Design of public-sector workplaces under the spotlight

‘At the moment good public-sector design is newsworthy, but that shouldn’t be the case,’ says Mark Catchlove, specifier and design director of office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller.

Clive Hall, director of workplace design consultancy BDG Workfutures, says there are many benefits for workplace designers in the public sector. ‘Clients in the public sector often challenge things. For example, if you propose touchdown benches where people can use laptops, they come back and say, “But we don’t use laptops.” This means you have to go back to first principles and justify everything.

‘But,’ he adds, ‘when you do get them on board, they really engage with design. Also, because much of the public sector has old building stock, the transitional effects of the design can have a huge impact on the way they work.’

Hall will be speaking next week at a seminar at Herman Miller’s national design centre, in London WC2. The session, on 24 March, is titled ‘What does the future of work look like and how can the public sector prepare for it?’ Catchlove says, ‘The aim of the seminar is to guide the end user – the public-sector client – and also the designer.’

Joining Hall as a speaker will be Ian Tomlinson-Roe, human resources services consulting leader at professional services firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Tomlinson-Roe will be outlining a PWC research paper called ‘Managing tomorrow’s people: The future of work to 2020’. This paper outlines three potential scenarios for how work could develop, from a personnel-based viewpoint.

Tomlinson-Roe says, ‘The three scenarios, which could overlap, are based on colours. The first is the “blue world” – this is where the corporate dominates.

‘The second is the “orange world”, which is one where big business has been fragmented by the difficulty in creating shareholder value; and the third is the “green world”, which is a world dominated by climate change, where consumer demands for sustainability have affected the way people do business.’

The areas in which these scenarios could affect workplace design are, according to Tomlinson-Roe, the increased mobility of people; a growing need to access and work with highly efficient technology; a need to store and access huge amounts of data; and a drive for creativity and innovation across all sectors.

Hall, who has been working with Southwark Council on its new headquarters in London’s Tooley Street since early last year, outlines the challenges of, and advances in, public-sector workplace design arising from that project.

Hall says, ‘We’ve looked at making the working space loose rather than permanent – we’re conscious now that people can treat the office as a “base” and work from home or use wi-fi. We’ve also put in a number of meeting spaces and break-out areas.’

He also outlines one of the challenges of working with a huge multidisciplinary organisation/ as there’s such a huge number of teams in the building, the designer has to balance openness with the need for some departments – such as the Primary Care Trust – to have privacy.

‘We have had to look very carefully at combining flexibility with acoustic and visual privacy,’ he says. ‘We have a lot of glass in the design, and we have to look at ways to, for example, get images on to the glass to create visual privacy.’

The building, by architect Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, will house 2000 council staff who had been spread around disparate sites in the borough. Staff started moving in last week, and full occupancy is expected in the summer.

The future colour of work

Blue – where the corporate dominates

Orange – where big business has fragmented

Green – dominated by sustainability and climate change

PWC report ‘Managing tomorrow’s people/ The future of work to 2020’

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  • Caroline Galea November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    What a shame they will never be able to turn the future colour of work into an acronym !

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