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.

Monday 01st July 2019 From user-needs to construction: how Olympic House became a reality

From Day 1, the new HQ for the International Olympic Committee, Olympic House in Lausanne, has been positioned not only as a construction project but also as a transformation project by the IOC.
As a result, a user centric approach was implemented to define the needs which were the basis for the international architecture competition launched by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Out of the 12 architecture companies selected to present a project, Danish architecture firm 3XN was the one selected by the IOC to design and build Olympic House, in a consortium with local swiss architect Itten+Brechbühl.
After a 7-year long process, Olympic House was inaugurated last month on 23 June 2019.
We’re delighted that Nicolas Rogemond, programme manager at the IOC and Søren Nersting, senior associate at Danish architects 3XN will be at our Workplace Trends Copenhagen conference on 19 September to present how they have collaborated to make sure the user needs were translated in the architecture of Olympic House.

Photo Credit: Copyright IOC/Adam Mork

Tuesday 21st May 2019 Machine Learning: The Heart of Seismic Productivity and Savings

Online TV and video platform Netflix has gone from strength to strength over the past few years, to the point where its name is synonymous with binge-watching and great U.S. dramas. What many don’t know, however, is that according to McKinsey, the pioneering management consultancy, Netflix saved almost $1 billion in lost revenue by using machine learning (a form of artificial intelligence) to make personalised recommendations. The artificial intelligence (AI) revolution is already making a bottom line impact to a plethora of companies across various industries, and machine learning, in particular, is used to drive a lot of that change. Life in the workplace will change slowly but surely as we adapt to a hybrid manner of working where human intelligence works alongside AI to create more successful workplaces and spaces.

Datasets Changing How Human Resources (HR) Operates

Sushman Biswas, a HR technologist, whilst presenting an overview of the way in which AI will impact the HR dimension of work, focussed on three key aspects of HR that he felt would be transformed by the new application of technology to this sector: background verification, employee attrition, and career personalisation. Predictive models that are powered by machine learning algorithms that can not only recognise the patterns detailed within the program, but can learn based on the provided data to look out for similar data, is what gives machine learning the power to create efficiencies within HR processes.

Industry-Specific Application of Machine Learning

Artificial intelligence will not only impact workstreams within the workplace (such as HR) but also across industry-specific areas in quite unique ways. Harald Golles, CTO of omni:us, thinks “AI solutions will have the most impact on service economy industries,” and he specifically singles out the financial services sector as one most impacted industries of all. Applications within this sector range from AI-powered virtual assistants (such as the Bank of America’s ‘Erica’ assistant) through to Big Data algorithms being used to eliminate cyber crime related to credit cards.

Preparing for the Big Data/AI revolution

With the extremely rapid nature of the change that AI and Big Data algorithms are bringing to the workplace (with as many as one in five set to have an AI-based co-worker by 2022), how can organisations ensure that employees are kept engaged and onboard?

Two key points are essential to bear in mind whilst developing an increasingly data-driven strategy in your workplace. Firstly, consider your employees as full partners and stakeholders in the change. Engage with them and check in with them regularly during the change process (through surveys and specific meetings). Secondly, be transparent about the whole process. If it’s about greater productivity, then let them know, as they will appreciate being involved in the strategic deployment of AI within the workplace.

From small to medium-sized enterprises through to larger corporations such as Netflix, AI and Big Data applications in the workplace look set to rapidly increase over the next decade. This change will come across specific workstreams as well as in industry-specific sectors, with a myriad of uses from AI-powered chatbots to diagnosing various diseases based on hospital scans. Preparing for the change is key, and fully involving staff members in the change is essential to the success of AI and Big Data in the workplace.

Author: freelance writer Lucy Wyndham
Photo by from Pexels


Thursday 01st November 2018 Tech Companies Keeping The Apprenticeship Dream Alive

Despite the UK government setting a target of recruiting 3 million new apprentices by 2020, companies have failed to secure new applicants. Since 2015, apprenticeships have been given a legal status equal to university degrees in a bid to encourage more school leavers to take the vocational route. However, throughout 2016 and 2017, the number of students applying to become apprentices dropped sharply. It is only the technology industry that has fully embraced the scheme and set out to up their intake of apprentices.

Why Have Apprenticeship Rates Fallen Across the UK?

In the last quarter of 2017, the number of new apprentices declined by 27%. This occurred directly after a 59% drop in the previous quarter. The government is now on track to miss the targets which were enshrined in law in 2015. Apprenticeships have the potential to provide incredible value to school leavers, through teaching transferable trade skills, such as working on the aesthetics of a car, fixing plumbing systems or tiling a roof. These are all skills that will be of value to customers for many years into the future.

However, the new levy scheme is considered confusing by many businesses, who are unsure of how it all works. Beyond the complicated requirements, companies have also seen a decline in government funding. This means that businesses are having to pay for much of the training themselves, while also paying a wage to the apprentice. In many cases, it makes little financial sense to take on more than a couple of trainee staff members.

Tech Qualifications Inadequate

So why has the tech industry not followed the trend? A survey by Tech Nation found that over half of tech companies faced a shortfall in recruiting highly skilled workers. By pumping revenue in apprenticeships, tech companies are able to train employees to the standard they require, while also maintaining the loyalty of their apprentices.

Despite the fact that 13% of jobs require digital technology skills and 32% require some digital skills, schools are failing to teach students to a high enough standard. The only way for tech companies to acquire staff with the right know-how is to train them themselves. Bringing in foreign workers hasn’t been enough to cover the shortfall and this is likely to become even more difficult once the UK leaves the EU.

The Value of School Leavers

Technology companies have also set out to hire apprentices because they see a greater value in recruiting 16-18 year olds than those over 21. School leavers have shown themselves able to pick up new skills more quickly than university graduates. In the rapidly changing technology sector, this flexibility of mind is essential. However, in other industries there may be less need to train people up quickly, so they are more likely to recruit graduates who are cheaper to hire.

In a quickly changing economy, the government’s apprenticeship drive is failing. It is only the tech industry, where there is a significant skills shortage, that the apprenticeship scheme is having positive results. Technology companies are having to make up for the failure of schools to teach digital skills, but are finding high levels of returns on their investments in school leavers. For other sectors, however, more needs to be done to encourage the recruitment of apprentices.

Author: freelance writer Lucy Wyndham
Photo by Austin Poon on Unsplash


Wednesday 19th September 2018 Biomimicry: Not Just Sharkskins and Honeycombs

me picIn our series of guest blogs by speakers and supporters of our up-coming Workplace Trends Autumn Conference in London: People, Place, Performance, conference manager Maggie Procopi discusses biomimicry and biophilia, which have been engaging topics of discussion at recent conferences.

Over recent years at our Workplace Trends Conferences we’ve been lucky enough to welcome Michael Pawlyn and later Richard James MacCowan to speak on biomimicry, as well as Bill Browning and Oliver Heath on biophilia.
They enthralled audiences with tales of how the natural world can solve human problems through design solutions (biomimicry) and by satisfying our innate need to connect with nature (biophilia).
But biomimicry is more than just the famous design solutions we hear about, like the stability, aesthetics and economies of the Eden Project’s bubble raft shapes, or Sharklet Technologies printing sharkskin patterns onto adhesive film, which repels bacteria and so is ideal for installation in schools and hospitals, or harvesting water in the desert like the Stenocara Beetle.
Biomimicry casts its net wider than just design. The human race has only been here a fraction of the time that nature has. We can look to the wild world for tips and best practice on people management and leadership. Just Google and learn – from how a wolf pack works to the way a beehive operates and ant colonies manage themselves.
Most interestingly for the workplace is that nature never throws anything away, unlike our largely linear economy (make, use, dispose).
In a 2010 TED talk, ‘Using Nature’s Genius in Architecture’, Michael Pawlyn illustrated a ‘close-looped system’ (circular economy) with the ‘Cardboard to Caviar Project’. Put simply, restaurant waste was turned into horse bedding, then fed to worms, which were fed to fish, whose caviar was then served at the same restaurant. Nothing is wasted, and the whole process is economically and environmentally profitable.
Over the past 10 years, PwC has systematically applied the principles of the Circular Economy to its business.  I’m especially delighted that Bridget Jackson from PwC will be sharing their experiences at our up-coming conference on 17 October 2018. It’s a story that has inspired BITC to create a Circular Office programme, with c. 75 companies now signed up to follow suit.
So as well as pondering the FM budget sheet, we need to take a hard look at the contents of our bins at home and work. What things need never be in existence at all (over-packaging, I cry!), what might be reused, what might be properly recycled?

Post by Maggie Procopi, event manager of the Workplace Trends and Design & Management of Learning Environments Conferences.

This article was originally published at FM World.

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

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.

Sunday 29th July 2018 VR In The Workplace: 3 Changes To Expect

Virtual reality is fast on its way to becoming the defining technology of the current decade. That’s a fairly serious label, and it will have competition when we look back in another 10 years. But already we’ve seen VR progress from a fun adaptation of an old idea aimed at gamers to a multi-functional technology with implications across – essentially – our entire way of life. It’s not quite time to buy in yet to the science fiction vision of the near future in which we’re all strapped into VR all of the time. But at the same time, it’s probably appropriate to get used to the idea of VR easing its way into your life, and this will be happening in the workplace as well as in your personal space and time.
There may in fact be dozens of things that change about the workplace of the near future as VR is implemented to streamline practices and improve atmospheres. For now though, these are three of the changes you should expect to see.

1. More Remote Work

Most of us think about virtual reality all wrong. We think about it in terms of actions. For gamers, it’s what it might be like to shoot an alien in virtual space; for artists, how to paint on a canvas that doesn’t exist; for film lovers, how to approach an iconic character in a simulation. These are all thrilling aspects of the technology. But if we really look at how it’s evolved thus far, the core of it is environment. Some of the most impressive trajectory in this regard can be seen in the particular game genres that comprise online casinos. Digital slot reels, once undeniably bland, made waves by advancing to 3D just a few years ago, and have since already moved on to virtual reality. The technology took a flat, boring style of gaming and turned it into an interactive experience in which any individual title could provide its own unique surroundings for the player.
That may seem oddly specific, but think of it in the context of workplace communications and remote contributions and imagine the leaps you could make in VR. We’ve already turned telephone calls and emails into live chat spaces (like Slack), conference calls, and remote presentations. But even then you’re interacting with a screen or a line of text, etc. In virtual reality, group participation across distances would be every bit as effective as the leap from 3D gaming to virtual gaming. We would be in the same environment as co-workers, interacting as if in actual space. Surroundings, in this sense, matter, and they’re just what VR will provide.

2. Increasingly Ergonomic Workspaces

Here again, we’re talking about the environment VR can provide, in this case as a sort of test run for organizing a real space. If you’ve been paying attention for the last 10 months or so, augmented reality has actually made a lot of waves as relates to home and office design. The idea is that through AR programs, you can use a simple mobile phone to look through furniture inventories from real retailers, and then position your phone to show virtual renderings of your choices in your actual room. It’s an impressive idea and a very fun way to use AR – though again, here we’re talking mostly about turning something 2D into something 3D.
The next step is the arrangement of whole rooms in virtual space, and/or the ability to browse fake virtual spaces. While this may not seem like the most vital practice for a workplace, the technology will enable those in charge of offices themselves to sample different layouts, test out ideas, and ultimately come up with the most ergonomic, employee-friendly designs for workplaces. And as we know, a better workspace can improve productivity.

3. New Training & HR Practices

Another piece about how VR will change the workplace (which made some excellent points of its own) noted the creation of safe testing and training environments as one of the perks. This is certainly an interesting point, and one that gets past the idea of environmental consideration and into actual office practices. It’s also a simpler point, because the specifics depend so much on what kind of workplace we’re talking about and what sort of work is being done. Speaking broadly however, the pure ability of VR to produce simulations allows for very effective on-the-job training, whether for new employees learning new skills or for existing employees going through HR programs.

Author: freelance writer/content editor Jacob Saunders

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.