October 6, 2017
October 4, 2017
When you think of a call centre you probably picture a line of people seated in row upon row of desks in a featureless room. But call centre design is changing. As companies recognise their growing importance, the boiler room approach is disappearing and call centres are beginning to morph into a corporate centrepiece. Dutch telecoms company Ziggo is a case in point. The company merged with Vodafone in 2017 and today offers broadband and mobile services to both residential and commercial customers across the Netherlands. It has a large call centre and like many companies invests significant resources in training call centre employees in both technology and interpersonal skills. VodafoneZiggo’s call centre in Rotterdam, designed by Evolution Design is spread over several large open plan areas, which were converted into series of smaller work spaces, using low cost solutions such as simple wooden frames, acoustic panelling or a change of flooring to demarcate different zones. Staff can now choose to work in areas as diverse as a plant covered ‘greenhouse’, open plan spaces with bright yellow accents and colourful floor tiles or in a more urban-style zone that uses reclaimed wooden pallets to divide and decorate. Throughout the centre, desks are height adjustable so employees can choose whether to sit or stand. There is also a central reception area with meeting and training rooms and a colourful break out space with comfortable sofas, a café and a games zone complete with table football and video games.
September 18, 2017
Last week, over 600 workplace and property experts met in London at the CoreNet Global Summit 2017 to discuss some of the most important trends affecting the sector. The debates underlined one important fact about property and workplaces, which is how they are shaped by major, globalised events as much as they are local needs and the objectives of specific organisations. This quickly became evident on day one, which demonstrated how dramatic shifts in the geopolitical landscape, all of which are impacting corporate real estate – from America First to Brexit – remain key talking points for the industry. Opening speaker Linda Yueh (University of Oxford and London Business School) explored several possible scenarios, including how the focus of ‘Trumpism’ would have a significant effect on the U.S. role on the world stage, with the priority on the domestic economy leaving little scope for global trade. She also predicted that a ‘hard Brexit’, with no new trade deal with the EU, will be the most likely outcome for the UK’s withdrawal process; and that businesses will need to focus on alternative WTO rules as an urgent priority. Other impacting factors covered by Yueh included the rise of a dominant global middle class, and China’s need to rebalance its economic growth drivers.
September 12, 2017
The question of what makes a city great is an old one but has never been asked more than it is right now. It is usually couched in terms of the urbanisation of large parts of the world but it is important for other reasons too, not least because the urban environment is an increasingly important part of the virtual workplace many of us now inhabit and offices themselves increasingly resemble the agglomeration of spaces we have typically associated with our towns and cities. In October of last year, McKinsey published its latest report into urbanisation, based largely on the usual premise of the proportion of the world’s people involved, but it is an issue that touches all of our lives and in unexpected ways.
August 24, 2017
According to a widely reported government study in today’s news, 40 percent of middle aged English adults do not even manage a ten minute walk each month. The report from Public Health England says that so many people are sedentary that official activity guidelines are so unrealistic and people should be encouraged to walk ten minutes a day – half the current guidance – to improve general levels of health and mental wellbeing. Little steps, in other words. We can confidently say that the underlying problem here is cultural, including the amount of time people spend on their backsides at work. This is in spite of all the evidence that shows that we may not only be fitter and happier by moving more but more creative too.
July 20, 2017
The IFMA Foundation Workplace Summit of summer 2014 felt like an optimistic time for facilities management and the workspace industry. Heavyweights from the sector were asking searching questions about our organisational contribution, with thankfully less of the internally focused, debate-free hubris typical of much of the industry narrative. The newly announced (and now evidently historical) collaboration between BIFM and CIPD was in full swing, endorsed by social media savvy Twitterati under The Workplace Conversation banner. Finally, I thought, we seemed to be talking less about space as a commodity and more about people. Melissa Marsh of Plastarc captured it at the Summit as she evidenced co-working principles: less “managing facilities” and more “enabling communities”. It felt like some were finally starting to realise the fundamental qualitative difference between workspace and workplace: the role of culture.
July 12, 2017
Yesterday, the much-awaited Taylor Review into modern working practices was finally published. And by modern working practices, the report focussed primarily on what has become known as the gig economy. People have been speculating about the contents of the report for months and things ramped up last week after a partial leak to the media. So, things were already bubbling under nicely before the actual publication of the document brought things to a boil yesterday. Assuming the government do more than kick the whole thing into the long grass, always a possibility, debate will continue for a while. We’ll let politicians do their thing with it, but here are a few of the initial reactions from interested parties and the experts. more…
June 29, 2017
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. As is true of depiction of work in movies and music, it is almost invariably portrayed in a negative light, dehumanising drudgery replete with the potential for humiliation. Yet some artists have attempted to portray some of the complexities of work. These are some of my personal favourites.
June 23, 2017
The average worker is interrupted or distracted every three minutes and it takes them fully twenty-three minutes to return to a task after being interrupted. Office workers are overwhelmed by distractions, due mainly to a lack of understanding of how to manage attention. Distractions and the inability to focus negatively affects productivity, engagement, wellbeing and overall performance in organisations. We long to be more effective, but the harder we try, the more tired our brains become. Attention meltdowns are epidemic because workers do not understand what attention is, how to manage it or have access to the best places to support their tasks. In workplaces throughout the world scenarios of near constant distraction have become the norm, to such an extent that often people do not even feel compelled to comment on them and their consequences.
June 7, 2017
In France, we might have been the first to behead a King and hold a revolution, or to stand on barricades and die for ideals of justice and equality, but when it comes to change – especially in large organisations– we always seem to lag behind. You could blame it on a number of factors: a cultural bias towards tradition, the legacy of an interventionist and ever-present state, spawning bureaucratic models of large state-owned corporations, the everlasting grasp of the elites stifling innovation and the ability to “think outside the box”… Whatever this may be, the debate around remote working – a type of work organisation which allows employees to work regularly away from the office – in France has always been articulated around the preconception that France was behind. And that while its Anglo-Saxon or Nordic European neighbours displayed a boastful 30 percent of the working population as remote workers, France struggled to reach a meagre 9 to 10 percent in 2010.
May 16, 2017
This is a long tale, but a worthwhile one to tell, and something that many of you will relate to, especially if you have anything to do with workplace design or management. Three managers walk into a bar. This is always a good place to start. They each have gender-neutral names, so I’ll leave you to work out whether they may be male or female. Not that it even matters in this context. Frankie gets there first. “Hi. Large glass of wine please. What do you have?” The bartender pauses, then replies: “We have … red … or … um … white. Um … oh, and fizzy and pink”. Frankie thinks for a moment, dismisses the idea of a cocktail or a short, then orders a beer. It’s a corporate training centre after all. What would you expect in a place like this? An extensive wine list?
May 9, 2017
At a recent conference at the WWF’s Living Planet Centre in Woking staged by the office furniture firm Kinnarps, I had an off the cuff chat with James Woudhuysen who had just delivered one of his typically entertaining, erudite and challenging talks on the future of work alongside equally renowned speakers such as Philip Tidd and Namrata Krishna from architecture firm Gensler. James is an academic, writer, commentator and (dread word) futurologist. If there’s one thing you can say about James it is that he is never boring. He never sticks to the staid narratives and so when he is invited to talk about the future of work and especially the potential impact of automation and AI, you can expect to hear something you haven’t heard before or don’t typically hear. Underlying our conversation is a profound faith in people, even with all their imperfections. James rejects the ideas and reasoning of those who take a pessimistic and dystopian view on such matters and argues passionately that we must see things for what they really are and embrace them. We also talk about the outliers of workplace design, how we live alongside technology and the true nature of Millennials. You can listen to us in conversation in your browser below or via Soundcloud, where it can also be downloaded for sharing and to listen offline. This is the first in a new series of podcasts and we would invite you to follow us via Soundcloud for future editions. I hope you enjoy it.