A sad farewell to Phoenix

World Workplace is over for another year, and I’m leaving Phoenix exhausted (existing in two timezones is grueling, but the ‘networking’ is quite tough too) but inspired. I have managed to tear myself away from the networking to attend several of the more than 70 sessions on offer (some of which start at 8am) and the content and range was excellent. From sustainability and benchmarking to communications, finance and leadership and on to business continuity and FM strategy, there was almost too much on offer. The organisers should consider filming some of the more popular sessions for people who had a clash or didn’t make the conference at all.

One UK delegate complained that the advanced session she attended on benchmarking was more of a basic level, but that’s occasionally going to happen when different countries are at different stages of a journey. My only complaint is that the sessions, at one hour, are too long – it takes a top-notch presenter to keep the audience’s attention for that length of time. But having been involved with the application process this year – helping IKEA’s Helena Ohlsson with her presentation about IKEA’s journey creating an FM strategy across 28 countries – I can appreciate the effort that goes into the process. If you’re going to fly 5,000 miles around the globe, you want to speak for more than 30 minutes.

Read moreA sad farewell to Phoenix

Carnival time at World Workplace

So the World Workplace carnival is officially underway. IFMA president Kathy Roper this morning opened the gathering of what she described as “alpha facility managers” for their week of “being facility nerds.” Emphasising the conference’s sustainability credentials (a far cry from previous years) Roper announced that host city Phoenix is the first US city to be on track to be a carbon neutral city with its 17-point Green Plan. She went on to introduce the city’s mayor Phil Gordon to welcome the thousands of delegates to his city.

Gordon went further, proudly announcing that although Phoenix had 5,000 new residents every month and created 45,000 jobs every year, sustainability had been its guiding force for decades. Mayor since 2004, Gordon boasted that the city uses less water now per capita than it had two decades ago. The Phoenix Convention Center is a green building, he said.

Read moreCarnival time at World Workplace

Phoenix welcomes World Workplace

I haven’t been to World Workplace, the mass gathering of American facilities (sorry facility) managers for a few years and I’d forgotten the sheer scale of the affair. Shops and restaurants in the host city Phoenix, Arizona have “Phoenix welcomes World Workplace” posters and the hotels and coffee shops must be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of  several thousand visitors from out of state and around the world  descending on their city for a few days.

The opening ceremony is still an hour or so away, and I trust it will be as glitzy with as much razzmatazz as in previous years, but in true IFMA style the conference has really been going all week. Yesterday there were site visits to the Arizona Science Centre, the US Airways Center and Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and on Monday Global FM held a day’s meeting. Many of the British contingent have been here since Sunday night.

Read morePhoenix welcomes World Workplace

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.

Read moreThe office of small things

Wild and wacky workplaces are in vogue

By Marianne Halavage, the newest member of the Magenta Associate’s team

The trend seems to be for workplaces, creative and otherwise, to look increasingly wild and wacky.

For Magenta’s new offices in Brighton we’ve rejected outright wild and wacky and instead opted for flashes of colour to liven the place up. Courtesy of IKEA we’ve added a lovely bold picture of a magenta-coloured flower to the white walls and there’s a vase of pink and white flowers standing in the corner (we prefer to say they’ll live forever than call them fake).

But like many smaller workplaces, we’re constrained by the will of our landlord who, possibly understandably, won’t let us paint our white walls, even the tiny ones beside the fireplace, magenta.

Read moreWild and wacky workplaces are in vogue

Things you rarely see in the 2011 office

Despite renowned architect Frank Duffy claiming that the modern office is on its way out, it remains the base for the majority of people from 9 til 5. But new ways of working combined with new technology have made obsolete pieces of furniture that were, until recently, stalwarts in the office – and home.

1. The Desk
Experts (read consultants) in new ways of working would have us believe that the humble office desk is dead. Instead of being chained to our own personal bit of mdf, we will work in everything from office break-out spaces to cafes, drop-in meeting facilities and the kitchen table. But nothing has quite replaced the desk for sheer ergonomic comfort, as anyone who has spent a day hunched over a laptop in Starbucks will testify.  The size and shape of the desk has certainly changed – gone are the massive L shaped desks which took up half a room. Instead smaller desks, or collaborative benches are popular. And even the big law firms where massive mahogany desks were passed down the generations from father lawyers to son lawyers, have gone (but probably only to the home office).

2.Tea trolleys
The distant rattle of the tea trolley was the highlight of most office workers’ afternoons. The steaming aluminum tea pot would hove into sight, and all work was forgotten as workers queued up in soup-kitchen style for their brew and a slice of, often homemade, cake. Sadly the nearest most workplaces get to the tea trolley is the sandwich man and his crate of tepid sandwiches which have already been polluted by a circular London commute at exhaust pipe height.

Read moreThings you rarely see in the 2011 office

The future delivery of public services

Interesting to hear the government lay down the gauntlet to facilities management service providers on Monday at the annual Business Services Association lecture. Francis Maude MP, minister for the Cabinet Office, warned them that large businesses might no longer be the chosen way forward for government outsourcing. To improve the value proposition for the delivery of public services, he wants small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), together with charities, voluntary organisations, employee mutuals and civil societies to get a slice of the government’s procurement cake.

But the government can’t have its cake and eat it. SMEs and others will only be keen to get involved when the procurement process is less needlessly bureaucratic, doesn’t cost so much (Maude himself recognised that it costs four times as much to bid for public sector contracts as it does for those in the private sector) and doesn’t take so long.

Read moreThe future delivery of public services

In defence of the office

Over the years I’ve written countless articles about new ways of working and they’ve all focused on the practical, tangible stuff – the buildings, the furniture and how the workplace itself has adapted to support people in their shiny new flexible world. I touched on culture change a fair bit, particularly looking at how the ‘management by presenteeism’ culture tended to be eschewed in favour of measuring people by their actual performance.

But what I hadn’t fully appreciated is the internal journey someone goes on when they learn to work intelligently, flexibily or whatever the latest buzzword becomes. We ask people to give up their desk stuffed with memorabilia, pedestals full of even more ‘stuff’ –their history – and give them a laptop and a range of ‘flexible working solutions’ and then tell them to get on with it.

Some organisations recognise what we’re asking of staff and do provide training in new ways of working, but many don’t  –  the budget’s all gone on the funky furniture and the workplace consultants.

Read moreIn defence of the office