The office of small things

Our productivity at work is ruined by small things – the light which is just a little too bright, or dim; the office being too hot or cold; the noisy colleague the other side of the floor; or the printer not being filled up with paper (and no paper being in sight). Yes there are bigger things too – organisations failing to provide the right type of workspace, for example not enough quiet rooms to do some one-to-one or reflective work or not enough space to collaborate with colleagues we might see only occasionally.

These are what Tim Oldman, founder of Leesman, the opensource index which measures the performance and effectiveness of office environments, describes as “productivity toxins”. Oldman was speaking at the Federation of Corporate Real Estate’s autumn seminar looking at some of the key issues involved in creating an efficient workplace.

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Standing room only

Having moved out of London after 18 years of living in the capital I’m now enjoying (enduring?) the delights of commuting to work. Not five days a week fortunately, but two or three times a week I suffer an hour’s journey on a packed train into London with hardly enough elbow room to type on my laptop.

But, because I’m at the start of the line, I’m one of the lucky ones –I always get a seat (even if it is occasionally an aisle seat facing backwards). Yesterday the train was packed by the time it left Brighton and everybody from Preston Park onwards had to stand all the way into London (unless they were lucky or cunning enough to have positioned themselves next to someone with a suitcase who looked like they were getting out at Gatwick Airport). Commuting, I’ve discovered, comes with its own unique games and strategies (an encyclopediac knowledge of train times, and where the doors open to allow you the speediest exit being just some of them)

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Doesn’t Boris Johnson need to chill out anymore?

What a shame that London mayor Boris Johnson has bowed to pressure and axed two so-called “chill-out” spaces at City Hall. The report in today’s FM World Daily claims that the business lounges where staff can read, eat and hold informal meetings are being removed to make way for more desks.

The “chill-out” spaces have caused controversy because of the big expense to fit them out – about £25,000 (not that much when you consider the building’s overall budget but the Evening Standard kicked up a big fuss at the time). Some chairs apparently cost nearly £900 each, four high tables cost £2,000 each and carpets added another £4,170, according to the FM World report (although that may well be the list price and a substantial discount was achieved). In any case surely setting the spaces up and then demolishing them 12 months later is the real waste of money?

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Generation Y wants to work at work

Is it really any surprise that young people want to work at work, rather than at home, or anywhere else? An article in this morning’s i-fm.net reports on a study of 19 blue-chip companies, including Barclays, Microsoft, Tesco and Pfizer by Advanced Workplace Associates that revealed that employees in the early stages of their careers prefer to work at the office in order to see and be seen.

Learning the ropes, making contacts and gaining recognition are important for Generation Y and they need to do this in the office. “As people become more established and have proven their abilities, they are more likely to support working flexibly or remotely as part of their working pattern,” explained Andrew Mawson, MD of Advanced Workplace Associates.

But there’s one important point that was missed. I think that younger people prefer to work in the office, because one of the other options – working at home is just not a possibility for many.

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