Ditching the Decs

A bit of fun for Christmas…and how we can give people some joy while saving the business money!

Gather round, Brethren, it’s been a while but the time has come to talk of matters of importance.

Hallowe’en is over. Retailers have turned to glitter, soppy (yet wonderful) adverts are on TV, and they have unleashed merry hell on the eardrums via the seemingly non-stop playing of Slade*. A track, that has, I’m convinced, been played continuously since 1973, the only thing that saves us is the January to November mute button. However, I digress….

In workplaces across the land talk has turned to Christmas.

If you thought how people use their desks is fascinating, just watch them negotiate the office decoration ritual. It’s a wonderful dance of people trying to recreate their personal tastes and usually trying not to trample those of others.

Fairy lights incite debates leading to a rota so carefully orchestrated between glowing pulse, static or psychosis inducing flash that it brings back memories of student flat shares, right down to the anonymous rule breaker who changes the setting with gleeful, mischievous abandon (we know who you are). You learn to love the dancing polar bear that plays one solitary, single, repetitive Christmas tune in faux jazz – while threatening to permanently remove its batteries with a spoon in an appropriately mock stern manner.

People stand on chairs on desks (no, really, I have seen this) to hang decorations from the ceiling. Decoration-making competitions result in a plethora of Santa’s Grottys (sic) and paper chain decorations festooning the motion sensors for lighting and security alarms. One interesting Christmas, blocking the fire route in an office containing over 2000 people, a real tree, about 5ft high, was discovered next to untended lit candles (“Because they are scented and we wanted to know what they smelled like.”) We never could figure out how they got the tree into the building…

It’s not that I have anything against Christmas, quite the contrary.  As a joyful consumer of all things Christmassy, I’m a sucker for it. But not between January and October**. And it is in those months that I have the longest, most drawn out debates about Christmas decorations with end users. Usually because decorations are to be found everywhere in the workplace. Dismembered limbs of fake trees are squirrelled away under different desks; scrawny tinsel and dangling ornaments are in plastic bags in storage units, in pedestals, in wardrobes, on wardrobes. Evverywhherre….

And there is always that one person who leaves their desk decorated all year round. Are they a Seasonal Buyer? Has their own particular interpretation of Christmas joy reached such disturbing levels colleagues are afraid to discuss 24/7 Christmas? Or are they simply too lazy to put them away each year?

And it all has to be moved with them when a space is churned.

“So,” say I to pretty much every department in a business, “this wardrobe…the one solely used for Christmas decorations…do we really need to relocate it?”

“It’s multi-use” they say, using my own language against me “When it is winter the decorations are up so releasing the wardrobes for coats.”

“And how often do you need to access it…?” Say I labouring the point with a thousand yard stare.

It lead me to conduct a study on how much it cost the business to store these increasingly ragged departmental decorations, very few of which tend to be bought with business funds. The maths worked as follows:

  • Cost of a new, fake, 6ft tree with lights and decorations, including square metre costs for one month duration in London’s West End: c.£320***
  • Cost of a new storage unit to store decorations, including square metre costs for 12 months office floor space in central London: £2000 PA.

Outcome: It costs less to buy new decorations each year than it does to store them. Ditch the decs. Keep Christmas fiends happy with new stuff, keep the grinches happy with ritualised seasonal destruction.

Merry Christmas!

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*I’m sorry, I can’t link to that track. I just…can’t. Have this one instead. Or possibly this one. Or my personal favourite.

** Yes, January to October. Love Christmas, loathe Christmas shopping crowds. The gifts are bought (and this year wrapped) in October. It leaves more time for eggnog and hobnobbing.

***Allowing for a luxury, pre-lit LED tree at £100 and average quality decorations at £50. Inc VAT. Excl D&I. E&OE.

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The Five Generations

An introduction on the Five Generations and the differences between them.

The Five Generations, eh? It’s a hot topic for those of us in the work place field, though is still taking many unawares. So, in a very small nutshell: we are at the dawn of a new age where five generations will be working side by side in the work place. It’s a huge topic with many peripheral debates and an awful lot of generalisation however, in the spirit of simplifying things, consider this a starter for ten.

Courtesy of graciejboutique

The Five Generations, according to ‘What’s It All About, Alfie‘ principle:

Traditionalists: born between 1938 and 1948. The so-called ‘hanging in there’[1] group with an estimated 5% (1 million) of this generation still working in the UK; this is estimated to diminish to 1% by 2025.

Baby Boomers: born between 1949 and 1967; the dominant working group with 14.9 million people.

Generation X: born between 1968 and 1980; the increasingly important group of 11.4 million workers poised to take over the reins.

Millennials, or Generation Y. Helpfully, this generation is the last to be born in the previous millennium, not those born since we hit the 21st Century. Born between 1981-1999 this is a quickly growing group of 15.8 million people. The youngest will be eligible to enter the workforce in some form this year (2015) . This generation soon ‘[…] will account for nearly half the employees in the world.’[2] By dint of volume they are an ‘enormously powerful group that has the sheer numbers to transform every life stage it enters’.[3]

Generation Z: are those born since 2000. There were 11.5 million of them in 2010; and their numbers are still growing. Currently in education, but will be eligible to start entering the workforce part-time in 2016.

Note: Absolute generational dates are frequently debated though give a good basic framework.

The reason why people (i.e.: work place junkies like me) are getting in a twist about this is that it has never been experienced before. It will impact all areas of business, from how managers communicate with their team to how businesses are run, from IT provision to levels of nurture managers will need to provide. It’s a game changer.

Boomers hold the majority of senior positions, with some Traditionalist executives alongside[4].  These are the knowledge keepers, the business drivers, the leaders – and roughly 10,000 of them will turn 65 today, with 10,000 more each day for the next 19 years[5]. They are the outgoing generation, albeit over the next twenty years.

Generation X are close at Boomer’s heels, but there are more Millennials, many of whom are in management positions already, than there are Gen Xers.

Logically, everyone else will be upwardly mobile, bringing inevitable change and challenges around preferred communication styles, IT adoption, work mobility and employment styles. The challenge is that each generation has its own way of seeing life and living it – and it’s never as clean-cut as we would like it to be because everyone is different.

Below are some fairly significant generalisations, but its a start:

Traditionalists: Hard working, financially conservative; change and risk averse; hierarchical, logical and loyal; obey and set rules with a ‘command and control’ leadership style.

Baby Boomers: An egocentric generation; work is a defining part of their self-worth and evaluation of others; ‘Live to work’; seeks collaboration and team building; culturally diverse ideals.

Generation X: Independent, resilient and adaptable; feedback and recognition; ‘Work to live’; comfortable with authority though not impressed by titles; ethnically diverse approach.

Generation Y: ‘Digital Immigrants’; Taught to question authority; distrustful and cynical; rapid adapters craving challenge; emotional resilience; flexibility is key for work life balance, dress code, management style and location; work is an extension of themselves, not a definition; global perspective with easy integration with diversity; exceptional multi-taskers that seek continuous learning and challenge; feeling of entitlement.

Generation Z: ‘Digital Natives’; entrepreneurial with strong focus on social and environmental issues globally and in the local community; Highly welcoming of diversity and less likely to subscribe to traditional gender roles; highly adaptive and seeks change. The cut-off date for this generation has yet to be identified therefore the full framework for Gen Z is not set and values, morals and behaviours are still emerging.

The crux we are all facing is that generational preferences are considerably different; communication, hierarchy and work, to name a few, are frequently polar opposites. And they are all in the work place at the same time, forging ahead in business with different agendas and approaches.

As the man (well done, Bob) said: Times they are a-changin’.

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[1] Boomers and Millennials Whitepaper, Orangebox 2014
[2] Working with Five Generations in the Workplace, Forbes April 2011
[3] Overcoming Generational Gap in the Workplace, United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund
[4] Volkswagen AG; Samsung Electronics; Warren Buffet etc.
[5] ‘Baby boomers Retire’, PEW Research Centre, Dec 29 2010

BackStory. Ish.

An ‘About me’ and how I came to be in this field.

Shortly after graduation I was invited back to my alma mater to teach. The brief was to devise a module that extended the curriculum. This was how space planning landed on my radar.

‘Plan your work, work your plan’ is something I believe in. You make your opportunities.

The plan included working for petrol money, learning AutoCAD in my personal time with a three-month deadline, commuting 80 miles a day, driving adventures in Bristol’s nerve-shattering rat-runs and building a experience-backed CV with intent. Within 6 months Project: Office Furniture called me for an interview.

These days, work revolves around work space strategy, efficiency and effectiveness to support the business through times both good and challenging.

And I love it; work is serious play.

Back when I started this blog in 2014, there were very few blogs about workspace. And as a blog is easier to run than a website, this blog was born. It will share learning on how space is used says more about the end user than they realize; about how you can give some fun back and encourage end user behaviour by the way you lay out a space; how a person’s psychological make up is the centre of our work space world, all while discovering that the desk has been immortalized in song (way to go Harry) so that’s what I’m going to write about.

Join me, it’ll be fun. Honest.