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 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

Thursday 30th January 2020 Changes you’ll probably see in the workplace in 2020

The last decade has seen a number of changes in the structure of the average workforce. Advancements in technology, attitudes, and cultures are changing what it means to be a worker and what it means to run a business. As we are now into a new decade, we’ve seen hints of trends that will appear to be the new norm in the coming years. Here are some changes you are bound to see in 2020. 

Four-day work weeks

People have explored the idea of a four-day workweek for quite some time, but Microsoft Japan’s recent experiment proved it to be a success with productivity jumping by 40%. Not only did they see more work get accomplished and more goals met, meetings were also more efficient, more energy was saved, and workers were happier. At the centre of this concept is the idea of a work-life balance, and perhaps we will see more companies following suit. 

Dependence on technology

Throughout the years, technology has established itself as an integral part of various businesses and industries, so much so that even during the hiring process some HR teams rely on it to streamline their recruitment efforts. In Comeet’s post on ‘What is an Applicant Tracking System (ATS)?’, David Markowitz discussed the use of this cloud-based technology to increase the overall efficiency of operations. Modern ATS can revolutionise the process with real-time communication, automation, and analysis. 

Remote set-up

Workplace Unlimited’s online survey found that the most important workplace condition among employees is related to flexibility. The option to work remotely falls under this, and more organisations are considering this as a viable option and smart management strategy––reducing costs and driving revenue. This also allows workers to become more productive and engaged as they can perform at their optimal levels when and where they choose best. 

A greener office environment

With environmental degradation and climate change on the rise, it makes sense for big entities like offices to make greener choices. Whether this is through minimizing paper usage, forgoing fax machines, recycling, or opting for LED bulbs, these small practices have greater weight when the entire company undertakes them. It is not only a good practice but contributes greatly to the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility, which today’s workforce deems an important factor in their choice of work.

A disappearing ‘corporate ladder’

The corporate ladder was once an ideal career trajectory among workers who equated climbing it to success. Solomon Thimothy of OneIMS has found that this hierarchal culture is beginning to change in correlation to people’s work attitudes. Diverse workforces show that people find success in avenues other than promotions: exploring other hobbies, having “side hustles,” and not solely making work the centre of their lives.

This post was contributed by Megan Brennan.

Wednesday 27th November 2019 Research results: Personal preferences in the workplace

The debate on open plan versus enclosed offices rages on, but workplace design is not a such a simple dichotomy. Office occupants clearly have different workplace preferences, depending on factors like personality, personalisation, flexibility and sense of belonging etc.

This summer Herman Miller and Workplace Trends commissioned Workplace Unlimited to conduct a short on-line survey to help unravel some of the more personal factors underlying preferences in the modern office that are often forgotten or ignored.

The participants were asked to rate their preference for a number of office solutions. Overall we found:

  • Landscaped offices and agile working were more highly preferred than open plan and, surprisingly, private offices.
  • Home-working was rated fairly high, whereas hot-desking is rated low as a preferred option.
  • Open plan and private offices are not the only design options available, and least preferred.
  • Landscaped offices and agile working, which are both types of “open plan”, appear to be more agreeable options.

Fear of the unknown

When considering the current primary workplace of the respondents, those in private offices prefer private offices, whereas those in open plan, prefer open plan. It therefore appears that those who have not actually experienced open plan are more opposed to it, supporting the often observed “fear of the unknown”.

Similarly, home-workers prefer home-working. Furthermore, those with allocated desks have a higher preference for private offices and least prefer homeworking, hot-desking and agile working, compared to those who already hot-desk.

Personality

Preferences were also found to differ by personality. Introverts are more in favour of private offices and least prefer open plan, agile working and hot-desking compared to extroverts. Interestingly, there is little difference between introverts and extroverts in the preference for home-working; both groups rate home-working relatively high. There were fewer differences for those more neurotic and less emotionally stable.

Demographics

Preferences were found to differ by some socio-demographic factors. Those in the UK rated open plan and landscaped offices higher than elsewhere. In contrast, Eastern Europeans and North Americans rated open plan offices low and private offices the highest.

Age groups and length of service

No significant differences in office preferences were found for tenure or age group. So, previously reported differences in expectations of millennials etc are not supported. However, researchers do have a preference for private offices, which could influence their studies of open plan and resulting recommendations on office design.

The importance of workplace conditions

The participants were asked to rate how important they consider 26 different workplace conditions. For example, flexibility over work hours and place of work, having a social workplace, being able to personalise the workspace and not being overheard or overlooked by colleagues. For all the respondents, the most important workplace conditions relate to flexibility. For those currently accommodated in private offices, concentration and windows are also considered important. Those who rate private offices as their preferred workplace, consider personal desk conditions, like personalisation and privacy, to be most important.

In contrast, such personal conditions are negatively correlated with those who have a higher preference for agile working and desk-sharing. For those who prefer landscaped offices and home working, flexibility and connectedness are more important. For those who prefer open plan, connectedness is important and for home-workers flexibility is key. These observed conditions could be used as motivators in workplace change management programmes

Read the full report

The above is a summary: the full report may be viewed here.

Tuesday 30th July 2019 Podcast : What do people really want at work?

Branding specialist and Spacecraft Podcaster Dan Moscrop recently spent some time talking with workplace expert and psychologist Nigel Oseland. In the podcast they look at what people REALLY want at work; whether open plan is as rubbish as everyone says it is; how to use data to prove design works; and touch on Nigel’s current research projects with Lendlease and Herman Miller.

Towards the end of the podcast Dan and Nigel also kindly give a mention to our Workplace Trends: Towards a new era of work and workplace conference in London on 15 October. They’ll both be attending on the day and would love to pick up the conversation with you there!

Here’s the full podcast, and to hear more from Dan and his other Spacecraft Podcast sessions, subscribe to the feed here.

Wednesday 27th March 2019 What's Your Perfect Office?

The debate on open plan versus enclosed offices rages on, but it’s not binary, it’s not black or white, it’s not a dichotomy.
Plus office occupants appear to have different preferences from the wide range of workplace design solutions that are available. We need to understand what drives these individual preferences. Is it factors like personality, personalisation, flexibility, sense of belonging and familiarity that affect where people prefer to work?
Together with partners Nigel Oseland of Workplace Unlimited, and Herman MillerWorkplace Trends is conducting independent research into people’s preferences for their work environments.
As part of the study we’d be very grateful if you could complete a short questionnaire. It takes less than ten minutes and as a thank you for your time you can choose to enter a prize draw for a free ticket to a Workplace Trends Conference and also to receive an early copy of our research report.
Please also share this page and our survey with your employees and colleagues!

Click here to take the Office Preferences Survey

PS Registration for our next London Workplace Trends Conference is open now – will you be there? 
 

Monday 06th August 2018 Team Building Beyond Time Zones: Building Better Relationships With Your Remote Workers

Today, 4 million UK citizens are choosing to work from home. For most remote workers, bonding online is a great way to bring the team closer together despite the distance. However, many Fortune 1000 companies are revamping the way they run their virtual teams.
The lack of interaction between remote teams is one of the biggest disadvantages as they can affect the overall performance of the company. In addition, the bond between colleagues can make a difference in team morale and satisfaction – both online and off. So, what can team leaders do to improve the bonding factors even beyond time zones? Boost remote employee relationships with team building activities, of course.

Embracing “Old School” Video Conferences

Video conferencing is one of the least, yet essential features needed by remote teams. In fact, it is one of the most useful tools to build trust with each other online. So, why not make it part of your team building routine? Set aside 30 minutes for a video meeting every 2 – 4 weeks. The goal is to have everyone join in and get an update from all team members about what’s working and what isn’t.
In addition, a dedicated channel on Slack will give members a place to share photos, discuss group issues, share their work, and connect with everyone on the team. If you plan to connect with everyone, set up a specific time for all members to be online to discuss challenges, weekly tasks, or give recognition.

Geocaching in the Great Outdoors

For remote teams located within the same region, planning an annual teambuilding trip is a great option to ‘get out and explore’ without traveling too far. Once you’ve set your area, an activity like geocaching provides a unique opportunity to spend a day outdoors with colleagues that you wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. If the company cannot provide GPS devices, there are simple apps that groups can download. When choosing your cache, aim to simplify the process by avoiding any items that will be difficult to find. Instead, use tickets that can be traded once a geocache is tracked. You can also include messages such as puzzles or riddles for teams to find to make the outdoor activity more exciting.

Encourage a Lunch ‘n’ Learn

Whenever an employee attends a conference useful to the team, ask them to present a summarized presentation of what they learned. Whether the team is located within the same region or in different time zones, invite the team to sign in the online group discussion. To help encourage the team to join in, management can purchase a reloadable gift card or bonus fund to use towards a virtual lunch during the presentation. That way, the whole company benefits from the conference and the ideas gained from it.
Team building shouldn’t be limited to non-remote companies. Members who work remotely don’t have to miss out on the “water cooler experience” of a physical workplace. Instead, use these tactics to keep teams in sync, productive, and ultimately strengthen the bond beyond time zones.

Author: freelance writer Lucy Wyndham
Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

PS- Don’t forget to book your place at our Workplace Trends London Conference, 17 October 2018! #CircularEconomy #ArtificialIntelligence #ActiveWorking #Biophilia #MachineLearning #SensoryProcessing and more! Click here for all info.