What are the major challenges that companies have to face in organising work and office design in this era of digital transformation? Is it the technical infrastructure? Perfectly or rather flexibly furnished offices? Appropriately designed workspaces? Or good employee management? Ultimately, all these aspects play a role in creating a sustainable active office, which is why Wilkhahn Asia Pacific invited key personalities to an international workshop in July 2018. Experts from various disciplines seized the opportunity to present their theories about and reports on active working.
Glen Bath is the senior vice president of one of the world’s biggest mail order companies, Chinese corporation Li & Fung. Li & Fung doesn’t just sell the most diverse of products but also offers its customers further services such as quality assurance or product development. Since he joined in 2016, Glen Bath has initiated an in-depth process of change. Ways of Working – or WoW for short – is the global initiative aimed at changing the entire corporate culture. The idea is to provide working processes and environments that encourage well-being, speed and collaboration between colleagues from the various departments. In his talk, Bath showed how the WoW spaces reflect a dynamic, competition-driven environment on the one hand but also allow the teams to work together and with their customers in a totally new way.
As the design director at Gensler Hong Kong, David Frank’s in charge of designing office environments for companies like LinkedIn, Yahoo! or JP Morgan. Drawing on the findings of a U.S. Workplace Survey in 2016, his prime goal is to come up with spaces for employees to boost their health and feeling of well-being (creating “healthy and happy employment). He believes it’s not enough to merely provide functional workspaces. Because “healthy and happy” employees are twice as innovative as others – a characteristic that’s a priority in the digital smart office where routine jobs are increasingly being automated. Frank’s job is all about delivering personalised, authentic design solutions to inspire users and he presented the results with examples, some of which have won design prizes.
Burkhard Remmers, head of international communications at Wilkhahn, believes big challenges will in future lie in the competition for talented employees pushing the retirement age up, therefore causing health problems in virtually all industries Wilkhahn’s free-to-move concept is one solution that encourages better health in employees and therefore productivity and loyalty. The free-to-move task chairs developed by Wilkhahn create tiny stimuli to trigger changes in posture and position by users. This is a way of producing integrated office environments that stimulate physical activity, interaction and communication. Remmers highlighted the relationship between health, physical activity and performance as well as the solutions, now corroborated scientifically, to meet current and future challenges in workplace design.
Dr Richard Claydon, transdisciplinary behavioural scientist, focuses on organisational misbehaviours and how to change them. While the technological infrastructure in the workplace is becoming consistently better, it’s quite different where behaviours are concerned: according to studies presented by Claydon, between two thirds and 90% of all employees either feel overworked or underworked. Sarcasm, cynicism and black humour are frequently the responses from employees to toxic environments – for example, change processes carried out without considering the impact on the people they affect or very unsafe working conditions. Claydon demonstrated how innovative behavioural analyses and strategies combined with good workplace concepts lead to a feeling of well-being and creative and collaborative styles of working.
At the end of the workshop, the around 30 attendees were invited to round off the day with a barbecue and enjoy the breath-taking backdrop of Hong Kong by night. After all, building trust and a community has much to do with sharing experiences and breaking bread together…
You can find information on Wilkhahn’s corporate policy, whose overarching theme is Well-being as an Objective here.