Friday, 20 June 2014

Blogging on Brewing

I have just returned from a couple of IFMA events held this week in Stockholm and Barcelona. I enjoyed the events and thought to myself I ought to blog about them as I haven’t posted a workplace blog for a little while. What I hadn’t realised is that my last blog here was six months ago! I know time flies by when you are enjoying yourself or busy, but six months is a long time by any standards.
But my lack of activity here doesn’t mean I have not been blogging, I have just been doing it under another persona. You see, I recently invested in and built a microbrewery, Haresfoot Brewery, and I have been venting my thoughts on-line as a newbie brewer. What may interest the workplace community is why I ended up brewing commercially.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Social Capital and Psychological Inclusion

I was recently invited to “consultation” on Social Capital In the Workplace at St George’s House (Windsor Castle). The consultation took the form of a retreat, we stayed overnight at the castle and the awe-inspiring environment, fuelled by alcohol, lent itself to serious debate and relationship development. I was asked to present my views on social capital for a psychologist’s perspective, so here I go.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Will demonising “open plan” lead to its demise?

There is a witch hunt on in the world of workplace. “Open plan” has become a dirty word (okay phrase) and the national press are leading the mob in vilifying this so-called scorn on workplace society. The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and Business Week have all recently reported that “we can’t get anything done in an open-plan office” as it affects our concentration, our performance and our health.

These news items are all pretty damning but not as damming as the Wikipedia entry on open plan which states:

“A systematic survey of research upon the effects of open plan offices found frequent negative effects in some traditional workplaces: high levels of noise, stress, conflict, high blood pressure and a high staff turnover… Most people prefer closed offices… there is a dearth of studies confirming positive impacts on productivity from open plan office designs”.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Planning for Productivity

The Holy Grail

For many years leading lights in the property and construction industry, such as Paul Morrell, have referred to the connection between office design and business performance (or productivity) as the Holy Grail. There is a view that the relationship is elusive and intangible, a myth even. That in itself is not a problem, but one consequence of believing that the impact of office design on productivity is not easily demonstrated, is that it is generally ignored. From a business perspective, ignoring the effect of your workplace facilities on your workforce’s performance is not just naïve but also irresponsible.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Future of Corporate Workspace: Property is a People Business

To me, the majority of office floor space looks and feels the same, well it certainly does in the UK (take a look at any interior design magazine if you don’t believe me). There are a few exceptions but most offices are fully open plan with rows of homogenous desks built around a core of so-called collaboration space and other supporting areas.

The more adventurous organisations may have quirkier breakout spaces, themed meetings rooms and a funkier colour palette, but the layout of the space, with the ubiquitous bench-desking, repeatedly follows a familiar pattern. The even more adventurous organisations may be experimenting with new ways of working, reinvented as flexible or agile or activity based working, but nevertheless a concept that has been around for at least 25 years.

The design and use of space is fundamentally driven by cost. The office is considered (by many) a cost burden, an overhead, rather than a means of improving business performance, an investment with potentially lucrative returns. So currently office design is all about space, it is about efficiency, high density, and reducing property costs.

Le Corbusier famously claimed “the home is a machine for living in”, so logically it follows that the “office is a machine for working in”. The primary objective of the office is, and has always been, to facilitate the business of the occupying organisation. And the key asset of any organisation is its people.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Corroborating Collaboration

I am carrying out some new and original research into the Psychology of Collaboration Spaces. The main approach is an on-line survey which explores our personality types and our preferences for spaces and other media to facilitate different types of interaction and collaboration. The research builds on a literature review I carried out for Herman Miller last year. The survey and subject of collaboration have generated so much interest on LinkedIn that I thought I would reiterate my earlier initial findings.

Firstly, I was surprised at the lack of studies on the psychology of collaboration spaces. The existing research on collaboration mostly focuses on how the make-up of teams affects their motivation and performance. What is made clear from these studies is that teams are ultimately more effective (i.e. more creative, innovative and productive) if they are comprised of a mixture of personality types. I have previously blogged on Personality & Communication discussing how different personality types prefer to communicate and interact through different media. So providing a range of tools and spaces to allow heterogeneous teams to interact is fundamental to the collaborative process.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Pursuing the Perfect Office

Last Friday Claudia Hammond presented her Radio 4 programme on The Search for the Perfect Office. It’s such a big subject and I was surprised to not find any on-line discussion on the programme. So I will attempt to start a debate here.

Like my previous blog on lawyer’s offices the programme soon focussed in on the open plan versus private office debate. On first listening I went away thinking that the programme was heavily biased against the open plan office. It started by suggesting that whilst open plan offices are cheaper they are a false economy as they do not support our work activities. I went away with the impression that only half of the research (that against open plan) was presented. The architects received a severe bashing for ignoring the research on noise distraction and designing buildings with their favourite materials, steel and glass, that reflect rather than absorb sounds. But a second listening revealed some well-balanced points hidden amongst the upbeat fluff typical of presenters following Radio 4s Woman’s Hour.