Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Merry Biophilic Christmas

Last month I sat on a panel discussing the business case for workplace wellbeing, of which one is slowly emerging. That along with Christmas and my Viking* heritage got me pondering on the true origins of biophilic design.  

Biophilia, a term coined by Edward O Wilson, is basically our innate affinity to nature. Biophilic design tends to focus on introducing plants into the workplace but, as explained in a previous blog, it is so much more and taps into our base (evolutionary psychology) needs. Biophilia includes daylight, views, fluctuating temperature, sound-scaping, natural ventilation, natural materials, social spaces, refuge etc – see Bill Browning’s excellent work for a full explanation of biophilic design principles. But bringing nature indoors has been going on for some time, especially around this time of year …

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Happy Season's Meetings

This is my penultimate blog of 2018; throughout the year I have attempted to offer blogs on work as well as workplace, in particular how to improve your performance. With the Christmas holidays looming, and my clients trying to tidy up loose ends, I have noticed a rapid increase in the number of meetings I have been invited to. Meetings can be great, a productive way to move things forward, but we have also all attended those that we thought a complete and utter waste of time. So here are my thoughts on how you can master meetings.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Design Fundamentals for an Attractive City

As part of my day-job is speaking at conferences, I get to visit a lot of wonderful cities around the world. The people and culture are fundamental prerequisites of a good city, but design and planning also play an important role in creating an attractive city. In this blog I list the dozen design features that I have found are indicators of cities that I most prefer – they are also actually my place-making criteria. This blog is also an excuse to share some of my holiday photos.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Transdisciplinary Workplace

I was fortunate to present a keynote address at the first Transdisciplinary Workplace Research conference (#TWR18) last week in Tampere. Around fifty researchers, mostly academic with a few practitioners, gathered to discuss their latest workplace research on topics such as wellbeing, productivity, change management, agile working, co-working etc. 

Friday, 31 August 2018

Open plan v private offices déjà vu

Another round of articles was recently published (mostly by Inc.) on why private offices are better than open plan, and consequently suggest we should eschew open plan design.  Despite the open plan office being described as a management fad by one journalist, the adoption of open plan dates back to the 1950s* and the occurrence of such negative articles has been ongoing ever since then. 

However, every five years or so, such articles seem to converge and attract the attention of the mass press. It seems that academics and journalists have a particular dislike for open plan. But open plan is clearly not a “fad” and I suspect it is here to stay, so it is more useful to focus on how to resolve any demonstrated issues with open plan rather than simply say it should be banned. 

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Biophilic design is so much more than plants

Those of you who have seen me present or have read my previous blogs will know I am a big advocate of Biophilic Design. But I am not impressed by the recent run of blogs and product/service websites that have reduced Biophilic Design to providing landscaping and plants in the office, proclaiming they reduce air pollutants and improve productivity. Just search for ‘Biophilic Design’ on Google images as an indicator of the emphasis on planting. Particularly frustrating are those ‘green wash’ type posts that imply a potted plant plonked on the desk is the panacea for enhancing wellbeing. My issue with these articles is two-fold:
  1. There is so much more to biophilic design than plants, and
  2. There are much more efficient ways of reducing air pollutants than adding potted plants.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

True ABW Environments

I was fortunate to speak at the CUREM conference at the University of Zurich a couple of weeks ago – I love mixing travel with work, perhaps the topic of a future blog. One of my co-presenters, Itai Palti of UCL and Hume, made a point that struck a chord.

Itai basically said that workplace design is not just about providing the right spaces to facilitate the required work activities, but also about providing the right environmental conditions. I immediately thought of Activity Based Working (ABW) environments and realised I had not quite appreciated their design is much broader than the look of the different types of work settings in the space. And that is despite my research on psychoacoustics, highlighting how different tasks (and people) require different levels/types of sound.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Workplaces for Everyone

I recently chaired the Workplace Trends (WT) conference in Copenhagen - after 15 years of running WT, it was the first outside of the UK, so quite a milestone. One of the recurring themes was around designing for individuals, or specific groups or types of individuals. The speakers referred to personal factors such as age, personality and parental status. There was some discussion around whether we should design for the individual or the organisation. The general consensus appeared to be that we should design for a majority (perhaps the average ± 1sd) as we can’t design for everyone. But to achieve this we must offer choice, of a range of spatial and environmental settings, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution based on the assumed (or sometimes dictated) average.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Where We Work

In previous blogs, I’ve covered the what, how and who we work with, so now I want to touch on the where we work – my main area of expertise. This field is well-reported on by advocates of activity-based working (ABW), agile working or new ways of working (a term still used despite early adopters like Interpolis and Chiat/Day around 25 years ago).

Monday, 5 March 2018

When We Work

In recent posts I have focussed on how we can make ourselves more productive by selecting the work we do and choosing who we work with. I think the next logical subject, before moving on to where we work, is deciding on when we work.

Only the other day I was on route to yoga (I’m of that age now) and planned to be there at 6.30pm. However, I arrived late because I hit the “rush hour” (or more appropriately “slow three hour”) traffic. Isn’t it bizarre that in an age when most large businesses have offices across all regions of the world, and many of us liaise with offices in different time zones, that we still have the 9 ‘til 5 office hours? One consequence of which is the morning and evening “rush hours”. I wondered what any aliens observing us would think when seeing us all queuing, in our cars or at stations, to get to and from work at exactly the same time as everyone else.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Beware the Workplace Parasites

In my first blog of the year I shared how we can prioritise our workload to be more productive. I continue that theme this month, but with a focus on who we should work with (and who we should avoid) in order to deliver our work objectives.

As a scientist (yes psychology is a science albeit a “social” one) I love it when other disciplines can shed light and offer alternative points of view on my own field of expertise. Cross-discipline input is not blinkered by groupthink and occasionally it offers a paradigm shift in how to comprehend and resolve a problem. In the past I have referred to the Workplace Zoo, recognising we are different “animals” with different needs. If we continue the analogy of the workplace as a living system, after-all biomimicry is on-trend, and if we focus on our relationships and interactions then logically we should also consider the relevance of symbiosis

Monday, 1 January 2018

Make a list and have a productive New Year

It is the time of the year when we sit down, bloated from Christmas excesses, reflect on the past and plan the year ahead. Undoubtedly this will involve a list (of resolutions) which will gradually be forgotten over the next few months. But “to do” lists (or “action plans” if you are reliant on others) are a good and simple aid to productivity. Crossing off a completed item offers a warm feeling of satisfaction, positive reinforcement and does the world of good for our psychological wellbeing.

But don’t just write a list, prioritise the items – which is easier said than done. How many of us go into the office in the morning with our mental “to do” list but the day pans out more like this: