As successive BCO Specification Guides and the research of organisations like CoreNet Global have proved, the spatial dynamics of offices have changed dramatically in recent years. Put simply, the modern office serves significantly more people per square foot than ever before. Originally this tightening was largely down to the growing ubiquity of flat screen and the mobile devices, but more recently the major driver of change appears to be the gradual disappearance of personal workstations in favour of more shared space. The upshot is that the amount of space allocated to each individual in a building has fallen by over a fifth in a few years and the very idea of using the number of employees to determine and their individual space requirements without other considerations seems less relevant. The typical space allocated to an individual in a building has shrunk dramatically in the last few years, while the provision of public and meeting space has increased.
We’ve long argued that the link between the places and the ways we work have a direct link to productivity. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, really. And now a new report from the world’s largest economic organisation shows that it’s common to all countries across the globe. The OECD has published a new report which uses data from firms in eight countries (Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom) to assess the link between ‘business dynamics’ and productivity. The study, Business Dynamics and Productivity, claims that a dynamic business environment plays ‘an important role not only as a key driver of job creation but also as an engine of productivity growth. A growing body of research highlights significant differences in business dynamics across countries and over time, in particular over the different phases of the business cycle.’
Open-plan offices are meant to encourage collaboration and contribute to a collective workplace experience, but they also come with serious drawbacks. New research claims that more than half of employees said poor office acoustic design reduces their satisfaction at work. Many feel compelled to solve the problem on their own, blocking out distraction through visits to break out spaces, taking walks outside, or listening to white noise and music on headsets or headphones. The survey of more than 600 executives and 600 employees by Oxford Economics and Plantronics set out to understand what works for employees—and what doesn’t—about open-plan layouts, and to test for disconnects between workers and their managers. The results show that threats to productivity and worker peace of mind are bigger issues than most executives realise, and most do not have the technology or strategies in place to deal with the problems. The survey found that one of the biggest issues is that employers don’t always appreciate the problems. Workers want to work, and their ability to focus without interruptions is a top priority and when it comes to office design; access to amenities like free food is far less important. However, nearly two-thirds of executives say employees are equipped with the tools they need to deal with distractions at work; but less than half of employees agree.
Inaccessible workplaces are too common a problem that people face in accessing buildings and public spaces, and the Government must lead a charge in improving access and inclusion in the built environment, according to a report by an influential cross party committee published last week. The Women and Equalities Committee’s Disability and the Built Environment inquiry has been examining the extent to which those with accessibility issues are considered and accommodated in our built environment, and whether more could be done to increase the accessibility and inclusivity of both new and existing properties and spaces. The report recommends public procurement, fiscal initiatives and transparently modelling best practice, while bringing the full range of work on improving access and inclusion in the built environment into a coherent and transparent strategy, with the Department for Communities and Local Government held responsible for making this happen.
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.