The Office as a Desired Destination: Workplace Trends, London, 18 October 2023

A popular upcoming workplace event with an important agenda

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My original intention was to write a quick blog to raise awareness of the upcoming Workplace Trends event in London on 18 October, strapline ‘The Office as a Desired Destination’. Work&Place are media partners.  But as is the way of these things, it’s turned into a ‘continuing professional development’ day spent reading around the event’s presentation topics.  That’s OK.  In part, this is to address a pressing knowledge gap (more on that below) and some quiet reflection on what is currently trending for workplace practitioners.

Real estates’ next big challenge

In the big picture, the (commercial) real estate industry is shifting from one of ‘utility’ (think ‘physical space’) to one more focused on ‘services’ (think ‘customer experience’).  There is a challenge to rethink the offer from the point of view of the worker and their lived experience, across the whole working day, ‘end-to-end’.  This inevitably challenges the industry to move into less familiar areas, namely hospitality, service design and hybrid working technologies.

Chris Kane’s presentation entitled ‘What should the office sector do to adjust their offer?’ is therefore timely and addresses such questions as:

Should the industry look beyond the building itself, consider its wider purpose not just as an asset, re-examine the design process to include a wider range of stakeholders?

Is there merit in examining how the industry could adapt its approach to the emerging new reality of ubiquitous choice in the context of the development, consumption, and management of British offices for the post pandemic world?

Of course, the need for change is largely driven by the imperative of enterprises of all hues to optimise knowledge worker productivity.  Which led me to an agenda topic I need to better understand.

Designing for Neurodiversity

Josh Artus will be talking about Centric Lab’s recent work for the British Council for Offices titled ‘Designing for Neurodiversity’ which I downloaded from the BCO website.  I found it helpful as it ‘unpacks’ a complex subject in a structured manner and clearly links neurodiversity ‘realities’ to mitigating design features.

A significant principle of neurodiversity is the belief that it is not the pathology of the condition that causes barriers to societal inclusion or causes a disability; rather, it is the socio-cultural architecture of a society that is only equipped to support a small range of variability.”

Whilst reading Designing for Neurodiversity’ I also dipped into a few of the documents cited in that publication, notably by E&Y’s ‘How neurodiversity drives value at the intersection of talent and technology’ and HBR’s ‘Neurodiversity as a competitive advantage’.

As the E&Y article infers, corporates look set to pursue ‘neurodiversity’ – “We’re witnessing fundamental shifts in the way diversity, equity and inclusion are being aligned to the corporate strategic agenda … For companies to innovate and drive transformation, they must bring diverse ways of thinking to the table.”

If this is the case, workplace designers and managers will need a good understanding of what works and what to avoid in this area.  The BCO publication is a good starting point in building up your understanding and I look forward to the presentation.

A full day of presentations and more

These are just two of the topics in a full day of presentations and a drinks social at the end.  For the full programme go here – Use Discount Code WP20 for 20% off ticket price – ticket link here

Written by Marcus Bowen for Work&Place


Publications referred to in this Blog

British Council for Offices (2022). Designing for Neurodiversity. (Download a PDF copy after registration here)

Hofman N (2020) How You Get the Benefits of a Neurodiverse Workforce. Ernst & Young.

Austin RD and Pisano GP (2017) Neurodiversity as a competitive advantage. Harvard Business Review, May– June: 96–103. (HBR subscription required)


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