Recap: Workplace Trends London 2019

Tuesday the 15th October saw the Workplace Trends conference come to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London for another round of presentations and discussion into the future of the workplace and the important issues of the day. The prestigious location was matched only by the prestigious line-up of speakers on the day.

The main topics of the event centred around the human experience and how the workplace can be used as an interface between the user and the organization. The important factor of the effect the workplace can have on the individual was also discussed and it was great to see health and mental health being a major consideration for those in workplace creation. While technology is definitely an enabler to productivity within the workplace we need to be mindful of the effect it has on the individual. That was the keyword of this conference and individuals are the most important part of the workplace ecosystem.

 

The ability for AI to be utilised in the creation of smart buildings as seen in the presentation by Sam Sahni and Dean Rikanovic of Measuremen Partner Unispace, of their client HQ office in Perth. This smart building allowed you to order a coffee on the way to the building ready for it to be collected on arrival. The new age of AI and automation is already here and we need to adapt quickly. We do need to also think of our connection to nature and our inherent human and archaic template as described by Killian Keller from Electrolux. His focus on the re-humanising of the workplace and surviving the digital transition highlighted how we can get back to what makes us human and stimulate connections on a truly personal level? There is also the possibility that technology could be impacting on our ability to be productive in the workplace, highlighted by Nerys Mutlow of Fujitsu. Her proposal to transform the workplace included, among other things, creating the consumer experience in house, continual investment in people and well-being by agile and empowered organisations. This would potentially improve the productivity dilemma, where we are no more productive than a few years ago but are working more hours.

How do we adapt and change to these new working methods and practices including, Activity Based Working (ABW) successfully? Simone Leenders of Workwire gave us an insight into ‘workplace nudging’ which aims to influence choice by offering attractive alternatives for current behaviour habits. We need to think about how real estate and those in the workplace respond to the need of the users and jobs will need to reflect that. This will bring rise to new human experience related jobs to improve the workplace experience as processes become more automated in the real estate industry. Marie Puybaraud of JLL, another Measuremen partner, explained that 50% of 500 companies will be lost in the next decade and only those organisations that are ‘future fit’ will prosper. The fact that she got us all off of our feet thanks to a dancing cat was a great example of how to counteract the ‘fast’ brain choices we make every day (we were all sitting in the auditorium because there were seats to sit in) by giving us that little ‘push’ we needed to make a positive change. Important to enabling change within the workplace is identifying core values in business and property, which was the subject of Neil Rebeugeot and Rebecca Goldberg from Arup’s presentation. Their focus was on the drivers of change and how the workplace ecosystem (space, technology and ways of working) impacts on them. Implementing the core values through the duration of the project which is clearly defined, developed and implemented while retaining these values during the operation these develop the culture necessary for a successful and productive working environment.

 

One location that was brimming with values was the International Olympic Committee HQ in Lausanne. Marie Sallois from the IOC and Catherine Bonnet from CBWorkPlaces presented the project to consolidate several office buildings into a single brand new building that embodied the key objectives of; user experience & sustainability; foster collaboration in relation to corporate culture; support a healthy and active lifestyle. All of these values were clearly visible in the architecture and design of the workplace including a magnificent circular staircase that mirrored the Olympic rings in a subtle way and incorporated a wellness element. This was achieved by making the steps half-height and double length to encourage walking meetings. Something that Killian had alluded to be essential to get us to look back towards our primal instincts. Bringing even more of a connection to nature through Biophilia was Oliver Heath who spoke to us about its importance and aspects of it that can have a profound effect on our wellbeing. Even having images of nature can lower heart rates and improve cognitive ability. The BRE Biophilic Office Project described by Ed Suttie of BRE is a way of understanding this in a ‘controlled’ environment with regular measures being taken to understand the impact and benefits of Biophilia in the built environment, something we at Measuremen are very passionate about.

 

The penultimate speakers of the day presented their research on loneliness in the workplace by Rachel Edwards of Lendlease and Nigel Oseland and it came as a surprise to me to hear that people can feel lonely in an office full of people. This is, however, a real problem with a 25% mortality rate and a cost of £600 per person a year to the NHS and local services. This really put into perspective the need for us to consider the individual as the most dynamic and valuable part of the entire ecosystem of work and of the workplace. The final speaker, Madeleine Evans founder of Levell, highlighted how productivity is affected byaffected by by mental health and why the issue of burnout in the workplace is so important. We all need a degree of stress to keep us moving in the right direction, but what happens when we go past that point to a level where we’re too stressed to cope? Madeleine had some very interesting ways for leaders and consultants to address these issues by understanding personal behavior, work and resource allocation, the environment and culture at work.

 

Once again Workplace Trends introduced some new areas of workplace design and consultancy that are continually looking to improve the workplace for all. The elements that ran through all of this is the need for user engagement and data to provide the evidence needed to move forward, something Measuremen are very aware of and can provide through our quantitative and qualitative services.

Noel Brewster