When it comes to the world’s most fast moving industries, information technology firms tend to grab most of the headlines. Yet some of the world’s most advanced and innovative companies don’t work in the information technology sector. One of the world’s leading life sciences firms is also one of its most successful. Sigma-Aldrich as part of its collaboration with Merck employs 19,000 people worldwide as part of its operations in 66 countries, providing chemical and biochemical products to organisations working in the research, health manufacturing and academic sectors.
When we talk about the UK’s success in creativity and innovation, one sector is frequently overlooked in favour of cutting edge digital and media firms. The UK’s pharmaceutical industry enjoys a reputation as one of the world’s most innovative and successful business sectors. Its tale can best be told in numbers. It includes the fifth and sixth largest companies in the world in GlaxoSmithKline AstraZeneca and GSK. It directly employs around 72,000 people of which around a third work in research and development. In 2012, the pharmaceutical sector’s contribution to the balance of trade was the third greatest of nine major industrial sectors and in 2013, its trade surplus was over £2.8 billion.
One of the enduring forces that shape facilities management thinking is the growing business case for treating buildings as a strategic asset. You may have heard it many times, but the figures behind this are indisputable. For most organisations the total operating cost of their property runs at between 10 and 20 per cent of their annual operating costs. By any measure, that is a significant proportion of expenditure. So it’s no wonder that so many organisations are increasingly aware of the need to look at every aspect of their facilities budget to both minimise costs and leverage their second most expensive asset. While the proportion of this budget that is taken up by specific types of space clearly varies with each organisation, the issue of how to specify and manage meeting rooms is one of the most important of all.
To say that the legal sector in the UK is in a state of flux would be a bit of an understatement. Over the past few years, the sector has been going through nothing short of a revolution in the way that it works. Not only have law firms had to cope with the same accelerated pace of change common to all other organisations, they have had to move quickly to adapt to specific structural changes in their own industry. These changes have re-shaped every aspect of their businesses. From the way they market themselves to the way they recruit and retain staff. From the way they manage information to the way they use technology. From how they work to where they work.
Over the past few years, our views on the ownership of things has shifted markedly. As individuals, we are happy to enjoy music through services such as Spotify, watch films on Netflix and more and more of us are happy to lease cars and other products. The same forces are also at work in the business world, especially for assets such as vehicles and IT, including software, printers and photocopiers. Firms are attracted to leasing for many reasons, but especially to keep costs down, manage cash flow, enjoy upgrades and retain a degree of flexibility to manage change in what their business needs. This same thinking is now helping to drive the use of leasing for other assets, including some that many people don’t typically associate with this form of acquisition. Office fit-out and refurbishment offer particularly good examples and a growing number of organisations are waking up to the ways in which leasing can help them unlock projects, improve cash flow, manage the growth of their business, reduce their fiscal exposure and create an office that is truly adaptable and upgradable.
So far, the main impact of Brexit has been to make the future uncertain. You couldn’t ever argue this was a good thing but past experience tells us – or should tell us – that adversity and uncertainty in the economy often sparks both a renewed focus on property and workplaces and a great deal of innovation in response from the profession. The development of workplace design and management thinking has largely been characterised by what evolutionary scientists would term punctuated equilibrium: ongoing steady development interspersed with periods of innovation in response to rapidly changing conditions.
We’ve written before about how patterns influence the way we design workplaces, and not just in terms of the materials and finishes we choose. The human drive to find meaning in the world is nothing more or less than the drive to identify and interpret patterns in all that we see. So here are seven things you may not know about patterns.
Of all the things we buy with the exception of our clothes, furniture is the most intimate, the one we spend most time in contact with. According to JG Ballard who dedicated a lifetime to understanding our relationship with the world around us: ‘furniture constitutes an external constellation of our skin areas and body postures’.
If a workspace doesn’t have a slide or at least a ping pong table, you might be under the impression it isn’t an enjoyable place to work. This of course might be the case, but it won’t necessarily be because its lacking in Silicon Valley-style office perks. There are bigger design factors at play that determine whether employees feel content in their working environment. A recent report by Office Genie found that being comfortable with the design of the space you work in can boost happiness levels by a third, so it’s certainly worth giving the subject of design (and its relation to happiness) some serious attention. The Workplace Happiness Report, resulting from a survey of 2,000 office workers in the UK, discovered the design factors impacting employee happiness.
One of the most talked about office design trends right now is activity based working. The principle itself is pretty simple: it means work that is based on a range of specific activities which people do in a number of different and appropriate locations. Because it is something of an alternative to the tradition of personal workstations and because it allows people to work both in a traditional workplace (albeit in task specific zones) as well as other places, it is usually associated with the wider trend towards more flexible forms of working. It is typified in the current era by a range like Atom designed by Simon Pengelly for Boss Design.