Spotlight – Pause for Thought

We asked a cross-section of the market’s elite to put aside their turkey and festivities for a few minutes to answer a diverse selection of questions about what they feel the past year has delivered and what they expect from 2019. 

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PJ Statham
Owner, Momentum

How long have you been in the world of workplace?
Since 1980 – rather a long time!

What is the single biggest thing that has changed since you started?
Technology has changed the way everyone works.

Is the workplace better now or is it a case of emperor’s new clothes?
Both…technology has created easier ways of working but it also leads to communication breakdowns and fewer direct conversations. It allows people to hide and that cannot be good.

Are clients more knowledgeable about products and design?
They like to think they are more aware, simply because there are so many products on the market that, if they know a few, they appear to be experts. Designers and architects need to work harder to learn what is available, how and why it is designed and how it is made. I think our industry has either become a bit lazy with research or the pressure to meet deadlines determines the eventual design, not the ideal for anyone.

If it is possible, ignore Brexit (because it seems no one can predict that) what will be the biggest impact on the workplace sector in 2019?
‘New ways of working’ is the term I prefer as companies evaluate their workspaces. Do you expect the market to continue the impressive raise of the last five years? It might slow down a little, but technology is changing faster than furniture can keep up, so developments will be needed.

Do you expect the position of the facilities manager to change and grow in importance?
It will change, but someone still has to manage the assets. Buildings are costly, so they need to be efficient.

Is the Gen X,Y,Z & millennial terminology helpful for understanding or lazy stereotyping?
Lord David Willetts made some interesting comments about this – that if we do not understand the differences and the impending problems, we will fail the subsequent generations.

How do we step away from a 9-5 working week construct together?
This is a tough one unless we change school timetables and holiday periods. It is the case though, that work practices are allowing greater flexibility, but meetings can really only take place when people are available at the same time!

If you had one contribution to make to making things just a little better over the next decade, what would it be?
I would ask people to research and check for alternatives to the first furniture they find and avoid copies; support original designs.

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Dean Kuch
Managing Director, Thinking Works

How long have you been in the world of workplace?
33 years.

What is the single biggest thing that has changed since you started?
Emails – whatever happened to talking to colleagues and trusting they’ll do what they say instead of trying to try to trap them by putting everything in an email?

Is the workplace better now or is it a case of emperor’s new clothes?
It’s easier to research, and the Internet has helped everybody become an ‘expert’ on any given topic, but, we seem to get less ‘work’ done now than before.

Do you expect the market to continue the impressive raise of the last five years?
Yes, but I think it will start to slow in the next 18-24 months.

Who is accountable for wellbeing in the workplace?
Human Resources departments in larger organisations and Managing Directors in smaller organisations.

How do we step away from a 9-5 working week construct together?
I think, to some extent, we already have – the working day starts at home for a lot of people before they get to the office, and a lot of people work late or work from home into the evening too.

How many more years of casual sexism in workplaces do we have before that dies a death?
Depends however long I’m alive!!! I think we’ll see sexism diluted  greatly in the next 10 years, however, there will be traces of it for many years to come.

If you had one contribution to help make things just a little better over the next decade what would it be?
To make the work environment better for the workers. To give them back some of what’s been taken away with open plan offices. To give them somewhere they belong – and want to belong.

Mark-Hickey

Mark Hickey
Owner, Ultimate Group

How long have you been in the world of workplace?
Over 20 years.

What is the single biggest thing that has changed since you started?
Technology – who would have thought you could work from your mobile device away from the office. Also, working flexibility and trust within the workplace.

Is the workplace better now or is it a case of emperor’s new clothes?
It’s definitely better and what we hear from our end user clients is that staff retention is testament to this with recruitment costs down.

Are clients more knowledgeable about products and design?
Absolutely. We usually find that a company will engage a champion within their organisation to research working environment trends beforehand. We also see evidence of user group feedback at initial consultation stages from within organisations, which confirms that the employer is more open to change.

What will be the biggest impact on the workplace sector in 2019? 
Staff wellbeing, such as a better understanding and acceptance to mental health, not just physical.

Do you expect the market to continue the impressive raise of the last five years?
I see no signs of it stagnating or any uncertainties. I think once Brexit becomes old news, it will be business as usual.

Who is accountable for wellbeing in the workplace?
It starts from the top and should be encouraged in the environment you own or create. If you give them the tools and – sometimes more importantly – your time, you will see a big difference, which will then be embraced by all. You don’t need a separate department or person to be accountable for this.

Do you expect the position of the facilities manager to change and grow in importance?
Like all roles, they are being amalgamated into other roles, so people are having to multitask jobs and workloads.

Is the Gen X,Y,Z and millennial terminology helpful for understanding or lazy stereotyping?
The latter – I’m old school. I often think it’s unnecessary terminology.

How do we step away from a 9-5 working week construct together?
Flexible working and trust for staff within the workplace. Giving staff the freedom to get their work done in an environment that inspires them and not just a 9-5 office where they clock in and clock out.

How many more years of casual sexism in workplaces do we have before that dies a death?
It will die a death over the next five years as the next generation reach management posts.

What are the opportunities that we will regret taking?
Working from home all too often, people will lose the ability to communicate face-to-face.

If you had one contribution to help make things just a little better over the next decade what would it be?
Electric cars should be compulsory – and get a Politian to answer a question with a direct answer!

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Tim Gledstone
Partner, Squire and Partners

How long have you been in the world of workplace?
All my working life, which is 22 years. As an architecture practice, our offices have always acted as a showcase to our clients, so we naturally think about how design impacts people within the company as well as those looking in.

What is the single biggest thing that has changed since you started?
The demand and appreciation of end user design, addressing the specific needs of businesses and their employees. Our designs are targeted for every client, which range from UNISON to Ministry of Sound.

Is the workplace better now or is it a case of emperor’s new clothes?
Generally it’s been changing for the better, with clients appreciating the value good design adds to every aspect of the workplace.

Do you expect the market to continue the impressive raise of the last five years?
Yes, with the quality of vision retained – this will impact on workspace design to raise the standard expected by tenants.

Who is accountable for wellbeing in the workplace? 
The people, when they demand it.

Do you expect the position of the facilities manager to change and grow in importance?
It’s a dead job in its traditional format. The role should be seen more like a hotel GM or concierge, managing departments within organisations, creating events for building occupiers, providing good quality food and drink, booking sessions for the gym/spa.

How do we step away from a 9-5 working week construct together?
Respect responsibility and base performance on delivery. We should also be designing for before 9am and after 5pm, with wellbeing and social experiences bookending the traditional working day.

If you had one contribution to help make things just a little better over the next decade what would it be?
Creating workspaces that inspire confidence and happiness, and foster a collaborative community, which are interested in helping one other rather than competing with one another.

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Shaun Rossington
Operations Director, UBI

How long have you been in the world of workplace?
I started as an installer in 1991 – so nearly 28 years.

What is the single biggest thing that has changed since you started?
Probably product choice. I mean, in the 90`s there was probably no more than 3-4 suppliers involved – now you find 10-20+ on some projects.

Are clients more knowledgeable about products and design?
Definitely! They have the tools to really investigate their product selection and suppliers have really committed to showcasing their products.

Do you expect the position of the facilities manager to change and grow in importance?
Definitely – it has already. They now need to understand product and design as well as technology in the ever-evolving interiors world.

If it is possible, ignore Brexit (because it seems no one can predict that) what will be the biggest impact on the workplace sector in 2019? 
Wellbeing. Work, for most, can mean never escaping, so getting a balance will be a big focus next year. We need more ‘away from the desk and chilled-out collaboration areas.’

Do you expect the market to continue the impressive raise of the last five years?
It’s got to slow down? But then office furniture just doesn’t have the life-span that it did have and companies are adapting to change sooner, trying to outperform their competitors, even with interiors.

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Stephen Collins
Sales Director, Workstories

How long have you been in the world of workplace?
I have been in the world of workplace for 17 years and I’ve seen many changes over this time, from cellular offices to the advent of open plan and open transparent working environments. Technology has also changed over the years, which is becoming a focal point in the workstation setting.

Is the workplace better now or is it a case of emperor’s new clothes?
I feel the workplace has evolved to better meet the needs and requirements of the contemporary worker mix – how they want to work and what they expect from their workplace.

Are clients more knowledgeable about products and design?
Design is certainly more accessible now. There is a greater awareness of what is out there and, in turn, clients now know there are products and technology suited to their specific needs.

If it is possible, ignore Brexit (because it seems no one can predict that) what will be the biggest impact on the workplace sector in 2019?
Technology is evolving at such a pace with regards to how we charge, how we communicate and how we meet. It will continue to evolve and we are confident that we will continue to develop in all aspects of the workplace to stay ahead of the curve.

Do you expect the market to continue the impressive raise of the last five years?
The market is buoyant and we are forecasting that this trend will continue. However, the unknowns of Brexit will have an effect. How product is brought to the market is more important than ever.

How do we step away from a 9-5 working week construct together?
Good design, products and a flexibility from employer and space.

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Fergus Bowen
Director, Task

How long have you been in the world of workplace?
30 years next March.

What is the single biggest thing that has changed since you started?
My waist size! The marketplace is certainly a lot less formal than when I started and, also, there are a lot more competitors to do battle with!

Is the workplace better now or is it a case of emperor’s new clothes?
I think a lot better – there is a lot more scope for creative design to enhance the workplace. More thought is given to the needs of teams and individuals within an organisation rather than just providing a ‘one size fits all’ scheme. That inspires manufacturers to keep a keen eye on innovative product development – e.g. the TASK ARC family of products.

Are clients more knowledgeable about products and design?
Certainly they are more aware of costs and the various procurement routes that are available to them.

If it is possible, ignore Brexit (because it seems no one can predict that) what will be the biggest impact on the workplace sector in 2019?
The quest for even greater degrees of flexibility and environmental considerations.

Do you expect the market to continue the impressive raise of the last five years?
No.

Do you expect the position of the facilities manager to change and grow in importance?
Yes – there are many more considerations of speciality within the workplace that need to be covered off and the FM responsibility is likely to grow further into these.

Is the Gen X,Y,Z & millennial terminology helpful for understanding or lazy stereotyping?
There are many contexts of how we group people, and this can be useful as long as the boundaries are flexible. Just because a person is of a particular age doesn’t mean that their thinking and needs are the same as someone else in their peer group.

How do we step away from a 9-5 working week construct together?
I think this is advancing well enough on its own.

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Beate Mellwig
Senior Principal, HOK

How long have you been in the world of workplace?
For several decades and it is fascinating to live and experience the evolution.

What is the single biggest thing that has changed since you started?
Inclusion rather than exclusion and the fusion of spaces.

Is the workplace better now or is it a case of emperor’s new clothes?
BETTER – if done with a seasoned workplace team that understands how to align the solution with the client.

Are clients more knowledgeable about products and design?
More knowledge about trends, but what is trending doesn’t tell you whether it’s a fit for your culture, your workforce or your work styles.

If it is possible, ignore Brexit (because it seems no one can predict that) what will be the biggest impact on the workplace sector in 2019? 
The focus on why we provide space in the first place – people, and ensuring space is human-centric. We experience a lot of curiosity and positive moves on Biomimicry, Bio-layering and Neuro-Diversity.

Do you expect the market to continue the impressive raise of the last five years?
We are likely due for a course correction, but people still need space and companies need to assess if what they are providing is effective – and adjust accordingly.

Do you expect the position of the facilities manager to change and grow in importance?
As buildings become more and more automated and empowered by the IoTs, we see the role of the FM shifting to focus more to managing the community and less on managing the facility.

Is the Gen X,Y,Z & millennial terminology helpful for understanding or lazy stereotyping?
For me this is a lazy stereotype and needs to be reviewed from many perspectives, such as sociological and psychological approaches. Each generation has their own traits, but there is too much focus on defining a generation based on a snap shot in time. We all go through life stages. As the millennials age, we see they have more in common with baby boomers. And the differences between introverts and extroverts is probably more impactful then the differences between generations. We need to design spaces that are inclusive to all.

How do we step away from a 9-5 working week construct together?
I think this has already been looked at. By embracing ‘just-in-time’ staffing and the concept of the Gig pool. The notion that you can only hire FT employees and they have to work on that premise is outdated and holding us back. The emergence of the Gig or freelance workforce has opened up non-traditional hiring options. It is estimated that, by 2025, more than 50% of the global workforce will be Gig workers. This opens up opportunities for companies to rethink their hiring practices, create pools of ‘just-in-time’ workers to supplement a core group, thus ensuring they needn’t have too many or too few.

How many more years of casual sexism in workplaces do we have before that dies a death?
That’s a bigger question that we cannot simply address here, but awareness and recognition is the first positive step of dispelling the problem and not merely ignoring it. We would say that all spaces should be designed to be inclusive – regardless of your gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, religion, or disability – be them physical or neurological. This is a work in progress as new research is always coming out to help us understand how to do so more effectively. But, at HOK, serving humanity is at the core of what we believe. We embrace this responsibility through a positive culture.

What are the opportunities that we will regret taking?
Embracing technology too quickly without thinking about the consequences. We need to understand that the path we choose today can take us down a path where we may not be able to return, so we need to understand why we are embracing something before blindly doing so. For example, did everyone on Snapchat understand that their faces were being digitally mapped and recorded when they used certain features on the app?

If you had one contribution to help make things just a little better over the next decade what would it be?
Convince clients and designers to be brave, demystify technology and make the Place of Work inclusive.

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Melanie Woolcott
Workplace Director, Orbit Architects

How long have you been in the world of workplace?
Oh my God – it’s been over 30 years!!

What is the single biggest thing that has changed since you started?
It has to be technology and the ability to be able to communicate so much quicker and more effectively with colleagues and customers anywhere and at any time and in a much more informal way.

Is the workplace better now or is it a case of emperor’s new clothes?
Much better – created to support what people do and less factory-like!

Do you expect the market to continue the impressive raise of the last five years?
The uncertainty of the political platform has driven investment in interior fit-out to move more towards adaptable elements – i.e. furniture and has seen an increase in plug and play furniture, particularly the meeting pods we saw all over Orgatec. Businesses need continually better and better places to work, increasing collaboration and creative productivity, as well as retaining and attracting staff.

Who is accountable for wellbeing in the workplace? 
FM and HR.

Do you expect the position of the facilities manager to change and grow in importance?
Definitely – as the workplace is seen as a key driver to supporting staff in being more productive.

Is the Gen X,Y,Z & millennial terminology helpful for understanding or lazy stereotyping?
It’s helpful to understand that different generations have different drivers, lifestyle, etc – and that technology changes the ways people communicate.

How many more years of casual sexism in workplaces do we have before that dies a death?
We’ve only had the vote for 100 years, we still don’t have equal pay, so sadly a lot longer!

If you had one contribution to help make things just a little better over the next decade what would it be?
Let’s stop traveling to work in the rush hour when we don’t need to!

David Blood
Founding Director, Love
Your Workspace

What is the single biggest thing that has changed since you started?
We’ve seen our clients’ expectations shift. The industry used to focus on desks and chairs, but now people want their spaces to surpass the ideals of the traditional office with flexible workspaces, creative solutions and attractive interiors.

Is the workplace better now or is it a case of emperor’s new clothes?
The industry has completely changed over the past 20 years.  Both employers and employees have a better understanding of innovative new ways of working and they are far more specific with their briefs and brand identities.

Are clients more knowledgeable about products and design?
Design ideas and education is certainly more accessible to our clients – just look at how Pinterest has grown in the past 10 years! However, I’d say that workspace design is still a specialist subject with acoustics, DSE and layout being the prevalent issues.

If it is possible, ignore Brexit (because it seems no one can predict that) what will be the biggest impact on the workplace sector in 2019?
Brexit aside, we’re noticing that a lot of our clients want to make their spaces work a lot harder (and not just within the M25). The cost of commercial property is squeezing a lot of businesses, and we are often called in to help companies with higher headcount to desk ratios. With this comes the proper implementation of agile or flexible working, which a lot of companies are having teething problems with.

Do you expect the market to continue the impressive raise of the last five years? 
Here’s hoping! It’s very difficult to say with any certainty what’s going to happen, but frenetic building across the South East is a positive sign.

Do you expect the position of the facilities manager to change and grow in importance?
I believe that there will be more of an amalgamation between the role of facilities, HR and Health and Safety Managers to achieve the 360 approach to workplace wellness that companies need to facilitate.

Is the Gen X,Y,Z & millennial terminology helpful for understanding or lazy stereotyping?
It’s lazy stereotyping. The space needs to work for everyone using the space regardless of their age. I feel like it’s more personality based and too complex to sum up with ‘generational’ differences.

How do we step away from a 9-5 working week construct together?
With great difficulty. Currently businesses are required to match their clients’ requirements, and that usually means being contactable Monday-Friday, 9-5. I believe this is easier for big businesses to change as they have enough people to cover and manage the client’s expectations. For small service providers, this would be far harder to achieve.

How many more years of casual sexism in workplaces do we have before that dies a death?
From a director whose company is formed of predominantly women (including my wife), who routinely encounter casual sexism, I feel that any additional years of casual sexism are too many.

If you had one contribution to helping make things just a little better over the next decade, what would it be?
It’s trendy for companies to talk about ‘sustainability’ but it’s rarely ingrained in everyday life. Making companies more accountable for their waste and making recycling a requirement for all businesses would really make people think about ‘buying once and buying right.’ We incentivise our clients to recycle furniture at the end of its life and we hope to see more of a circular economy in the next couple of year.