Learning Environments Conference Round-Up

Last month (June 2017) saw the return of our now annual Design and Management of Learning Environments Conference. Some 100 professionals from the Higher Education sector (estates directors, architects, designers) gathered at our canal-side venue, Kings Place in London.

Kings Place is a unique venue – a mixed use building in the heart of the Kings Cross development. As well as meeting rooms, the building is a highly regarded performance venue, with space for the visual arts, a cafe, bar and restaurant. Looking up to the seven levels above ground floor there are also commercial office spaces (one occupier being The Guardian newspaper). Each floor is designed so that companies can bring together as many people as they can on one level, with the aim of promoting staff interaction and providing a more creative environment.

The conference had a great mix of speakers: Chaired by the current AUDE President, Mike Clarke, we enjoyed presentations from the coal-face of the estates directors and in-house change managers through to consultant designers and architects.

Having organised both the Workplace Trends and Learning Environments events for more than a decade, the overriding takeaway from the day for me was how much the design and management of the two sectors are now converging, and how much they can each learn from the other’s experience.

For example, the education estates physically have very blurred boundaries. On many campuses today it’s unclear where the line is between an academic institution and its surrounding community. The same may be said for some coworking spaces today, and perhaps more so in the future for corporates.

As part of this seamless wifi coverage is expected by all students (who on average bring seven devices with them to university!) and of course BYOD workers.

Both the workplace and education sector struggle with the need for space that is flexible. Workplace designers will have probably seen Google’s Garage, where all the furniture has wheels and are familiar with the concept of funky work booths which have multiple uses. Nicholas Burwell’s opening presentation showed several designs of lecture theatre that could also be configured for wider use, and his and later presentations demonstrated how HE space is increasingly being designed for flexibility.

Olivia Fox and Morris Pamplin from City University talked about their programme for Blended Learning, described as “the thoughtful integration of classroom face-to-face learning experiences with online learning experiences”. Many of the lessons learnt here could be applied to remote working, and vice versa. You can see a pdf of their presentation here.

The Change Management programme at King’s College’s Bush House proved something of an eye-opener for many delegates. Change Management programmes are commonplace in the workplace sector, but the concept is relatively new for education. But it’s a perfect fit – with so many academics struggling with the concept of a move to open plan – why wouldn’t an estates department embark on a full change management programme?

There were many more sessions containing golden nuggets of thought-provoking information during the day, but I will leave you with the one which surprised me most. Closing the day Martin Anderson from Connection, whose presentation was titled ‘Talent Retention and Wellbeing in Higher Education’, touched on Biophilic Design. Biophilia is defined as the inherent human inclination to affiliate with nature. So biophilic design incorporates natural materials, natural light, vegetation, nature views and other experiences of the natural world into the built environment. We have covered this to large extent in the Workplace Trends events, in particular with our invited speakers Bill Browning and more recently Oliver Heath. But standing to the side of the room, it might have appeared unchartered territory for some in education. Perhaps in designing for students, the calm and focus that nature can facilitate may not be seen as a high priority.

But it could be a game-changer. In some small way, this was illustrated by my own two teenage sons. This year at home we finally managed to finish adding a large quantity of potted plants to the decked patio area in the garden. (Biophilia is more than just plants but bare with me). The youngsters had hitherto not been great fans of spending time there, but suddenly more often than not, one of more of them and their friends are to be found there. They still clutch one of their seven devices of course, but they definitely enjoy the surroundings.

The Design & Management of Learning Environments conference will return in 2018. In the meantime check our next Workplace Trends Conference: The Changing Nature of Work, 18 October at the British Library.

Maggie Procopi
London, 18 July 2017

Our Social Groups for You

Social Groups

Workplace Trends is all about connecting professionals and sharing knowledge – whether it be in person or ‘virtually’, online.

You might already be a member of our well-established Workplace Trends LinkedIn Group (if not please do join!). We also have a newer group on LinkedIn for those particularly interested in Learning Environments. Again please do join either or both of these groups.

And brand new, for Facebook fans, we have just created a Facebook Workplace Trends Group. If you’re active on FB please take a moment to click through and request to join. Anyone already on our mailing list will be accepted straight away.

Workplace Trends: The Changing Nature of Work, 18 October 2017

If you haven’t already registered, our super-early bird rate for our October Workplace Trends conference closes this week.

I’m delighted to report that all delegates will receive a complimentary copy of our keynote speaker’s book, “The Digital Renaissance of Work”, and author Paul Miller has kindly agreed to sign copies on the day.

You can see a list of who’s already registered to attend on our website. Hope to see you there too!

Best wishes,


Remote Working: Are you compliant?


Flexible working has been practiced for many years and the right for employees to request flexible arrangements is now fully enshrined in UK statute law. One quarter of office workers now have some form of flexible working contract and 4.2 million people spend at least half their working time at home which suggests remote working has become the norm in the modern workplace.

Remote working is more than flexible working. It is a business solution that incorporates technology and a revised management style to offer choice of when and where to work. Remote working comes under many guises which all have their own nuances. For example, it may be referred to as “new ways of working”, “agile working” or “activity based working”. Remote working may be defined as undertaking work activities away from the normal office base in locations such as client premises, in transit, at home and from third places, such as a coffee bar or library etc.

There are many proven benefits to remote working, for both the staff and organisation. Traditionally, the key driver is financial i.e. reducing space, property and infrastructure costs. However, often bigger benefits come through increased empowerment of people to find their best way of working. This creates productivity gains, reduces travel time, decreases absenteeism and improves staff attraction and retention, by increasing diversity through trust and better work-life balance. Another benefit is improved organisational resilience.

However, with these benefits comes responsibilities. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) requires that employers provide “the provision and maintenance of a working environment for employees that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work”.

ACAS (2014) clarifies that whilst the health and safety of home workers is a little different to office-based staff, employers have a duty of care for all their employees, and the requirements of the Act apply to home and remote workers. As a minimum “the employer is responsible for carrying out a risk assessment to check whether the proposed home workplace’s ventilation, temperature, lighting, space, chair, desk and computer, or any kind of workstation, and floor are suitable for the tasks the home worker will be carrying out”. It may be necessary for the employer to visit the homes of workers to carry out a risk assessment, but in most cases, it can be done with the co-operation of the home worker. Furthermore, the employer is responsible for all the equipment it supplies to its workers, regardless of the location.

The duty of care of the employer extends to assessing suitability of the individual employee ensuring they have the necessary skills, training, support and tools to work safely, securely and effectively in remote environments. This requires policies, guides and appropriate training for staff and their managers as well as audit trails and reviews to ensure ongoing competence, compliance and engagement. Employer ignorance and lack of structured support for remote working employees is no defence if problems arise.

One often-cited reason that organisations and managers ignore remote working health and safety responsibilities is the belief that as employees make the choice to occasionally work outside the office then health and safety is also their own responsibility. However, this is not strictly the case and a difficult interpretation to uphold in a court of law.

In fact, the legislation is clear and yet many organisations ignore or are oblivious to the health and safety requirements of their workers outside of the office. Whilst, there has not yet been any significant documented court case in which a remote worker has made a claim against their employer, there are several law firms offering “no-win no-fee” support for such claims and so it is surely just a matter of time.

However, it is not just the employer that has responsibility. The employee also has obligations to work within defined company and legal boundaries when working remotely and particularly in the home. For instance, they must rectify any flaws in the home highlighted by the mandatory risk assessment and, once the home has passed the assessment, they are responsible for its upkeep. Employees also have personal responsibility for any office equipment or furniture that they personally provide for working at home. Furthermore, there are implications for home insurance, planning permission and income tax.

Mobile communication is now common practice and can lead to “always on” cultures. Without establishing clear boundaries for employees, this can lead to wellbeing issues. Legislation regarding remote work is becoming more stringent in Europe. For example, in France companies are now obliged to agree that employee may switch off their mobile devices outside of normal work hours to reduce intrusion into their private lives. There is likely to be pressure for the UK to follow a similar path.

Nevertheless, it is clear that remote working is on the increase and, if done properly, it offers many benefits to the staff and business. But these benefits cannot be claimed without providing a safe and healthy environment for all employees. If you need further help to ensure you comply with legislation then contact Remote Works for a consultation.

From an original blog by Remote Works.

Workplace Trends Spring Summit Round Up

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On 22 March 180+ workplace professionals – occupiers, consultants, designers and architects – attended our Workplace Trends Spring Summit on Wellbeing and Productivity at Kings Place, London.

The conversation still continues following the event, and here are just a few of the related items.

  • Saint-Gobain Ecophon recorded a series of podcasts with our speakers during the conference. Listen to the first of them to be released here. 
  • Nigel Oseland has published a blog post based on of his presentation “Can workplace design really enhance innovation & creativity?”. Read the full blog here.
  • Our delegates from CMI Workplace have published their highlights from the day. Read it here.
  • Neil Usher, aka workessence, live blogged our four conference sessions throughout the day. You can find the first one, “eaten by aardvarks” here. Press ‘next’ for the further three sessions.
  • Artist Simon Heath was also very busy! His visual record of the sessions can be found at
  • Saint-Gobain Ecophon ran their complementary workshop ‘Psychological & Physiological Factors in Office Design’ the day before the conference. You can read the full Twitter Storify record on this link. A literature review and the full download of the related publication ‘A Psychological Approach to Resolving Office Noise Distraction’ can also be seen here.
  • Our supporters at Interface had copies of their publication 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design available to all delegates. If you missed collecting your copy, see Terrapin Bright Green’s full publication download and others on the Human Spaces website.
  • Conference Live Tweet Blog: Our friend Su Butcher recorded the whole day on our live Tweet Blog. You can read the full version here.
  • On that theme, Twitter and Social Media fans will be interested in the results of our Twitter reach from the conference. You can read the full report at, but briefly the conference had 245 people using the hashtag #wtrends; 1065 tweets were sent which potentially reached 480,000 accounts, 5.8 million times (that is tweets with the hashtag appeared on twitter 5.8 million times in 480,000 people’s feeds).
  • We’re now busy planning our next events! We have Post Occupancy Evaluation workshops coming up very soon with Nigel Oseland, our Learning Environments Conference in June this year, and of course our October Workplace Trends conference.

Can Workplace Design Enhance Creativity?

Guest Post by Nigel Oseland, Workplace Unlimited

This blog is based on the presentation I gave at the Workplace Trends conference last week, which in turn was based on a presentation I gave at an Innovation Exchange in Lisbon. The room was full of scientists presenting their latest inventions and chemical formulas, and they asked me to present on how the workplace design could assist them. Well I’m always up for a challenge and an all-expenses paid trip to Portugal.

The subject of creativity and innovation is much broader than advances in science. In the UK, we have a tendency to lead in new economic eras only to lose our edge to overseas copycats. It happened with the secondary economic sector, manufacturing like automotive, and it has happened more recently with the tertiary service industry. But we have entered a new quaternary economic age, that of innovation, and as workplace specialists one of our most important jobs is to facilitate innovation and creativity in our workforce. Innovation doesn’t just apply to the creative industries – having a good idea applies to all areas for example creating more efficient process or better customer service as well as new products.

When reading around the subject I found lots of research on creativity. However, it was mostly reported in the business management literature (check out Ideo’s recent survey) or in neuroscience research papers. There was relatively very little on environmental impact. So, does this mean workplace design is considered not important or just not considered?

These spaces, above, are clearly innovative workplaces but are they spaces that foster innovation? Do slides, bean bags, games, grassy seats or trampolines result in higher creativity? Well possibly, a little, but I think innovation starts with people – psychology and culture, rather than with design gimmicks … Read More