Friday, 28 October 2011

The Office of the Future: Smaller & Distributed

This is a blog I recently made on behalf of 2degrees.

We all know the old adage “work is an activity not a place”. Due to emerging technology, particularly wireless networks and digital storage, we are no longer dependent on attending the office and can work at home, in arbitrary places – such as the cafĂ©, library, clubs-hubs-pubs – and on the move. But the technology we have seen so far is just the start. Computing power is increasing exponentially and dramatically reducing in price, while the internet, wireless networks, cheap laptops and smart phones mean that we are now all connected in and out of work, locally and globally.

But work is not just about computer usage, it involves networking, meetings and creative thinking. Currently most of us in the UK work within the service industry, but we are entering a new industrial age, one of creativity and innovation. For UK plc to stay ahead we have to move towards an innovative and creative based industry.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Nearly There - Workplace Trends

It’s just one month to go before the next Workplace Trends conference on 20th October. It seems like a good opportunity to share my views on this year’s programme. It’s a great line up which I am genuinely looking forward to; this year could be our best set of speakers yet, but then again I do say that every year. But first a little history.

Did you know this will be the ninth Workplace Trends conference? It all started during the last recession (2002), I had just joined an architectural practice and, to be honest, I was getting a little bored at work. I proposed to the Board that we hosted a conference for our current and potential clients, to which they agreed. We had around 60 delegates at that first conference, my colleagues and some of our clients presented case studies. I quickly realised that the format was too constrained – how would we learn if we only drew knowledge from our own limited pool of expertise. The following year we brought in some heavyweights from our industry, paid for some Americans to come over, and invited our peers/competitors to speak or join the audience. That year we attracted nearly 200 delegates – we were off and, as they say, haven’t looked back.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Rethinking the Design Brief pt2

At the recent CoreNet Paris Summit, the delegates at my session on Rethinking the Design Briefwere asked to prepare a three minute response to our presentations using the materials on each of their tables. One table had Lego, another Fuzzy Felt, another plasticine, another coloured paper and scissors and so on. The idea was that using different materials to a flip chart or PowerPoint might facilitate producing a more creative or lateral response.

Preparing a response

Rethinking the Design Brief pt1

It’s not every day that you meet Donald Duck on the way to work, but this did indeed happen en routeto presenting at the CoreNet Global Summit held in Disneyland Paris. I shared the platform in person with Brian Szpakowski and virtually with Neil Usher, with the help of Susan Wagner who kept us on track. We each presented pecha kucha style then facilitated a practical session using different materials.

The theme of the session was “rethinking the design brief”and our idea was to challenge the way that our industry usually writes the brief for a new workplace. When you visit the majority of modern offices they appear, to me, to all be quite similar. They have large areas open plan desks with the more interesting (collaboration) spaces positioned around a central core; the desks are bench systems in white or grey with low screens and accompanying tambour units; colour comes in splashes at the end of corridors or in the limited number of breakout spaces; informal meeting and soft seating areas are parked in the irregular spaces that desks do not fit in, and so on.

Friday, 24 June 2011

What has work got to do with it?

Workplace strategists, and enlightened architects, often explore the organisation and its needs in order to design the space required to support the business; this is often referred to as “designing from the inside out”. Such organisational analysis includes understanding factors such as: the vision for the business, headcount projections, departmental adjacencies, and the culture. However, quite often fundamentals such as the nature of work, core work activities, preferred work styles and how to improve work performance are overlooked. This got me thinking “what is work” - surely unless we understand this basic question we cannot design workplaces that support work and enhance business performance?

As philosopher Arthur Little[1] once said “false notions of the nature and purpose of work lead logically to unnatural working conditions and these to disaffection and discontent amongst workers”. If you believe that “a happy workforce is a productive workforce” or that the primary function of an office is to support the business that takes place within it, akin to “offices are machines for working in”, then understanding “what is work?” must be the starting point of the design process for a new working environment.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Cs of Change at Macquarie Bank

Yesterday I attended a tour of Macquarie Bank’s new offices in Ropemaker Place, organised by Unwired and hosted by Nigel Bunclark of the bank.

Nigel explained the brief for Macquarie’s new offices was “not just about sweating the asset but also about creating Community and Connectivity”. The vision was that enhanced Connectivity would lead to Collaboration and growth in business. The bank was also Consolidating from several offices into one and creating a new front door and much improved Client-experience.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Cutting Corners at KPMG

Yesterday, I attended a tour of KPMG’s new Canary Wharf offices courtesy of The Office productivity Network (OPN). It was a full on day with presentations by the facilities, operation and branding teams of KPMG along with the design story presented by Angela Sasso of Swankey Architects (actually Swanke Hayden Connell Architects). The highlight of the day was the tour of the new facilities.

First impressions count at KPMG. The lobby is impressive but not exuberant, the welcome is slick and professional, the environment is fresh and light – all relevant to the subtle branding integrated into the building. As in many offices, the main workspaces where low key, 1600 mm bench desks, low partitions, and minimalist colour – perhaps a little too clinical not helped by the lack of planting and human touches a bit like a home that is being de-cluttered in order to sell. However, effort had been made to break up the serried ranks of desks by introducing quiet pods and cluster of 120° desk for the senior managers. The graphics in the main workspace are also minimalist compared to the wonderful manifestations used in the conference suite. But for me there are clearly two winning features of this space: the atrium and the informal meeting spaces.