Advancing Energy Efficiency, One Year at a Time

The AIA released its annual 2030 Commitment 2014 Progress Report, covering gains in energy efficiency adoption among architecture firms in 2014.

The AIA released its annual 2030 Commitment 2014 Progress Report, covering gains in energy efficiency adoption among architecture firms in 2014.

On an average distillery visit, the most impressive fact tends to be that all the liquor pertaining to the brand (or many brands) has been created exactly where you are…

On an average distillery visit, the most impressive fact tends to be that all the liquor pertaining to the brand (or many brands) has been created exactly where you are standing. While this is true of Bombay Gin’s Laverstoke Mill Distillery, there……

Saul-Bellow Library

Montréal-based Chevalier Morales Architectes envision a library that embraces all types of community uses. The post Saul-Bellow Library appeared first on Canadian Interiors.

Montréal-based Chevalier Morales Architectes envision a library that embraces all types of community uses.

The post Saul-Bellow Library appeared first on Canadian Interiors.

Brigitta Zics

#CrossPollinator: Brigitta Zics #Introduction: How would you best describe your work?  Art that uses technology to extract & activate new capacities of the mind and body; that challenges conventions &…

#CrossPollinator: Brigitta Zics #Introduction: How would you best describe your work?  Art that uses technology to extract & activate new capacities of the mind and body; that challenges conventions & the way we experience art. Q1) #CrossPollination: What does it mean to you?  To take learning from one discipline and using it to challenge an […]

If Only…

Says Donacio Cejas of MET Studio.Since the opening of the first public parks, during the 19th century, our perspective over what green areas are and what they do for us…

Says Donacio Cejas of MET Studio.Since the opening of the first public parks, during the 19th century, our perspective over what green areas are and what they do for us has evolved.Initially, they were considered merely ornamental features, th…

Mind the gap

Words by Marianne HalavageIn 2014, Korea was named as the worst place for worker productivity in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 'This is an authoritarian corporate culture,'…

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Words by Marianne Halavage

In 2014, Korea was named as the worst place for worker productivity in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). ‘This is an authoritarian corporate culture,’ Michael Breen, author of The Koreans, told Forbes. ‘It’s very bad form to leave the office before the boss does, so people will hang around doing nothing, and then when the boss leaves, they feel free to leave. Because of all of that, people don’t have much of a life, nor the will to live come Monday morning, one assumes.

Other pitfalls include that very few Korean workers are actually doing anything of substance. People divide their time between beautifying PowerPoint presentations for their bosses, using online messenger to chat with their friends in the next cubicle and taking long smoke breaks, according to Michael Kocken, a Korean-market consultant. Workers are encouraged to be loyal and subordinate ‘yes men’, and the culture of drinking and socialising means that workers spend their days with hangovers.

But the UK has more in common with Korea than we might care to think. In 2014, our productivity gap with other G7 nations widened to its largest since 1992, according to official statistics. Productivity is generally defined as the level of economic output per hour worked against the cost incurred. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that output per hour of UK workers in 2013 fell to 17 percentage points below the average of other G7 nations.

Inside new offices for Constituency Management Group. Area Sq developed the concepts of CMG’s branding agency Futurebrand to deliver unique yet unifying workspaces for the seven CMG brands now housed together
Inside new offices for Constituency Management Group. Area Sq developed the concepts of CMG’s branding agency Futurebrand to deliver unique yet unifying workspaces for the seven CMG brands now housed together

In response, Chancellor George Osborne has launched a 15-point productivity plan, aimed at achieving sustainable long-term increases in living standards. Point 3 proposes radical action to develop a highly skilled workforce through employer-led professional and technical qualifications, and better preparing pupils and students for the workplace.

Training improves productivity, says the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Its research found that organisations that increased their investment in training and development in the past two years are more likely to be higher performing. Organisations with strategies focusing on higher quality, products and services also do well. Maximising people’s productivity has become the holy grail of organisations, from SMEs to the Fortune 500.

Inside new offices for Constituency Management Group. Area Sq developed the concepts of CMG’s branding agency Futurebrand to deliver unique yet unifying workspaces for the seven CMG brands now housed together
Inside new offices for Constituency Management Group. Area Sq developed the concepts of CMG’s branding agency Futurebrand to deliver unique yet unifying workspaces for the seven CMG brands now housed together

A Google search for ‘maximise workplace productivity’ returns 7.54 million results and about the same number of how-to advice columns. But what do organisations really need to do to get more out of those who work for them, to remove the barriers that impede them working and to help them produce their best work? They need to make better use of their office and workplace facilities or face difficulty recruiting and retaining staff, suggests the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). New figures from RICS reveal that 47 per cent of UK employees want upgrades to the properties they work in; 89 per cent say that the property plays a major role in whether or not they accept a new job.

Inside new offices for Constituency Management Group. Area Sq developed the concepts of CMG’s branding agency Futurebrand to deliver unique yet unifying workspaces for the seven CMG brands now housed together
Inside new offices for Constituency Management Group. Area Sq developed the concepts of CMG’s branding agency Futurebrand to deliver unique yet unifying workspaces for the seven CMG brands now housed together

The office or workplace outranks ‘progression opportunities’ (45 per cent), ‘company culture’ (39 per cent) and ‘benefits’. Only ‘pay’ and ‘people’ factors are more important.

According to the Leesman Index, a benchmarking tool that measures workplace effectiveness, 54.4 per cent of today’s workers believe the design of their workplace enables them to work productively. High-performance organisations also invest in spaces away from desks, have office designs that encourage collaboration between colleagues, and enable people to be flexible in their choice of physical working space.

‘The top-performing buildings focus on the “we” element of the workplace as opposed to the “me” element,’ says Chris Moriarty, Leesman Index’s development director. ‘They don’t ignore the individual aspects like desks and chairs, but these individual factors don’t really make a massive difference.’

One of several breakout spaces at offices for the commercial interior design specialist Fourfront Group in Egham
One of several breakout spaces at offices for the commercial interior design specialist Fourfront Group in Egham

Variety also provides an escape from the noisy open-plan office. A 2014 survey by Canada Life Group Insurance found that only 6.5 per cent of those surveyed thought it was productive to be in an open-plan environment. ‘Out of all the other factors that Leesman measures, noise has the greatest negative impact on productivity,’ says Moriarty, who thinks that soundproofing techniques should be incorporated into workplace design. ‘But it still tends to be about style over substance,’ he adds.

In the stone age of 1998, the American Society of Interior Designers produced a white paper about the impact of design on productivity. It recommended an integrated design strategy for boosting productivity. Designers should be teamed with facilities and human resource managers, as well as with management and technology consultants, the paper advised. The same advice still holds today, but workplace design has been taken to a whole new level. It is now a science and an art, incorporating behavioural science, organisational design, change management, performance metrics, demographics and technological advances — all with an eye on workplace productivity.

The kitchen space also provides an informal working area for the Fourfront Group
The kitchen space also provides an informal working area for the Fourfront Group

There’s even a best practice around choosing furniture. It should be seen as a business tool and considered first from a functionality perspective, advises Lee Day, divisional director of Sketch Studios, a commercial furniture company specialising in the workplace environment. ‘If you think first about how the furniture looks, you end up with a collection of random and inappropriate solutions that might look nice, but they just don’t work for people and don’t enable people to work,’ explains Day.

The design should reflect the identity of the organisation, the characters in it and what they need to be productive, he says – ‘Fiona’ who does sky diving in her free time will probably want something quite different from stamp collector ‘Fred’. ‘Not everyone wants to have a workplace like Google with beanbags everywhere,’ says Day. ‘It’s about understanding what type of workplace it is, what appeals to the characters in it and what furniture will make them comfortable and productive.’ But there is a place for aesthetics, he adds. ‘Then you can focus on the emotional aspect of the furniture, and consider texture, colour, where you are placing it and any other important factors that impact how we feel.’

The Gate Group’s new 2,600 sq m facility in Ashford features a reception ceiling with a sky graphic, grass carpet and picnic baskets with accessories for an outdoor feel indoors
The Gate Group’s new 2,600 sq m facility in Ashford features a reception ceiling with a sky graphic, grass carpet and picnic baskets with accessories for an outdoor feel indoors

Activity-based working has been on-trend for the past few years, partly in response to the millennials joining the workforce and technological advancements. These days, it is all about work as an activity rather than a location. Businesses are analysing what spaces they need for what type of activity and then create a unique environment that promotes productivity.

The IT storage hardware solution provider EMC2 has introduced flexible working in locations around the world, through its next-generation office (NGO) concept. EMC2 has five generations in the workplace, from the young ambitious software engineer to the senior executive thinking about retirement. Their expectations and needs of the work environment couldn’t be more diverse. ‘If you are in a workplace with diversity, and what workplace doesn’t have that, you need to create different environments within four walls,’ says Ken O’Mahony, senior director of EMEA real estate and facilities at EMC2. ‘When you give people the right environment to do their work in, they can concentrate on what they are good at and be productive naturally.’

Organisations are also turning to the hotel and hospitality sector to gain an insight into how to better take care of people’s needs and enable them to be more productive.

Talent and sports agency the Creative Artists Agency wanted an environment with a ‘wow’ factor for its high-profile clients in its new premises in Hammersmith. The reception has a very British feel with its quirky design and Union Jack seats
Talent and sports agency the Creative Artists Agency wanted an environment with a ‘wow’ factor for its high-profile clients in its new premises in Hammersmith. The reception has a very British feel with its quirky design and Union Jack seats

Bespoke hospitality services provider Bennett Hay trains its teams to anticipate the needs of visitors and staff, referred to as guests, in the same way that five-star hotels relate to their customers. ‘We anticipate how we can make life easier for guests,’ says Anthony Bennett, owner director at Bennett Hay.

This might include ensuring that a person can use their favourite meeting room, getting them their favourite coffee, or restocking the MFD before anyone discovers that the paper or ink has run out. ‘Little details can really go a long way and make a difference to that person, to their experience and to their productivity.’

In 2014 Sir Richard Branson announced that Virgin staff could take as much holiday as they want, when they want. He was inspired after his daughter Holly told him about a similar strategy introduced by the video streaming giant Netflix. In an e-mail to her dad, Holly said: ‘I have a friend whose company has done the same thing and they’ve apparently experienced a marked upward spike in everything — morale, creativity and productivity have all gone through the roof.’

Organisations should embrace new ways of working to boost productivity, thinks Leeson Medhurst, workplace strategist at commercial interior design specialist Fourfront Group. But he warns against taking too liberal an approach.

‘With 98 per cent of businesses you still need some structure and discipline to ensure that people are being productive,’ says Medhurst. ‘If the approach is too liberal, people will misbehave and chat and mess about, and companies will fail. We need to be told what to do now and again.’

The impact of management on productivity is well documented – particularly well by one TV sitcom. Jonty Bloom, business correspondent at the BBC, thinks that UK companies are not well managed as a whole, which accounts for a quarter of the difference between the UK’s poor productivity compared with other G7 nations. ‘We are, it seems, a nation of David Brents – the self-satisfied but useless office manager in The Office,’ says Bloom. ‘There are plenty of internationally successful and cutting-edge companies in the UK, but they are outnumbered by a long tail of businesses with pretty mediocre managers.’

‘We need to train managers to ensure that they are visionaries,’ adds Fourfront’s Medhurst. ‘It’s about management by productivity and not management by bums on seats.’ Managers should be responsible for small teams of three or four, thinks Liz Kentish, MD of people development expert Kentish and Co. Then they can really know their teams.

‘If you get to know your people, you can play to their strengths. It makes everyone’s life easier. People leave organisations, or struggle to be productive, because they are not being encouraged to play to their strengths,’ says Kentish.

The aim for Arcapita was to create a professional and high-end image for visitors to its offices on the 15th floor of The Shard. It was critical to create a space on-brand with the company’s HQ in Bahrain and to have clear Islamic influences
The aim for Arcapita was to create a professional and high-end image for visitors to its offices on the 15th floor of The Shard. It was critical to create a space on-brand with the company’s HQ in Bahrain and to have clear Islamic influences

People in the right job, playing to their strengths, have a natural hunger to do what they do well, thinks Kentish. They are the masters of their destiny. And the culture of the business should encourage them to get even better, adds Kentish. She also thinks that everyone in an organisation needs a clear purpose, which is explicitly linked to the organisation’s objectives. ‘We all, as human beings, need a sense of belonging, and to be clear on how what we do impacts the company,’ she says.

Wellbeing can also have a massive impact on productivity. According to the performance-management consultant Gallup, even small decreases in an employee’s wellbeing are strongly correlated to absenteeism and presenteeism (when people show up to work but aren’t active, effective and productive). Fortunately, the converse is also true. ‘If people feel good at work then they will be more productive,’ says C-J Green, group HR director at the facilities management provider Servest. ‘It’s just how it works. People might be stressed and spending 10 hours a day at their desk, but it doesn’t mean that they are being productive.’

Managers have to focus on output and on empowering employees to take ownership of their roles, thinks Green. They also have to nudge people out of their comfort zones at times. ‘The comfort zone is not necessarily where the best work happens. They say that leadership isn’t about leading people to do the things they want to do. It’s about convincing people to do the things they don’t want to do.’

Says Julie Jackson, re-engineering and efficiencies director at OCS. ‘To me, if people are happy in what they are doing, they are productive. Then the customer is happy. Then the bottom line comes. You won’t get one result without the other.’

Buy: Shelf Loudspeaker

In an attempt to make a passive loudspeaker that not only sounds impeccable but looks beautiful from any angle, new Swiss brand Vonschloo created a conical acoustic cabinet unusually made…

In an attempt to make a passive loudspeaker that not only sounds impeccable but looks beautiful from any angle, new Swiss brand Vonschloo created a conical acoustic cabinet unusually made of composite cement—all of which is cut and shaped by hand……

Beyond the slides and Segways: The new collaborative workspace

Words by Mick Nash, MD of Creative Agency Sedley PlaceWhen Sky briefed us to design a restaurant, bar and socialising spaces for its new Believe in Better building in Osterley,…

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Words by Mick Nash, MD of Creative Agency Sedley Place

When Sky briefed us to design a restaurant, bar and socialising spaces for its new Believe in Better building in Osterley, West London, it was clear about what those spaces would have to achieve. The fittingly called Loft and The Kitchen spaces would not only have to work as places to host VIPs and celebrities, but also serve an equally vital — and ongoing — function as comfortable environments for staff to relax, collaborate and learn in, both day and night. Sky’s brief is increasingly typical of the sorts of corporate spaces we’re being asked to create.

Multi-functionality, to some degree or other, is a key part of corporate interiors brief these days. And while this isn’t specifically a new trend, what is of interest is that companies are increasingly demanding that their spaces reflect their corporate ethos both to outsiders and their employees. Sky, for example, doesn’t just want catering, it wants to live and breathe its Believe in Better ethos across all of its business. It wants to make its people feel looked after; and inspired. Sky has admirable plans for making its Believe in Better strapline meaningful across the board and not least in Osterley. It aims to deliver a world-class working and creative environment, and its hospitality spaces reflect that.

With that in mind, The Kitchen’s creative inspiration comes from post-industrial buildings with high ceilings, suspended lighting and sinuous, curved banquette seating.

Within the space, the soft design materials ensure the right acoustics to keep conversations private and the atmosphere intimate and personal. With a maître d’ to seat customers and an artistic, creative environment, the space is designed to be more fashionable high-street eatery than corporate canteen.

The creative concept for The Loft amplifies the space’s height and dramatic rooftop views from Sky’s newly opened building to full effect with a TV studio feel celebrating the massive timber structure. A deliberately busy atmosphere is created in the 110-seat space, giving diners a view of the theatre kitchen. The vibe is heightened using urban vintage furniture, oiled timber floors, a steel-panelled bar, a rooftop deck and counters with suspended industrial lighting.

It’s an approach that’s sustainable — and a million miles from the slides, sweetshops, standing-up meeting rooms, Segways and sleep pods, all designed to increase staff productivity and innovation, but smacking of gimmickry. It’s also part of Sky’s broader CSR drive, sitting with initiatives including gyms, cycle parks and showers, all designed to promote staff well-being and environment friendliness.

The idea of including quality spaces that match (and sometimes exceed) the popularity of similar environments outside of the office means that staff will meet their friends there after work, be proud to show off their working environment and spend more time in the building. More businesses need to elevate the quality of their office spaces into less of an ‘office’ as we used to know it, and more into a fusion of high-quality services all under one roof. Nowadays, we sit at open desks not in private offices, and have meeting rooms with bean bags rather than stiff chairs. We’re in the age of ultimate collaboration and remote working, and office spaces should reflect this by being flexible spaces where people are actually proud to work.