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Time to think on your feet

1st November 2013
Figure 2 Informal standing up meeting tables at Vodafone, Amsterdam

Figure 1 Informal standing up meeting tables at Vodafone, Amsterdam

Standing up working has been receiving a large amount of media attention from various media outlets as a positive change in the way we work. There have been various historical figures that have advocated the benefits of standing up working, including the likes of Donald Rumsvelt, Ernst Hemmingway and Winston Churchill. With many modern knowledge workers working within increasingly sedentary environments, organisations are seeking ways to reduce these sedentary ways of working, with the aim of producing benefits that include improved health of staff, and greater productivity at work. Leading organisations that have sought to introduce standing up working as an effective way of working include Telstra, Vodafone, Microsoft and Plantronics.

Research has suggested that prolonged periods of sitting can contribute to increased risk of diabetes, various cardiovascular diseases and muscular skeletal injuries that are becoming so common within the office today. These are worrying findings when one considers that many sedentary workers in the UK now are sitting down for more than 12 hours of the day.

Figure 2 Standing up meetings at Microsoft in Amsterdam

Figure 2 Standing up meetings at Microsoft in Amsterdam

Standing up working can be used as an effective means of combating these sedentary work styles. Research has found that standing working increases heart rate and calorie burning at work. The study has indicated that staff who stand for three hours of each day burn 750 calories more than their sedentary colleagues each week.

Standing up working has other benefits beyond the improved health and wellbeing of employees – it is also an effective way to increase the speed of meetings within some activity based working environments. At Vodafone in Amsterdam meetings that ‘meetings that previously took one hour now mostly take between 30 minutes and 45 minutes’ when conducted in standing meeting rooms compared to sitting equivalents according to David Savage, Customer Solution Centre Manager. This has been backed up by research which has suggested shorter meetings do not contribute to poorer decision making induced by standing working practices.

It’s high time organisations start thinking on their feet and introduce standing up working in every workplace, as a means of promoting more effective working, improving staff wellbeing and inducing greater productivity at work.

Co-authored by Jacob Ward and Kit Lewin

In future of work, New Ways of Working Case Studies

The Tastiest Corporate Gift.

13th August 2013
Kit Lewin

Of the many corporate benefits offered by employers – free food has to be the best tasting of the lot!

Co-working, collaboration and co-eating – the Hub, 5M Project, San Franciscoting – the Hub, 5M Project, San Francisco

Co-working, collaboration and co-eating – the Hub, 5M Project, San Francisco

Free food at work has received a large amount of media attention in recent weeks, following the news that the IRS is considering taxing those employees lucky enough to receive this considerable corporate benefit. The trend for free food was started by Google, and spread quickly throughout the tech companies of Silicon Valley with Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and Zynga, all shortly following suit. These companies now offer their employees completely free food 24 hours a day from full meals to snacks and food for grazing. During the current economic climate, where most companies are seeking to make significant cut backs, this world of free food for all must seem unimaginable to most of the working population. So why is it that these companies choose to offer this delicious but somewhat lavish gift to their employees?

The benefits of providing this appetising offering to their valued employees are numerous. Food has become far more than just fuel to get workers through the day in the modern workplace. Food has become a cutting edge workplace tool which helps to encourage socialisation, aid collaboration, as well as increasing staff health, happiness, and morale. These positive impacts on employees help to aid staff retention, an expensive problem in the modern workplace.

Companies that choose to offer free food are seeking a competitive advantage over their rivals. The tech companies compete for a small and very highly skilled talent pool of individuals. The competition is fierce – so much so that in Silicon Valley the intense rivalry has become infamously known as ‘the War for Talent’. Free food has become a necessary benefit for companies hoping to attract the best talent on offer, after all, who doesn’t love a free lunch!?

Google’s help yourself approach to healthy eating – Google, London

Google’s help yourself approach to healthy eating – Google, London

Secondly, providing free food has given these companies greater control over what their employees eat. Google aims to provide their food provision in a manner that aids healthy food choices by employees. They seek to use a combination of psychology and behavioural science to actively encourage healthy food decisions including canteen layouts which make people walk past vegetables and proteins before getting to carbohydrates and puddings, as well as labelling all foods with nutritional advice and placing them on Harvard’s Healthy Eating Pyramid. This benefits the employees but also has a number of positive impacts for the employer; it helps to reduce illness and healthcare costs as well as increasing workforce productivity and all through offering nutritious food!

The importance of food is central to these forward thinking organisations. Free food is used as a vital method of bringing together employees. The idea of using food ‘as glue’ between employees is a growing trend. This offers employees the opportunity to socialise, exchange ideas and engage, helping to boost creativity and productivity for the benefit of the company and employees alike.

The power of food should not be underestimated. It is my belief that it should be a key device used to drive business benefits within any forward thinking organisation and workplace, for the benefit of employees and employers alike. Whilst the offering of free food may not be economically feasible in many workplaces, it is important that organisations wake up to the important impacts and effects food can have on both morale, wellbeing and motivation as well as the behaviours such as collaboration that all companies are looking for.

In future of work, New Ways of Working Case Studies

A walled garden 18 storeys above Canary Wharf

11th July 2012
Luke Connoley

Medieval castles had their drawbridges, palaces have their triumphal arches, and suburban terraces have their garden gates and porches; making a statement at an entrance has always been important, it’s human nature. Many office buildings have large atria for much the same reason, yet the lift lobbies on each floor are as much an entranceway – and to some extent more so – to a workplace, yet for the most part they are dull. Monochrome walls and monochrome floor interrupted only by the metallic lift doors. Does this need to be so? I would argue not. It is both relatively cheap to bring a sense of energy to a life lobby – with decals of images or branding – and important to inspire employees as they enter their place of work. It sets the tone for the rest of the floor.

Credit Suisse in Cabot Square, Canary Wharf have been piloting new ways of working on one of their floors, as part of which they have done just that – created a lively and energising lobby which echoes the theme of the floor’s design with images of London icons. These images and other London icons are visually repeated and manifested physically throughout the floor, including two London telephone boxes with both Bakelite and VoIP phones inside. The new ways of working floor which Credit Suisse has created is an impressive space for 250 employees, with a variety of zones nestled in amongst each other differentiated by elements of design which show instinctively what mood and activities each caters for.

Credit Suisse Garden Canary WharfThere are lounge zones for small ad hoc meetings (complete with great coffee machines), quiet zones for concentrated individual work, project zones for intense collaboration, bookable and non-bookable meeting rooms, individual soundproof pods for conducting teleconferences and other confidential work in, drop-in pods for those 15 minute gaps between meetings, as well as ‘traditional’ open desk zones.

Two spatial innovations I was particularly impressed by were the ‘garden’ zones and the ‘view seats’. The garden zones had individual workspaces nestled in amongst a variety of plants. The zones were partially enclosed, creating an incredible impression of being in a walled garden, albeit 18 floors up and with great views over London. I know which zone I would head to each morning. The view seats are also an interesting idea – though not practical for every office space – these are individual seats with a small table looking directly out over London, allowing employees to drop-in for some creative thinking, for five minutes away from the buzz of the rest of the floor, or just to eat their sandwiches with a view to look at.

There are some great innovations in the technology throughout the floor, alongside the elements which are necessary for new ways of working – universal laptops and pervasive WiFi access. The power source of each of the ‘desks’ have several plug sockets but also include USB power sockets, making the charging of phones, tablets and headsets far easier. The individual lockers (the only 1:1 ratio on the floor!) are locked and released by an electronic PIN mechanism, avoiding the need for padlocks. Finally, there is a ‘laptop hotel’, a room where employees can leave their laptops in secure drawers plugged into power and the network, allowing them to access the network remotely through their laptops.

The floor is part of a global programme currently in three locations – Singapore (200 users), Zurich (2,700 users) and London (250 users). I look forward to seeing the long term results of the programme as it is rolled out even more widely across Credit Suisse offices globally. The results from pilots have been very positive with a large majority of users preferring this new style of working.

In New Ways of Working Case Studies

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