Five things the Wall Street Journal inadvertently told us yesterday about office design

Some inadvertent truths

Some inadvertent truths

If I were to show you a headline from the Wall Street Journal announcing ‘Say Goodbye to the Office Cubicle’, you might date it at any time between the mid 1980s and 1990s. Maybe earlier. But it was actually in yesterday’s issue, dated 2 April 2013. Now, we could be amused by this or act all aghast at the sight of those dinosaurs yet to adopt a norm of open, collaborative and shared spaces never mind the ‘digital workplace’; or we could conclude that this tells us several important things about how those people and organisations who don’t keep a daily eye on workplace trends view the buildings they inhabit.

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Office design goes to the movies. Part 5 – Minority Report

Minority ReportWe obviously like films like this. High concept noir sci-fi, based on a book by Philip K Dick of course; dystopian, chock full of ideas and technology that seemed cool and subversive in 2002 and is mundane in 2013. I mean, the screens are still cool but who wouldn’t rather have a file stored in the Cloud or on a USB stick than inside a perspex panel the size of a brick? Deskheads may recognise the furniture as the totally of-a-piece Resolve from Herman Miller designed by Ayse Birsel. They can use this fact to bore whoever they are watching with who would presumably rather be watching Tom Cruise doing his Blue Steel face in the foreground. Or is it Magnum?

Office furniture leases are actually readily available

leaseThe article from John Sacks from 25th March bemoaned the fact that leasing is essentially useless for furniture projects on the basis that no banks are interested in funding such assets. I am delighted to inform John, and more importantly, the broader readership of Office Insight that this assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that finance for both pure furniture, and indeed broader fit out projects, is readily available. For some, the significant tax benefits (leasing is 100% tax deductible) are critical, whilst others recognise the importance of retaining capital and making sure cash is deployed effectively, not locked away in furniture, is key.

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Why office furniture leasing is not necessarily a great option

leaseIt seems like a perfect idea. The business needs new desks, chairs and cupboards and that refurbishment is long overdue. Or perhaps it’s time to move and the old furniture won’t make it in one piece. The furniture supplier wants to make the sale. Business has been slow and it’s the end of the month and sales targets need to be met. The company is making profits and the order book is pretty full, but cash is tight and the Finance Director begrudges every penny spent. So why not arrange for the furniture to be leased? It’s a question people in the office furniture supply business have now been asking for a number of years.

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Office design goes to the movies. Part 2 – 24 Hour Party People

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Warning: contains strong language.  Factory Records’ Rob Gretton disagrees somewhat with Tony Wilson’s purchase of an expensive table for the firm’s new offices in Michael Winterbottom’s wonderful take on the Madchester scene of the 1980s. But what really sets him off is the word ‘London’. Particular disdain is reserved for the fact the table is made of MDF. Deskheads will recognise the unmistakable application of a CNC machine in its manufacture and the inevitable iconic seating. And the morals are these – involve everybody in purchasing decisions and don’t fall into the trap of believing what they do in London is cool.

Office design goes to the movies. Part 1 – Zoolander

MugatuZoolander may not be a great film but it has its moments and does come alive every time the Mugatu character arrives to eat up the scenery. Of course, as an unreconstructed deskhead, I am always tempted to  look over the shoulders of the characters in a film to see what they are sitting on. Mugatu sits on an Arne Jacobsen Egg chair. It’s over 50 years old but screams DESIGNER, hence its place under his backside. It provides an easy shorthand and so is widely recognised, but its ubiquity including as a way for places like McDonald’s to flag up a new approach to their interiors with a mixture of fakes and originals means it can feel overused.

Employers vastly underestimate savings of freeing up desks

Employers vastly underestimate savings of freeing up desks

Green economy

The latest salvo in the flexible working debate is a study which reveals that despite potential savings of around £34bn by freeing up desk space and working more flexibly, the majority of UK business leaders grossly underestimate what it is possible to save with two out of three (65 per cent) insisting they can’t lose any desks. According to a Vodafone UK survey one in five of those  surveyed thought that their employees remained rooted to the old principle that all employees should have their own desk space (21 per cent) and flexible working ultimately leads to employees taking advantage of the system (23 per cent).

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Homeworkers happier but more at risk from poor ergonomics

Flexible workingAmidst all the controversy over flexible working raised by the infamous Yahoo homeworking ban comes US research revealing homeworking policies lead to happier employers and employees. 93 percent of employees surveyed by Staples Advantage agree that telecommuting programs are mutually beneficial, and more than half 53 percent of business decision makers said telecommuting leads to more productive employees. However, the survey also reveals that 48 per cent of telecommuters use furniture or technology that is not ergonomically adjusted for them, which can lead to discomfort, loss of productivity or injury. More →

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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Dull workplaces can hamper creativity, claims new report

Broken light bulbA new report from London based fit-out company Overbury claims that dull and demotivating workplaces are holding back creativity in UK organisations. The study of 2,000 employees from across the UK, found that although staff consider idea generation crucial to their employer’s performance, many feel unable to work creatively together in their offices. Between half and two thirds of employees (59%) state that the development of new ideas is vital to their organisation. However, many respondents also stated that their working environment is thwarting creativity,with the majority (52%) of UK offices lacking common or social areas.

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Tipping point reached in battle between tablets and PCs

Surface proThe signs of the final showdown between the personal computer and the tablet are now all around us. It is evident in the launch of new products such as Microsoft’s Surface and the new generation of more powerful iPads which can (nearly) match the performance of Apple’s own laptops. It is also evident in the restructuring of firms like Dell, once the world’s most successful PC maker. The end result will not only be a new shape for the products on which we work but also a new shape for the places in which we work. Our postures will change and so too will the things we need to support us.  More →

Long awaited plans submitted for Smithfield development

SmithfieldThe controversial and long-awaited plans for the redevelopment of the derelict sections of Smithfield in London have been submitted by Henederson Global Investors.  While the existing meat market will remain untouched, the £160m plan for the rest of the site includes the refurbishment of the former General Market, Fish Market and Red House Buildings, as well as the original engine house.  Originally built between 1886 and 1883 by the architect of Tower Bridge Horace Jones, the historic site has been the subject of previous proposals including a controversial scheme by architects KPF which was thrown out after a 4 year battle in 2008. More →