Ergonomic update: Are you taking the tablets?

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Tablet ergonomicsTwenty years ago the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 came into force, introduced in response to a growing number of complaints of repetitive strain injury (RSI), or to use the broader term musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) amongst office workers. Although it took time for the disorder to be identified, the message gradually got through that sitting all day in the same position banging away at a keyboard was not conductive to sound ergonomics or good health. In the early 90s I was an early adopter of a laptop (or luggable PC) and had to take four months off work after developing pain and numbness in my arms and wrists.

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New research from China highlights benefits of working from home

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CTripA new report from researchers at Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Guanghua Management School at Beijing University looking into the experience of working from home at one large Chinese firm has found that the practice led to a 13 per cent increase in productivity. The research also found that workers reported increased levels of job satisfaction and half elected to continue working from home when the choice was given to them at the end of the study period even though it was evident that their chances of promotion on the basis of performance had reduced as a result of the experiment.

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Will an upturn spark a revival of interest in the idea of employer branding?

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Employer brandingYou may recall that a few years ago there was a voguish interest in the idea of employer branding. This is the kind of thing that has always gone on but can always be defined and popularised,  in this case following the publication of a book on the subject in 2005. By 2008 Jackie Orme, the head of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, was calling it ‘an integral part of business strategy’. Still, it appears to have dropped off the radar a bit over the last few years, a fact we might put down to the effect of the recession. Firms certainly seem to have their mind on other things. Research published last year by PriceWaterhouseCoopers showed that  in 2009, 54 per cent of businesses said they placed a special focus on retaining talent. By 2012 that had dropped to 36 per cent.

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Video: one of the keys to a productive workplace: micro-organisms?

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The quest for the answer to what makes us productive at work is an endless one, of course. Partly this is due to misleading research claims from suppliers that the provision of a specific product will increase productivity by x per cent. But mostly it’s because the answers shift from case to case and over time because while we can identify the factors that make people more productive, it’s harder to pin down the effects of their interrelationships. Plant walls and better seating won’t by themselves improve the performance of somebody who hates their job. Nevertheless, it’s important to design all the productivity factors into a building, including at a bacterial level according to Jessica Green who here explores the impact of microbes in different areas of an office building.

Facebook hits like button for low-key Gehry campus building

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FAcebook campus 2Normally it would strike you as a bit odd that a company would appoint one of the world’s most high profile architects to design its new headquarters, a man with an immediately recognisable and frequently stunning visual style, only to then ask him to rein it all in and produce something pretty sober and unobtrusive. But that is precisely what Facebook has done with the appointment of Frank Gehry who has been tasked with producing a low key design for its new headquarters building  and campus in California which gained approval at the end of last week.

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Office design goes to the movies. Part 4 – Ikiru

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IkiruAkira Kurosawa’s film typifies the way that office life is usually portrayed in movies. The crushing bureaucracy that the protagonist Kanji Watanabe is part of – and ultimately rebels against – is symbolised by the towering piles of paper that surround him and his colleagues. Even when he’s walking around, he seems to be carrying them with him, stooped and distant. Many offices may have freed themselves of the sheer bulk of paper these days, but we can still find ourselves weighed down by hierarchy, rules, customs and information. Ultimately we also have freedom to decide for ourselves what is truly important.

Our hardwired response to patterns can be a useful trait for designers

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flying_fishOur ability to recognise patterns is hardwired. We instinctively and often unconsciously look for patterns everywhere. Where none exist we often impose them, grouping things  together according to their colour, shape, texture, number, taste, smell, touch or function. We do this to make sense of the world and to understand what goes on around us. And conversely, the patterns we perceive influence the way we think and how we feel. It was the psychologist Carl Jung who first explained how the innate human ability to recognise patterns is rooted in the need for primitive humans to perceive patterns in the world around them as a way of identifying threats.

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BIM task force group to represent built environment

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BIM

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is of as much importance to those tasked with using and managing buildings as those involved in their design and construction and has led to the formation of the BIM4FM group, which represents institutes, trade associations and professional bodies within the built environment. Supported by the Cabinet Office Government Property Unit, the BIM4FM group will provide input into the on going development of BIM and work being developed through the Government Property Unit and BIM Task Group. Geoff Prudence, Chair of the BIM4FM group said: “Although BIM has long been discussed at the construction end of the supply chain it has only recently and repeatedly started to raise its profile with those operating and using buildings.” More →

London calling for Green Sky Thinking events

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GST13-ButtonIf you’re looking for some practical guidance on sustainability check out a free London-wide event, Green Sky Thinking, a week-long series of free sustainability-focused events showcasing innovative and practical solutions to greening London’s built environment, which runs across London from 15-19 April. Ranging from onsite project talks, round-table discussions, pecha kuchas and seminars, it offers attendees the inside view from top experts, industry leaders and collaborative teams to understand innovations and what works in practice. Victoria Thornton, Founding Director of Open City, said: “The value of Green Sky Thinking Week is offering the solution of ‘how’ to make London’s built environment  sustainable.” More →

Office design goes to the movies. Part 3 – Being John Malkovich

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In which John Cusack plays an unemployed puppeteer who takes a mundane office clerk’s job in the low-ceilinged offices on Floor 7½ of the Mertin Flemmer Building in New York. When he asks his boss why the ceilings are so low, he is told ‘low overhead my boy’.  Bad pun, great commentary on how it’s always possible to fit a little bit more into the building, especially if you ignore the bothersome problem of the people who work inside and their physical constraints.

Where are the muggles in Terry Farrell’s architecture policy review?

Where are the muggles in Terry Farrell’s architecture policy review?

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One of the standard complaints commonly ascribed to facilities managers and others who work to manage our buildings and the people and stuff inside them is that they are not consulted well enough when it comes to the development, architecture and design of buildings. Well, now they may have a chance to see how that all feels writ large following yesterday’s announcement from Culture and Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey of the launch of an independent review of the UK’s architecture which will be undertaken by the architect Sir Terry Farrell leading a panel of mainly architects.

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Video: Forget Yahoo – why telecommuting is good for your business

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Think you’ve seen every possible angle on the recent Yahoo-ha about flexible working? Maybe not because here’s a unique take on the subject courtesy of the guys at MinuteMBA. We’d like to invite somebody to animate the other side of the argument but while we can be certain that nearly everybody thinks they are a writer these days, the skill of animation is not so easily taken for granted.

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