restricted to the workplace. Growing demand from business travellers means hotels are increasing the amount of working and meeting space they provide in their facilities in cities across Europe and the rest of the world. Three quarters of British employees work while staying in a hotel according to the survey carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute on behalf of hotel business solutions firm HRS. Only Italians spend more time working in hotels (76 percent), followed the UK (75 percent), Poland and Switzerland (50 percent respectively), Germany (46 percent), China (45 percent), Russia (43 percent), Austria (42 percent) and France (25 percent). The firm has also identified a number of hotels around the world which it believes offers exemplars of the new working spaces available.

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