How Thomas Jefferson came to invent the swivel chair

How Thomas Jefferson came to invent the swivel chair

Thomas JeffersonIn 1775, Thomas Jefferson was a busy man. As part of the Committee of Five men and at the tender age of 33, he had been charged with drafting the Declaration of Independence that was to be presented to Congress the following Summer. By all accounts, Jefferson was a self-contained and self-sufficient man and, like many great people, a mass of contradictions.

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Going with the flow in the way we work

Going with the flow in the way we work

Sedus Smart OfficeThroughout history we’ve been aware of the state we now refer to as flow. It describes the sensation of existing purely in the moment of some activity, effortlessly achieving what we have set out to achieve and unaware of distractions. Mystics have described it as ecstasy, artists as rapture and athletes as in the zone. This state was first described as flow by the Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975 and has been developed by him and a wide range of other researchers in a number of fields since that time. More →

The constant craving to put numbers on working relationships

The constant craving to put numbers on working relationships

The answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything is not 42, as you may have been led to believe. It’s 1/137 (or near enough). This is the greatest of the two dozen or so universal constants. Without the physical and quantum relationships it describes, the universe as we know it could not exist. More →

A brief history of the future of work

A brief history of the future of work

The past year and a half should have served as a reminder of that tragic, unchangeable feature of the human condition, best expressed by Kierkegaard, that we are doomed to live our lives forwards but only understand them backwards. Retrospect is particularly important when we look back on sudden, large changes that knock us off our normal path. A taxonomy of change has emerged in recent years to describe such events. The best known is the ‘Black Swan’, coined and popularised by Nassim Taleb as things that “seem to us, on the basis of our limited experience, to be impossible” but which happen anyway, have a major impact and are often rationalised later. More →

Time to stop playing around with the issue of workplace sustainability

Time to stop playing around with the issue of workplace sustainability

workplace sustainabilityThe  so-called green agenda, sustainability and climate change have finally hit centre stage. Various announcements are being made by UK Government and numerous high profile figures are crying a call to action to implement carbon reduction plans now. Lord Mayor of the City of London, Alderman William Russell, stated at the Annual Lord Mayor Gresham Lecture early in 2021: “Climate change is a bigger threat to the world than COVID-19.” He called on the financial and professional services sector to take urgent action to tackle climate change and ensure sustainability is at the heart of every financial decision. More →

Biophilic design has a long history and an even bigger future

Biophilic design has a long history and an even bigger future

biophilic design at the new Amazon HQ2There are plenty of definitions of the modish concept of biophilic design around right now. But perhaps nobody can top that of Erich Fromm, the sociologist and psychoanalyst who first described it in his 1973 book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness as “The passionate love of life and all that is alive”. More →

Wondering what to do about that office of yours? Hold the line.

Wondering what to do about that office of yours? Hold the line.

Bruntwood Bloc Manchester office

At the end of April, New York magazine’s cover feature was headed ‘Remember the Office?’ The article reminisced about a world of cubicles and water-coolers, coffee points and staff parties. Its tone was elegiac, implying that it wasn’t just the enforced distance of 13 months of COVID-19 restrictions that lent enchantment to communal workspace, but the possibility that offices had gone for good.?  More →

Pandemic highlights the need for smarter, more adaptable offices and cities

Pandemic highlights the need for smarter, more adaptable offices and cities

pandemic and smart citiesThe coronavirus pandemic is a new experience for every one of us. It has changed life as we know it – at work, at home and for public interactions. As some countries start to ease restrictions on public life, how can we go back to ‘normal’ while still maintaining social distancing and feeling safe? How do we manage crowded public spaces like shopping malls, cinemas and restaurants? How do we optimize safety in our offices and factories? More importantly, how do we avoid shutting down entire cities and countries when the next pandemic hits? More →

Firms don’t use artificial intelligence much, so the current hype is tripe

Firms don’t use artificial intelligence much, so the current hype is tripe

a long road ahead for artificial intelligenceMany governments are increasingly approaching artificial intelligence with an almost religious zeal. By 2018 at least 22 countries around the world, and also the EU, had launched grand national strategies for making AI part of their business development, while many more had announced ethical frameworks for how it should be allowed to develop. The EU documents more than 290 AI policy initiatives in individual EU member states between 2016 and 2020. More →

The underlying problems with the way we think about work

The underlying problems with the way we think about work

people and workAn idea that has never really gone away, but which seems to be enjoying a new lease of life is the tabula rasa. The conception of people as a blank slate is something a that has crept back into mainstream political and social thought for a variety of reasons. Arguably, it is also behind many of the most misleading notions about work and workplace design, perhaps most importantly that a change to some single element or characteristic of a working environment will lead to a specific outcome in the behaviour of people. More →

The great office door handle problem

The great office door handle problem

office door handleArchitects and designers have always a had a thing for door handles. It’s the kind of detail they like and one of the most genuinely tactile features of a building. Architects from Frank Gehry to Zaha Hadid have worked on the designs of door handles for manufacturers. It was the Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa who described the door handle as ‘the handshake of the building’ in his architectural theory book?The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses in 2005. This was cute before last March but now looks slightly menacing.   More →

Is it time to ban out-of-hours emails?

Is it time to ban out-of-hours emails?

The global pandemic has blurred the lines between home and work for millions of people around the world. Where once there was a clear distinction between being on and off duty, the demands of remote working and ever-presence of smartphones has created an ‘always on’ culture in many organisations. The trend has led to a number organisations in the UK to now call for a ban on out-of-hours emails in order to alleviate pressures on employees mental health. But is this really necessary, or even logistically possible, for the new world of work? We asked four leading experts for their thoughts. More →

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