Fresh Workspace Director Paul Goodchild and his wife Rachel have completed their six day trek along the 102 miles of the Cotswold Way to raise money for a South West based homeless charity. As of today, the walk has raised more than £3,600 for the charity, smashing the target by more than 20 percent and contributions continue to roll in. Although blessed with great weather throughout the walk, it was not without its challenges as Paul’s daily blog would attest.
The onion metaphor is very familiar to everybody as a way of describing how the core of an issue is usually surrounded by a number of layers which we must peel back if we are to discover what lies at the heart. When it comes to the workplace, the core questions are related to cost, productivity, wellbeing and identity. We are fortunate that there is a large and growing body of evidence that not only shows us how to tackle such issues with office design and management, but also the ways they are interrelated. When we address one specific issue, there’s a good chance we’ll be addressing the others as a matter of course.
Nearly two thirds (63 percent) of UK employees experience stress in their jobs, according to a new study of workplace wellbeing by Happiness Works on behalf of Robert Half UK. Of those who find their roles demanding, nearly one in 10 said their job was very stressful. To address the high-levels of stress and other issues among employees, organisations are introducing wellbeing initiatives to support the physical and mental health of employees at work. Nearly half (48 percent) of businesses offer tools designed to promote wellbeing in the workplace, with one in seven providing stress management seminars or training and annual leave for personal and mental wellbeing. Other initiatives being introduced include counselling (17 percent), leaving work early on a Friday (17 percent) and limiting the amount of overtime that employees can do (11 percent).
People have now been talking about the death of the office for over twenty years. This talk always was premature because, although it rightly acknowledged the profound impact of new technology and new working cultures on office design, it also ignored the true nature of the office. If workplaces were just work-places as some of the more dire predictions claimed, then we would not have seen the development of a new generation of office interior design solutions.
Fresh Workspace Design Director Paul Goodchild and his wife Rachel have started out on their trek along the 102 miles of the Cotswold Way to raise money for a South West based homeless charity. The route takes in some of England’s most breath-taking scenery, but the six days planned for the walk between Chipping Camden and Bath Cathedral won’t be any less arduous for that. The duo intend to cover between 16 and 23 miles a day, whatever the weather and in spite of Rachel’s fibromyalgia. This is a condition that can cause her muscle stiffness and fatigue, but does nothing to daunt her spirit. You can keep up to date with their progress via a blog that they have created by clicking here.
Barely a day passes recently when some or other think tank or Government department isn’t publishing an apocalyptic forecast about what will happen to jobs as a result of automation and robotics. Yet recently a new picture has started to emerge, typified by one published by PwC last week. The study claims that up to a third of jobs will be automated by the 2030s, but that the end result for most people will be a displacement of jobs, rather than their eradication. The first indications of how this might play out are starting to become clear as driverless vehicles become the first automated products that come into common usage. Most of the major car manufacturers worldwide are trialling well developed systems and tech firms like Google and Apple as well as sharing economy pioneers like Uber.
This is not just Brexit week, it’s also Flexible Working Week. In both regards, it’s no surprise to find that occupiers’ real estate priorities are increasingly focused on introducing flexible working and efficiency gains as well enhancing workplace strategies in a quest to make space work smarter, according to the 2017 CBRE European Occupier Survey. Unsurprisingly, greater use of technology is seen as the key enabler of these objectives. The overriding challenge for businesses is economic uncertainty, which is up by six percentage points to 64%, and is more than thirty percentage points higher than any other response this year. Political developments will have undoubtedly played a part in this, specifically uncertainty over the timing and terms of Brexit, and the changing policy regime in the US.
The workplace revolution we foresaw twenty odd years ago was supposed to have eradicated some of the oldest challenges known to facilities managers. The most prominent amongst these was churn, described in the Facilities Design and Management Handbook by its author Eric Teichholz as “the basic driver of the facilities management workload.” Defined as the proportion of employees who move within an office each year and the costs associated, churn was seen as a product of long leases, hierarchical space planning, tethered technology, desk ownership and static working. So the solutions were perceived to lie in developing an office interior design that dealt with those issues. The problem is that change is not only a fact of life, it is necessary.
Companies could boost their productivity by between 1 and 3.5 per cent, adding as much as £70 billion to the UK economy, by focusing on how the workplace might be used to generate revenue, instead of regarding them simply as a cost to be managed. That is according to the newly published The Workplace Advantage report from The Stoddart Review based on a meta-analysis of 200 studies by workplace expert Dr Nigel Oseland. Taking a new approach to how space is used to help employees to be productive and changing who is responsible for the decisions is the first step. The Review, a collaboration between business leaders and workplace experts, found that only a little over a half (53 percent) of the UK’s office workers can say their workplace enables them to be productive. For the rest, a workplace that’s unproductive is also affecting their pride in the company, its image and culture. It found that too many businesses are prioritising filling up their offices with people rather than asking themselves ‘what will make their staff productive’. As a result, as many as 70 percent say their office is too noisy and they are disappointed by the lack of different types of workspace including communal areas and break-out zones.
The challenge for most large organisations nowadays is often likened to being something akin to making an elephant dance. This metaphor has become a bit of a cliché in its own right since the American businessman Louis Gerstner used it as the title of his memoir describing how he had turned round the fortunes of IBM in the 1990s. It all boils down to how organisations can stay ahead of the curve in a world in which innovation is not only relentless but which can spring from unexpected and external sources such as changes in the economy and government policy. And, of course there’s nothing quite like a harsh economic climate to drive innovation. The pressure on budgets across the economy in general and the public sector in particular is driving a revolution in the way property is procured, designed and managed in the UK.