June 10, 2015
The well of public discourse about office design is regularly fouled by the effluent of people who really should know better. Normally this is characterised by hyperbolic assertions about how flexible working will lead to The Death of the Office (it won’t) or how the decision by Yahoo and others to go into partial reverse on remote work would spell The Death of Flexible Working (it didn’t). All of this drivel can be forgiven when it comes from civilians, but the fact that it remains commonplace in the workplace media and emanates from the mouths of people who work in the sector is enough to make you despair. The latest example of this attention seeking behaviour, excretion of simplistic bullshit, market making or whatever you see it as, is the drive to demonise sitting, now normally expressed alongside some variant of the slogan ‘Sitting is the New Smoking’.
June 8, 2015
We spend around 60 percent of our life at work and consume at least a third of our daily food intake, which is why the British Dietetic Association (BDA) has announced that the theme of office for its new Chairman, Dr Fiona McCullough, will be workplace health. Responding to recent policies such as the NHS Five Year Forward View and the NICE public health guidance for the workplace, which recognise that businesses benefit from investing in the wellbeing of employees, the BDA is conducting a review of published peer-reviewed evidence of workplace health studies in order to determine how best individuals and employers can optimise health at work. This review will underpin the development of a BDA Work Ready Programme, which has produced interim research that has already highlighted the key role employers can play in enhancing the wellbeing of staff.
June 3, 2015
I recently reviewed over one hundred papers on the impact of noise on workplace satisfaction and found that on average sound level only accounts for 25 percent of effects. By contrast, more than half of the effect is due to psychological factors such as context and attitude, perceived control and predictability and personality type. Noise is a psychophysical phenomenon and as long as we continue to focus on physical metrics and disregard the psychological component, we will never resolve the biggest and often ignored problem of noise in the workplace. The review (available to download for free here) was the first step in revisiting how we tackle the issue. The second step is an on-line survey to explore the relationship between personality and noise distraction. I’d like to invite you to contribute to this research and participate in this survey by clicking here.
June 3, 2015
Over a quarter of Britons (27 per cent) suffering from debilitating lower back pain do not have a formal diagnosis for their symptoms, and 64 per cent are not receiving any kind of support from employers to help them with their problem, finds a new survey by Nuffield Health. Back pain is the UK’s leading cause of long term sickness, responsible for more than 15 million sick days in 2013. One in seven (14 per cent) questioned with lower back pain said they are on long term sickness benefit or cannot work due to their symptoms, while the same number (14 per cent) have taken at least a month off in the past 12 months. Over a quarter (27 per cent) of people say that the lack of diagnosis or knowledge is causing depression, while one in six (17 per cent) are anxious they are suffering from a more serious health condition.
June 2, 2015
A new study published yesterday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine claims that office workers spend far too much time sitting, are suffering from a range of conditions and illnesses as a result and so should be encouraged to spend up to half of each working while standing. The report, The sedentary office: a growing case for change towards better health and productivity, was commissioned by Public Health England and claims that our present sedentary working lives can lead directly to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Mirroring the findings of other studies, the report also claims that we cannot fully mitigate these effects with exercise outside of work and need to address our working habits each day instead. The report argues that there is a “strong case” for changing the designs of offices and workstations, for example, by offering standing desks.
June 2, 2015
If you believed surveys and the news they generate you would soon come to regard the modern workplace as something of a death trap. Now this is somewhat misleading because statistically the most dangerous professions are still far and away those such as agriculture, forestry and construction which employ people in the open air, doing what used to be considered the core functions of work, namely making things, destroying things or moving them from one place to another. Nowadays most of us are in no danger of being hurt by this sort of work. But we can come to harm in the office and your workplace has it in for you in a number of ways. But, as opposed to truly dangerous jobs, it’s unlikely you will be caught out by surprise and there are plenty of things you can do to ensure you not only come to no harm at work but can find ways to become more productive and healthy. Here are just a few examples:
May 29, 2015
An additional 5.1m sq. ft. of office space will be required by 2019 to accommodate the growth of professional services firms in London, claims new research from CBRE. According to the studio, firms will also adopt more pragmatic workplace strategies that focus on agile working and wellbeing to meet their objectives. Nearly all (92 percent) of the respondents to CBRE’s Professional London survey claim they use the workplace to enhance employee satisfaction and 83 percent of firms use it to control costs. Firms are also placing more emphasis on wellbeing and more agile and intensive ways of using space, according to CBRE. Other factors such as technology and the design of the workplace are also increasingly important. The research suggests that staff are increasingly attracted by on-site amenities, connectivity and location and other ‘lifestyle offerings’.
May 28, 2015
At any one time around 1 in 6 people of working age are experiencing a common mental health condition such as depression or anxiety but a lack of awareness may lead employers to misinterpret symptoms as poor performance, finds a new report from Lancaster University’s Work Foundation.The paper, Symptoms of Depression and their Effects on Employment, recommends that in order to improve both productivity and health and wellbeing among those of working age, more concerted action must be taken to support people with depression to stay in and to return to work. The paper considers the ways in which some of the symptoms associated with depression can form a barrier to employment and calls upon government departments at a national and regional level to commit to improving the provision of evidence-based support to help people with depression.
May 28, 2015
Most of the arguments put forward for enlightened workplace design are fact based. That’s useful but such arguments can also ignore the fact that we respond to our surroundings on an emotional level as well as a functional one. Once you accept that office design is as much about how it makes people feel as how it helps them work, then the design process can be as much about EQ as it is IQ. While businesses can shy away from dealing with the emotional facets of working lives, there is a growing movement that advocates not only greater awareness of the importance of emotional intelligence but is also able to draw attention to the benefits it brings to organisations and individuals. This was the underlying message of a groundbreaking event that took place in London recently which explored the use of emotion in a business context.
May 27, 2015
Eighty-four percent of employers believe they have a responsibility to provide a work environment that promotes mental well-being, according to a new Buck Consultants at Xerox survey report “Promoting Mental Well-being: Addressing Worker Stress and Psychosocial Risks,” released last week at the Global Centre for Healthy Workplaces Annual Summit in Brazil. The Global Survey on Health Promotion and Workplace Wellness Strategies – with a strong focus on companies in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil and Singapore – found that more than one-third of employers rate the stress level within their organization as “high or very high.” However, over two-thirds of employers offer flexible work schedules, and more than half offer telecommuting to mitigate work-related stress, while more than half of employers rate their organization as very or extremely supportive of the mental well-being of their employees.
May 22, 2015
The level of support by employers towards new mums differs dramatically depending on seniority. According to AXA PPP healthcare, in a poll of new mums, over half of those who had been working in entry level positions (59 per cent) said that their employer hadn’t provided any support beyond what was legally required in the run up to their maternity leave. But, for new mums who had been working in senior positions, that figure dropped to one in five (21 per cent). While 23 per cent of entry level employees were offered ‘keeping in touch days’ during their maternity leave, this number doubled for management level staff (46 per cent) and senior executives (54 per cent). Only 19 per cent of entry level workers were given advice about going on maternity leave compared with nearly a third (30 per cent) of management level employees.
May 19, 2015
Someone who is perpetually late is the most annoying workplace colleague according to a new survey of UK office workers, although only a third are prepared to do anything about it. However, just over 40 percent of respondents said that this kind of behaviour made them consider leaving their jobs with a striking five percent having actually followed through with such a decision. Colleagues who whine all the time were found to be the second most annoying people, the study into annoying office habits by Viking reveals. Misspent time was a key theme amongst the top five habits on the list of twenty, with excessive smoking breaks and deliberate procrastination taking top positions. Contrary to popular belief, jargon isn’t the most annoying practice to plague our offices. In fact, both men and women rated jargon in the bottom three.
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