Riding the Wave of Workplace Change

In the modern world, it is often stated that: ‘The only thing that is constant is change’. How true that it is today, especially in the technology / digital era workplace. A recent World Economic Forum article http://tinyurl.com/jqyodrd talks about riding the wave of workplace change. It references the 2013 Oxford University study on the potential impact of computerisation on the U.S. workforce http://tinyurl.com/oj67kae which, of course, could apply equally to other worldwide countries, including the UK. The pace of change – Malone’s third law: ‘‘Every technology break through takes twice as long as we expected and half as long as we are prepared for’’ – is unerring.

There is a growing recognition of change, acknowledged by savvy developers, such as Jacob Loftus [@jacobloftus], a Londoner who describes himself as a creative real estate developer, urban explorer and tech enthusiast. His guiding thesis is this: ‘‘by 2020, 50% of the global working population will have been born after 1980. By 2025 that number goes up to 75%. Those demographics don’t lie. Millennials will make up the vast majority of the occupier base over the next decade. They are tech inspired, tech enabled, they are socially connected, they are design led, and they have all grown up – in their professional lives, at least – through a recession.’’ To boot, there was even a recent definition of the *‘centennial’ generation who have an even greater awareness of technology capability.

*“They eat vegan, ‘curate’ their online ‘aesthetic’ and can’t remember a time before iPads: meet the Centennials.”Luckhurst, The Evening Standard, 2016

What is relevant about millennials and centennials? Put simply, they have particular desires and requirements for their workspaces. That is why it is important to think carefully about work places of the future.

Another important trend is the rise of solopreneurs. The latest edition of ‘Occupier Edge’ by Cushman & Wakefield http://tinyurl.com/zjqsezx (p.22 – 24) suggests that by 2020, 40% of the global workforce will be solopreneurs which will be a game changer, underscoring the need for flexible office environments. If corroboration was needed for the signals of change, over the last 5 years, the upward trend in new business start-ups in the UK reached more than 600,000 in 2015. Co-working and free addressing are key trends.

As regards legal and operational issues, the idea of purchasing a membership to share working space is very different from entering into a lease of office premises. Instead, co-working members are given a licence to use space either on a first come first served basis, or they may have specific desks or office space allocated to them. The Landlord & Tenant Act 1954 is avoided by licences being drafted so that members do not have exclusive possession of any part of the space to avoid any argument in the future that they may have acquired security of tenure. Landlords can still (potentially) take advantage of the co-working phenomenon by letting space to the co-working provider instead because established providers can demonstrate good covenant strength.

Co-working is defined as the use of an office or other working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas and knowledge. Key to success of co-working is the unique layout of the space. Co-working tends to suit a more compact floorplate, which lends itself to member interaction.

Examples of such co-working organisations include WeWork https://www.wework.com/ , Regus http://www.regus.co.uk/ , The Office Group http://www.theofficegroup.co.uk/ . Local organisations of this ilk include Welsh ICE http://welshice.org/ ; Indycube http://indycube.cymru/ and Meanwhile Creative http://tinyurl.com/jym94zz . Cushman & Wakefield suggest that ‘the capacity of co-working space in London is growing around 10% per annum, while cafés, hotels and even the homes of strangers are being repurposed and rented out as workspace.’ They suggest that a co-working space in the city of London can be as little as 50% of the total occupancy costs of a conventional leased office workstation space. Indeed, in the centre of Cardiff (the capital for Wales), a fully-inclusive monthly charge per workstation is £245 + VAT per desk inclusive of all of the following:

  • Furniture
  • State of the art telephone system
  • Digital telephone handsets on every desk
  • High speed internet connection to every desk
  • Staffed main reception
  • Mail services
  • Tea-point
  • Bookable meeting facilities
  • Security
  • Insurances (building & Landlord contents)
  • Business rates
  • Landlord’s service charges
  • Maintenance
  • Utilities
  • Building services and Statutory compliance

So what does this mean for offices of the future? In simple terms, it means a trend towards smaller footprints, remote activities and space on demand.

Cushman & Wakefield (ibid: p.41 – 43) go further in their analysis of the fourth revolution http://tinyurl.com/hlah7ot vis-à-vis technological, demographic / socio-economic and job trends. Offices of the future will be smarter, better connected, greener and (more than likely) smaller. They will be spaces that foster ‘innovation and knowledge creation.’ Research in Paris reveals that the traditional office no longer appeals (93% of graduates don’t want to work in such a place). This suggests that corporate culture is being trumped by a drive towards choice and flexibility. That said, the pull of the city-centre is still strong, with 87% wanting to work in urban cores. This was evidenced locally by the relocation of Blurrt http://www.blurrt.co.uk/ from Cwmbran to Cardiff manifesting a thirst for collaboration and hunger for learning. Furthermore, savvy businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the health and well-being of their employees. This means having, or creating workplaces that reflect their values and the human-side of sustainability. The relatively new WELL Building Standard (ibid: p.46 – 47) administered by the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) http://tinyurl.com/gr3zugd is a step on from Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification http://tinyurl.com/jyu3zpr . It concentrates exclusively on the health and wellbeing of occupants, important in attracting the talent of the future.

Service providers such as Gensler http://tinyurl.com/h5zbgjt and Paramount Interiors http://tinyurl.com/jufb754 are aware of the wave of change, and the inconvenient truth(s) for the UK workplace http://tinyurl.com/hzjjm4o : (i) open plan workspace per se impacts on performance (better to offer a choice of spaces that support a variety of employee workstyles); (ii) strategies that match space to need rather than seniority present an opportunity to engage; and (iii) ‘‘great design drives innovation and creativity.’’

The once mundane office, as suggested by Nesta http://tinyurl.com/hpyp8js is now becoming a ‘‘machine of thinking’’. Therefore, it needs to be fit for the 21st century work place.

Robert I Chapman


Moon Shadow Wales Challenge

This is the first of a number of blogs that will appear over forthcoming months.

On Saturday 26th March 2016, I embark on the Moon Shadow Wales Challenge. This requires me to run around the entire perimeter of Wales. Why? A simple and facetious answer would be to say “why not”! The longer answer points to a story and hence this blog.

So how did this crazy idea come about? I suppose the one word answer is serendipity. If I had not bumped into Andy Middleton www.tyf.com I would not have attended the DO Lectures http://www.thedolectures.com/ in West Wales in June 2015[ https://medium.com/@emmasudden/my-top-10-do-lecture-life-lessons-d44230511592#.idlkjcgaf] With the DO slogan of “ideas + energy = change” in my mind, if I had not bumped into Alex Jungmayr www.plasywern.co.uk on an early morning estuary run (someone who had attempted to run around the entire perimeter of Wales), I would not have come up with the idea of running around Wales. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if I had not gone to the DO Lectures with the subliminal thought (concern) about a client and friend Tony John who had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease http://www.mndassociation.org/ (MND) in December 2013, then this challenge would not be happening today. Tony passed away on 30th July 2015. I attended the funeral service. I am sure he would have smiled to hear his favourite song being played: Moon Shadow by Cat Stevens, hence the title of this challenge. His eldest daughter spoke on behalf of the family at the funeral and recalled one of his sayings: ‘‘It’s not what you do, but who you are that matters’’. So typical of the man and so profound.

What was my link with Tony? Again by way of serendipity, I was introduced to Tony John (by the then Planning Officer of Bridgend CBC Sue Jones) and his fellow partners in the late Spring of 2004. One of the partners of Shepherds The Vets in Bridgend, Tony and fellow partners Bob and Clive had a vision to create and deliver a veterinary animal hospital, the best in Wales (the UK). Over a period of 5 years, my professional services (strategic property advice) helped the practice to deliver their vision. It was officially opened in late Summer 2009. During the 5 year period, Tony was my constant point of contact and became a good friend. We had empathy because I came from a farming background and wanted to be a vet but did not achieve the grades. Tony lived in Bridgend and trained at Bristol University. He was a thoroughly decent and thoughtful family man. I last saw him with his wife Lynne on 25th June 2015 at a time when (as I remember it) because of the devastating impact of MND he could hardly move any part of his body, other than his eyes. I broached my mad idea to run around the perimeter of Wales to raise £25,000 for MND research. He said “yes” verbally………….and with his eyes. His wife Lynne contacted me on 31st July 2015 to say: “I am afraid the news is not good, Tony died yesterday evening [30th July 2015], but at least there will be no more suffering.”

Other blogs will follow this one but if anyone is moved to support me in raising £25,000 to support research into this insidious and devastating disease, then visit JustGiving or JustTexting via the web site http://www.moonshadow.wales/ and / or share with others.

Thank you for showing your interest.