WDM Newsletter – June 2017

June 19, 2017

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 15/06/2017. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

Exploring Smart Buildings and Smart Occupiers

WDMheader2017-06The ThinkFM Conference 2017 explored how technology impacts the role of the Facilities Manager and, indeed, the entire workforce. There is no doubt that connectivity and wireless technology in its many incarnations – the Internet of Things (IoT) – is making it easier to monitor buildings and equipment as well as anticipate faults. This improves preventative maintenance and many workplace services dramatically. Much more interesting to me was how much may be achieved by monitoring people as well! We are already familiar with occupancy monitors and wearable technology that can assess our steps, posture and heart rate. [more]

Responsible, innovative and beautiful

eva_chairThe new Eva from Orangebox places the company firmly in the premier league of international seating and furniture manufacturers. I was privileged to be part of a small focus group to see and comment on the concept in the last few weeks before its launch. It is very clear that enormous attention has been paid to every facet of its development and construction. The sleek, minimalist profile creates an elegant chair and aids its outstanding sustainability story. Simultaneously, the simple, intuitive controls combine with a wide adjustability range to maximise comfort. Contact us to experience the chair yourself.

There is more to Wellbeing than fabulous furniture

wellbeing2The buzzword at CDW 2017 was Wellbeing. I am delighted to see that the designers of mainstream workplace environments are recognising the importance of Human Factors and Ergonomics (HF&E) but we know that issues to consider under the Wellbeing heading are numerous and diverse, extending way beyond the provision of comfortable, attractive furniture. We see mental health as a major cause for concern for many of our clients so it is important to address this alongside physical health and employee engagement for a successful, productive workforce. [more]

Education & training opportunities

webinarHave you looked at our event diary recently? We run regular webinars alongside periodic training and education events on topics relevant to senior managers in all organisations. Whether you are in Facilities, HR, Health & Safety or Procurement, there will be subjects that resonate with your current priorities. Recent webinar sessions include ‘Is it true what they say about Millennials?’ and ‘Zero Inbox – the Basics of Email Management’. Many events are free! Check the page regularly to see what else we have added.

IoT & Big Data – where is it leading?

June 15, 2017

smart_building250x250The ThinkFM Conference 2017 explored how technology impacts the role of the Facilities Manager and, indeed, the entire workforce. There is no doubt that connectivity and wireless technology in its many incarnations – the Internet of Things (IoT) – is making it easier to monitor buildings and equipment as well as anticipate faults. This improves preventative maintenance and many workplace services dramatically. Much more interesting to me was how much may be achieved by monitoring people as well! We are already familiar with occupancy monitors and wearable technology that can assess our steps, posture and heart rate. How much further will this go – and will we accept it?

We all recognise that Google and others simplify our lives by giving us ready access to information (although Google still can’t help when I ask it where I put my car keys!). We also understand that there is a quid pro quo of surrendering data about ourselves in order to improve the experience and information available to us. Whilst I am delighted and entertained by what technology can do for us, I am increasingly agitated by the dichotomy that exists between the benefits and the intrusion.

robotIn his opening address at ThinkFM, BIFM Chairman Stephen Roots listed the New Generation of Robots as one of the top ten trends impacting the workplace. The loss of jobs to automation is widely discussed and a genuine cause for concern in the medium term. Are we all accelerating that outcome by volunteering the data that will make it possible? Uber may not be a company we look to for management inspiration but it is certainly one to watch for technological innovation. They are actively exploring driverless vehicles, whilst their existing drivers are allocated jobs by sophisticated software. One might argue that this is already management by algorithm.

Ben Waber, the keynote speaker at ThinkFM, provided a brilliant explanation of how his company, Humanyze, uses behavioural analytics to improve productivity. The impact of interventions by Humanyze was stunning and I am certain we shall be hearing much more about his company in the future. However, whilst the rigour of their work and the robust research on which it is based look impeccable, I still find myself a little uncomfortable about the individual data being collected.

paranoid_slimI do not think I am paranoid and I am sure, to some degree, this cynicism is generational. I am not even suggesting we should be fighting against any of this technology. I just feel we should give more thought to the privacy we are surrendering! I have just read Stewart Mitchell’s article (PC Pro magazine 274/pp14-15) which explores what Amazon Echo, Google Home and others might be hearing that we are unaware of. The answer is quite a lot. Without question, the article reinforces my view that unethical applications can and have been exploited and I do not want this sort of technology in my home.

I realise that, whereas my blogs usually raise questions and suggest answers, this article simply raises a lot of questions! Am I paranoid? Do you agree? Is all this technology ultimately a force for good – or not? As always, any feedback is very welcome.


Clerkenwell Design Week 2017

June 13, 2017

clerkenwellIn comments about CDW2016, I noted that ergonomics is an essential subject for some, a relevant topic for others and a misunderstood and inconsequential distraction for the rest! In this short article, I shall be expressing my subjective observations about how this is evolving in wider workplace attitudes as reflected during CDW2017.

In 2017, there are still many who fail to really understand ergonomics. Despite that, the common theme throughout Clerkenwell was Wellbeing. Office furniture manufacturers, designers and architects have all realised that the most productive workforce is happy, healthy and engaged. Since finding, employing and retaining talent is the highest cost for any business, this makes sound commercial sense and puts human factors and ergonomics (HF&E) at the centre of good workplace design.

Not that ergonomics was overtly discussed at Clerkenwell! As usual, there was plenty of talk about sit-stand furniture and reducing prolonged sitting, as well as lots of information about agile working, acoustics, light, product design, colour, texture and living walls. These all address HF&E issues yet there seems to be a need to ‘dress it all up’ with buzzwords and catchphrases. Clearly, ergonomics is just not interesting enough on its own!

Most workplace furniture manufacturers approach the wellbeing issue from a perspective of offering variety: give employees plenty of different ways to work, design them into bright, comfortable and inviting spaces and the talent will come – and stay. That is how the thinking goes. Your choice of supplier will dictate how much science or research is applied to this thinking and how it is described. The conversation may be about Smartworking, Creative Spaces, Future Office, Clever Workspace or another, similar, name. Activity based working (ABW) fits into much of this thinking but our own simplified approach is to break down activities and the needs of personnel into the 4Cs: Collaboration, Communication, Contemplation and Concentration.collaborationMy own view is that mental health is now a crucial consideration and workplace design is only part of the issue. As well as more open discussion about mental health, there is a growing understanding of how to manage the needs of individuals and teams where stress or depression is an issue. If we want to discuss Wellbeing, we must go beyond describing different ways of working and look at both mental and physical health to optimise individual performance.

health-wellbeing-productivityDespite the appearance of a growing number of Wellbeing Managers, there is no formal qualification nor, indeed, any particular career path. There is also plenty of debate about what we actually mean by Wellbeing. We must take care that the really important issue of keeping staff mentally and physically healthy is not hijacked by marketing buzzwords and thereby devalued.

WDM Newsletter – May/June 2017

May 22, 2017

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 18/05/2017. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

Communication – Collaboration – Concentration – Contemplation

WDMheader2017-05As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, we have participated recently in The Business Show which targets smaller employers. In doing so, we realised that this market is less familiar with the many terms we use in day-to-day conversation with our large clients. The result of this thinking was our latest jargon-free brochure. It was an exhilarating experience discussing the workplace with people who had never heard of agile working, touchdowns, co-worker spaces or activity based working arrangements although many are using such formats without realising it!

Compact comfort

luxFor our stand at the Business Show, we needed a product to represent our broader portfolio in a compact space. The Lux seating family provides an ideal mix of striking design and small footprint which met the brief exactly. As an evolution of the traditional tub chair, it is available in a choice of high and low backs and single or two-seater models. Complete with co-ordinating low tables, it is ideal for reception and breakout areas where space is limited.

Exploding some myths about Generation Y

millennialsThis is the title of a new presentation I delivered recently to a group of senior managers in the finance field. In it, I addressed some of the key issues in the context of a multi-generational workforce and explore ways to improve communications across age groups and character types. You can see the PowerPoint deck here. There were several comments from attendees about some of my ideas that they had not considered before and I already have an enquiry to present again to a leadership team. Let me know if this is a topic of interest to you and your colleagues. It can be delivered in person or by webinar.

Content update

seatedFollowing the introduction of the new work environments literature mentioned above, our seating brochure needed a facelift. The new version provides an overview of every type of seating from reception to home working and laboratories to industrial settings. We source products from a number of manufacturers in the UK and abroad to provide a comprehensive portfolio of quality products and, since it is in our DNA always to consider ergonomics, we bring a unique perspective to many seating discussions. Contact us for further information.

Last chance – or maybe too late

clerkenwellDepending when you read this, CDW is just coming or you may have just missed it! If there is still time to book, you can do so here. I shall be attending on the Tuesday and Wednesday: let me know if you want to meet up. If you are too late, I shall be providing my own observations and insights in the June/July newsletter. As I write this piece, I am looking forward to the new Eva chair launch at Orangebox (I have had a sneak preview!), Textile Fluidity from Camira, Creative Collaborations with SB Seating and street art at Edge Design, amongst many others.

WDM Newsletter – April/May 2017

April 24, 2017

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 20/04/2017. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

Conferences and exhibitions abound

WDMheader2017-04With Easter over and summer on the horizon, we continue to participate in a diverse array of events. As it happens, the next three are all in London. I am always looking for new products or fresh ideas and will provide feedback in due course. If you attend any of these events, I shall be pleased to hear whether you agree with my observations and, if you do not participate, I hope you find the information useful. If you are a social media user, you can also get more timely and frequent bulletins from one of the sources available here.

The eighth edition: May 23rd – 25th

CDWWith over 34,000 visitors last year, CDW continues to evolve and grow. I have already seen some exciting new products which are ready for launch and there is a hectic programme of events and presentations. Some of our own key partners have brand new showrooms since last year and others have moved premises. If you are attending timed sessions, expect to exceed your daily step target with ease and make sure you allow enough time to walk between them! This year I shall be attending on the Tuesday and Wednesday so let me know if you want to meet up.

The event for SME owners and directors

BusinessShowWe have been thinking for some time about how we can bring the knowledge gained from our relationships with enormous organisations to business owners in the SME world. We know that some of our unique and innovative techniques are equally applicable whatever the size of an organisation and we shall demonstrate this on Stand 7124 in The Marketplace Zone at The Business Show. If you plan to attend on May 17th or 18th, come and talk to us! If you do not yet have your free ticket, click here.

FM in a connected world

th!nkFMOnly a few years ago, we were talking about how smartphones and tablets were changing our work lives. Before these issues are even fully embedded, there are already more new technologies to accommodate: Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, the Internet of Things, Robotics and Big Data are just a few of the terms that did not exist a few years ago. On June 8th, Th!nkFM will be exploring the benefits and challenges of these issues and considering ways to address them. I shall report back on what I learn!

April Fools or Year Round Fools?

alternative_truthsIn Issue 14, I referred to the terms ‘post-truth’ and ‘alternative facts’ and bemoaned our apparent growing willingness to accept information from unverified sources. I am grateful to those of you who provided interesting and valuable feedback. At the time, I was thinking about my next blog and, whilst contemplating the issues, came across a really insightful question in a Tweet on April 1st. That question became the necessary catalyst to shape this article!

April Fools or Year-Round Fools?

April 12, 2017

Following my recent ‘Lies, damned lies and statistics’ comments, I am grateful to Jay Kuo (@nycjayjay) for a Tweet that helped me focus on one of the key issues about modern misinformation:

shoelacesWhy is April 1st the only day of the year that we question the reliability of what we read online? 

Whilst we are all particularly cautious about news stories on April 1st, many  (perhaps even most?) of us are guilty during the rest of the year of seeing something online and taking it at face value without much thought about its origin or legitimacy. Then, having passively accepted its reliability, we share it with friends and colleagues!

If you think this is a sweeping statement, consider a few scenarios. If you are a social media user, can you genuinely say you are not guilty of any of them?

  • Someone you know in your business sector or profession shares an online posting (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). You don’t have time to read it all but the heading looks good, you know they are good at what they do and you respect their opinion so you share/like the posting without reading past the first few lines. After all, they are a reliable source!
  • An item link in your Twitter feed has a good picture, an attention-grabbing headline and is topical. You don’t have time to read it (hopefully, you will get back to it later) but you like and retweet it in the meantime.
  • In the time when it was a regular occurrence, LinkedIn shows you a picture of someone you once met at a conference and invites you to endorse them for a particular skill. You have no idea whether they are any good at it but they seemed charming when you met them and they have lots of LinkedIn connections to whom you want to become visible. So you endorse him/her. After all, they would not say they were good at something unless they actually are – surely?

Potentially, there are many more comparable scenarios and, at the time of taking these actions, you probably think there is no harm done. But what if the person who posted the item you like, share or retweet had just done exactly the same? What if several people had shared the same story with all their contacts on a similar basis and only the originator had ever read it?

With regard to the LinkedIn endorsements, I know for certain that this has happened because I have been endorsed many times by people I know but who have never witnessed me demonstrating the skill they commend. Indeed, I have been endorsed more than once for NLP although I have never had any NLP training or knowingly practiced it!

In such circumstances, the action may be well-intentioned but I believe it reinforces the habit of passing on unvalidated information or unconfirmed ‘facts’.

If we are this glib about issues reasonably close to our own lives, are we losing the ability (or desire) to question what we see and hear as social media and online platforms replace traditional media as our primary source(s) of news and information?

propagandaAccusations of Fake News have caught our attention recently but the concept is not new. We used to call it propaganda! Traditional news agencies have to check their facts before publication and, that in itself is part of the problem. Whilst the BBC (for instance) is trying to find multiple independent sources to verify a news story, there are already tens, hundreds or even thousands of people pumping out online text, photographs and videos that they have created themselves or grabbed from another online source.

We must all be more rigorous in questioning what we see online – or repeat to those around us. We all played the game of Chinese Whispers as children. Are we now doing it in our daily adult lives?

WDM Newsletter – March 2017

March 20, 2017

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 16/03/2017. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

Of course you do!

WDMheader2017-03A few years ago (in a time before Agile Working was a hot topic), a Facilities Manager told me everyone in his company had a dedicated workplace, there was no hot desking and they had no home workers. I had only question: does anyone have a laptop? His affirmative reply meant that the organisation obviously had personnel working at home (although not necessarily authorised). Today, nobody would make such a bold statement in the first place. With laptop sales significantly exceeding desktop models and a proliferation of smartphones and tablets, not to mention Bring Your Own Devices practices (again, not necessarily authorised) and widespread Agile Working programmes, employees are being positively encouraged to work away from the office. The home is just one such workplace but, for the purposes of this newsletter, we are focussing on a few of the specific issues of employees working at their own residence.

Understanding individual needs and responses

health-wellbeing-productivityFor those based in open plan offices, working at home can be an ideal way to address two of the ‘4Cs’ (contemplation and concentration, rather than collaboration, communication). However, many miss the interaction with colleagues and a key negative factor can be lack of direction and goals from their line manager. Many employers overlook the importance of the culture change and different (pull, rather than push) management style required. To ensure maximum buy-in from those working at home, managers need to be trained to understand the issues and the correct way to modify their behaviour and relationships with colleagues. It is also essential to provide instant access to central support for everything from internet and login issues to mental health and wellbeing.

Getting it right

assessment-equipmentMany people lack sufficient space for an office at home and the potential issues are compounded by the almost inevitable ‘out of sight is out of mind’ circumstances. Home workers need to be properly assessed and this can be done online or with a site visit. Site visits address issues that are far less common in the office (light levels, overall space, fire extinguishers) and can incorporate other essential services such as PAT testing. Many employers create a brief catalogue (with suitable control mechanisms) for homeworkers to identify and order key equipment such as laptop stands or separate monitors. It is generally accepted that nothing will be handed back if an employee resigns so it is important for employers to get good advice to ensure resources are optimised. Items such as our Capsule Collection chairs are the best possible balance of budget and ergonomics.

A multifunctional platform well suited to the home office

mukavaAppearance is an important factor when employees choose work products for use at home. What works in a minimalist warehouse loft is unlikely to work in a Tudor cottage! Mukava is at home in a multiple hot-desking environment but its clean lines, modern look and multifunctional nature make it a good candidate as a multi-purpose tool in a space-constrained home office. Combining laptop platform, document holder, white board, tablet and smartphone stand with built-in device charger, USB socket and magnetic grips, this small unit truly ‘does it all’! It can be mounted on any VESA monitor arm. Download the brochure for further details.

Averting problems from extended use

HandheldDevicesSmartphones and tablets are used almost everywhere, not just in the home. Management of the technology, what the products are used for and how they are used presents many challenges to responsible employers and the pace of technology makes it hard for organisations to keep up, let alone get ahead. Personnel  benefit from education to understand the issues and ensure they act responsibly. There are many adaptors and accessories to aid comfort when using handheld devices but the technology is all, fundamentally, badly designed for prolonged use! A key part of our handheld devices strategy is therefore to help users understand the postures to limit (or avoid).

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