October 21, 2014
Twenty years ago the typical office was a busy place, with printers running, big, bulky computers taking up desk space, post it notes, notepads, scanners and fax machines whirring in the background. In today’s workplace, desks are barren in comparison to the offices of a generation ago, purely because there is little need for so much stuff. With the introduction of modern digital devices it is no surprise that the concept of the ‘work station’ as we once knew has changed. The truth is, almost everything we use in the office nowadays is readily available online, with even websites being created for the specific purpose of serving as online meeting rooms. This means the concept of a physical office, where colleagues go to collaborate, share opinions and exchange meeting notes, is no longer a completely valid concept. With this in mind, are desks really needed to create a solid working environment anymore? more…
October 21, 2014
There is a well travelled international circuit for those interested in what office design tells us about the way we work that has, for a number of years, taken in London, Milan, Chicago, Stockholm and Cologne as its main stopping off points. This week sees the launch of Orgatec, the longstanding biennial workplace festival in Cologne. One of the interesting features of Orgatec is that, because it takes place every two years, it offers snapshots of key developments in the market. It throws a spotlight on whatever workplace professionals are talking about and whatever product designers are doing in response to the changing world of work. And it does it on a big scale. This year over 600 companies from 40 countries will be presenting across an exhibition area of 105,000 sq. m. This seems big, and is, but is down markedly on the size of the show from 20 years ago when Orgatec was the launch pad for seminal products such as Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair and the Ad Hoc furniture system from Vitra.
October 20, 2014
“The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.” I don’t believe this famous quote from the poet Robert Frost is particularly true but it appears to be an assumption that certain people make when it comes to creating those lists of office design that they describe as fun, trendy, cool or quirky or some other inappropriate, tired adjective. Invariably these offices feature such decidedly uncool and untrendy things as slides, swings and treehouses. One of the latest examples of this kind of thing is to be found on the BBC website with a number of pictures submitted by the sorts of adults who are not ashamed to claim that their idea of fun at work is apparently a meeting in a ballpool or on a swing. Of course, they don’t really think that, except in a work context. I’d bet they can easily walk past the ballpool at Ikea without feeling the need to dive in as an alternative to picking out a sofa.
October 17, 2014
A workplace’s design may divide occupiers’ opinions, but is not usually a source of conflict. However, when it comes to the temperature of the office, tempers can flare. Legal guidance is sketchy, as health and safety law demands that workplaces must not fall below 16C, but doesn’t set an optimum temperature. This leaves the ‘ambient’ office temperature very much open to interpretation. Earlier this year, researchers from Lancaster University advised that the average office temperature of 22 degrees C was way too high, and that simply turning down the thermostat and asking occupants to don another layer could do much to address global warming. Now over 70 per cent of workers have reported their ability to work is compromised by the temperature in the office. In a survey conducted by Business Environment, two thirds admitted to getting annoyed when a colleague changed the air con to a setting they were not comfortable with and this annoyance can escalate, with 58 per cent admitting that rows have broken out over the office temperature. more…
October 17, 2014
The sharp reduction in the amount of office space used by corporate occupiers as they adopt more agile working practices has been confirmed in a new study from facilities management services provider MITIE. The survey, as reported in the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) magazine FM World, found that between the years of 2008 and 2014 firms reduced their floorspace by an average of 45 percent. The results of the report, based on interviews with property directors, mirror those of the Occupier Density Survey published last year by the British Council for Offices (BCO) which also found a marked (if smaller) reduction. The authors of the MITIE report conclude, similarly, that the economic downturn has been the main catalyst for the reduction in property used by occupiers and that the main way firms have accommodated the fall is with the uptake of flexible working practices.
October 17, 2014
One of the current preoccupations of the World Green Building Council is to demonstrate how green business is good business. The way it is presenting this argument is intriguing because as well as extolling the most anticipated benefits of green building design, such as lower energy bills, it is linking green building design with human factors such as productivity, wellness and work-life balance. It has produced a number of reports on this subject, most recently in September with a publication titled Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Offices which found ‘overwhelming evidence’ of the link between office design and productivity. What such compelling reports also highlight are the complex challenges we face and the sophisticated approach we must take to environmental issues and corporate social responsibility. Fortunately this is already exhibited by many organisations.
October 17, 2014
Deloitte Digital has launched the final version of its report into the collaborative economy carried out on behalf of Google Australia. An interim report, published in July, estimated that the benefits of collaboration to the Australian economy is already $46 billion and could rise to $56 billion. The report also claims that collaboration could help to address specific structural problems including falling productivity and a comparative lack of innovation. The study claims that the average Australian worker spends just under half of a typical working day interacting with other people but that there remains considerable room for improvement in the way those interactions take place. The final version of the report also includes a toolkit to help individuals and organisations to gauge their level and success of their collaborative work. Tellingly, the test is weighted one-third to workplace design, one-third to technology and one-third to culture and governance.
October 10, 2014
That’s the key question for delegates coming to this year’s Workplace Week Convention at PWC’s More London office on the 6th November. Entitled ‘The Work/place revolution….taking human performance to new levels’ the convention aims to explore what organisations need to do to get ‘personal best’ performance from every worker on the payroll.For years, the management of Facilities has been viewed by many leaders as ‘non core’, but recent research by AWA (Advanced Workplace Associates),the organisers of Workplace Week, suggests that this may no longer be true for knowledge based businesses. ‘It’s becoming clear that the way the workplace is designed and managed can have a really dramatic impact on the performance of knowledge workers in ways that have not previously considered. Knowledge workers think for a living it’s critical that everything is created to give them the best chance of delivering a great performance.
October 10, 2014
Last year, I had the pleasure of producing a case study of the new offices of Wiltshire County Council for Mix Interiors magazine. Given that the building was this week shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Better Public Buildings Award and had already won an award from the BCO, we thought this seemed a good time to retread its corridors of power…. The recession has led the UK government to develop a number of new approaches to public sector buildings. But some of the UK’s local authorities are way ahead of the new thinking. Even so, there was a time, not so long ago, when nobody worried too much about the shape of the rooms that led off the corridors of power. But the pressure on UK public finances has politicised the design of the UK’s public buildings, with the government launching a wide range of initiatives to improve the efficiency of the way public sector acquires, designs and runs the places it calls home.
October 9, 2014
The BCO has announced the winners of its prestigious annual National Awards to honour what it considers Britain’s best workplaces. The overall winner was Number One Riverside in Rochdale (above). The office, home to Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, was also recognised as the Best Corporate Workplace in the UK, and topped a list of six other award winners recognised for excellence in office space. Number One Riverside was singled out by the judges for its consolidation of the Council’s estate from 33 buildings into one. The project is also the centrepiece for the first phase of a major regeneration in the borough of Rochdale, ‘providing a new civic office that promotes new ways of working and creates a sense of community, engagement and social transparency.’ The building was commended by the judges for its incorporation of a range of public space alongside the workplace, including a library and cafe and customer service facilities.
October 6, 2014
It is still depressingly commonplace to read proclamations of the death of the office. These are usually appended to some survey or other about the rise of flexible working or a case study of a workplace devoid of desks (or, more likely, one in which none are pictured). Of course, the actual conclusion we can draw from such things is that the office as we once knew it is now dead or mutating into something else, but that’s true for every aspect of modern life. The constant factor that ensures offices will always exist, in some form or other is the human they serve. We know that because, as Tom Allen proved at MIT in the 1980s, people communicate less well the greater the physical distance between them. Now new research from Stanford University shows how the very idea of ‘togetherness’ can have a significant impact on the way people perform. The study, by researchers Priyanka Carr and Gregory Walton was published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and concluded that ‘social cues that signal an invitation to work with others can fuel intrinsic motivation’.
October 6, 2014
Perhaps the most widely reported news from the world of workplace over the last couple of weeks has been the analysis from the World Green Building Council that links office design with productivity and wellness. And the two words from the report that have featured most commonly in the associated stories’ headlines have been ‘overwhelming evidence’. While this has been repeated as if it’s some kind of revelation, the truth is that we have had compelling and overwhelming evidence for many years, and barely a year goes past without some study or other making the same point in no uncertain terms. Each report merely serves to raise a more interesting question; given the sheer body of work linking the workplace with productivity (and happiness and motivation and so on), why does the argument still need to be made?