December 11, 2018
Art supposedly holds up a mirror to life. Except when it comes to our working lives, it doesn’t. Or at least it doesn’t always show a true or full reflection, both in terms of the amount of time we dedicate to work and how important it is to us. Most of us spend at least a quarter of our time each week at (or on our way to) work. Many of us struggle to escape it in our own time too. We worry about it when we shouldn’t. It pays our way. It helps to define who we are. It structures our time. It introduces us to friends and partners. Yet in spite of the crucial role it plays in our lives, there are precious few depictions of the workplace in art. More →
December 10, 2018
This week’s beachcomb of the best workplace stories is brought to you in the wake of the first flood of retrospectives and predictions that wash up in the media at this time of year. The first piece of flotsam [sound of a metaphor snapping] is Dezeen’s listing of the world’s best office designs of 2018, which appears to be based on the answers to three questions. Is it a coworking space? Does it look like an office? Is there anybody actually working there? Answer yes, no, no to those three simple questions and you’re in the frame.
December 6, 2018
Office work has existed in some form ever since people started writing on tablets and papyrus. Depictions of clerical staff are common in the Bible and on the walls of pyramids. In the mid 14th Century the Church of San Nicolò, commissioned the artist Tomaso da Modena to create the fresco in the chapter room of the church depicting forty monks of the order hard at it at their desks. The word office itself derives from the famous Uffizi in Florence, created in 1560. Things picked up after the Industrial Revolution, as is evident from the work of Charles Dickens amongst others. The first recognisable swivel chairs were developed by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Albert Stoll and Peter Ten Eyck. These developments have tracked wider social, economic and cultural trends so the history of office furniture design holds a mirror to the world.
December 3, 2018
There is a theory that when companies talk about issues such as corporate social responsibility they are doing so because it helps them to achieve their business goals. This is the coldly rational thing to do according to people like free market guru Milton Friedman who argues that companies should not actively pursue altruistic ends unless that pursuit is ultimately in the interest of their shareholders. As Friedman puts it: ‘Hypocrisy is virtuous when it serves the bottom line. Moral virtue is immoral when it does not’.
November 26, 2018
The meaning of life, the Black Mirror of Beijing, standing desks not a silver bullet and some other stuff
So, what is the meaning of life? According to a study by Pew, the gold standard US based researchers, it’s spending time with family and friends, reading, listening to music and going for a walk in the open air. Work comes somewhere down the list. Just one-third of the survey’s respondents mentioned their career or job as a source of meaning, and only a quarter cite finances or money. This, it turns out, is not too far off Monty Python’s conclusion in their eponymous film: Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations. That’s that sorted then.
November 16, 2018
A slow news week here in the UK so the opportunity presents itself for quiet consideration of some important issues about the workplace. The big story has been the change of identity for the British Institute of Facilities Management, unveiled after weeks of debate and speculation. We’ll be running some commentary on what this all might mean in the next few days but for now, suffice it so say that any parallels with Brexit are entirely coincidental.
November 9, 2018
Sometime over the past few years, the search for possible locations for the latest tech giant palace has become something of a media preoccupation. Typical of the stories this quest generates is this piece in the New York Times about Google’s search for new property in the city. But the apotheosis of all this has been Amazon’s quest for a new HQ in the US, leading to an unedifying scrabble between municipal authorities keen to attract the lair of OmniCorp to their turf.
November 2, 2018
A little local difficulty, treating people as pets, designing for serendipity and some other stuff you might like
The big news to be on the lookout for this month is the BIFM’s impending name change to the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management. Now the interesting thing about this development is what it might tell us about the changing world of work and the distinction between the physical office and the places we actually work, including in digital space. So that’s what everybody’s focussed on right?
October 31, 2018
More business owners are swapping rigid 9-5 schedules and traditional office environments in favour of flexible space and remote work as an option for saving costs, retaining employees and encouraging a healthy work-life balance. With this in mind, Instant Offices has investigated what industries are leading the way for remote working and how to overcome the typical challenges of managing a remote team.
October 29, 2018
You can’t judge an international marketplace by wandering around an exhibition of its products for a day or two. This is a simple fact overlooked by a new piece in Dezeen which declares that desks are finished. This notion is based on a trip to the Orgatec furniture fair in Cologne. Our own review of the show will appear tomorrow, with the hysteria dialled down to a dull roar and with some added facts about what organisations actually buy most from office furniture companies (spoiler: desks and chairs) compared to what makes the sector more interesting.
October 22, 2018
What to make of the announcement that Chengdu is thinking of creating an artificial moon so that it can do away with street lights, bathing the city’s streets in permanent dusk? Well possibly a big thumbs up for the ingenuity and maybe thumbs down for the impact on people’s circadian rhythms and awareness of what’s in the heavens. People really should look up more, both figuratively and literally. Maybe there’s also room for a thought about we we can over-complicate designed solutions when we look to innovate beyond a certain point.
October 16, 2018
Flexibility is rocking the foundations of the traditional commercial real estate world. It’s entering our workforces, our offices and the shock waves are extending to the relationship between landlord and tenant. This demand for increased flexibility from the world’s workforces is due to a convergence of social and economic factors. JLL’s Top 10 Global Corporate Real Estate (CRE) Trends report predicts the emergence of a more dynamic workforce, demand for work environments that support creativity, cross-collaboration and innovation, and an increasing focus on employee wellbeing and performance will dominate global CRE strategies throughout 2018. This has major implications for both occupiers and landlords.