December 3, 2019
The BBC recently published a piece on its website to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of Ridley Scott’s movie Alien and what it could tell us about office design and the workplace (of whatever sort). One of the interesting points raised in the piece was how the depiction of the conditions on board the spaceship Nostromo did away with the gloss and swish of previous visions of the future, replaced by grime, exposed services and strictly utilitarian interiors. The environment was one of the characters, a trick Ridley Scott later repeated in Bladerunner. More →
May 14, 2019
The idea of a cocktail party might be a bit dated, but it is the perfect metaphor for describing one aspect of the most common complaints about modern office design. An idea called the cocktail party effect has been known to neuroscientists for decades. It describes how we are able to filter out a large amount of noise and focus almost completely on just one source of sound. So, while we clutch our Manhattan, we can listen intently to just one person and ignore the babble of voices that might otherwise drown them out. We can tune in to the source we think is important and tune out everything else.
February 28, 2019
In his 2018 book The Square and the Tower, the historian Niall Ferguson argues that over a period of hundreds of years the world has been shaped primarily by two distinct organisational forces: networks and hierarchies. These are the square and the tower of the book’s title. Their interplay has been at the heart of major world events and the lessons that arise apply to what we now mistakenly assume to be a uniquely networked era. Although the book addresses the great themes of history, it also offers up a compelling metaphor that can be scaled down to describe a number of other human domains. One of the most important of these is the workplace, which has its own challenges when it comes to both networks and hierarchies.
August 19, 2018
The culture within which we work determines how effective, successful, fulfilled and well we are in both our professional and personal lives. The organisations for which we work – on whatever basis that might be – the physical surroundings they create, and the other places in which we choose to work are now woven into the fabric of our lives as never before. The technological immersion that allows us to work in new ways also means that each day becomes a series of experiences. Because we are free to work wherever and whenever we choose, we are increasingly able to determine the nature of those experiences. For those who design and manage offices this represents both a great opportunity and an unprecedented series of challenges.
July 20, 2018
In a 1973 essay called Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination, the science fiction writer Arthur C Clarke sets out Three Laws regarding our relationship with technology. Only the third of these is well remembered these days:. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. He was one of the first writers to coin the sort of law that have now become commonplace on the subject of the way our world, including the workplace, can be disrupted by technological developments. They include a corollary to Clarke’s: Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced (Gehm’s Law)
July 5, 2018
In 2017, a content creator called Oobah Butler decided that he wanted to do something with the experience he’d gained writing fake positive restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor. What if, he wondered, he set up an entirely fictitious restaurant based in the shed in his garden and then started to manipulate TripAdvisor ratings? What happened surpassed his wildest expectations. In just six months, The Shed at Dulwich became the top-rated restaurant in London, even though nobody had ever actually eaten there, based solely on fake reviews, fake pictures and the word of mouth created by a complete inability for anybody to book a table.
November 24, 2017
In his famous 1988 book The Design of Everyday Things, the cognitive scientist Donald Norman suggests that the way we interact with objects and our surroundings is determined almost entirely by their design. People cannot be the primary reason things succeed or fail, because they are constant, while the design of the object itself is the variable. People can expect to learn how to use things better, but without an underlying people-centric and intuitive approach to design, the design will fail to some degree or other. He concludes that the designer should focus their attention on the interaction between people and the design of objects and surroundings. This principle becomes more relevant with each passing day, as the number of interactions we have with designed objects increases. This is most obvious with regard to our interactions with technology, but it is also apparent across our entire lives.
September 28, 2017
The best way of getting what you want is invariably to follow the simplest route. Research, experience and common sense tell us that in most cases, simple systems achieve better, faster and less expensive results and that the success of any project will often be in inverse proportion to the number of people involved in the system used to implement it, the number of decisions these people have to make between them, and the number of times they have to communicate with each other. Complexity is the enemy of success. Simplicity is all. And it is this that is the underlying principle behind ‘Design and Build’; often the best, fastest and least expensive method of developing and implementing an office design project, yet also one of the least understood, especially with regard to its ability to deliver exceptional design. This White Paper is aimed both at those who want to find out more about this uniquely effective method of completing a project, but also at those who may have mistaken preconceptions about Design and Build. This is an idea whose time has come and it is all based on the most fundamental of all fundamental principles: by keeping things as uncomplicated as possible, it can often deliver the best value, best design and the best response to a brief in the quickest time and at the lowest cost.
Charles Marks is the Managing Director of office design and fit-out company Fresh Workspace. www.freshworkspace.com
February 24, 2017
The traditional structures of work and education were forged in the fires of the Industrial Revolution. They shared many characteristics. They were rigid, hierarchical and based on a patriarchal approach to achieving their aims. In education, this manifested itself in the traditional didactic form that was, until recently, seen as the ideal model, based on teachers, tutors and lecturers imparting knowledge and learning to their pupils and students as part of an agreed curriculum and to an approved timetable. How well this process turned out was checked with periodic testing. For some time now, people have been questioning this structure and, with it, the design of learning environments. Over the past few decades, we have not only developed the technologies to allow us to learn in new ways, we have also developed a far better understanding of the processes involved.
July 16, 2015
The apparently compelling idea that ‘sitting is the new smoking’ is given yet another shoeing by new research which confirms that long term standing at work can be harmful too, in both the short and long term. The study, “Long-Term Muscle Fatigue After Standing Work” is published in the journal Human Factors and available to read in full here. It found that prolonged standing is associated with a range of health issues including fatigue, leg cramps, and backaches, which can affect performance and cause significant discomfort in the short term and develop into something more in the long term. Over time, this type of sustained muscle fatigue can result in serious health consequences, according to the academics who carried out the research behind it. It confirms previous research which shows that health problems are associated with a lack of variation in working position, not a specific position.
June 1, 2015
By 2040 knowledge workers will decide where and how they want to work, according to a new report on the workplace of the future by Johnson Controls’ Global Workplace Solutions business. The Smart Workplace 2040 report claims that 25 years from now, work will be seen as something workers do, rather than a place to which they commute. According to the study, work patterns will be radically different as a new generation of what it terms ‘workspace consumers’ choose their time and place of work. Most workers will frequently work from home, and will choose when to visit work hubs to meet and network with others. There will be no set hours and the emphasis will be on getting work done, while workers’ wellness will take priority. Technology will bring together networks of individuals who operate in an entrepreneurial way, with collaboration the major driver of business performance.
March 25, 2015
Much of what has been called workplace strategy in recent years has been more about cutting costs than supporting people, often to the detriment of the latter. That is the central claim of a new report authored by Kate Lister and Tom Harnish of Global Workplace Analytics and sponsored by office furniture maker Knoll. The paper, What’s Good for People? Moving from Wellness to Well-Being, explores how better workplaces, processes and practices can improve workplace wellbeing, employee engagement and organisational performance. The study starts from the premise that people are dealing with unprecedented stresses and pressures in the workplace which now need to be addressed in the context of a recovering economy, the limits of an approach that focuses on doing more with less and an increasingly scant pool of human resources and talents.