Friends United?

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We couldn’t help but bring you a slightly more detailed account of a couple of our favourite events from this year’s CDW programme – the first of which, shamelessly, involved our own Editor, Mick Jordan. For this year’s Umbrella + Friends talk, we were tasked with pulling together an expert panel to discuss the subject of ‘Workplace 101’ – think the TV show Room 101, but more industry-specific. 

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So, on the Wednesday evening, Mick hosted a fun-filled, lively session, with the panel discussing a range of contentious workplace subjects, all in front of a busy showroom full of visitors. Our brave panel then gave their views on what they felt should be resigned to the past, what should be here to stay – and also what the workplace of the future really needs. 

The panel comprised Mike Walley, Head of Workplace Experience EMEA, Criteo, Imogen Privett from the Royal College of Arts and WORKTECH Academy, Kristoff DuBose, Founder of Cirkularis8 and Elena Panagiotidis, Senior Associate at Perkins+Will. 

The first workplace ‘pet hate’ was, indeed, pets in the workplace. Playing Devil’s Advocate, Mick suggested that, despite claims that pets having a calming influence on people in the workplace, pets can actually be a health & safety issue, and far from ideal for those with allergies! The panel was somewhat split on the subject (slightly surprisingly!), although there was a certain amount of support for Mick’s argument that ‘A workplace is a workplace, not a petting zoo’.

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The conversation then moved on to the personalisation of the workplace. Mick asked why people feel it’s ok or suitable to have photos /toys/ models of the Millennium Falcon on their desks? He again suggested that a workplace is just that and that people should treat it as such. Even Star Wars fan Kristoff conceded that there is a place and time for such things – while Mike wound things up a little by (intentionally) confusing Star Wars and Star Trek. 

And so the pattern was very much set. Over the next hour and a quarter, our panel discussed a wide variety of subjects including over-complicated tech (a real bug-bear of Mike Walley), Skype/Video Conferencing (which largely received thumbs-up from all), too many desks in the workplace (sorry to Matt Clarke and the Umbrella team for the furniture negativity), not enough desks in the workplace (you’re welcome Matt!), gimmicky workplace design, ‘free’ breakfast (Elena and Imogen welcomed the principle – and are clearly nowhere near as cynical as our own Editor!) and, finally, people – with Mike even stealing an Alan Partridge quote from Mick, much to the amusement of the rest of the panel!

With an awful lot of very serious, straight seminars and talks held across the week, we hope the Umbrella audience found our leftfield interpretation entertaining and thought provoking. Hopefully we can do it all over again next year! 

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Photography: Son of Jack Photography