Tuesday 12th May 2020 Workplace Design – Recollection not Revolution

Guest post by Nigel Oseland, Workplace Unlimited

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his rather ambiguous announcement last Sunday on his Covid-19 exit strategy. There have been plenty of previous posts from the workplace industry anticipating the announcement and how redesigning the office is the solution. But I firmly believe that we already have the answers, and have had them for some time, but have repeatedly chosen to ignore them. I recommend we start by recollecting and (re)introducing tried and tested best practice in the workplace before we push a design revolution. 

Let us just remind ourselves of those long forgotten best practice design principles which workplace strategists have been recommending for at least two decades:

1. Occupational density

For years in the UK we have been chasing density, the space provision per person in the office, in the name of space and cost efficiency. For example, the BCO’s Occupier Density Study published in 2009 found an average of 11.8m2 per desk, across the whole building NIA, compared to 9.6m2 per desk in the 2018 study. The 2.2m2 difference may not seem like a lot but it is equivalent to losing almost one workstation with associated circulation per occupant (or two industry standard desk surfaces). Sadly, UK legislation on workspace requirements does not help – the minimum is approximately 4.6m2 per person (assuming the 11m3 minimum and a standard 2.4m floor to ceiling height). These low standards allow densities to be chased and best practice ignored. It is well documented that in the animal kingdom, overpopulation often leads to disease – nature’s way of addressing the balance. High density impacts temperature, air quality and noise along with accessibility and egress. A return to lower density offices which support performance and health is long overdue. 

2. Desk Size

To meet the higher densities, desk sizes have reduced. I recall my 2 x 1m desk at my first architectural practice, providing me with a clear 2m between those sitting adjacent to or opposite me. The current UK industry norm is 1400mm wide desks, and I have worked with efficiency-zealous clients insisting that 1m wide desks provide sufficient space! These smaller desks result in more noise distraction, infringement of personal space (see Hall’s Proxemic Framework) and higher likelihood of cross-infection. Simply put, stop manufacturing and installing smaller and smaller desks. 

3. Partitioning

There are some similarities in designing workspaces to prevent noise distraction and cross-infection. Distance helps reduce noise, and infection. Semi-partitioning (not necessarily walls) also helps, as do desk screens that are sufficiently high enough to cover the mouth but not reduce the line of sight (approximately 1300-1400mm), but there has been an ongoing trend for low or no desk screens and minimal partitions. I am neither an advocate of private offices nor fully open plan workspaces. Office layout is not a simple dichotomy of open versus closed but a scale with an optimal layout that I refer to as the landscaped office, borrowed from Bürolandschaft. The landscaped office is predominantly open plan but with zoned and semi-partitioned spaces broken up by storage, bookshelves, planting, acoustic screens and alternative work-settings such as quiet pods, focus rooms, meeting areas and social spaces. Reintroduce zoning and partitioning in the workspace.

4. Indoor air quality (IAQ)

From a design perspective, temperature, noise and air quality are the most common causes of dissatisfaction and loss of performance in the office. In the past, the level of fresh air intake in mechanically ventilated offices was reduced, and the stale air recirculated, to minimise energy costs – outdoor air will need filtering and heating or cooling thus using more energy. This practice was partly responsible for Sick Building Syndrome and the transmission of other diseases. Fresh air rates and treatment will need readdressing in the post Covid-19 workplace.

5. Agile Working

Many workplace strategists are advocates of agile/flexible/smart/ remote/activity-based working and have been promoting the benefits since the early 90s, see one of my early reports. Benefits have been proven to include: increased performance, reduced absenteeism, enhanced cross-selling, increased attraction and reduced attrition, and business continuity as less disruptions due to travel issues or viruses. Empower people to work when and where they are most productive, including occasionally working from home. 

– Home Working

UK Government’s guidance recommends working from home, a very sensible approach that is fundamental to a good agile working environment. Now that most office workers, and their managers, have experienced working from home, the uptake is likely to be higher than previously.

If the workforce are allowed to work from home for say two days per week and the time in and out the office is well managed, then the number of desks required will reduce by up to 40%.

However, do remember it is the employers’ responsibility to provide a safe workplace for their employees, so there will be additional costs in providing the workforce with the right technology, equipment and furniture to work effectively from home. I have already spotted unscrupulous “no win, no fee” law firms offering to represent those who have had a fall when working from home.

The new office is likely to be a more blended environment mixing the physical with the virtual, so that those in or out of the office can seamlessly work together. 

– Desk-Sharing

Using agile working to help reduce the density and number of desks is likely to mean that desk-sharing (hot-desking) in some form is required. It is unlikely that hot-desking will be carried out the way it currently is with people grabbing desks as they become vacant. It is more likely that a shared desk is obtained and used throughout the duration of the day followed by a deep clean overnight that allows the desk to be used safely by a colleague the next day. The service level agreements of cleaning contracts will need to be revisited with more regular desk cleaning.

Also worth considering in the short-term, if 40% of the desk chairs in an office are simply removed, perhaps every other desk chair, then the overall workspace density will be reduced, and the occupants will have more buffer space. Alternatively, alternate desks could be marked or coloured up to indicate days that they may be used.

6. Shift Working

The Government’s guidance also suggest shift working (technically a type of flexible working). This is a less popular alternative to home working. In theory, the workforce could work two or even three 8-hour shifts in one day and assuming they can travel to the office the density the number of occupants, and corresponding density, could be reduced by a half or two-thirds. Again, in the short-term alternate desk chairs could be removed or desk marked up to indicate the fays they may be used.

The issue of travel is fundamental and a tricky one that needs resolving. There is little point in designing for social distancing in the post Covid-19 office if staff are first travelling to work on crowded trains and the underground. Note, train carriages are approximately 60m2 thus accommodating just 15 people with 2m separation. Furthermore, many people work in high-rise buildings, where the wait times for lifts are already agonising at peak hours, so access to upper floors will be a challenge if there is only one or two people allowed per lift car. Maybe in the long-term we will see the rise of the low-rise building or perhaps the reintroduction of paternoster lifts. Travel to and from work is a priority but agile working, with home working, is the more obvious solution in the short-term.   

The above design solutions will only work if the right behaviours are in place alongside good leadership.

Humans are creatures of habit and unless continuously reminded or rewarded will revert to previous behaviours. For example, consider how behaviours quickly returned to “normal” after similar, admittedly less contagious, viruses such as SARS and MERS.

Also, my personal observation, is that basic hygiene such as hand-washing and social distancing has not continued with the same vigour as at the start of the pandemic. As a psychologist, I draw on basic theory to explain why new behaviours are not sustained.

For example, Operant Conditioning helped clarify why behaviours that result in reward, or the avoidance of unpleasantness or punishment, are more likely to be repeated. One issue with Covid-19 is that the negative consequences are not immediate and so the “distance” from the required behaviour change makes it less sustainable. Consider the Stanford marshmallow experiment in which a child was offered a choice between one small but immediate reward (a marshmallow or pretzel), or two small rewards if they waited for 15 minutes. It was found that those with lower education were more likely to take the immediate reward rather than wait. Furthermore, in terms of everyday health threats, 60% of those suffering a heart attack return to smoking, despite the clear benefits of quitting.

Behaviour change requires continuous reinforcement, but Covid-19 is a more like a one-off incident, so repeat communications with reminders and short-term rewards will be required to sustain new behaviours. The design solutions above and recently proposed by the workplace community will at least act as reminder and nudge behaviours, but I am not convinced that the required behaviours will stick beyond a novelty period.

In terms of leadership, trusting and empowering staff to occasionally work from home is a clear pre-cursor to adopting agile working. In the majority of my projects, it is middle management that object the most to working from home. Many prefer their staff to be to hand and take the easy route of managing performance by time in the office rather than by agreed deliverables.

More importantly, right now we need to cease the practice of presenteeism, where staff feel obliged to turn up to the office even when ill, and actively discourage staff from returning until fully restored back to good health. Our new-found skills with on-line meetings, supported by an investment in technology, will help staff connected when not in the office. In the long-term blended physical/virtual working environments will help sustain such practice.

In Conclusion

Workplace design can help us overcome infection from viruses but, rather than reinvent the workplace, we need to first recollect and adopt those best practices that have been repeatedly ignored.

There are some relatively easy low-cost short-term solutions, such as continuing home working and reducing desk densities by removing seats up marking up desks. Long-term design solutions will help nudge and sustain the required behaviours going forward. There are likely to be associated up-costs due to new technology, increased cleaning regimes and reduced space density, but consider it a form of medical insurance.

Right now ongoing clear and sensible communication and leadership, based on the management and design principals listed above, is essential.


Guest post by Nigel Oseland, Workplace Unlimited
Nigel is a workplace strategist, change manager, environmental psychologist, researcher, international speaker and author. He draws on his psychology background and his own research to advise occupiers on how to redefine their workstyles and rethink their workplace to create working environments that enhance individual and organisational performance and deliver maximum value. Nigel is a co-founder of Workplace Trends.


Sunday 10th May 2020 The Case for Active Travel

Guest post by Maggie Procopi, Workplace Trends

Yesterday (Saturday 9 May 2020) U.K. transport secretary Grant Shapps announced what he called a “once in a generation” £2 billion plan to boost cycling and walking both during and after the lockdown.

Upmost in his mind must be the need for workers to return to their offices amid an already crowded transport system.

It’s somewhat sad that it takes a global pandemic to force this level of investment, but I hope organisations will embrace the opportunities presented.

Workplace Trends covered Active Travel in a recent Climate Change and the Workplace event earlier this year. The session took the form of a panel discussion, with Q&A from the audience.

Many delegates, like myself, had reservations around, for example, cycling safety and travelling longer distances, all of which were reassuringly dealt with by our panel – Neil Webster, Cyclo Consulting, Megan Sharkey, University of Westminster, Ben Knowles, PedalMe and Andrew Brown, Just Ride the Bike (moderator).

https://youtu.be/saK-HuD2VgQ

Guest post by Maggie Procopi, Workplace Trends
Maggie is a co-founder of the Workplace Trends series of conferences. Based in the UK, Workplace Trends, along with their international partners, run ground-breaking events for workplace professionals who want be at the forefront of work and workplace new thinking. We examine up-coming trends and best practice which enable people and their places of work to be happy, healthy and productive.


Monday 04th May 2020 Thoughts on Covid-19: Things Have Changed

Guest post by Ian Baker, Head of Workplace Consulting, EMCOR UK

“People are crazy and times are strange,
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range,
I used to care, but things have changed.”

(Bob Dylan – Things Have Changed, 2000)

Just before this current situation got ‘very real’ I read that when we look back on major events, either in our personal lives or in the wider world (like a global pandemic) that we identify life as ‘before’ and ‘after’ with our views being different on either side. It gave me something positive to hold on to, knowing that change will be coming and that when we’re free to leave our homes and return to the workplace many people’s views of those workplaces and what they mean to us will have shifted. 

I think the extent and direction of this shifted view will depend on the amount of time social distancing lasts (6 weeks and counting!), the generation that we belong to and our working patterns ‘before’ this situation arose.

Six weeks in and some form of change is now even more likely. How and where it takes place though is still very debatable. The workplace profession is always quick to respond with ideas, solutions and the occasional statement of fact, but one thing is certain – one size never fits all and there will be as many different ‘new normals’ as there were ‘normals’ beforehand.

I’ve always believed that ‘People’ are at the heart of any workplace, but at the time of writing I want to be more specific – I think we should be focussing our attention on ‘relationships’. When we eventually find ourselves in the ‘after’ post Covid-19, the organisations that seek to create better relationships with their employees will reap the rewards that great partnerships inevitably bring; providing spaces for increasing collaboration, encouraging flexibility, focussing on wellbeing and mental health. 

Workplaces which demonstrate the value and importance of relationships outside of work will likely gain more ground. When we emerge from our homes, rubbing our eyes in the sunlight, we’ll look to see how our organisations will merge our new ‘working from home lives’ (where we have discovered new ways of working and re-discovered things that really matter to us) with a return to whatever our ‘new normals’ will eventually be. 

This future should not be written by headlines, it should be written by the individuals whose views will have been altered by this seismic event, organisations should grasp this opportunity to evaluate what all this means to them, gather information for analysis and then make evidence-based decisions for change. 

We have the chance to make lives better by organising work and workplaces differently. We should be taking stock now to ensure we don’t rush back to do the same things we did before, the things we didn’t like about work. It’s our responsibility to make the “after” a better one and perhaps if we grasp the opportunity, we’ll come out of this with a happy ending.

With thanks for this guest post to:

Ian Baker, Head of Workplace Consulting for leading facilities management company EMCOR UK.


 

Thursday 30th April 2020 Workplace Design Challenges Post COVID-19

Guest post by Francisco Vazquez, 3g Smart Group and Workplace Trends Iberia

COVID-19 has not only put our healthcare system in tension, but has also come to question the traditional model of face-to-face work that exists in most companies. The pandemic we are experiencing has made telework the new normal for millions of people and it is foreseeable that it will gain relevance in the future.

The growing adoption of telework by many organizations in recent days has shown howtechnology can promote another way of working more committed to reconciliation and the environment, and more adequate to respond to crises like the one we are facing. 

Before the current health crisis, flexible work, which includes teleworking as one of its tools, was a reality in many organizations and was being implemented in others, which has allowed them to be fully operational remotely. Other companies are now facing and understanding the possibilities of remote working. It is clear to me that this crisis will accelerate the implementation of the flexible working models (including telework) and will become the new normal…. but it won’t be exactly the same!!! We will have to take into consideration additional aspects related to what we have learnt from this situation, such as social distancing, personal hygiene, disinfection, and ventilation, ….

The adoption of flexible working models must necessarily be reflected, in turn, in an evolution of space design towards what we know as flexible offices. Flexible offices have given the design solutions to this new ways of working, where, up until this crisis, the focus was set on having spaces to collaborate, social interactions and learning areas. But also to ensure meeting the company’s strategy in terms of sustainability, well-being, talent retention, flexibility, inclusion and, of course, the productivity and efficiency of the organization. New aspects like social distancing will have a big impact on how the offices will be designed, specially for meeting rooms or the traditional benches, that aimed at maximizing the number of positions. 

Space ratios, that were coming down 20-30% when we implemented flexible office space, will probably increase back after this crisis. 

In addition, sanitary aspects related to future pandemic will have an impact in how common areas of the buildings are designed, like access, lifts lobbies and the lift in itself. Also, the mechanical installation of buildings will be redesigned to meet new standards, for example ventilation and facility management services will change accordingly,  mainly in all issues related to disinfectants and cleaning.    

  • Flexible working models will extend rapidly in all the organisations. 
  • Workplace design will need to give response to new challenges like keeping the recommended social distance. Workplace space ratios may rise back up. 
  • Buildings must adapt to pandemic prevention requirements. 

With thanks for this guest post to:

Francisco Vazquez, 3g Smart Group and Workplace Trends Iberia.


 

Wednesday 22nd April 2020 The role of workplace in organisational recovery

Guest post by Tim Oldman, Leesman

In late February I was swapping messages with a friend in Switzerland. I had a new client project brewing in the city where she lives so I’d have a good excuse to be there in the next few weeks. That meant she and I had an excuse for dinner and wine. I even said in the message, that Covid wouldn’t get in the way. I was wrong.

Covid-19 has caught us all out. And what scares anyone who cares to think about it is that we still don’t understand it. So as much as anxieties might be lessened by the idea we’ll be out the other side in another few months, we truly don’t know. We guessed Covid-19 wrong and I’m guessing most will guess the post-Covid future of workplace wrong. Why? Just a few examples:

  • Governments will not remove social distancing; they will have to progressively relax social distancing. So, some of us may be working from home through Spring, Summer, Autumn and well into Winter.
  • But governments cannot indefinitely fund worker retention schemes, so business leaders will equally be pressurised to get business back to normal and for huge numbers, that means workers working back in offices.
  • The same business leaders are coming around to the idea of larger numbers than they previously thought being able to work from home.
  • But they are making those judgements sat in their nice studies or garden offices with little or no real knowledge of what many of their employees are coping with in a home work setting.
  • And what is safe for those workers returning to offices? Not just in terms of workplace density but also commuter transport density or lunch time sandwich bar density? Can cities work as worker destinations with hazard tape separating us all by 6-feet?
  • For every client who says they will need to capitulate to financial pressure and reduce their real estate footprint, as many have told me they may have to add space in order to return to 1:1 desk allocation as employer and employee awareness of surface cleanliness maxes out.
  • I used to retreat home once or twice a week for concentrative work. But now we’re all using Zoom or Teams to buzz each other all the **** time and I feel bound to engage in order to keep social and organisational connectivity up, the enforced home isolation is killing my focus and concentration.

So, before we second guess the future of workplace let’s take proper stock of what role workplace will need to play in organisational recovery. Let’s do so properly cognisant of the likely economic uncertainty, the likely long tail of social distancing and the certain heightened public awareness of cleanliness.

And lets also get a deep understanding of how home working is actually working for all layers of employee across all functions. Then at least when the longstanding advocates of dispersed working start suggesting they’d been right all along and the office is facing certain extinction, we can test their claims with battle front evidence of our home working fight back against Covid.


With thanks for this guest post to Tim Oldman, Leesman.
As the Founder of Leesman, Tim sought to offer the property market the first truly independent, unified and standardized pre and post occupancy evaluation tool.  The Leesman Index is now the largest independent workplace effectiveness database containing over a quarter of a million employee responses.
Read more from Leesman with the first of their Memos from the Future.


Tim will be taking part in our online event this Thursday 14 May, What will be the “new normal” for the workplace in 2021? Also taking part are Arjun Kaicker, Nigel Oseland and Kerstin Sailer.


 

Monday 20th April 2020 Thoughts on Covid-19: The path to workplace emancipation, well-being and profit.

Guest post by Craig Knight, Identity Reaization

“I might have known,” said Eeyore. “After all, one can’t complain. I have my friends. Somebody spoke to me only yesterday. And was it last week or the week before that Rabbit bumped into me and said ‘Bother!’. The Social Round. Always something going on.”

(A.A.Milne)

There are rather a lot of people doing somewhat better than Eeyore.  They are having quite a good Coronavirus, feeling secretly pleased with themselves and just a little guilty about things.  After all, we are meant to be in a state of hardship; furloughed at best, probably angst ridden and missing our business colleagues.

Now

All the same, it’s quite pleasant starting work in your dressing gown; slurping tea and crunching toast, dropping crumbs on your laptop. You can break for Pop Master at 10.30 with an early lunch if you feel peckish.  The kids are glad to see you and your partner; well, what did GBS say about the maximum of temptation combined with the maximum of opportunity? And you still finish all your work in time to sit in front of The Crown of an evening.

It isn’t that way for many people of course, but science is completely on the side of Douglas MacGregor’s Theory Y, in-so-much-as people respond to being allowed to do things their way.  Tom Postmes explains that if you give people the resources to do the job, trust them to do it right and the autonomy to do it their way, the results will be terrific.  Since 2003, my own work has shown that staff in their own space, when allowed to develop their own solutions, always come up with the most productive result, leaving trained managers and consultants floundering in their wake.

Then

So will there be a sea-change when the world emerges from its odd hibernation; now that Zoom is more than a song by Fat Larry’s Band and flexible working includes an afternoon nap followed by the determined purge of the inbox?  Are we going to see a post-industrial working world of proper grown-ups, for the first time?  Where the office is used as it should be; as a hub for information, socialising and resource gathering; as a welcoming base, a home from home?  An office where staff arrive at times that allow them to do the job to their best abilities, taking holidays when they wish, changing their working environment to fit with their requirements?  This is no soft option by the way; nobody is saying “reduce targets”.

Or, will we instead revert to the bleeding edge of flexible and agile managerial practice, developed as recently as the mid-18th century by Josiah Wedgwood. Will we rebuild the glittering principles of lean, introduced by the same man and honed to its precise modern standards by Frederick Taylor in the Victorian era?  Or shall we just infantilize the workforce instead and give them pool tables, ping-pong bats and slides to play with.  Biophilia, Six Sigma, and using populist psychometrics to inform office design, are all symptoms of the same nasty/nice continuum, where managers just look to buttress their control and untested heuristics through the manipulation of ‘experts’. And here is the entire list of peer-reviewed scientific articles that says this is a good idea.  Ready?

References 

 

That’s the lot.

Return or redemption

Only business schools and business practice – supported by case-studies from within the, seemingly impermeable, business bubble – argue that the blunt and inexpert edge of current, and ever recycled, best practice cuts it.  Science, in short, thinks it’s rubbish.  So maybe, just maybe, we can start to treat workers like the grown-ups they really are.  Science likes that and there is overwhelming evidence that it works.  

If I am honest, I don’t think we will.  We will probably slide back into gobble-de-gook, feelgood accreditations and back slapping awards, all of which butter corporate egos but are otherwise, essentially useless.  It is a safe bet that managers will once more belt themselves into the pilot’s chair and paper over the windscreen with spreadsheets that misguide them and their colleagues towards the usual wrong variables (first two stops ‘error’ and ‘waste’ anybody?).

However, there are now tantalizing chinks of light that shine, almost illicitly, from behind some of the curtains of the coronavirus lockdown.  Their tempting beams illuminating the path to workplace emancipation, well-being and profit.  

Please, follow them; we may never have this chance again.


With thanks for this guest post to:

Craig Knight, Founding Director of Identity Realization


Friday 27th March 2020 "In the modern workplace, Friday is the happiest day of the week"

Way back in 2012 we were privileged to welcome Nic Marks to our stage to speak on “How (and why) happiness works as a business model”.

He has since become a TED speaker, and is one of the most sought after presenters in the arena of happiness and productivity at work.

Here’s our recording of his thought-provoking session, even more relevant given the current COVID-19 crisis.

Nic’s Friday Pulse platform measures how people are feeling and systematically collects feedback, providing real-time insights on individuals, teams and organizations as they adapt to new realities.

To help businesses through the crisis, Friday Pulse is now FREE for SMEs for 12 weeks. To find out more and register go to https://www.fridaypulse.com

Stay healthy and happy!

With all best wishes from the Workplace Trends team.

Wednesday 25th March 2020 Design to Adapt: Future Offices within a Circular Economy
Friday 20th March 2020 Working From Home – Top 10 Tips

On the day when schools close for what may to working parents, seem like an eternity, I wanted to share with you my experience of 20 years working from home.

Over those years we raised two boys (now 17 and 21) and most of the time I’ve been able to retain my sanity, keep work going and, I like to think, turned out two fairly respectable young men.

So here are just a few things I hope will help.

1. Set aside your work area

Try to find a regular space in the house where you can set up a small work area. If you can’t do this, get a box with your work stuff and move it with you day by day. This keeps papers and laptops tidy and away from sticky fingers.

2. Make lists

Plan ahead what you’ll be doing on a daily basis. Don’t get distracted. If there’s 10 things on your list, choose which one or two things you’d be most pleased to have achieved by the end of the day and focus on those. Anything that takes less than two minutes, just do.

3. Be productive

Away from the disturbances and interruptions of the office, you’ll probably find you can be more productive and streamline your work schedule. Check Tim Ferriss’s work, in particular his first book The 4 Hour Work Week and the video below on ‘batching’.

You might well find you can achieve your 8 hour office day in half the time at home. Whether you choose to divulge that information to your boss is another thing.

Assuming you and your loved ones are keeping well, try looking at the current climate of isolation and Covid lockdown as something of a gift of time. Consider what, when we return to the New Normal, would you kick yourself for not having done during this time? It might be learning a new skill, catching up with paperwork, researching new material. At Workplace Trends we’ve just uploaded our back catalogue of conference video sessions to our new Vimeo channel. With 14 days free trial there’s plenty of time to explore subjects and speakers from most of our 2018 and 2019 conferences.   

https://youtu.be/ghVdzAeX0bg

4. Be flexible with when you work

Bearing in mind that you might not need a full 8 hours to accomplish what you would normally do, choose the times that best suit you to work. Some people are early birds, and some are night owls, so fit your work into the times when the house is less busy and when you do your best work. For me, if I have a deadline, 6am – 10am gets me there, while the house is rising I can be beavering away (albeit in my pyjamas) Getting Stuff Done. Then if there’s more to do, another stint of 2pm – 6pm and I’ve had a pretty good day.

5. Set boundaries

Make it firmly but kindly clear to family that this is your work area / work time, and unless fire or blood are involved, you’re not to be disturbed.

6. Set tasks for family. Ask for help

This is a time when families should pull together. If the burden of family cooking, house cleaning, domestic chores, falls on your shoulders, try to enlist children’s or your partner’s help.

That’s easier said than done of course, and if it’s more trouble than it’s worth to get someone else to unload the dishwasher, be seen to do those things yourself when others are around. They might take the hint, but if they don’t, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not the end of the world.

7. Learn how to use the tech

Online meeting and conference calls will be a requirement. Take some time before a scheduled meeting to set up and test the tech.

Learn where the audio mute and video buttons are and which way around they work. Don’t eat on the call. Chomping biscuits in a meeting at the office is fine, but online the chewing noise is magnified.

Take a minute also to check the light and background where you sit to make a video call. Natural light is best, and avoid having washing drying on the radiator behind you 😉

8. Take useful breaks

Just as you would at the office, take regular breaks. Five minutes every 45 minutes is a good rule of thumb to maintain productivity. Get a coffee, load that dishwasher, check in on the kids, water some plants.

9. Health and Safety

Just because the H&S police aren’t likely to pass by your desk, you owe it to yourself and your family to make sure your environment is safe. Don’t overload plug sockets, watch where the wires trail, you know the drill.

10. Screens as babysitters

Lastly, don’t feel guilty about using screens as baby sitters. A Disney or Star Wars film will be enjoyable for them, and give you a good 2 x 45 minute work slots. X-Box and Playstation are a little more difficult as they’re more of a rabbit warren with no beginning / middle / end. Set time allocations of use for the day and try steer kids away from them before bedtime.

Remember when the screens are off, it’s not a bad thing for children to be bored. It’s the only way they’ll learn to entertain themselves and be independent.

So I hope these pointers are of use for you: many of the tricks can also be applied to working in the office, so don’t forget them when we are all released back into the ‘real’ world!


Author: Maggie Procopi, co-founder and Director at Workplace Trends

We spend one third of our life working, but 60% of people feel lonely at work and 1.2 million office workers suffer from chronic loneliness (chronic loneliness is a harmful as having 15 cigarettes a day!) The problem hurts happiness and productivity, costing employers between £2–3.7 billion every year (that’s in the UK alone!)

The Loneliness Lab

You may remember last summer we asked our followers to take part in online research on Loneliness at Work. The full report is being written up at the moment, but the early results were presented at Workplace Trends London last October by Rachel Edwards (Lendlease) and Nigel Oseland (Workplace Unlimited).

We don’t usually release our conference videos except to registered delegates, but we really wanted to share this trending topic.

If you enjoyed this presentation, take a look at our Workplace Trends Research Spring Summit, coming up on 25 March in London. Virtual and in-person tickets and more information is at https://workplacetrends.co/spring2020/