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Ep43: Is the Office Making a Comeback?

Is the office making a comeback? Is remote work…dead? We talk about designing Workspaces for Connection and Well-being.

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Is the office making a comeback? Is remote work a fading trend? And how can workplace design improve employee engagement, wellbeing and performance?

In the second episode of this 2-part special recorded at Clerkenwell Design Week, we’re exploring the impact workplace design has on workplace culture and wellbeing. 

In our most ambitious episode to date, we’re joined by 16 experts in the work of architecture, interior design and workplace psychology. 

Join the conversation as we discuss:

  • Top 10 ways to get employees back in the office
  • How the office can improve performance and creativity
  • The impact of great design on employee wellbeing
  • Why tech companies are no longer the ‘gold standard
  • What it takes to be a sustainable workplace

If you’re a leader trying to entice employees back to the office, this episode is your ultimate guide.


All the links mentioned in the show.

Connect with Our Guests

Szymon Rychlik: Fouder and MD of Mute.

Dr Craig Knight: Chartered Doctor of Workplace Psychology.

Yorgo Lykouria: Founder and Creative Principal at Rainlight Studio.

Mark Eltringham: Publisher behind Works Magazine and Workplace

Mick Jordan: Editor of Works Magazine.

Libby Ferin: Chief Marketing Officer at Human Active Technology.

Patrick McDonald: Vice President of International Sales & Strategic Partnerships a HAT.

Zainab Mukadam:  Architect, Head of Design and Workplace, India, for Cushman & Wakefield.

Tim Hobbs: Technical Director at OE Electrics Ltd.

Ana Rita Martins: Senior Associate, Sustainability Lead, and Architect at Woodalls.

Jim Meier: Founder and Chair of Day 2 Interiors.

Paul Wilkinson: Co-CEO of Formway and Noho.

Kent Parker: Co-CEO and Project Director at Formway.

Jessica Black: Support and Operations Lead at obo.

Henry Watson: Product Designer at JDD and a Visiting Lecturer at The University of Wolverhampton.

Frances Leung: Creative director at Home Grown Plus and Founder of Pudding Stone Studios.

Find Out More:

Clerkenwell Design Week:

Paul Graham Article:

Connect with your hosts

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The Transcript

⚠️ NOTE: This is an automated transcript, so it might not always be 100% accurate!

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Dr Craig Knight 0:00
And of course, what we’re seeing is lots of organizations panicking, like health as management is losing control. And they’re calling people back to these old malfunctioning discredited, suboptimal ways.

Leanne Elliott 0:18
Hello, and welcome to the truth lives and workplace culture podcast, brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network, the audio destination for business professionals. My name is Leanne. I’m a Business psychologist,

Al Elliott 0:28
my name is Alma, business owner.

Leanne Elliott 0:30
And we are here to help you simplify the science of people and create amazing workplace culture. I would also just like to issue a quick apology. Before we start this episode, as you may hear, my voice is somewhat gone. And I’ve been struggling with a virus that, quite frankly, put me on my ass this week. But I’m getting in there. Secondly, we have a quite a big thunderstorm happening at the moment, and a very scared dog. So if you hear any rumbles of thunder, or any wines from our little dog peanut apologies.

Al Elliott 0:57
And if you listened last week, then you’ll know that was the second part of a two parter, where the first time we talked about all the first episode, we talked about remote and working from home. Now we’re talking about the office and we’re arguing why we should potentially go back to the office, we spoke to a lot of very, very interesting and very well qualified people that clock in by Design Week about a month ago, didn’t we?

Leanne Elliott 1:19
We did I’m not sure it was that long ago, maybe two weeks, two and a half weeks ago. But yeah, it’s very cool people that honestly, I left that thinking, is the office back, is it making a comeback maybe.

Al Elliott 1:31
And that’s what we’re going to talk about today. So we have quite a few people who you’re going to hear from, don’t worry, you don’t need to remember all of them because it’s the transcript will be on the website. And it’ll show everyone’s name next to each of what they’re saying. So just pick out your favorite ones, you can go and find them.

Leanne Elliott 1:47
Yes. And I think it would be good to start framing this episode with a guest the pushback, there’s been a lot of very public pushback, particularly from tech companies about working from home or working remotely. We’ve seen it from Google. We’ve seen it from Starbucks, we sit from so many different organizations. There’s recalling a mandating people back in the office like getting their whip out. I mean, like, get back now.

Al Elliott 2:13
Yeah. And I think that very recently, there was an article in on, which I think was yesterday, a day before. And it was Paul Graham, who he’s the guy who co founded the Y Combinator and the Silicon Valley startup that invest in that Airbnb stripe, and every probably every single thing you’ve ever heard of really, really switched on guy, really well respected and he’s basically said, remote work is wrong. He said, he’s talked to multiple founders recently. This is what he tweeted. I’ve talked to multiple founders recently, who have changed their minds about remote work and are trying to get people back to the office. I doubt things have got back all the way they were before COVID. But looks like they’ve gone most of the way back. Sam Altman, the guy behind chat, GBT.

Leanne Elliott 2:56
I think it’s pronounced chat, Jupiter chapter Jupiter.

Al Elliott 3:01
You recently described remote work as a mistake. He said, I think that definitely one of tech industry’s Worst Mistakes are longtime was everybody could go full remote forever. And startups didn’t need to get together in person. There was gonna be no loss of creativity. He argued, or that’s what that was the argument. He thinks that will be wrong. He thinks there’s more energy and collaboration and connections happening when people are together, which is kind of what we’re hearing from our experts at Clerkenwell wasn’t that?

Leanne Elliott 3:28
Yes, yes. Collaboration connection. Creativity was one of the main arguments we will be hearing about. However, there was a caveat. There was a caveat to this, I think I think it will be we’ll be doing our experts. Miss service. If we said that they agreed with this point of view. What was actually the the overriding theme that came out from people who are as well we’ll call them pro office is actually that it comes down to choice, it comes down to great people leadership, it comes down to employee voice. Now, I don’t mean to give you too many spoilers here. But the fact of of mandating people back to the office, because remote work simply doesn’t work was not from the 10s of people we spoke to, not one of them had that opinion. And I find it really interesting that we’re seeing this pushback from leaders like like Paul Graham, like, you know, the leadership team at Google at Amazon, that we’re seeing this from people or organizations that are typically quite innovative and creative and boundary pushing. And yet the experts in the space of workplace design do not share this point of view.

Al Elliott 4:42
They do not it is really really a big fact we’ve we’ve got like you say we’ve got 12 people on the on the we’re going to be appearing on the podcast, they will go through them all in a second and lightly answered most of them are saying it depends.

Leanne Elliott 4:55
Yes, so I’m going to run through all of our fabulous guests. We will remind you who they are when we introduce their clips later on. And as always, we’ll leave all the links to our guests in the show notes if you want to find out or hear a bit more from one guest in particular, our first guest is Simon rich. Simon is founder and MD of meat, a pioneer and specialist in interior acoustics and the providers of our pop up studio, both at Clark Amman Design Week and the watercooler

Al Elliott 5:23
then we’ve got Dr. Craig Knight, Dr. Craig is a chartered doctor of workplace psychology. He’s an expert in the modern workplace and improving workplace design and also salty as you like.

Leanne Elliott 5:33
My new favorite. Our next guest is yoga like or yoga. Iago is founder and creative principal at rain light studios, and has numerous awards for his work in architecture, design and film.

Al Elliott 5:45
The next one is Mark Eltringham. Mark has worked in office design and environment in workplace Facilities Management sectors for over 25 years. He’s now the publisher behind the works magazine and workplace insight dot next we also

Leanne Elliott 5:56
spoke with Mick Jordan. Mick is a qualified journalist and wrote for local newspapers and sports reporting before discovering the world of interior design to FX magazine. He is now the editor of works magazine.

Al Elliott 6:09
Then we spoke to Libby farine. Via zoom Libby is the Chief Marketing Officer at human active technology and she works alongside

Leanne Elliott 6:16
Patrick McDonald. Pat is vice president of international sales and strategic partnerships at hat, a family of brands providing healthier interactions between people and technology.

Al Elliott 6:27
Then we met Zanna macadam, Zanna is an architect Head of Design and workplace India and Director of Project and development services for Cushman and Wakefield and was named a thought leader in architecture and design by the best

Leanne Elliott 6:41
We also spoke with Tim hubs. If you listened last week, you’ll have heard me say that I was somewhat surprised that my favorite conversation Oklahoma was about electricity and batteries, but that’s because Tim Hobbs is a legend. Tim is technical director at Oh II electrics limited, a company he took over with his dad Richard in 1993. Since then, Ollie electrics has claimed its place as a master in design and innovation of power and data delivery modules.

Al Elliott 7:08
Then we’ve got Anna Rita Martens, and as a senior associate sustainability lead and architect at whoodles, where she develops construction practices based on ESG which is environmental social governance methodology for sustainable and wellbeing design.

Leanne Elliott 7:22
We also spoke with Jim Mayer Jim is founder and chair of day two interiors, one of London’s largest independent furniture dealers, who act as furniture consultants and vendor supplies to large businesses, corporations and universities.

Al Elliott 7:35
And then we spoke to Paul Wilkinson and Ken Parker, who are co CEOs of form way and know how former is a furniture and home furnishings manufacture and Noho is its retail arm.

Leanne Elliott 7:45
We also spoke to the lovely Jessica Jessica, vintage Jessica black Jessica is support and operations lead at OBO our dear friends and furniture providers that focus on the physical and emotional well being of people in the workplace.

Al Elliott 8:00
Then we spoke to Henry Watson Henry is a product designer at jdd and a visiting lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton for product interior furniture design courses.

Leanne Elliott 8:09
And finally I spoke with Francis long, Francis is Creative Director at home grown plus a not for profit organization founded by Neil Pender addressing issues of diversity in architecture and beyond. She’s also the founder of puddingstone studio. Oh, I like that putting us down. Isn’t it nice to say puddingstone some amazing guests that we are speaking to today. But first, let’s address the pink elephant in the room.

Al Elliott 8:36
Why a pink elephant? Still a bit ill and

Leanne Elliott 8:41
possibly possibly overmedicated. But first let’s address the elephant in the room. Now you might be listening to this and go I’ll Lea. I’m with you. I’m clinging on I’m trying to not I’m trying to believe that there is a science to people and culture and and we need to think about these things. But are you really telling me that the color I paint my walls and the types of chairs I have are going to impact my people and culture? Dare I say it Leah This is starting to sound a little bit fluffy? Well, let me tell you, in fact, no. Dr. Craig tell you

Dr Craig Knight 9:18
fluff. Fluff? Well, what we’ve done is we’ve made sure that we know how to measure productivity. And you cannot, for example, measure productivity subjective. When people measure productivity by questionnaire. It’s impossible. It’s a bit like asking somebody how fast they run a marathon without giving them access to a clock. Just say here’s a questionnaire how fast did you do it? A world record well done the 73 Fabulous. People have no idea how productive it also has to be measured objectively there was a and when we do it, we can get increase in productivity of 32% going from that lean start minimis toxic space to the Empower space where people develop it themselves. That’s 2%. That’s not too fluffy.

Leanne Elliott 10:05
Not too fluffy at all. Dr. Craig. Let’s hear more about that. So Dr. Craig there mentioned, shifting the environment from Elaine Stark, minimalist, toxic space to an empowered space. So let’s hear a little bit more about Dr. Craig’s research and unpack a bit what he’s talking about there. But there

Dr Craig Knight 10:24
are three takeaways that we can talk about now. The first of these is that the most significant aspect of management which has influenced design, least the toxic workspace, that’s the first thing now that is something called Lean Six Sigma, which looks to create these really stark Spartan workspaces, where people are monitored a lot where they have to follow process where they people are meant to be standardized. If you put any animal into that kind of space, this Lean stop Connolly monitor space, it suffers. And that kind of treatment of an animal is a good idea only exists in the business bubble. It’s reasonable from scientific perspective. So that’s the first thing lean start minimize space, who is designed, still quite likes, there’s nobody any good. If you want to improve that, then you enrich it, then you can enrich any way you want. You can spend lots of money and go down the biophilic route. Or you can put plants aren’t working, or anything of interest, anything that’s psychologically engaging to the workspace, and people feel better, and crucially, perform better. You can’t be too happy in terms of how you perform. And the third takeaway is that instead of management saying we’re going to be parental in terms of we’re going to give people a horrible workspace and treat them like little boys and girls that we don’t trust. Or you can it’s been really nice workspace, both boys and girls can play. Treat them like adults, let them choose what kind of space they work for themselves. And that was Bestival

Leanne Elliott 11:54
adult to adult relationship. Oh, who who knew? That’s never been mentioned before on podcast,

Al Elliott 11:59
I think you knew always know, Leah. So we asked Dr. Craig, what an example of this impact would be

Dr Craig Knight 12:06
our base point is always Lean Six Sigma. Alright, we started with that base point when we when we began this research back in 2000 2003. Okay, so we take that, and I’ll give you a quick example of what we might do. So we’re sitting here, and other than if you can see there’s a whole list, there’s a kind of drink, okay, so let’s say two people did 90 seconds, tell me how many uses you can think of, for this kind of drink, then you might say, well, it uses a doorstop. If it crunched up and use a weapon, you could use it as receptacle for flowers, if you use a can of drink, and so on as many ideas you can think of in 90 seconds. And what we find is, we find that the increase in ideas that people think of can increase by up to 60%. Going from that lean space to where people are empowered, and whether for example, are empowered to use design as a submissive rather than a driving force. Okay, so that’s a big thing. Not only that, we look at how many discrete ideas groups think of, let’s see how everybody’s in a group of three. So everybody thinks of six ideas in that group. But the six ideas are different. So we might get three ideas overlap, and another six that don’t. So out of 12 ideas, 18 ideas, nine of them are discrete and unique. What we found is that the discrete ideas in the Empowered condition, were higher than number of ideas in total, in the Lean Six Sigma space.

Leanne Elliott 13:31
So what Dr. Craig is basically saying there to paint, paint the picture for you, if you put a group of three people in a plain white room with a hard chair, harsh lighting, and a no cup of tea, right, no access to some kind of beverage, then they’re not going to ideate as well, they’re not gonna be as creative, they’re not going to come up with as many ideas or as many unique ideas, you put that same group in a place that is a bit more comfortable. May we throw in a nice comfortable sofa where we can sit around, have a chat, have a nice cup of tea, in a room where the lighting isn’t too harsh. Perhaps we have natural lighting from a window and some plants around us to make us feel it or a bit more outside and a bit more in nature. Then we are more creative. We add eight more and more uniquely. So basically, white stock room bad. Nice comfy room. Good.

Al Elliott 14:23
So that’s the science behind it. But what about the sentiment is Henry to explain.

Henry Watson 14:28
If you go to the workplace, and you’ve got kind of outdated furniture and seats that have had 20 Other people sitting on them over the years, I think you do kind of lose a little bit of passion for that workplace. I think if it looks trendy, it looks kind of in with the times and it is kind of modern, then people will be bit more proud to be there. And perhaps you know, want to stay there for a bit longer. And I’ve worked in places before at my last job and it was the people, they’re absolutely fantastic, really nice people. But the actual workplace, I didn’t look forward to go in there and sit in there all day desk and work in,

Leanne Elliott 15:09
I think between Dr. Craig there and Henry, we have a share of great work, this isn’t fluff. This has a place in the conversation. And the and the evidence, all points towards how a workplace is designed does impact our behavior, our thoughts, our feelings, and our performance, however, so you mentioned at the top there an article featuring Paul Graham, and he made the point that, you know, that so much change happened because of COVID. We’re starting to see that reverse, and it’s gonna reverse pretty much all the way back. Now I have beef with that. I’ll because I think I think whilst there may be some regression back to the office and some sentiment of people to want to go back to a place to work, I don’t think we will ever go back to exactly how things were. Nor do I think we should. And our experts feel the same, quite simply because the office as it set up pre pandemic, as it is now being honest, is archaic. It is old, it is useless, it is not effective. So I would like before we dive into our reasons why the office may be making a comeback to a little history lesson in terms of the office, where it came from, and why we have this setup that we do today. So we

Al Elliott 16:23
asked year ago, Lee Cora, who is the founder and creative principal, don’t forget rain light studio, quite a big deal. numerous awards for architecture and design, we asked him about the history of the workplace,

Yorgo Lykouria 16:33
probably gets stuck in ruts. And then we start to think that workspace workplace has to look a certain way or function a certain way. And then it becomes embedded in our thinking. We looked at the history of work, we went all the way back to the Middle Ages, when they were writing manuscripts, you know, by hand, mostly, you know, monks and scholars who were working in teams in a collaborative way. And if you see their workspaces, because we have the drawings, they look like what we’re doing now. You know, it hasn’t really changed. They have tables, they gathered around a table to meet to talk to look at stuff.

Leanne Elliott 17:19
But as Dr. Craig explained, if we’re looking at the history of the office, we can go back even further.

Dr Craig Knight 17:25
You can trace offices, back to the ancient pharaohs, were scribes were the third most important people in the land. He had those that the royal family first, then you had the priests that you had the scribes, and even things like terms are used today, like cleric, for example, leads to the term clerical and they cleric and clerical brochette cleric curse, which is the Latin root because the Roman ranks it as well. And even bureaucratic derives from medieval kings in England. They used to have Clark’s stroke monks ride around on horses, with bureaus attached to their horses. And it’s from those bureaus we derived the term bureaucratic because those people were so pernickety and strict about the process that had to be followed to fill in the kinks, taxes and forms.

Leanne Elliott 18:13
Dr. Gregg has been researching the evolution of the workplace for the past 20 years. So he asked him, Surely there must have been some changes.

Dr Craig Knight 18:22
The main changes are there are no dunwell changes don’t exist. People keep reinventing the wheel and calling it the same thing. very agile, flexible space, for example, I can job flexible space dates back to Josiah Wedgwood in the 18th century. And we’re still reinventing fuel need different things. People don’t talk about Taylor spaces anymore. But to go back to the principle we’re talking about there of lean, which which affects 70% of workspace, if you’re if, for example, you’ve got a clean desk policy, that’s a lean policy. So it affects 70% of offices. The five pillars of lean, don’t come from Japanese manufacturing, where the sets have come from, they are taken precisely from Taylor, in writing his book in 1911. And the reason that it is Taylorist it because what happens is called Toyota ism, Toyota copied their ideas from Ford, Ford, Henry Ford, employed Taylor, to set up his production processes. So all of that and of course, Toyota influenced what’s going on now in the workplace with lean and Kaizen and all these wonderful terminologies. So this, the thing that has changed over 20 years is nothing. The best opportunity we’ve got is post pandemic. And now, of course, what we’re seeing is lots of organizations panicking, like health as management is losing control. And they’re calling people back to these old malfunctioning discredited suboptimal ways

Leanne Elliott 19:48
old, malfunctioning, discredited, sub optimal way. So far, I’m not sure we’re putting many points on the board for the office here. What Dr. Craig He’s saying that is that the the idea of the office that we have today goes back millennia. So I had to ask him, Why, why hasn’t the office evolved?

Dr Craig Knight 20:10
Charles Handy, who was a brilliant business guru and he was champion was basically years LSE. So the business is full of clever people in remarkably stupid things. That’s why management took power unto itself, particularly after Taylor, because, again, I’m sure your listeners are aware. But what Taylor did is he worked in the steel industry. And he said, he increased productivity by 800%. By taking complicated jobs, like the manufacture of steel, which is done by teams of people, and instead of having a team of people do the whole thing is split it down into individual components. And by doing so, he said he increased productivity by 800%. And at the same time, what he also did is he took the power that people had in the workplace into management. And that was copied by the office structure, I recommend you want to have a look put in Sears Chicago in 1913. And you will see serried ranks of women, because women were the most recruitable most dismissible, most suitably skilled and cheapest resource available, being controlled by other people, imitating a factory, and management likes that power, loves that power, it likes to think it has the tricks to make things better. And when it doesn’t, when it shares the burden management becomes what it should be, which is a facilitating not a directive body, then wonderful things start to happen.

Al Elliott 21:39
Dr. Craig isn’t the only one to have read Charles Handy. Mark Eltringham, the guy behind workplace also read him and also explains the remote working isn’t new,

Mark Eltringham 21:50
when I think engage me about it was in about 1992, I was working for a furniture company near Cambridge. And I was introduced to the work of Charles Handy. We’d heard all the arguments before about remote work and productivity and well being and so on and so forth. And they’ve been established since at least the late 80s. You know, there’s no real reason why anybody needs to go into work together, if you if you look at it in that way. I mean, the water cooler thing, you know, which keeps getting tried out isn’t a particularly good argument, this idea that, you know, you put people together like peas in a turn, you know, and they’ll bounce information ideas off each other. I don’t think that necessarily works out in practice. But there are strong arguments. And in particular, things like the idea of weak ties that have really come to the fore. So the stronger arguments in favor of the office, it was more about how isolation is is bound for people and not just in terms of, you know, because most people aren’t completely isolated, but they were they kind of insulated from encountering people from different backgrounds, and with different ideas and stuff like that. You look at how some of the tech firms are now thinking about this, you know, a lot of them have now got some sort of mandate for a return to the office of some day, you know, just using current terminology. So we’re not going fully remote themselves. And that is because they’re discovering the arts of the way they function are going missing. And selling not able to deliver projects in the same way to same quality and in the same sort of timeframes. So I think the arguments in favor of in person working on there, but I don’t think they’re always made very well. I think if you have a conversation with anybody in any field, that’s an expert, they can always dig down deeper, you know, there’s always a box there OR, AND, OR, or something like that.

Leanne Elliott 23:47
So let’s recap on some of the things we’ve learned here. The first is that the design of the place we are working from does have an impact, not only in the organizational culture, but on our performance, our productivity and our well being we know that from from the science Dr. Craig is outlined. The second is that we know if we look at the history of the office, it is archaic. It has been around for millennia. So the drive for employees wanting to change this setup feels long overdue to me. And third, the pandemic changed everything. Accelerated trends in remote work, it shifted employee expectations of what the workplace is and how work fits into our lives. And as Dr. Craig explained, this gives us an amazing opportunity to finally make the updates to the office that are long overdue. So with that in mind, I asked Tim Hubbs from Ohio electric, what happens now in terms of a post COVID office? What can that look like

Tim Hobbs 24:49
in terms of bringing people back from COVID? I think what people have enjoyed while have been at home the simple things they’ve not enjoyed, but the things they have enjoyed is the fact that They’re free to move to a place they want to work during the day. So I can sit in the conservatory, for instance, because it’s sunny in the morning, but by the afternoon, it’s too hot. So I’ll move into the living room. And in an afternoon later in the afternoon, I might want to be in the kitchen. So they can change the scenery, they can flex, they can be in a soft sofa for a meeting, a team’s call or something like that. When they get back to the office, what do they come back to, they don’t want to come back to you’re sitting in their workstation all day long. And looking at a screen, or looking across at the same person all day long. What they’re wanting is that flexibility to work in the way they’ve been, they’ve learned to work over the last couple of years. So to attract people back to the office managers of offices, I’ve got to start putting in these spaces where people can choose how they want to work if they want to work with a couple of people. For an informal meeting, there’s some spaces that they can do that if they want some quiet time that builds or pods that they can do that in. Or if they want to sit stand table to be able to just flex the back and stretch the back. They can do that they can work at a window,

Leanne Elliott 26:12
we would be doing team office, a disservice if we try to put together a list of arguments as to why the office as it was pre pandemic is making a comeback. It’s not. And what we’re seeing from tech firms is a directive form of leadership. And we know that is not effective. In the long run. If you are a business leader, listening to this, wanting to entice people back into your office, get a pen and paper Get out your iPad, however you take notes, because I promise you, these next 10 tips are absolute gold. Work has fundamentally changed how we work has fundamentally changed. If the Office wants to make a comeback, it needs to change. So these

Al Elliott 26:56
10 themes are number one, change your mindset. Number two, we’re moving from fixed flexible. Number three, we need to support collaboration. Number four, there’s an increased emphasis on sustainability. Number five, design is intentional. Number six, great design is invisible. Number seven, design actually impacts wellbeing. Number eight is individuality. Number nine is supporting inclusion number 10 is measuring the impact of So shall we start with number one changing your mindset. So Jim Mir is founder and chair of data interiors, which is one of London’s largest independent furniture dealers. He’s got a really good point about changing our mindset around all of this, particularly when it talks about the older generation.

Jim Meier 27:44
And a lot of people in my generation say our the younger generation are entitled they want four day weeks, they don’t want to come back to the office. They want this they want that. The way I tend to look at it is more thinking the way my grandparents might have said, well, if they looked at me now and said, what you don’t work Saturdays and you have four or five weeks on a day. Yeah, we only get to and we work Saturdays. So I think it’s just a sign of progress. And we should welcome that. But offices are so important. You need to interact, you bounce ideas off people. How do you train people, mentoring is much harder if it’s not face to face. So I think the office is very much on the comeback. And I think it’s much better to do it by encouraging people than forcing whereas I know some of the big American banks are sort of basically forcing people back to work full time, five days a week, and I think being why Mellon even threatened or corrective action will be taken. So I think it’s much better the way the interiors industry is doing is focusing on design, make the sights much more enticing, give people a bit more space in the offices rather than cramped up on small deaths, collaborative areas, given them selves, little pods, like we’re sitting in now, so you can get away and make a private phone call or confidential call if you need. It’s all about enticing people back, make the place more vibrant, more fun.

Leanne Elliott 29:09
In psychology, we talk about a difference between change and transition. Change is an external factor that typically happens very quickly. And with a lack of control. The pandemic is a perfect example, a rapid change in which none of us had any control. But because of the length of the pandemic, we had the opportunity to psychologically transition to new ways of working to working remotely. Now these are trying to force as in many situations to transition again back to the office, that Monday to change will happen quickly. That psychological transition worked and that’s why we’re seeing so much kickback about people going back to the office. Libby, CMO at ha t also admits that the workplace has fundamentally changed.

Libby Ferin 29:53
I mean, we’re a mobile global 24/7 People now right so where We can adjust our, our workspaces, or where we can adjust and make our our interaction with technology, more convenient, more ergonomic, whatever it is. That’s how we’re connecting. So, I mean, you and I are connecting right now, right? So this is our way of, I can’t be there in person, we learned how to even connect more as a group. But we also learned a lot of things about how important personal connection is to. So all that said, technology at our fingertips, right, and how we can make that a better experience. A more human experience, I think, is what we’re looking for.

Al Elliott 30:41
So Mickey is the editor of works magazine, the industry insiders. And we asked him what trends he’s seeing

Mick Jordan 30:47
the big trends of sustainability and well being absolutely everywhere, quite rightly, taking really seriously, which was, I think, for perhaps you snuck as a huge relief, because we had got quite tired quite quickly of experts and the people we’d call experts in so called experts, talking about hypotheticals of where the future of the workplace lies, or whether there, we need a workplace. Whereas I think now there’s a number of the big firms out here that really leading firms have found a really smart balance. And that will continue to that that’s something that really will evolve and continue to evolve as people move from maybe two to three day working weeks to get all the way through to Goldman Sachs with five days a week. So it’s a choice, there was a choice. So that that power battle, I think, is one of the really interesting things about the market right now. That I think the employee now has a level of empowerment that didn’t exist pre pandemic, and there was no turning back.

Leanne Elliott 32:08
We mentioned last week that there was people that didn’t enjoy working remotely during the pandemic. The point was, you weren’t working remotely, you’re working remotely during a global pandemic. I think the point mech is made there so brilliantly, is that those of us that came back to an office while a pandemic was still going on, we didn’t come back to the office, we came back to the office during a global pandemic. So actually, we need to now broaden our viewpoint. And reimagine what the office and remote work can look like for experts seem to be agreeing on. It’s not about mandating people back into the office is about encouraging enticing them back to the office. And as Dr. Craig mentioned before, this does mean relinquishing some control on the side of managers and leaders. Zeinab agreed that this directive approach from leadership may not be effective. I think

Zainab Mukadam 32:59
there is, there is a drive to bring people back to the office. But it seems more driven by the managers or the superiors wanting the people to come back into the office for obvious reasons, they have more control, and sort of more management, and more collaboration. So the work gets done easier from the top down. But from the bottom up, I feel people are a little bit hesitant to come back to the office not for any other reason. But convenience,

Al Elliott 33:31
Mecca, Grace says the workplace is becoming more focused on collaborative spaces.

Mick Jordan 33:36
So a lot of reports around the pandemic and post pandemic of people already thinking, we need switch to, when we do come back into the space, more collaborative space, more of the softer side, which is as much for you know, the right mindset and culture, creating a space that people want to come back into. And if you look around the space and count how many actual works, places, there are workspaces there are, there’s probably several 100 More than they actually account for because they’re just putting on the number of task chairs or the number of deaths that are available, and bla Satan’s third, that kind of new sofa lounge culture that takes space and that space at first sight. So it’s just I think a lot of it is a switching ratios.

Leanne Elliott 34:24
So that is the first thing that we saw. If we want the office to make a comeback, we have to change our mindset. We have to change what the office means today. Talking to our experts. Our second theme came out very clearly, the office needs to move from fixed to flexible, so having fixed the workspace has to flexible ways of working. Zeinab is our architect from Cushman and Wakefield. And she explained that humans are social animals. And so the office needs to facilitate that sociability

Zainab Mukadam 34:54
humans are social animals and they you want to emote with other people, you want to have that connection, you want to sit across, understand verbal and non verbal cues, understand body languages. And, and, and, you know, feel part of a tribe, we’re almost like corporate tribes these days. So, you know, when you’re going out to battle, for example, for a pitcher or anything, or are building something up, you want to be with your tribe, and you want that sense of belonging with your people. And I think the office design can can do a lot of that by a being an attractive space to work be being of a highly functional. So now it has to be every every area has to be assigned a function, and, and the ambiance and the equipment accordingly, the furniture accordingly, yet everything needs to be agile, and can be easily moved around. I think that’s, that’s the biggest sort of challenge in designing overall office spaces, maybe

Al Elliott 36:04
from connective agrees that workplace design is key in all of this 30%

Libby Ferin 36:08
of employee experience depends on the physical space 30% Some companies are saying, you know, you got to come back to work all the time, right? 100%. Okay. But if I’m coming into the workspace, what is it going to look like? Right? It better be collaborative, because there’s no substitution for live connectivity. I don’t believe there is. And I think that that is proven out. So we can iterate together, but over the phone, or over zoom, doesn’t really cut it. I mean, nothing beats a good sticky note wall, you know, nothing beats that, that plane off of human interaction. So you can do it. But those spaces in a work environment, have got to, in my opinion, foster that connectivity, moreover, than almost anything else. So what are those spaces look like? Additionally, so you might be co working or nomadic working, coming in and coming out or whatever. So those workspaces also have to be able to accommodate a person who is maybe, you know, five, foot three to six foot three, on any given day. So how does that work, too. So you’re, you’re thinking through a lot of different scenarios to make sure that the environment is really a flexible space, right. And also, you know, going back to that collaboration, those collaboration spaces have to be flexible to

Al Elliott 37:33
McDonald works with Libby, Annie, understandably agrees that we no longer fixed to a desk, we need to move,

Pat McDonald 37:40
when they think about how they work at their desk, whether their desk is in their home space, or in the office space. They don’t often have the tools that allow them to maximize their comfort and their productivity at the same time. So they have fixed height desks, they have fixed monitors, and they may even have fixed chairs. But our bodies are not fixed. We’re all designed to move. So if their workspace doesn’t move as well, then it’s really not the most ideal set of tools for them. The other thing that people are doing is creating work environments that move and allow a person to move as they move. So if they want to sit down and work for a while, they’ll do that. If they want to be able to stand and work for 15 or 20 minutes and do that. They’ll set all of that all of that up at their workstation,

Leanne Elliott 38:30
Jim agreed. And at the point that while we may need some structure, we absolutely need flexibility,

Jim Meier 38:36
even though there will be some regimented structures which are necessary for working. But I think it’s good to have the appearance and much more relaxed sort of lounge style. So people can sit down and interact and brainstorm with their colleagues. There needs to be a little bit of discipline and coming back. But I think if we get the design right and make it the place, people want to come in, humans are by default, a sort of a sociable animal. So let’s encourage that.

Al Elliott 39:02
Now when we talk about giving the power back to the employees, we actually literally need to which is what Tim is doing. Tim is the electrics guy who’s revolutionising the way that we charge devices.

Tim Hobbs 39:14
What you’ve got to do is make sure that wherever anybody can be whether it be sitting or standing, the somewhere they can power a device. Everybody is carrying around a battery powered device now your phone, your laptop, your tablet, the PC is almost gone. There are certain in certain parts of an office that will have PCs, but the people who are going in and out of an office who are hybrid working inherently have my laptop devices, mobile devices, they only need to have USB charging. And if you can just put USB charging low power charging anywhere in an office so that people free to be where they want to be. You’ve solved the problem of attracting them back to that office.

Leanne Elliott 39:59
That’s our set. Can theme moving from fixed to flexible. Our third theme is around supporting collaboration, which is very much an extension of fixed or flexible. One of the biggest arguments we hear from leaders is that in person working is better for collaboration. And while there is some data that we talked about last week, that may contradict that slightly, it does seem to be a preference for many of us. But of course, if we’re mandating people to come back into the office, to collaborate, we need to create spaces that support collaboration, his neck,

Mick Jordan 40:35
creativity comes from human beings interacting, coming together, the era we are heading towards is that there will be less, shall we say, operational floor plates with the deaths and the task chairs and what have you. And there will be more collaborative space, more social space more coming together so that people can just create be creatives, the idea of absolute flexibility is, flexibility seems to be one of the really, really much the key most important words floating about today. Ideally, everyone is looking for absolute flexibility in their workspace is more in line with people coming together.

Al Elliott 41:19
And Libby agrees,

Libby Ferin 41:20
I think that we create environments for people to come together. And I think that that’s never going to change. I don’t care what year it is, I don’t care if it’s a decade from now two decades, there is nothing that can replace human interaction, right. But what I do know is that we have got to support people’s behaviors and people how they work and where they work. Because that’s always going to, that’s always going to change, right? That traditional office, you know, with all the rows of, of desks, and everything that’s going to change, right? It’s already changing.

Al Elliott 41:54
I think Pat McDonald ties all this together perfectly by talking about collaboration.

Pat McDonald 41:59
You know, what we find is that many companies today are thinking of ways to reimagine their space to draw them back into the office. And so although people could do their jobs remotely, we find that that collaborative spirit, that that level of engagement that keeps people connected to accompany that happens more in the office than remotely. And so we’re finding people looking at ways to build more collaborative spaces, while still giving people the individual space as necessary. So they can get their tasks, some of their tasks done.

Leanne Elliott 42:34
One, if we’re asking people to come back into the office to collaborate, we need to enable that collaboration to the design of our office, and to if you’re asking people to come back to the office to collaborate, and yet you haven’t changed the structure of your office, you may be putting up putting up a barrier to this collaboration, while being in the office can nurture workplace relationships. It can distract from home based relationships. And this is where we need to think about the workplace, the work office as becoming more human centered,

Dr Craig Knight 43:05
when we studied people working from home. And when we compare that to people work in the office, we found that requirements are similar, but the way in which they catered for the different. So the for example, when people work from home, what’s important is the people that are important to them, friends, neighbors, associates, wherever it is via Facebook, or tick tock river, they have their contacts or knocking on the door, and also the people with whom they work. Now, when you work from home, it’s really quite important to make sure that you stay in contact with the people with whom you work. And that’s can be something that’s neglected. You know, somebody’s offering, I don’t know, John and Roche, and they tend to be forgotten about by Head Office. So it’s really important to make sure that we retain work contracts with people that are working from home. But just as important, those things matter in the office too. So in the in the office, where business contacts are easy. Remember that people’s personal important contacts are important to them as well. So if you block things which lots of companies do like Facebook and tick tock and access to all these social media sites, you are damaging the access to those important people. And you are damaging the organization has resulted because productivity before

Al Elliott 44:18
ml practical obstacle to collaboration is the fact that you usually need to bring a device with you and you usually need to have that powered up. Remember Tim our electric guy, a genius? Well, he talks about how collaboration requires power, but also how nobody really

Tim Hobbs 44:36
likes the cable. All the architects specifies every furniture manufacturer I’ve ever known has always hated the cable. I’ve never seen a single catalog, which shows a picture of a desk with a monitor with a cable on it. We they conveniently get rid of the picture of cables for the first time. So what We’ve developed in addition to our mains powered solutions, or we electrics is we’ve developed developed a DC battery powered power system, rather than just an individual product or system, which can be used in different ways in different pieces of furniture, to make sure that every single place that someone can be, there’s a power power outlet for them to power, a mobile device. And they don’t have to worry about whether that piece of furniture was has the ability to be tethered with the cable. Now we’ve got the ability to power sit stand workstations, so a battery can be picked up at reception, clicked into a dock in a desk. And that desk suddenly can become alive. It can the sit stand mechanism works, the monitor works, it’s powered from the battery, the laptop is charged, your phone is charged, if they had an LED light that could be powered as well. So just the user bring a battery to the desk can create life in that piece of furniture. And that’s why we call our system animate. We’re bringing furniture to life. And we’ve been doing it with AC electricity in the past, but we’re really doing it well now with batteries.

Leanne Elliott 46:12
Now I got very excited at this point. And you might be thinking, why? And it’s because if I think about the barriers of collaboration, ideation creativity in the office, is you’re you’re literally tethered to something because you need your computer plugged in or you’re further on battery or, or I’m pretty bad actually recharging my phone out all night. Yeah, so I’m the one that needs to be near the plug socket. Or is is completely removed every barrier. If I want to go over to a standing desk and have people stand with me Sure, if I want to go and sit on the servers, I only need a teeny tiny USB plug or I can use my battery, it completely changes from from a practical perspective, what our office can look like and how it functions. And in terms of aiding the behaviors we want to see in the office in terms of collaboration, creativity, ideation, this is the game changer. And it is exciting and I stand by being excited over batteries. And the best thing out there cherry on the battery shaped cake is that it is sustainable, the future

Tim Hobbs 47:17
of energy is always going to become one of DC renewable energy is this May May all create DC electricity to start off with, you’ve got to be able to store it, you can only make wind energy when the winds blowing, you can only have solar energy when the sun’s shining. If those two things aren’t happening, how are you going to power anything? So this is always my belief the last 20 years, how are we going to power the world renewably batteries, lithium ion batteries, and then the future silicon ion batteries. And there’s other technologies coming along. They’re enabling us to store that renewable energy for use when we don’t have sun or wind. And that’s going to lead us to a future of all renewable energy, DC energy. And what we’re doing with OEE. And bringing a battery into the workplace is we’re providing that first step from powering your device with AC to powering with DC. Those will then be charged by batteries in the basement, big Tesla Tesla tight walls but bigger batteries than those. And they will be powered from renewable energy. Everybody will start hearing terms like micro grids, where a small village or even a big building like the Gherkin will be its own power supply it will have, it will be able to create power with its own Windows store energy in the basement. And then it needs to distribute DC power to all of your DC devices. Every single device that you’ve got that you can use in a mobile way, has a battery in it. And that’s DC electricity.

Leanne Elliott 48:56
It’s very cool. But also then if we think about how this ties into the values that Jen said are looking for environmentally friendly organizations, this really does backup that value in a tangible way. Similarly, we saw the bad press last week around night, and all that that’s going on in terms of that green washing and behavior. And I think finally one of the main arguments if you want to put a point on the board for the office that I’ll ever think about this type of technology. The main argument for remote workers was they cram their commute, they’re cutting carbon emissions. Yes, but do you have green energy in your home? We do in the office.

Al Elliott 49:31
So talking to green energy. The fourth theme here seems to be around sustainability. We spoke to Jim,

Jim Meier 49:38
I think it’s got such a level in our industry that you just have to have sustainability at the forefront of every design. We have to lead the way. I mean, I know those issues like we got with the water, water companies at the moment and polluting rivers and polluting the sea and so forth. The old days, a company is bringing that New Product would think about functionality and aesthetic and price. They wouldn’t even think about sustainability, we’re now ready sustainability is almost got to be the starting point, if you don’t design with sustainable materials, and with a sustainability story in mind, whether you’ve got a good price, good product, or good aesthetic, a lot of companies won’t talk to you.

Al Elliott 50:21
We also spoke to Anna, the architect of models. And she agrees,

Ana Rita Martins 50:24
I think, for me, sustainability and social value considerations are really embedded in the way that we design. I design but also, as a designer, when you think about a quality, beautiful space, I think that has to be not only respecting people’s health, to help them flourish to make them feel happy. But also protecting the environment and making sure you’re not arming our natural resources. I think that I’m such an advocate on measuring the impact having the right data, the right assessments done. So it’s not just claims, and I call it sometimes sustainability sprinkles, which is like a little bit of you have done the space and you’ve done the project. And then you just add this kind of really sustainable sprinkles. And that’s not what it’s about. It’s about really understanding how creating regenerative system of designing nothing is really perfect. And I think people just need to be transparent about this process. It’s a kind of lessons learn, kind of journey. And we should all start this journey, because it’s a really difficult one you’re trying to understand not only if they have the right certifications, because sometimes certifications are a piece of paper ticking the boxes, they’re really important for that due diligence work, because designers and architects don’t have the time to sometimes, you know, doing their sustainable due diligence on so I quite often ask this to suppliers. Don’t show me your green chairs or don’t show me your kind of like products that have been done in a very sustainable community or had been helping somehow kind of just kind of like a village somewhere. But what I want to know is, what are you doing to actually completely change your system, your supply chain? What are you doing that is promoting maybe the health of your employees,

Leanne Elliott 52:30
Jim agree that when it comes to sustainability, it’s all about diving into the details.

Jim Meier 52:35
I think there’s different levels of sustainability and different ways of looking at it. Remember where before this became a big topic many, many years ago, when people start to think of wood, mainly environmentally friendly, but not really knowing what we’re talking about. Chrome became banned, almost banned from all products. Because of the poison in the material. Well, I’m not sure pointed out the right way to go toxicity. But then someone else pointed out one, hang on, but things made with Chrome last longer. So you’re not going through the whole process of manufacturing. I don’t think small businesses should be frightened of the cost element only now, anymore. 1015 years ago to get sustainable solution. You were paying a substantial premium.

Al Elliott 53:21
So I think what Jim says there perfectly is that he’s about like what Anna said, going back to ask suppliers to tell their stories know how the design is down in New Zealand, they have this baked in to their entire story. Here’s Ken

Kent Parker from Noho 53:32
So environments a really big part of our materials selection and how we design our products, how we minimize the use of material and our products, how we use materials from waste streams, or from regenerative regenerative sources. And we actually connected with a company called Eco or eco when I’ve got an economic product, which is recycled nylon, from fishing nets, textiles and carpets. So it’s completely by string, nylon material, but I’ve got a patented process where they’re re polymerize material right back to its virgin properties. And those visual properties what we needed for the engineering requirements or the components were were designing. So that was about using a waste stream of product material to deliver a high performing technical selling product to support the human body.

Al Elliott 54:30
Not incredible that you could be sitting on a chair made of nylon fishing nets. Paul who worked with Noah talks about another material they use to make chairsWilkinson

Paul from Noho 54:40
and we found another case of lightly we found that material made by DSM called Eco packs. It’s actually made of the castor bean oil or cast pasture bean plant so they make an oil from the castor Castor plant and then they use that oil to to form the basis of the polymer so they make up They stick out about that rather than using petrochemical uses a plant. And the great thing about plant is that as he doesn’t eat water, that he likes living in poor soil and rough soil, so it’s not something that you’d plant, and places where you grow through food. So it’s not competing with a food food chain for plant material. So we’ve got a great material. Again, it’s also a very

Kent Parker from Noho 55:23
low, almost like carbon. And actually, you know, uses carbon and growing the plants. So the processing and the growth of the material almost make it a carbon neutral product, which is fantastic.

Leanne Elliott 55:36
One of the things I really enjoyed about the clock mile Design Week was the global representation we have from around the design and workplace design community, I think we can be guilty as people from the UK or Western Europe or North America to be very US centric or UK centric. So it’s wonderful to hear what what the guys at no hair down in New Zealand are doing. It was also a great joy to hear from Donna about India, and how sustainability there is really taking off as sustainability

Zainab Mukadam 56:05
is huge in India. So to the extent it, people consider it a personal responsibility as well nowadays, especially the woke culture. So they’re very mindful. When it comes to the office space, there is the drive to use sustainable net positive if not net neutral, sort of, you know, carbon carbon positive, if not carbon neutral furniture. And I think yes, we have like India has become extremely conscious about the waste that they are producing. And you know, there’s also some responsibly sourced materiality that goes into the furniture. What does the furniture do? When I say furniture, I also mean carpet and light fittings and everything else that goes, so I’m just using an all encompassing term furniture. So what where does it go once it completes its life cycle. Fun

Leanne Elliott 57:08
fact, our podcast is carbon positive.

Al Elliott 57:11
Yes, it is. Thank you to Andrew from pod positive.

Leanne Elliott 57:14
The fifth theme that we saw come out was about being intentional. And this really made me smile, because as we said, I think it was last week intention seems to be the word of 2023. When it comes to leadership and workplace culture, well, in the world of design, intention is also crucial, his other

Ana Rita Martins 57:32
the way that we design has to be mindfully and environmentally consider to a point that is not only celebrating beauty, aesthetically, but also is going to be contributing to not harm our, you know, biodiversity, that is going to help us to really regenerate what we need, in order to not only protecting us as a species, but also kind of like understanding how we use space, how can that be actually making us feeling healthier? How can that make us feeling flourishing? So in five years time, I really hope that the design is being considering not only environmentally, but also social values into all of our decisions into the supply chain. But I do say if we need to do those changes, we need to start now. And with a big kind of like, push, because it’s, it’s a big, big mountain to climb, it’s not going to be easy. And I think without starting is going to be really, really hard if if we five years down the line, we don’t we didn’t do a big impact on changing this industry to a better one.

Al Elliott 58:44
That isn’t about you. But I’ve always thought architectures like is cool, but I don’t really understand it. Francis from homegrown plus kind of agree she studied architecture, but it took her a long while to understand exactly what architecture does.

Francis Leung 58:56
I had a very love hate relationship with architecture as a lot of people from Italy do. So when I left studying it, I I don’t know kind of it was so overwhelming and very difficult to still comprehend. I did go into a few practices. But ultimately, I did I met Neil Pender at an event and we just got talking and we work really well together. And I was really interested because I’d personally experienced that kind of disconnect from what architecture was taught to be and, you know, just taught to be like, Oh, these people need these things because it’s X, Y and Zed and standards and blah, blah, blah. But then the more you learn about it, the more you realize it’s actually about people and understanding what their needs are and how they want to use the space. How

Leanne Elliott 1:00:02
great is it if we want to address that disconnect that people are feeling with the office, we need to think more carefully about how people use our spaces,

Pat McDonald 1:00:10
everything comes together, whether it’s a hot product, or its ambient music in the space, or it’s creating, like we’re sitting in this lovely pod that gives people an escape from the noise that’s right outside the glass. And I think those mental breaks are really important for people. And it doesn’t take a lot, just takes a bit of thought by the manager or the director, the owner of a of an organization to think that not only is the overall space important to employee health and productivity, but little pods like this, and by the way, do not represent mute. But it’s just an incredible product, right? That this gives me a mental break and mental health right now, it’s always been important, we just haven’t known that it’s been as important as it is. And so everything that you can do to add to the big areas for everyone to collaborate, and then the individual areas for people to get their own work done in their own way.

Al Elliott 1:01:17
This intentionality about thinking about how people actually use the space is exactly the ethos behind Noho.

Paul Wilkinson from Noho 1:01:23
What we recognize is that people don’t sit still, that they move constantly, we don’t see because we you know, we, we observe people, when they work, and we observe them, when they’re working with their home, whatever environment they’re on, we put up cameras and watch how they actually live their lives. And what we observed is that because people move regularly, but you know, they can move every 30 seconds, you move some part of the body. So this whole idea of sitting upright, sitting in a stationary, you know, one ergonomic position is just wrong. So what we design products that move with you so that when you move, you know, when you lean in to to become engrossed in a conversation, that the chair is supporting you well, I’ll do it when you when you turn sideways in the chair, and, you know, relax that the chair works with you and allows

Al Elliott 1:02:10
incredible that we use a chair and we don’t really think about how we use it. But what was cool about that is that these guys literally set up cameras. I mean, they obviously had permission to do so for the cameras and watched how people have people use the chairs and then designed it for that

Leanne Elliott 1:02:24
evidence lab.

Al Elliott 1:02:25
I love it. What a psychologist always a psychologist, we heard from Simon before now we’re going to hear from Simon again, he is the guy who produces the mute pods that we recorded our podcast. And if you listen to the quality of the Zoom interviews we’ve got on this episode, and also the other interviews, the other interviews were recorded in a pod in a really busy office, think you can tell the difference. And Simon is really fanatical about acoustics.

Szymon Rychlik 1:02:50
Well, we basically figure it out. And the research that was done worldwide in the last couple of years shows that bad acoustics is one of the main interests in modern offices together with bad lighting and bad or improper type of error that is used in in offices. So basically, it has been an issue for a couple of years. And the reason why it is an issue is because as you know very well we moved into open plan offices some time ago, there is no way out of open plan offices, we will not we are probably not going back to you know cubicles that we used to have years ago. Because open plan offices are well much better, much cheaper, much easier to produce, they give you the speed and agility there is so much needed in in modern workplaces. It also gives you a nice, you know, flat career hierarchy in the in the company. But one of the main issues of this open plan offices is the fact that it’s pretty much loud. So basically, if you have one team which is focused on, you know, just working and typing on the computer, and the other one, which is a sales team pretty much shouting over the phone all the time, you have to find the right balance in order for all of those individuals to feel well. On top of that you have different kinds of people you have introverts, extroverts, all of them basically operate at a different level they are used, and they are motivated by different sorts of you know, atmosphere around and you have to take all of that into account. And that means that acoustics is extremely, extremely important in in the modern office. There are some offices that basically would need only a one person pot multiplied by, you know, pretty much the number of people that might need a quick phone call or a quick team’s call over a certain period of time, but there are a lot of other companies that would need a larger pot or a larger modular system which is one of the one of the nutrients that we see on the market that would be used in larger groups for brainstorming. So there is no one single solution for such a problem. You can even create with a set of accessories that we have designed On a coffee boys copy points reception bar, you know, whatever, whatever you need. So you can pretty much design most of the rooms that are being used in the office but in a way, which is much more much smarter and much more sustainable and much quicker. versus the traditional building, which is you know, plaster boards and, and all the glass walls, which, once you build it, you will never move it because you would have to destroy it, throw it out, close the office for two weeks and so on.

Leanne Elliott 1:05:33
When we were at the OBO office, our good friend Aggie from perks came down to see us. You may remember perks a few episodes ago, we had stellar Smith, the founder on. So Aggie came in, I was recording in the booth. And we went into one of the other mute pods just to have a chat. And it was incredible how very quickly, we got into quite a in depth, personal conversation, not one we’d want lots of people to to overhear but the space was just so safe and private, we felt able to do that very, very comfortably. So from an HR perspective, that’s brilliant. Because you know, how many times have you accidentally overheard a phone call that you may be weren’t meant to, or you want to have a conversation with your boss, but China five to find a quiet place in the office is impossible. It is such an incredible product and has so many uses. Do check it out, we’ll leave a link in the show notes. But it is just a phenomenal product. And here’s my dog excited about furniture out. I’m excited about this.

Al Elliott 1:06:33
It really is very, very cool. And we had an ame excel as well, you if you go back to the watercooler episode, we were right in the middle of 5000 people wandering around in Excel. And again, it performed perfectly and the audio quality was just magnificent. Okay, so going to thing number six, great design is also invisible, here’s Pat from had collected to talk about why

Pat McDonald 1:06:53
I would hope that the employee experience is one where they don’t even think about the desk, frankly, they don’t think about the monitor that they’re using, they don’t think about the chair that they’re sitting in, they just are able to go in and get their work done easily, comfortably, safely and productively and really not think about what the desk allowed me to do this. If we designed the product to work in such a way that somebody doesn’t have to think about interacting with it, then they are only thinking about doing their jobs. And that is a huge win for the employee. It’s a massive win for the employer as well.

Al Elliott 1:07:34
So yeah, again, we don’t think about a desk. But obviously, the designers do in terms of the chair, let’s go back to Noho. And how Paul designs the chair to be important yet visible.

Paul Wilkinson from Noho 1:07:46
I think that one of the things we love is that the chair interacts with human body. So it’s a very personal one direction. You know, people have a very close relationship when they sit down with their acknowledged or not. In for us, it’s understanding how people set how we can improve the you know what they do, while they’re sitting, understanding how they how that what activities they do what they interact with, and then providing solutions that make their lives better.

Kent Parker from Noho 1:08:12
It’s not something that people think about, you know, they don’t go to work, to sit on their bottoms and think about the seating or a lot of other aspects of the workplace. But subconsciously, they have an effect on their performance. So yeah, it’s like, it’s like wearing a bad pair of shoes. Yeah, instantly react or bad pair of shoes, but then you know, a few hours and walking around town or going for a walk, you’re very uncomfortable, and you know all about a good pair of shoes you completely forget about, you know, they just work. So they’re not an issue valet. So it’s actually about a lot of our product is about designing things don’t negatively or don’t disrupt people’s activities. It just lets them do what they need to do and behave, how they want to behave.

Leanne Elliott 1:09:02
I think that’s probably the headline of how to design thing of the Office of 2023, isn’t it? It lets people do what they need to do and behave, how they want to behave. That just sums it up. He’s brilliant. And this is why I liked him. I’m very excited about the evolution we’re seeing in how we power our devices and how it integrates with our furniture. Again, you know, and it sounds so silly. But if we’re not tethered to a desk, we can do what we need to do and behave and the way we want to behave. And if I can do that, I’ll come into the office.

Tim Hobbs 1:09:34
I don’t think I’ve been quite as excited about anything that we’ve done for a long time. And we got to this point, people are starting to understand how their world can become agile. And when I’ve told people all bets are off everything that you ever understood about power, and the fact that you weren’t going to have to have a floor box you’re going to have to plug into it. Your furniture which has wheels on was going to have to be tethered by cable. All those are good On our biggest problem are we now is just getting people aware. The fact that they don’t have to think that way anymore. They can do what they like, when they like, where they like.

Leanne Elliott 1:10:12
And isn’t that the point? People like remote work? Because they like, what they like when they like where they like, if I can do that in the office, too. Yeah.

Al Elliott 1:10:21
And I think that’s the beauty like we’ve been remote working for, like, probably abroad for 10 years in total for about 15 years. And yeah, there’s lots of times where we go into a bar, for example, in Cambodia, and we want it we need to go and do a couple of hours work, and you’ve got to choose Alright, where’s the plug socket? Is that plug socket working? You know, and then you go, Oh, this plug sock is really close to the roads is really noisy. So I can’t really have the zoom call I wanted. And I think what Tim does is just I can see why he’s excited. It’s just It solves all the problems.

Leanne Elliott 1:10:48
I did ask Daniel, his colleague like how much the batteries weighed? Because I thought exactly the same in terms of, of people working remotely from home or No, madding. What a brilliant solution. Absolutely. You can have that one for free. Oh, electric.

Al Elliott 1:11:05
So our seven theme was all around design and well being. We asked Libby rember, Libby from HUD Collective, we asked her at work when we do work from home, what are we doing wrong?

Libby Ferin 1:11:14
So what are people doing wrong? at the home office? Well, we know that approximately 41% of people experience back and neck pain working at home. Why is that because they don’t have the proper tools and resources at their home, they think working at the kitchen bar, you know, I’ve got you know, I’ve got access to my coffee or whatever, that’s great, but you’re not supporting your body. And what we find is most offices, right, most places that people go to work, they have most likely a proper task chair. And they’re sitting at a potentially, you know, at a workstation that has a monitor that is has a monitor arm, so I’m not bending down, I’m keeping my neck and my shoulders back. So you have to think about those type of tools in your own space, too. And what’s interesting is, even during the pandemic, we’ve worked with so many different companies that were providing those products for people at home. So they were sending, you know, a proper desk that was a height adjustable table that I could sit or stand a monitor arm to put their you know, monitor so they could experience a better viewing and a better, what do I just have visual, I’ve got my height adjustable table, I’ve got my monitor arm, I’ve got great lighting, I’ve got power, I’ve got a great test chair. That to me is like it’s my, my cockpit for the day. And it makes me fully supported. So it’s really important at home to have those tools as much as it is, if you ask me in the office,

Al Elliott 1:12:52
as the guys that know how pollen can point out, it’s actually could be quite dangerous.

Kent Parker from Noho 1:12:57
So you know, what were they talking about deep vein thrombosis from long flights, well, that happens to us every day when we sort of work. So now we we encourage people to move and our products, and we certainly would encourage people to stand for parts of the day as well. So the more movement you do, the more energy use you have, the more blood flow, you’re promoting an activation, small activations of muscles is really important to that sort of slow static time that we have, we might work

Leanne Elliott 1:13:27
when it comes to well being I wonder actually whether team offers have a stronger argument when it comes down to physical well being. Other agrees and also points out air quality.

Ana Rita Martins 1:13:37
So be mindful when we speak to clients to kind of make them understand maybe the space needs to be assessable maybe it’s really important to actually monitoring the air quality. Not only just focusing on the environment, but like you said on the well being of people is going to be a space where people spend, you know, 90% of the time they spend indoors, so it’s going to have an impact on their health, physical and mentally and so all of those considerations is about asking, but on the other side, suppliers need to be more transparent if there is toxic materials, what are they doing to kind of like change those kinds of ingredients we

Leanne Elliott 1:14:19
talked last week about how remote work facilitates not only work life balance but perhaps work life integration. Speaking designers shaper of the term work life harmony and agrees that hybrid may be the way to go.

Zainab Mukadam 1:14:33
And I’ve spoken about work life balance before as against work life harmony, because I think that’s one of the most significant changes that that the pandemic has brought. I do not think you can separate the two the bound boundaries have dissolved. So it is it is in our best interest to have work sort of integrated into our life. Because if I come from a place of okay, I need work I’ve balanced, I’m going to be disgruntled every day, because I’m setting out to achieve a target that might be very difficult to achieve in today’s time and age. And I encourage my team to think more about work life harmony, and move with that, which means hybrid working. If we are adapting as human beings, I think the office space also needs to adapt as effortlessly as possible. So, yeah, changing needs, changing demands, and our response needs to change accordingly as well.

Al Elliott 1:15:33
So Libby, from HUD collective explains that actually, a happier person produces 20%, more productivity,

Libby Ferin 1:15:39
remember, 20%, more productivity comes out of a happier person. And that, to me is great. So if you’re a happy person, and you’re working, and you feel like you’re in control of your environment, your way of working how you want to work, you’re more apt to be more 20% more productive, they found. So I think it’s pretty, a pretty astonishing statistic is that doesn’t take a lot to be a happier worker,

Al Elliott 1:16:08
who works alongside Libby remembers a time when the environment had detrimental impact on his well being.

Pat McDonald 1:16:14
But I think about a place I used to work, where we had a facility, and we had all old furniture and the walls hadn’t been painted, and the floors were not great. And over the course of a handful of weeks, just did a complete refresh. And the energy of myself and my co workers when we came back into the office, it was massively different. And so I think the advice would be, just imagine how you would feel as an individual, as you walked into a brand new space. How do you feel when you smell the new paint? You see the new color scheme that is current as opposed to outdated? How does that make you feel? And then multiply that times 5000, or however many employees you have? That’s a whole new level of energy that can help your team your organization, especially in really tough times, get together and push forward as opposed to? Well, it’s just another day at the office.

Leanne Elliott 1:17:23
Jessica, from Arbor grades, wellbeing is much more than furniture.

Jessica Black 1:17:27
And well being is more than furniture, yes, it’s important to create the right workspace for the individual. But mentally, you need to have the tools as well, everyone, we’re all going through the same stuff, we’re all working wrong. And just sometimes having a five minute chat about had the worst cup of coffee this morning, or you know, it’s just breaking up that time breaking up that day

Al Elliott 1:17:49
mark from workplace, he actually thinks that if you are working from home and you’re isolated, it can be really quite damaging and talks about an idea from Japan,

Mark Eltringham 1:18:02
I think there is some evidence to suggest that actually, younger people are starting to look for something that is to use the wrong term real. You know, hence, my daughter sort of interested in her generation. In fact, they’re interested in vinyl, for example, it’s a quest for something that gets them away from their screens, and from this endless, bottomless infinite supply of content and experiences that you know, is readily available to them. The Japanese have this concept called Hiki Komori. There are these people who withdraw used to be just young men, but it’s increasingly sort of more more mixed than that. withdraw completely from the world, who just stay in their rooms, either their own place or your parents. And just play video games, any takeaways, you know, just communicate to everybody through through screens and whatever. And and, yeah, I think we’ve got to be careful about that kind of thing as well that we don’t insulate ourselves from from each other.

Leanne Elliott 1:19:12
I agree. And I think particularly with the younger people in our workforces, they want places where they can come together, meet new people, learn from from more senior people, and really create that workplace community. But that again, as we’ve heard, requires intention. I’ve lost count the number of officers I’ve walked into, and I see everybody’s sitting there with their headphones in. So I think if we’re wanting to really address these problems, head on and with intention, again need to create this workspace that can facilitate this type of, of human interaction. This type of community, or eight theme is individuality. We’ve heard a lot about this on the podcast this year. I think that with so many different choices and options and preferences floating around in our post pandemic world. Individuality really is important. We asked you Throw out her thoughts on this.

Jessica Black 1:20:01
Employers need to really remember that everyone’s a human being. Employees need to know that everybody’s individual, and they all have different needs, they should be doing a lot more listening to what people need as individuals. And yes, we all need to work. And we all need to have a desk at certain times. But employers need to be more flexible with the individual, Dr.

Leanne Elliott 1:20:22
Craig agrees that it’s less about Office versus remote. It’s more about what suits individuals

Dr Craig Knight 1:20:28
productivity can thrive in many different environments. What it needs, though, is happiness. If you’re happy in a space, you will work well within it. And what tends to happen is people quite like, for example, work from home some of the time and going into the office and other times, or maybe going to the coffee shop another day. So when you give people again, that choice of where they want to work from, rather than let’s say in Jacob Riis, mog style, hauling people back into the space, that choice makes a really big difference by how creative and productive people are.

Al Elliott 1:21:03
So going back to this idea of isolation poles from Noho, they’re very aware of this,

Paul Wilkinson from Noho 1:21:08
people are being isolated by working remotely. Young, you know, the younger generations coming through, we were quite surprised, you know, they’re one of the things they want to be together for as to get the mentoring to work with a more experienced people to evolve their careers. And that’s really hard to do when you’re working remotely. I think workplace itself will always have, well, I think we’ll have part of what workers just because of that ability to be with people and actually form those bonds, or the people we working with, in heaven, that true collaboration, because it’s really valuable. It’s where all the great ideas, certainly in our business, and from talking to all sorts of industries, you know, collaboration is so hugely valued, that narrow being together as the best way of doing that.

Al Elliott 1:21:57
And finally, Mark from workplace, he’s concerned is that wellbeing and productivity, those two words are being bandied around without really any kind of thought put into them.

Mark Eltringham 1:22:08
And my concern with our wellbeing issue would be that that we it’s kind of a little bit obscured by the productivity thing, because the whole remote work thing instantly became about, you know, are you more productive working from home. So that might be interesting is to see a shift back towards the conversation, focusing more on wellbeing and productivity. And I know, there’s this idea that people are better off in terms of their well being working remotely. And I’m sure again, most people are, you know, in some ways most of the time, but again, there are some people who are clearly worse off. There are clearly some people who are going to be made very unwell by it will encounter other problems. And we need to have a much broader conversation about that, about you know, what individuals need and how firms can create a workplace with a digital workplace and a physical workplace that meets the needs of everybody, rather than making grandiose proclamations that seem to apply to everybody. But don’t mic drop, tell you

Al Elliott 1:23:17
what that guy knows a thing or two about the workplace. If you’re not subscribed to workplace insights, dotnet look at the show notes, you’ll have a link. And he’s got lots of publications, including magazines, which let’s be honest, when was the last time you held a magazine? A physical magazine, or 19,

Leanne Elliott 1:23:32
which I’m sure will come as no surprise is that workplace is physical workplaces need to support inclusion. Now when we talk about inclusion, we often jump to people with disabilities. But often we forget other demographics that can be overlooked. And one that we have touched on already is age. While it is about personal preferences. We also need to remember that the younger people in our organizations might not have the home set up to to work effectively. Perhaps they still with their families or their siblings or in shared accommodation. MC agrees it’s about

Mick Jordan 1:24:03
personal preferences. And I think those who are more than happy to work in a hybrid or a split way. Or we’ll look for jobs with companies that also ones were that way. So I think some people are not as lucky as some of us. They don’t have a home with views over the countryside or Biophilia or comfortable settings or the right work settings, terms of privacy acoustics etc, etc. So why wouldn’t you want to work in a really high end workspace?

Leanne Elliott 1:24:43
I also spoke to Zeinab who explained how the workplace can help those who aren’t able bodied Yes, so

Zainab Mukadam 1:24:50
it technology every second person is it or to something to do with technology I think even here both to fire import apart from You know, other things is the human, you know, a component that provides the technology, so to speak, to have technology integrated into the functional spaces as well. So, in fact, one of the examples, I won’t name the client, we use technology to sort of humanize spaces. We had an app developed for the differently abled, what we did was when when somebody walked to a key area, there was and they couldn’t see, there was feedback loop coming in through the years to kind of, you know, tell them okay, you’re at the reception turn right for washrooms to left for the work area,

Leanne Elliott 1:25:39
Francis is from homegrown plus, which is all about building diversity into the architecture community, she explains that we need diversity on both sides, both in terms of of how we design spaces for diversity, and diversity within the design team itself.

Francis Leung 1:25:54
Architecture is about like placemaking. And kind of, I don’t know, it’s something that everyone experiences every single day, but the global majority 80% of population, that, you know, you get a fifth of them that actually designing it. So when people come from lots of different backgrounds, and different experiences, you know, they also need to be the ones designing where that where they are every day. And yeah, it’s also just like to create more inclusivity and understanding and actually, like cater for these people that day, you don’t otherwise, every year in the summer, we bring 10 students from non traditional backgrounds to New York, and we visit the Pratt Institute, we do a two day workshop there. And we visit different practices like big and small architectural firms. And it’s to inspire the next generation and to show them that they do have a place in the room,

Leanne Elliott 1:26:56
we’ve gone through nine different themes or interventions you could consider in redesigning your workspace. But all of them are meaningless without measuring the impact.

Ana Rita Martins 1:27:08
I’m actually quite a big advocate of certifications, or assessments or frameworks that designers should follow. So on the well being we have well fit well. But we also could just pick up the principles that certain certifications have like monitoring, access to water, access to staircases, really understanding what those kinds of parameters are trying to bring to your design and incorporating them, I find really important that I find it really helpful when we have dedicated budgets and resources, and also a framework that will measure what we’re trying to monitoring and what’s going to be the impact. So at the end, the client could also claim it back could understand what kind of carbon impact the project had, but also what’s going to be the health impact on the users. So measurement is in my apps. Now understand, it’s something that I find that it’s crucial for us to kind of keep moving on the right directions, but always against the right frameworks,

Leanne Elliott 1:28:15
some fantastic advice from Anna there, and what a beautiful set of data to be able to feed into your culture and into your employer brand.

Al Elliott 1:28:25
I think this is with any kind of intervention, as Leanne has taught me that as a scientist than if you’re doing any kind of intervention, whether it be wellbeing, engagement, recruitment, management coaching, you need to measure the impact of it. Otherwise, you’re just guessing you’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. So really, really, really vital part of this. Lea, that is all 10 It feels like we started this podcast around about two years ago. It has

Leanne Elliott 1:28:51
been a bit of a movie of a podcast, hasn’t it? But there’s so many there’s so many amazing guests who spoke to you and so much great advice and an area that you know it’s it’s almost comprehensive now, I’m not sure we’re gonna have to come back to this until there is a an interesting development or maybe check in how people are doing it is really that one stop that everything you need in terms of encouraging employees back to your work, place office, if that if that is what you want to do. So you now might be thinking, Leanne Ow, that’s great. But where do I start with all this? Well, we’ve got here there are actually three areas that we would suggest you start with. And the first one may come as a shocker. employee voice, his gym.

Jim Meier 1:29:33
I think they’ve got to talk to their employees, that staff and listen and don’t judge. Because we’re all right, and we’re all wrong. So don’t judge. Just listen and adapt it. And then if there’s something you fundamentally disagree with what they’re saying, just maybe say, well, we don’t want to have a massive coffee cost of coffee shop because we actually need to actually do some work or Whatever it is. So we need to listen. But also maybe there’ll be mentoring and a bit of guidance,

Leanne Elliott 1:30:07
Pat agrees that this more collaborative approach is likely to be more effective.

Pat McDonald 1:30:11
How we get there is a really challenging question to ask and or to answer, I should say. Because if you have a leader at the top that has their way, you mentioned Elon Musk earlier, if he brought provides a directive that is based on his philosophy of how to get things done, but you have 10,000 other people that have a different viewpoint, there is going to be stress and friction. And all of that takes away from a healthy, productive work environment.

Leanne Elliott 1:30:46
One of the most effective ways of getting to where you want to be, whatever area of people and culture you’re talking about, is to understand exactly where you are now. And the bonus of that, asking your employees about where things are now and how they feel about it can actually in itself, boost morale, as Libby explains,

Libby Ferin 1:31:05
but very meaningful things where management, your supervisor, whatever, is giving you accolades or showing you the opportunity to work your way, right, that empowerment, I think that that’s probably one of the most important things you can provide an employee is being heard, right. And that is a validation, that I’m important here, that if I feel like I’m contributing, I’m actually going to produce more than if I wasn’t, if I’m feeling down, if I’m feeling like I’m not valued here. But when a person is valued, in their work in what they’re doing, they automatically are more apt to give more of themselves, and feel like they’re contributing more

Al Elliott 1:31:56
things around this stuff. We’ve got the dawn of workplace design, Dr. Craig, was he had to say Leon,

Leanne Elliott 1:32:02
Dr. Craig took the idea of employee voice even further, and actually suggested rather than asking people how they want to design the space, actually giving them the tools and resources to do it themselves.

Dr Craig Knight 1:32:13
The beauty of that is all we do is treat people like adults. Now that’s logically a piece of cake. Emotionally, it’s really hard to do. Okay, so I realized there’s this this dichotomy of force going on, because people’s that we don’t do that, but they should. So the Empowered space is a Kellyanne, here’s your space, sit with your team, then here’s some tools that we’ve that we would have used as a management or we would have used as designers, you use them that yours, you decide how you want the space to look. And what’s really interesting is that when we said this linspace is destructive and horrid, if that says by somebody prefers that’s every bit as productive and creative and innovative, as space that’s covered in plants and pictures for somebody else.

Al Elliott 1:32:56
Okay, so number one you need hate and listen to your employees allow they have an employee and allow them to have an employee voice. Number two is the question of D, can you do it yourself? I mean, this could be potentially very, very expensive. So if you’ve only got a small company, it may not be worthwhile. We asked Dr. Craig about this, about how you actually can do this without necessarily spending 1000s and 1000s of pounds to find

Dr Craig Knight 1:33:16
is that up to about 20 people, companies tend to work generally speaking pretty well. Pivotal happen as efficient as say, you may and your boss, let’s say we form a company, then what happens is we will work together we’ll decide who sits where what car, what color, we want the carpets, what kind of furniture we want, do we want anything on the walls, what about the windows, but we’d like to sit on Thursday, all of those things will decide between us. And that works beautifully. That’s what we should be doing. But when we get to about about 20 people, suddenly somebody starts to know better than everybody else. That’s when the problems start. There are three things for a great job. Okay. If you remember, you can remember art, or you can remember rats, or tar doesn’t really matter which you word bonuses stick with art. If you give people autonomy, resource, and trust those three things, you have given somebody a fantastic job. And resource is not just a computer on the desk resources, like time access to people access to people that matter to them. So autonomy, resource and trust, you cannot do anything, we give somebody a great job if they have those three things.

Leanne Elliott 1:34:22
The effects of when you do do something can be incredible. His death,

Jessica Black 1:34:28
but if you’re not nurturing them, if you’re not showing them and you’re not giving them the tools to stop making those mistakes. If you’re not communicating, and you’re not listening, then how are you going to get the best out of them? Because then they’ll move on. They’ll go somewhere that does care. And they’ll get the results that you want and you think, why didn’t they do that for me? I’ve got Gary, he’s fantastic. You know, I’ve just I’ve been so lucky that struck gold really when we sort of paired up because you through my life with my career with oboes, even, I’ve had a few things go awry. And he’s just so supportive. And if I need anything, because I can’t, I’m flustered, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m stressed, he’ll just say, just stop for, you know, take a minute, understand that it’s, you know, you’re human, you need a minute you, nothing needs to be done right now, this very second. So just, and it’s that kind of help. And it’s that kind of empathy. Now, that understanding from another human being that helps you be able to be that way for somebody else.

Leanne Elliott 1:35:36
So if you are a small business, workplace design may be important, but it needs to be coupled with with the broader design and consideration of your culture. We spoke to Kenneth from now house, and he explained that if we are looking at our workplace, just being thoughtful about placement and how we use our spaces, is a great place to start. For more

Kent Parker from Noho 1:35:56
thoughtful placement of things like communal areas, breakout areas are really important for those sort of spontaneous conversations. And other things that we can’t measure. But we know those sorts of interactions really add to the the team’s that the team’s innovation, knowledge and, and the teamwork of other groups,

Al Elliott 1:36:19
Paul, who works with Ken degrees,

Paul Wilkinson from Noho 1:36:21
that’s really important part of building building culture, building bonds with the other people who work with him, it really does promote that and promote the culture in empowers employees to choose where they work, and where they do the tasks and where they do their activities.

Leanne Elliott 1:36:38
And it also explained that there are loads of free resources available.

Ana Rita Martins 1:36:42
There’s so many available resources online at the moment, I feel that it’s a kind of like a minefield, to be honest, where can you find so many tools, I think, what I always say to anyone, usually that is involved with a design that is not an expert, it’s quite important that if you are trying to really go and create kind of sustainable or mindful design, that you have the right experts around the table.

Leanne Elliott 1:37:14
And for small businesses, often those white experts, as we’ve, as we’ve heard, are going to be your employees. But of course, if you do have the funds available, engaging expert is always an excellent way to go.

Pat McDonald 1:37:28
I don’t have the design I that’s what designers are for, I walk into a room, I see four walls, a ceiling and a floor. That’s what I see. A designer can come in and imagine what’s possible in that space. And I’m grateful for that. Because when I walk into a space, and everyone that’s listening to this, they can think about an experience. They walked into a place and they felt a certain way. That’s what designers do. And I think it’s exceptionally hard. And it is exceptionally powerful at the exact same time. I’m envious by the way of designers that have the ability to do

Leanne Elliott 1:38:11
me too. I can barely dress myself in the morning, Pat. But anyway, Henry, author agrees engaging expert is important, but doesn’t always have to be a design company. Sometimes just finding a great designer to consult with can be really valuable.

Henry Watson 1:38:24
I think the first if it’s a company that hasn’t got a perhaps internal design to get one, because even if they don’t need and not actually a design company, because that designer will know you know the trends and things to put in the workplace to boost morale in that workplace. Second of all, I think they probably need to know about, you know, setting times you know, you’ve got the adjustable height, desks and things. I think that should be almost the standard desk now it should be hard adjustable desk, really not that I use mine very often. But you know, it’s there. If I need it, if I get a bit cramped I can stand up.

Leanne Elliott 1:39:02
What we’ve heard throughout this episode is that great design is human centered. I know that can be a bit of an EQ term for some people, especially maybe the British contingents of our listeners. But being human centered really is the point. You can design the best workplace office in the world in terms of functionality in terms of fancy chairs. But if it doesn’t work for your people, then it doesn’t work. Let’s round off this episode by hearing more from the incredible Dr. Craig.

Dr Craig Knight 1:39:32
If you really want to create a space like that, then just ask the people within it to create it. You know, if you’re a manager then one of the most important things as we’ve said it’s a treat people like grownups, trust them. Let the group decide, let the group go and do its thing. And the group will come back with the solution. And what you get when you do that is something called congruent identity. Because the group bombs because you’ve let it so it goes away and does its own thing. But it all So bonds with the organization that has trusted it to do those things instead of us and then you just get us. We’ve never found a situation, for example where that is better in a situation where people are empowered. That’s one thing. That’s why your question is really good. But when instead of having the design lead solution, which is the apotheosis of brilliance at the moment, where you suddenly have a lead design solution, where the skill that the designer become submissive to the organization submissive to the team, rather than leading it, when you psychologically applied design, in other words, that’s when you get that 60% increase, just against the Empowered bit, it’s about a 35% increase, we do need both design is a fantastic thing. But it’s just that it’s not properly used or understood. You need stuff, I don’t understand why people don’t use psychology as a default in design. Because it affects people, very few, because people, as we see in this post pandemic world are scared of change. So even companies like Yahoo, which are held up as these burnished examples of good practice are not good practice anymore. We see Elon Musk and the appalling way he treats his workers, they’re very hard to find. But I do recommend some, and I’ll give you one. And that is called checks, which is that the all weather proofing company which produces fabulous stuff, and they look after their people, first virgin does something similar. And GoreTex say that they look on money as a form of applause. It’s something that they get for looking after the people who then do the job. Well, all companies did that it’d be a fabulous working world.

Leanne Elliott 1:41:42
Interesting what Dr. Craig says there that these tech companies at once were the gold standard of best practice, just aren’t anymore, though.

Al Elliott 1:41:50
Let’s just conclude that is everything you can relax, you can go and get a cup of tea. But before you do that, let’s just finish off with the future of work, we asked some of our experts, what they think the future of work is going to look like, here’s

Pat McDonald 1:42:02
Pat, tell me, I’m on the old end of things. I love the office environment. I love the energy that happens in an office, the creativity that comes from the power of a group of people that have a shared objective, and different ideas on how to get there. I think that what we learned and COVID is that we can still get work done and perhaps create quite a bit more work life balance than we’ve ever had before. And certainly in the states where we tend to be annoyingly aggressive, and it’s really quite absurd sometimes of how go go go we are. We learned because we were forced to learn how to do things remotely. I think that the answer is in the middle. What we’re used to, we’re never going to always go back to that piece. I don’t think so. And what existed during COVID. I don’t think that’s sustainable for everybody if for no other reason that some people don’t work well by themselves, even if they want to. So it’s a combination of three or four days of work together, and one or two days, it’s some point on your own. And if those that want to come to the office, such as myself five days a week, how about it?

Al Elliott 1:43:30
We asked Jim, who’s one of London’s largest furniture dealers, what he thought the workplace is going to look like,

Jim Meier 1:43:36
I think it’s just gonna be less and less works. desks as such, but maybe bit bigger to make it more enticing. More height adjustability. So we catch up with Holland and Germany, which have led the way on adjustment in the workplace, and then collaborative areas and more pods and booths. Just things which give life to an office. farther than just walking into new Olga, there’s a sea of 200 desks. It may mean a future be 50 desks and much more relaxed environment with lots of lovely little breakout areas and meeting it. I benches and so forth.

Leanne Elliott 1:44:14
I ended my conversation with Dr. Craig by asking him if you had a magic wand, what changes would you make? What would the future of work look like? It

Dr Craig Knight 1:44:23
would be to give people those levers of control to trust the people that work for you and give them what they need, then you’ll have a great company, one rider that if I may, there has never been any such thing as a place where people aren’t too happy in their job. The happier they are, the better they perform.

Al Elliott 1:44:42
The happier they are, the better they perform. What a way to end this bumper episode. Lee I think we’ve got nothing more to say apart from links are in the show notes.

Leanne Elliott 1:44:54
Links are in the show notes. Thank you to all our incredible guests gang, we will leave links to them as well. I think this is definitely our most ambitious episode ever. So I hope you enjoy it. I think it’s definitely given us some points of reflection being very remote first people. But I think to answer the question in our title, is the office making a comeback? No, not the office as it was. But could the office claim a place at the center of how the future of work will look? Apps are frickin lately?

Al Elliott 1:45:29
Office 2.0. That’s the future. We’ll see you next week. Bye.

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