THE INCREASING ROLE OF THE WORKPLACE IN OUR LIVES – ‘WIRED’, SUSTAINABLE AND HEALTHY

18th February 2015

Having attended a number of recent industry events, the topic of the increasing role that the workspace plays in people’s daily lives and how their day to day productivity is very much affected by their workspace has been brought into sharp focus.

Recent BIFM Workplace and Sustainability Special Interest Groups (SIGs) have explored this theme, both in relation to technology, sustainability and the effects of the workspace on people’s overall health and wellbeing. With growing research building in this area, the initial findings have revealed the increasingly central role that the workspace now plays in the efficiency and productivity of the organisation.

The BIFM Workplace SIG held in November, looked predominantly at the increasing role that technology was playing in both supporting and enhancing the progressive workspace. Speaking at the event, Andy Howells of Condeco cited the growing need for the Facilities Manager to think ahead and work with the various workspace teams, including HR and IT to support the changes needed to develop the workspace of the future. Quoting recent research by Condeco, Andy cited a staggering statistic that globally the current average office utilisation is only around 40%. This does pose the question, if current average office utilisation is 40%, what will this figure be in another 10 years and what implications will this have for Facilities Managers? Andy discussed Condeco’s Workplace occupancy software which aims to support these challenges.

Condeco pres_Workplace SIG

Following this, we were given a snapshot of the hi-tech world of the video wall from Amigo, which is becoming a key part of the workspace for many blue-chip companies for their client environments. Not only is this allowing for very specifically brand orientated dynamic content, but the technology is being designed to have the flexibility to blend into the working environment to enhance the space, with some very impressive examples of just how businesses are using this technology to enhance the workspace.

Looking much further ahead, Cordless Consultants took the group ‘Back to the Future’ to look at how the increasing world of ‘big data’ is driving the workplace technology of the future. With a predicted 35 zetabytes of data expected to be exchanged in 2020, a marked increase from the reported 2.4 zetabytes exchanged in 2012, the presentation looked at how the new workspace influencers are driving a number of changes in the workspace and a greater need for technology. Themes discussed included:

  • Changes in business culture and a move to more objectives based management
  • Increasing need for more agile and flexible working patterns
  • The growing number of different generations in the workspace, with 5 generations soon to be working together, demanding a highly dynamic workspace and one which can meet the needs of the different generations’ ways of working.

Despite the varying technologies, the group concluded that workplace technology will play a leading role in both shaping and developing the workspace to meet these demands and build the organisations of the future. As FM specialists, it will be important to work collaboratively with HR and IT colleagues, to make sure that the technology deployed meets the needs of those using the space in order to maximise productivity within our workspaces.

World GBC Workplace SIGThe BIFM Workplace SIG took this a step further at its most recent event in partnership with the BIFM Sustainability SIG, again held at the workplace furniture specialists, Vitra UK . Again with a focus on how the workspace can influence productivity, the discussion centred on the growing theme of the active workspace and the need for offices, as well as being sustainable and green, to support the health and well-being of their occupants.

John Alker from the UK Green Building Council  spoke about the need for an emphasis on staff and the growing link between the overall sustainability of a building and its users. With ill health being a very real issue for employers and governments, there is a growing body of evidence and research which proves that office buildings do impact on the health and well-being of their occupants.

John discussed the initial outcomes of recent research conducted by the World Green Building Council. This cited a number of influencers which had an effect on the overall health and well-being of the occupants in offices including:

  • Indoor air quality and ventilation – with research suggesting that with better air quality, productivity rose by 11%
  • Thermal comfort
  • Light – it was found that those who had access to windows throughout the working day had better sleep patterns
  • Views and biophillia – a higher quality view of nature through a window and indoor planting was found to improve overall productivity
  • The 4 Cs – Overall it was found that workspaces that supported the 4 Cs were generally found to be more productive, ie. Concentration, collaboration (encouraging movement and social cohesion around the workspace), creativity and confidentiality when required.

Once again collaboration and social cohesion arose as the driving themes in creating a highly productive and welcoming workspace. The research also found that often the low cost developments and changes had the highest value and impact on health and productivity in the workspace.

This was then illustrated by the opportunity to wander around the beautiful showroom and offices of Vitra. One thing that really struck me was the use of light throughout the workspace to engender the right mood as well as the use of the right furniture to facilitate the different working styles that we find in the modern workplace. In an open discussion following the discovery tour, colleagues debated the idea of the growing parallels between the home and the office, particularly as people are now spending so much time in the workspace. The group also discussed the idea that through their experience, if you humanise the workspace, you can create a much more interesting space to work, with agile working having a massive impact on this.

Vitra_Workplace SIGVitra Workplace SIG

The final presentation of the evening was from Marcella Ucci, BIFM Sustainability SIG committee member and Lecturer in Environmental and Healthy Buildings at UCL. Marcella discussed her current research on the interactions and tensions between sustainable building design and operation and the needs of occupants in terms of their overall comfort, health and well-being. Sharing her initial findings from the research, Marcella discussed the theme of active design. The idea of ‘sitting being the new smoking’ was also debated, with a staggering 50% of the UK workforce now in sedentary jobs.

In response to this Marcella discussed how some of the progressive workplaces where she was carrying out her research were now looking at making their workspaces more active. The research findings discussed, showed strong links between the design and management of the workplace with a focus on the health and wellbeing of employees and overall reductions in absenteeism and higher levels of productivity. Again the small things were cited such as having the biggest impact with more integrated stairs and the encouragement of active travel as two small changes to improve the overall health and well-being in the workplace.

One thing that was clear from the event was that the research into this area will only continue to grow and is still limited at this stage. Nevertheless with an ageing population and a need for a much more holistic approach to overall health and well-being in the workspace, this is an issue which will no doubt continue to grow. With a responsibility for managing the workspace, Facilities Management professionals will play an increasingly important role in facilitating the changes needed to support a healthier working environment. By helping to create a space where people want to work and which will blend seamlessly with their day to day lives, FM’s it seems will play an important role helping those using the buildings which they are managing to perform at their best. This is often expected through a focus on the small details which can have the biggest effect in the workspace, as discussed at the event and can only be a good thing for ensuring the overall success of an organisation. For the team at Anabas, that is exactly what we focus on and in how we work with our clients so we look forward to seeing how this debate will grow and how we can translate it into our FM operations to really make an impact in the workplace.
#TheAnabasDifference #BIFM #facman


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