Tuesday the 15th October saw the Workplace Trends 2019 conference come to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London. Another round of presentations and discussions into the future of the workplace. The prestigious location was matched only by the prestigious line-up of speakers on the day.
The main topics of the event centred around two main topics. The human experience in the workplace. And how the workplace could function as an interface between the user and the organization. The critical factor of the effect the workplace can have on the individual was also discussed. 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. Since individuals are the most important part of the workplace ecosystem. I find this the keyword of such conference.
The future in the workplace trends 2019
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. So the coffee is ready to collect upon 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 re-humanising the workplace and surviving the digital transition introduced two challenges. How will we get back to what makes us human? And how do we stimulate connections on a truly personal level?
Impact of technology on the workplace trends 2019
There is also the possibility that technology could be impacting our ability to be productive in the workplace, highlighted by Nerys Mutlow of Fujitsu. Also, her proposal to transform the workplace included some new perspectives. Like 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 successfully to these new working methods and practices? Activity Based Working (ABW) included. Simone Leenders of Workwire gave us an insight into ‘workplace nudging’ which aims to influence choice by offering attractive alternatives for current behaviour habits. She got us all off of our feet thanks to a dancing cat. This dynamic 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. Thus, we need to think about how real estate and those in the workplace respond to the need of the users and jobs. This will raise 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 fail in the next decade. Only those organisations that are ‘future-fit’ will prosper. 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 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, developing the culture necessary for a successful and productive working environment.
Environment, user experience and sustainability
One location brimming with values is 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. A facility that embodied the key objectives of user experience and sustainability. As well, as to foster collaboration in relation to corporate culture, while supporting 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 alluded to be essential to look back towards our primal instincts. Another to expose further a connection to nature through Biophilia was Oliver Heath. He spoke about its importance and aspects. Which 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.
Loneliness and mental health
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. With a 25% mortality rate and a cost of £600 per person a year. This is a real problem for the NHS and local services. This really put into perspective our need 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 mental health affects productivity. Firstly, she spoke about 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. However, what happens when we go past that point to a level where we are too stressed to cope? After all, Madeleine had some very interesting ways for leaders and consultants to address these issues. Finally, understanding personal behaviour, work and resource allocation, the environment and culture at work, as solutions.
Once again, Workplace Trends 2019 introduced some new areas of workplace design and consultancy. Both approaches are continually looking to improve the workplace for all. There were two elements that ran through all of this. The need for user engagement and data to provide the evidence needed to move forward. Something Measuremen is highly aware of and can provide through our quantitative and qualitative services.