Thought Leadership 2015 – January Event

On January 22nd we were proud to host our first Thought Leadership event of 2015.

A new initiative that we‘ve launched this year, it brings together business owners and senior directors to discuss best practice and challenge the future of the workplace with headlining keynote speakers from within the industry.

The importance of knowledge workers

First up was Nigel Roberts, MD at Paramount Interiors, in his guise as Chairman of Cardiff Business Council. As Europe’s fastest growing capital city, Cardiff is becoming a major player in the global marketplace. He stressed the importance of innovation and knowledge as collateral in the business world, with intellectual property as important as physical property. Building and designing offices with the needs of knowledge workers in mind is now essential if businesses are to attract and retain the best staff.

Nigel & Model

Nigel and the CBC’s giant model of Cardiff (Image courtesy of Wales Online)

With this in mind, Nigel introduced our first Thought Leadership keynote speaker.

Evolution of the workplace

Jeremy Myerson is co-founder and Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design at the Royal College of Art and the first-ever holder of the Helen Hamlyn Chair of Design. An academic, author and activist in design for more than 30 years, his remit is to encourage ‘design that improves quality of life’.

Jeremy was here to give us his thoughts on the evolution of the workplace and the need for a new thought process when it comes to office design. The ratio of knowledge workers in the UK is now believed to be second only to Sweden, which makes recognising their needs vital.

To give it some historic perspective, Jeremy looked at how the layout of the office has gone through three significant shifts over the decades:

The Taylorist Office

At the turn of the 20th century, industrialisation gave way to the Taylorist Office, named after the puritanical U.S. engineer Frederick Taylor. Its regimented lines of desks encouraged an uninterrupted flow of work with managers in their own offices keeping a close eye on the workforce.

The Taylorist Office

The Taylorist Office (Image courtesy of MYTF1 News)

The Social Democratic Office

In the aftermath of WWII, the Social Democratic Office emerged with a more communal and collegial design ethic. Efficiency was less of a concern and more emphasis was put on encouraging human interaction in the workplace, which gave us the now much maligned open plan office.

The Social Democratic Office

The Social Democratic Office (Image courtesy of Philippe Petit-Roulet)

The Networked Office

We’re now moving into an era when the connectivity of an office space goes beyond its four walls. Social networks in the office can be encouraged through spaces for collaboration, with wireless and mobile technology allowing staff to work anywhere they wish.

The Networked Office

The Networked Office (Image courtesy of Macquarie Bank)

Eventually, five generations will be sharing the office space, with a large proportion of them being older knowledge workers. The future of office design will require an activity based approach that recognises the differing needs for each employee and the job that they need to complete. They not only require open spaces that allow for collaboration and idea sharing but also enclosed spaces that give them somewhere to concentrate and contemplate.

The need for continued change

After Jeremy’s insightful presentation, Paul Wong from property consultants Lee Wakemans discussed the necessity to consider much more than just the look and feel of a potential office move.

Paul looked at the growth curve of organisations and the importance for business leaders to use any potential office fit-out as a catalyst for change, ensuring that any business strategy is reflected in the final look and functionality of the office design.

Lee Wakemans Cogs

Make every part of your business work effectively (Image courtesy of Lee Wakemans)

Paul discussed the potential for revenue savings, space optimisation and improved processes when organisations consider any merger, move or remodelling. Combined with a consideration for the wellbeing of staff a business can continue to attract and retain the right candidates.

In order to successfully deliver an office fit-out strategy, Paul outlined Lee Wakemans’ approach which evaluates the culture, process, equipment and building. Working with business leaders they can ensure that a company’s growth plan can be delivered in the proposed workplace before commencing with colleague engagement programmes.

 Kinnarps phone booth Kinnarps standing desks

Images courtesy of Kinnarps

Ultimately, a successful office fit-out will hinge on actively seeking a solution that matches the culture of the business and also meets the needs of staff. Once you’ve done that, selling the benefits of change will become a lot easier.

A client of change

Our last speaker was Nick Jacques, who headed up the recent office fit-out and workplace programme for General Dynamics, a billion dollar global defence company with over 90,000 employees.

18 months ago General Dynamics set Lee Wakemans & Paramount a challenge to remodel an existing UK building, encouraging more collaboration between key teams, whilst also optimising and modernising their existing space.

Nick brought to life the challenges he faced daily as he went through the audit process with Lee Wakemans and then the change management and design process with Paramount. However, he stressed the importance of involving all colleagues, as well as making decisions driven by data and the upfront analysis which Lee Wakemans delivered so well.

The formerly hierarchical office format became a more egalitarian space, much more activity based with various informal, breakout and collaboration areas. Through effective design and the use of new workplace furniture, while the space became more open and communal, the actual amount of working areas increased. And now, 18 months on, visitors and staff both still comment on the effectiveness of the office design, which has far more light and feels airy and productive.

After a full evening of insight, advice and discussion, the assembled guests helped themselves to some well-earned tapas and drinks. Following a successful first event, we’re looking forward to our next Thought Leadership session. Keep watching this space for details about it coming soon.

Written by Alasdair McIntyre, Sales & Marketing Director

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