The Leader Magazine

MAR 2019

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C orporate culture ranks as a high priority in business, yet Deloitte's global survey of 10,000 human resources execs found that, despite 80 percent recognising its importance, only 37 percent understood their organisation's culture and just 33 percent thought that they'd got it 'right'. Culture may be hard to pin down, but its absence is easy to spot. Signs that it's missing include controlling and dictatorial leadership, high levels of long-term absenteeism, unhealthy and neglected work settings, and perceptions of secrecy, lack of trust and not being heard. Most of us would agree that culture includes the organisation's vision, values, beliefs and habits, but is there more to it than that? Although cultural identity remains difficult to pin down, there's a tsunami of research and evidence-based case studies linking human-centric office design to tangible returns in productivity and wellness. With scary statistics on physical, mental and social health constantly appearing in the press, it's no wonder that wellbeing is becoming a shared objective across all disciplines and departments, from the boardroom to the stockroom, architects to cleaners. t he 'perfect storm' The volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity surrounding new technology and/ or its likely effects on our working habits, and the health problems suffered by the next generation feeding into the workplace (from poor posture and repetitive strain injuries resulting from overusing mobile devices to sleep deprivation arising out of gaming and social media addiction) are together creating a 'perfect storm'. For a future workspace to be able to heal and reverse some of these alarming trends, they need to be understood and planned for. By their own admission, those in Generation Z suffer from a lack of confidence in their cognitive skills and collaboration, coupled with a rather pessimistic view that their first job will last less than 18 months. This makes nurturing and fostering positive culture even more of a challenge. At the same time, today's bright young graduates are shopping for companies with a coherent wellness strategy, as the chances are the perks and permissions will be in place for a supportive, healthy, community-based work environment, in which flexibility, learning programmes, community spirit and 'yes' culture are tangible and thriving. e volutionary ergonomics and cultural belonging To help ensure the future workspace not only responds to different generational needs, but also proactively supports the organisation's cultural and wellness ambitions, we should use ergonomics as a predictive tool to help us understand changing technologies, user populations and culture. Movement. We're now beginning to understand that sitting is the new smoking. Human beings weren't designed to be motionless, and the combination of 20th century working practises (being stuck behind computers at fixed workstations) and 21st century social habits (being on the screen anywhere, anytime) has contributed to a depressing cocktail of ill health right across the four generations that now occupy the workplace. Biophilia plus. Diving into our evolutionary past, it's easy to see how regular exercise and more naturally influenced eating habits contribute to our physical health. But it also shows that the importance of understanding our primeval responses to sound, thermal comfort, natural light and the natural world, which is leading to a more holistic approach to the design of our working environments. As a result, biophilia – designing with naturally influenced stimuli – is taking centre stage in office design. Social dynamics. The importance of collaborative work settings offering inclusivity and satisfying our overpowering desire to belong is increasingly being recognised. Google has published studies showing that high- performing interactive teams were made up of more diverse individuals of varying 'talent' and personality types, with happy workers proving to be 12 percent more productive. According to data from the Leesman Index, settings in which informal groups can collaborate, relax, take a break or successfully access video conference facilities are up to 20 percent more common in the world's most successful businesses. The positivity ratio. Chilean psychologist Marcial Losada suggests that the path to organisational happiness lies in the 'positivity ratio'. One negative individual can be infectious, and will only be cancelled out by three positive individuals, and unhealthy cultures and spaces may be operating at negativity ratios close to 10:1. Aiming for a ratio of 1:6 negative to positive employees will improve the situation. Fear, a primeval survival instinct, blocks working memory and learning. And with 70 percent of office conflict occurring not because of what people are saying, but because of how they're saying it, humour, fun and positivity equal serious business. Engagement. Glenn Elliot's 2018 model of engagement recognises that mutually beneficial collaboration for employee and employer requires well-defined cultural ingredients, underpinned by workspace and wellbeing. How real estate and work culture can help organizations thrive by Jim Taylour Jim Taylour is head of design and wellbeing for Orangebox, makers of collaborative furniture and acoustic pod systems. the leader March 2019 7

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