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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Why the train is the new office

There’s a certain romance to travelling by train. Even if you’re heading out of London’s Euston for the Facilities Show at Birmingham’s NEC as I am this week, there’s a distant echo of more glamorous journeys taken on the Orient Express. There are quiet lounges to sit in if you choose to arrive early for your train, or unlike planes where you must queue for hours, you can simply arrive at the station and hop straight on.  The hiss of the train as it glides into the station is reminiscent of old steam trains. The slam of the door, the station manager’s whistle and the grind of the wheels starting to roll out of the station all feel incredibly civilised compared to waiting in a bright airport lounge or at a bus stop in the drizzle.

And once you grab that cherished forward-facing window table seat, plug in your laptop and phone, connect to the WiFi and spread out your papers, you’ve never had a better office. Whatsmore, you need never move. Whereas the tea-lady has long gone from most offices, the train catering trolley rattles down between the seats, catching the ankles of the unaware, but providing sustenance to those embroiled in reports and emails. And from lunchtime even that most treasured of items: the G&T. For while an open can of lager is frowned upon on London buses, thanks to Boris, it’s de rigeur to enjoy a little alcoholic refreshment on a train.

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Loose lips sink more than ships

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the unstoppable trend towards mobile working and how, wherever you go, there are people perched with their laptop or talking business on their mobile phone. I had two concerns: lack of free WiFi coverage and a lack of consideration for ergonomic comfort. The day after that piece was published in this magazine I was on the Stansted Express when two chaps got on and started discussing their employer, a well-known facilities management company. Not only did they openly name the organisation several times but they talked about what they believed to be fraudulent practices and made derogatory remarks about senior execs.

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Working on the move

This week I have worked at my own office desk, at a client site, at the kitchen table, on a plane, a train, a bus, on the Tube, and in a number of coffee shops. While some of this work has involved reading magazine and newspaper articles, chatting on the phone and scribbling notes, the majority has been tapping away at the laptop. An FM case study of a Liverpool building, for example, was largely written in the waiting room at Liverpool Lime Street station and on the train back to London, and then finished off at home.

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