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UK businesses have mixed attitudes to flexible working, according to two new studies

Flexible working City of LondonThe mixed attitude of businesses towards flexible working generally – and a new tranche of UK regulation in particular – is evident in two new studies. While a Citrix survey found that under half of small and medium sized business owners support the new flexible working legislation due to come into force at the end of this month with even fewer seeing it as a positive development, another study by recruitment consultants Robert Half found that two-thirds of large financial services firms use flexible working as a way of attracting and retaining employees. According to the report, this is particularly important in The City right now because  many prospective employees are put off by the poor image of the financial services industry and so firms are keen to make themselves more attractive employers so are turning to flexible working and better workplaces to entice high-grade staff.

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Record uptake of flexible working masks what is really changing about the way we work

Flexible workingThis week the Office for National Statistics has released new figures which show that flexible working is at a record high in the UK. The headline figure from the ONS is that 14 percent of the UK workforce now either work at home full time (5 percent) or use their home as a base (8.9 percent). This represents a 1.3 million increase over the six years since the onset of the recession. The report shows that those working from home are typically skilled, older (half between the age of 25 and 49 with 40 percent of over 65s classed as homeworkers) and better paid than the average worker (30 percent higher than the national average). The Government is claiming it as a victory for the promotion of flexible working through legislation and the TUC as a sign of the increasingly enlightened approach of bosses in helping employees find a better work life balance. And they’re both wrong.

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New guidance published on greening the building supply chain

Greening the building supply chainA major new report on the building and construction sector, “Greening the Building Supply Chain”, has been launched by the United Nations Environment Programme’s Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative (UNEP-SBCI). The report notes that while the need to understand and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from buildings during their operation has become increasingly recognized, efforts related to the resource use in the building supply chain appear to be less advanced. For that reason the scope of the report, co-authored by Skanska, UNEP and IMS Consulting, extends beyond the well-established benefits associated with green buildings themselves (such as energy efficiency). Instead it is intended to help stakeholders better understand resource use in the building and the construction supply chain as a whole, and identify opportunities to promote greater resource efficiency in the sector as well as and contribute towards wider socio-economic goals. More →

What is expense management costing you and your business?

Brown envelope cashTime is money.  That’s why organisations are placing an ever-growing emphasis on improving productivity and streamlining administrative processes to encourage employees to focus on value-added activities. So I’m staggered by how many otherwise forward-thinking companies are still reliant on old-fashioned, paper-based expense management processes.  Expenses are an obvious time-sink for claimants themselves and  is often portrayed as a dull task; but badly managed expense processing costs employees and businesses money. A survey conducted by Access aCloud has discovered that employees are losing £45 a year owing to interest charges due to the waiting period of reimbursement – with a collective £2.1 billion lost by 46 million workers each year. In the UK, the average waiting time for expenses to be paid is 3.3 weeks. However, the survey revealed that over 20 per cent of people spend 6.3 weeks chasing their employer for their claims to be paid. More →

A third of UK workers would welcome a digital assistant to free up their time

digital assistant

A vision of the present. © Pixar Studios

In the 2008 Pixar film WALL-E, humans have fled the planet they have destroyed in an orgy of garbage-generating mass-consumerism and been reduced to morbidly obese, sedentary lumps living vicariously through screens and whose every need is catered for by the machines around them. Well, they say the best science fiction is really about the present day and sure enough, it appears that many of us are perfectly happy with the idea of suckling at the galvanised teat of a robot overlord. A new survey carried out by ClickSoftware  claims that a third of UK employees would welcome the idea of having a personal digital assistant to help them carry out everyday tasks. Over half (58 percent) hope that intelligent apps will take on at least a tenth of their workload in the future, especially those tasks considered mundane and repetitive such as administration, work scheduling and planning journeys.

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Trust in ethical behaviour is linked to the size of the business, claims report

Ethical behaviourThe larger the firm the less likely it is to trust its employees to behave ethically according to a new report from the Association of Accounting Technicians. The research also found that UK’s most ethical businesses are small architectural practices. According to the research, conducted by Opinion Matters on behalf of AAT, only 37 per cent of SMEs trust their staff to do the right thing compared to 66 per cent of microbusinesses. The report also found that firms in the architectural sector have more faith in the ethical decision making of their employees and are more concerned about the ethical behaviour of suppliers than in any other industry. Interestingly, the report highlights the fact that, as the number of employees increases, businesses are more likely to dedicate a member of staff dedicated to fostering ethical behaviour and have a formal code of conduct.

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CoreNet issues phase one of road-map to zero energy buildings

Road map to net-energy buildingsCoreNet Global and the Rocky Mountain Institute have issued new guidance that lays out a framework for corporations to better manage their energy usage. According to Next Generation Energy Management, corporations have made progress in energy management and performance since 2007 when CoreNet Global and RMI first collaborated on this topic. Over two-thirds of corporations now have a sustainability agenda and staff as well as energy management plans, and nearly half have dedicated energy managers, a position that was only just emerging in 2007. However, research indicates that in many cases, these efforts have plateaued, so the new report is designed as Phase One of a road map toward the goal of net-zero buildings, in which buildings use the same or less energy than they generate through the use of renewables such as solar and wind power. More →

3XN chosen as preferred partner to design new Olympic HQ


3XN is also designing the DreamCenter

Danish firm 3XN has been chosen by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as its preferred architectural partner for the design of the new IOC headquarters. It will be located on a 24.000 square metre site on the banks of Lake Geneva to provide an ‘Olympic campus’ of administrative buildings for 500 employees. The IOC announced its intention last year to regroup all its staff, currently spread throughout Lausanne at a number of sites; arguing a new HQ would result in substantial savings in rental fees, increased working efficiency and energy conservation. If the project, which is dependent on discussions and decisions with the relevant Swiss authorities goes ahead, it will add another building to a number of projects by 3XN for big international organizations such as the DreamWorks Animation DreamCenter complex [pictured] and the United Nations. More →

Robotic managers likely to lack empathy and forget ethics, claims CMI report

RobotA new report into the judgements of managers has concluded that they are significantly more prone to responding in a ‘robotic’ way to moral questions than the general population, relying on handed-down rules rather than their own ethical standards. The report, Managers and their Moral DNA, was commissioned by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) in conjunction with personality testing website Moral DNA. It found that nearly three quarters of managers (74 percent) lack empathy and  do not fully consider the moral consequences  when they take decisions, which is 28 percent higher than the general population.  The report also claims that managers are 4 percent more compliant with rules and 5 percent less caring in their ethical decision-making at work than in their personal lives, a figure that tallies with other results from the Moral DNA database according to the report’s authors.

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CIBSE’s new website inspired by iconic new City of London building

5 Broadgate

5 Broadgate in the City of London

The look and feel of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers’ (CIBSE) new website, which was unveiled this week, has been inspired by a building. According to CIBSE the modular, precise design of 5 Broadgate, designed by Make Architects is echoed in the modern new design, improved user navigation and optimisation for mobile and smart devices of its new website. 5 Broadgate, the new City headquarters for financial services firm UBS, is a 700,000 sq ft, 12 storey building based on a single block form, featuring deep reveals to windows and openings that are designed to add to its overall feeling of substance. The new building will include up to four trading floors, each able to accommodate approximately 750 traders, allowing UBS to consolidate its London trading operations into one building, when fully occupied in 2016. More →

Might a lack of joined-up thinking undermine UK high-tech ambitions?

Old Street: the UK's tech epicentre

Old Street: the UK’s tech epicentre

Over the past week both Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson have offered up visions of economic success founded on new technology. Yet, as the CBI points out in a new report pinpointing the dearth of talent needed to  make such dreams a reality, politicians often appear to ignore the realities of a situation. In its new report, Engineering our Future,  the CBI calls for significant action to make a career in the key disciplines of science, technology, engineering and maths more attractive and easier to pursue. The report points out that these are the skills needed to underpin the Government’s stated focus on the tech, environmental, engineering and manufacturing industries that will shape the country’s future and is calling for a cut in tuition fees, new courses and inter-disciplinary qualifications to allow those skills to flourish.

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Business continuity report confirms technology still biggest threat to firms

Lock backgroundForget the recent UK floods. When it comes to risks to their businesses, it’s still tech that keeps business leaders awake at night, according to the latest annual Business Continuity Institute Horizon Scan report. Technology related threats continue to rank higher than natural disasters, security and industrial action according to the report which gauges the threats that organisations consider to be their biggest concerns. Nearly four-fifths of business leaders fear that an unplanned technological event, cyber attack or data breach will harm their business. Nearly three quarters (73 percent) consider malicious attacks through the Internet a major threat that needs to be managed closely, while nearly two-thirds (63 percent) think that social media remains a challenge. Meanwhile, one of last year’s threats – supply chain resilience – dropped out of the top ten completely.

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