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.

The remit of Workplace Trends is to explore how factors (such as social demographics and attitudes to work, emerging technologies, economic markets and new business models, new working practices, world influences such as climate and security) will affect the way the workplace is designed and used. Over the year’s our speakers have not just included architects and designers but also psychologists, technologists, futurologists, economists, philosophers and anthropologists. We like to give our speakers a reasonable amount of time to express their views; I hope you agree a refreshing counter to the superficial panel sound-bite approach of most conferences. Our aim is to provide a good platform for research and best practice that will influence future workplaces.

This year is no exception and our theme of Property is a People Business has resulted in some compelling speakers. I am pleased that we have finally landed an expert on biomimicry. Michael Pawlyn will tell us about his latest book on Biomimicry in Architecture and how offices are complex organic mega structures of which the occupants are one biological component. Craig Knight, an experimental psychologist who appeared on the TV show The Secret Life of Buildings, has in my opinion produced some of the most credible research into productivity and he will share his latest, yet unpublished, findings. Thomas Bene, the main man behind Bene furniture, will present on megatrends including changing work patterns, a shift to creativity, and the office as a “knowledge factory”.Anne-Marie McEwan and Ziona Strelitz join forces to discuss the impact of the increasing use of social media and third spaces on future offices. After lunch we will continue with, what has become a bit of a tradition, Paul Morrell being challenged, this year by Paul Finch, for a debate on the conference theme. Kerstin Sailer will present her recent doctorate on the social life of offices which explores designing for interaction and culture change. As usual we also have two contemporary case studies – Robert McLean speaking about PwC’s new More London Offices and Mette Hasle Rasmussen, with Philip Tidd, discussing a workplace strategy for Novo Nordisk. Neil Usher of Rio Tinto will keep us on track and entertained during the afternoon sessions.

Over the years the conference has developed its own personality. Many delegates return to share the informal atmosphere, one where they are surrounded by their peer group interested in creating great workplaces rather than surrounded by sponsors selling the latest kit (although we do let a select few in). Take a look at whatothers think about Workplace Trends.
I hope to see you there, it’s going to be a good one, go on join us.

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