Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The impact of Brexit on Facilities Management




Today marks a historic day, the prime minister, Theresa May has triggered article 50, beginning a two year process that will result in the UK leaving the European Union, an institution we have been part of for 44 years. There has been much discussion about what this means, politically and socially, for the UK, but what does it mean for facilities management? We’ve undertaken some detective work to find out for you.

 

Money


Most experts and analysists agree, the initial financial impact of a ‘hard’ Brexit is likely to be tough, with some experts predicting that the UK may face losses of around £4.5 billion per year. Brexit may result in a reduction in business investment within the UK, so we may see fewer available facilities management projects, or more financially restrained ones.

Pre-existing projects may face a renegotiation of contracts or a readjustment of costs and funding. This may result in a pushback or build-up of projects, whilst the logistics are hammered out and fine-tuned.

Of course, some politicians argue that leaving the EU will be beneficial financially for the UK, as they state it will allow us greater negotiation power with non EU countries such as China and America. However, around 50% of the UK’s exports go to EU countries, and we do risk losing our negotiating power with these countries, especially as the costs of tariffs look set to rise.



Labour


A hot topic of debate during the Brexit vote was free movement of labour. In 2016, there were 2.2 million EU workers in the UK, many of them working within facilities and the construction industry. If the government pursue a ‘hard Brexit’, the movement of free labour between the UK and EU countries may be stopped or limited. This may result in a lack of available labour, wage inflation, and increased costs within facilities management.




The environment


In recent years, facilities managers have become increasingly concerned about the environment, and the impact that our projects have upon it. In the UK today, many of our legislations and rules surrounding environmental protection and conservation originate from EU directions. This has allowed harmonisation of compliance frameworks across the EU. The EU’s environmental legislation addresses issues such as; acid rain, the thinning of the ozone layer, air quality, waste and water pollution, noise pollution, and sustainable energy. The Institute for European Environmental Policy estimates the body of EU environmental law amounts to well over 500 directives, regulations and decisions.

There are concerns that once we have left the EU, the UK government may adjust or reduce these items of legislation, which will have a knock on effect on construction and maintenance.


The future

Nobody knows exactly what Brexit will mean for facilities management, or indeed, for the country. However, we will watch closely over the coming months and years, and seek to react accordingly.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Why keep your workplace hydrated?


Employees must provide workers with an adequate source of drinking water, this should be free from contamination, and ready accessible, due to the Workplace (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations, 1992. So, we know that we must hydrate our workers - but what benefit does this provide us?


1. Being properly hydrated makes us more productive


We've all experienced that productivity lag, when we feel like we've lost the motivation and run out of steam. Instead of running out of steam, have you ever considered that you may have run out of hydration? When we're dehydrated, our cognitive function slows down, affecting our concentration levels, process speed, and alertness level.

Hydration helps the section of our brain that operates the 'Fight or Flight' response. The Fight or Flight response negotiates how we respond to situations that require immediate attention - do we stay and 'fight' it, or do we run away? When we are in Fight or Flight mode, we are at peak performance, with sharp responses and high alertness. Biologists have discovered that the Fight or Flight response has evolved from our ancestors, to protect them from predators. In the modern office, our Fight or Flight response comes into play when a deadline is looming, or we are in a stressful situation.


2. Being properly hydrated makes us more accurate


When we're dehydrated, our brain tissues reduce in size, affecting the section of our brain that deals with executive function, the frontal lobes. Our frontal lobe is in charge of visuo-spatial processing and planning. When we hydrate our brains fully, our planning skills improve dramatically, improving our projects and tasks.






3. It improves our health


British doctors have discovered that one in five patients reporting symptoms of extreme fatigue could actually be suffering from dehydration. Proper hydration allows us to maintain our bodily fluids, energises our muscles, and maintains our kidney function. Thereby, properly hydrating your employees will reduce sick days and work illness.

So there you have it, hydrating your employees will improve productivity, stress response, and project outcomes. Why wouldn't you?

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Our favourite apps for office management




Office management can be a complicated affair, it involves keeping up to date with staff members, productivity, progress reports, facilities maintenance, and that's before we even get started on the projects at hand! Luckily, we have modern technology on our side, and in our phones, to help us make things a little simpler.

This week, we're bringing you our favourite apps that we've found helpful for office management.

Wunderlist 

Wunderlist dashboard
The Wunderlist dashboard 
Here at The Watercooler Today, we don't know what we'd do without our Wunderlist app! Wunderlist is a list and task manager app that is free, and available on iOS, Android, and on your browser. You can create to do lists, which you can then group into categories, set reminders for, and enable push notifications. 

To join Wunderlist, follow this link



Basecamp 3 


Basecamp 3
Basecamp 3's conversation feature 

Basecamp 3 is an office management app that is available on iOS, Android, and on your browser. It helps managers to ensure that the workplace is running smoothly when they are out of the office.

This app has various features, it allows workers to store and share files and contracts, track staff progress, set to do lists, and monitor deadlines. Staff can create discussions, and provide activity reports. Want to find out more about Basecamp? Their website can be found here.


Asana 

Asana dashboard
The Asana dashboard 
Asana is a free workplace productivity app, that is available on iOS, Android, and on your web browser. Asana tracks the progress of your project managers, and aims to improve communication among employees and managers. 

The app facilitates staff conversations, tracks the progress of projects, managers a calendar, and provides an inbox. Asana also links up to other webs and apps such as Google Chrome, Slack, GitHub, and Google Drive. You can find more information on the Asana website here

Google Hangouts 


Google Hangouts app
The app 
You can always rely on Google for a high quality, free, productivity app that simplifies your life, and Google Hangouts is no exception. Google Hangouts is available on iOS, Android, and through your web browser. Like all Google extensions, you can sync Google Hangouts with your Google calendar, your Chrome Browser, your Gmail account, plus any other Google apps you can find! 

Google Hangouts is essentially Whatsapp or Skype on a larger scale. It enables you to host video and/or chat meetings with up to 25 people, using either voice, video, or text. You can find the extension in the app store, or via their website here




Dropbox


An oldie, but a goodie, this list would definitely be lacking without Dropbox. Dropbox is a collaborative working app that is free, and available on iOS, Android, and on your web browser. It allows users to upload, download, edit, and update files online. All varieties of document formats can be shared, whether it's a video, photo, or word document. These can then be shared with groups of people via an email invite or hyperlink.

If you'd like to utilise Dropbox, you can join on their website



Evernote 


Evernote is a super useful free extension and app that is available on iOS, Android, and on your web browser. It allows you to write lists and notes, store photos, as well as collecting articles (via the browser extension), that you find useful or relevant.  It is highly accessible and has been created to be user friendly, so that everyone in your team can utilise, from the most to the least tech-savvy. 

You can find Evernote in your app store, or you can find out a bit more on their website, here


Have you tried any of these apps, or do you have apps that you just couldn't live without? Let us know in the comment section below. 

Thursday, 16 March 2017

5 Office Design No-No's



It's simple to see when office design is done well, it's far more complicated to know how it is done, and, even more importantly, how not to do it. We've been talking to interior office designers, to gain a few hints and tips for how to design your office. They've provided us with their five office design no-no's, and we'll share them with you here. 


1. Neglecting the reception area 


Waiting room
A welcoming reception can make or break your first impression
It's easy to put the space where the majority of your employees work at the top of your design list, it's the area you receive most of your internal feedback and spend most of your time in. However, neglect your reception area at your peril. Studies have shown, that people assess trustworthiness in around a tenth of a second. Where do your customers, clients, and potential employees spend their first tenth of a second in your business? The reception area. 



Ensure your reception is calm and welcoming, it is not a location for storage or delivery. Choose comfortable chairs that are easy to sit in and get out of. Make sure your visitors are hydrated and refreshed by installing well designed water coolers, and efficient coffee machines. 


2. Sacrificing quality for price


Online research
Check and cross check internet reviews
We all have a bottom line that we have to be aware of, and navigate within, but this does not mean that quality should be sacrificed. Take time to find the best product or service available within your budget. Use search engines to research what people are saying about what you're looking to buy, online reviews are the most objective source of information, so seek out as many of these as possible prior to making a purchase. 



3. Not consulting employees


Women working
Employees: The true workplace experts
When designing an office environment, you will want it to suit the workers using it. Do you know who the best experts on this matter will be? The workers themselves! Take time to gather worker feedback on how they prefer working and what is realistic within their workplace. 

Understand which teams collaborate with other teams on a regular basis, and position these groups near one another to foster communication and cross-silo working. 

4. Not utilising natural resources 


Office
Natural sunlight transforms an office space
Our bodies need natural light and air. Wherever possible, make the best possible use of natural light with large windows, mirror usage, and reflective surfaces. Access to natural light should boost serotonin levels, and vitamin D levels, within the work-space, making for happier, healthier workers. 

Stuffy offices are a breeding ground for germs and viruses. Take care to facilitate natural ventilation within the office environment, using open-able windows wherever possible. 

5. Not sticking to a consistent theme


Modern meeting room
Consistency is key
Most brands have an established theme or look, that they adhere to in all brand communications and products. Fewer brands follow this through in the workplace environment. Keep the company colours and themes consistent in the office design and workers will find it flows far more naturally through their work and outputs. 

It is important to note, that we say company colours and themes. This doesn't stop at splashing colour on a feature wall. Discuss the brand features of the company with the marketing department. If your company aims to appear young and fun, consider your office furniture. Leather chairs and desktops do not suggest either of these themes, but mac-books and bubble chairs might. If your company aims to be holistic and spiritual, you might want to consider a signature office scent that can be pumped through the workplace with a plug in device or with natural incense. 

These tips should set you on your path to office design perfection. If in doubt, remember the two C's - consulting and consistency! What details do you despise in office design? Let us know in the comments below.  




Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Promoting mental wellbeing in the workplace



Studies have shown that improving mental health in the workplace increases productivity, efficiency, and reputation. 21% of workers surveyed have called in sick due to workplace stress, indicating low employee engagement and high absenteeism. In today's blog, we'll be discussing some top tips to foster and encourage mental wellbeing in your office or workplace.

Tackle the causes of workplace stress

Every office has ‘office gripes’, you know the ones, ‘The office is too cold’, ‘These chairs are uncomfortable’, ‘We don’t get enough time for lunch’, these little factors add up and contribute to workplace stress, so whilst you may laugh these comments off, tackling them will send your employees a clear sign that you truly care about their wellbeing.

Once the little things are handled, you’ll have time to take care of the big workplace stress causes. Investigate ways to lessen the workload and lighten the mood. Team building exercises no longer have to be the cliched sessions of the nineties, and can involve physical activity or puzzles, such as escape games or outdoor activity centres. This will not only improve workplace morale, but strengthen workplace relationships

 Select a workplace ‘stress leader’, to whom staff can approach for advice or support, if a union is in place in your workplace, they will be able to help you in your efforts to support your workers.

  

Improve your workplace culture

Does your office feel like a pleasant place to work? Do you provide refreshments and break-room activities? The little things can make a massive difference to how employees view their workplace, you should definitely be providing fresh clean water, but consider providing tea, coffee, and snacks.

Understand that each of your employees has individual needs and workplace preferences. The more introverted amongst your staff may find loud and boisterous workplaces stressful environments to work within, ensure that, where possible, a quiet working location is available to all staff. Modern offices are moving increasingly towards flexible working times and locations, allowing workers to choose their office times, lunch breaks, and when they want to work from home will increase their autonomy, and reduce their stress levels.

Be supportive

If you are aware that an employee experiences mental illness, you have a duty of care to be supportive and make reasonable adjustments in the workplace. Get to know how they like to work, and try your hardest to facilitate this wherever possible. A sick day due to mental illness or stress is just as valid as one due to physical illness, so ensure that your tone is non-judgemental when somebody telephones in to report illness from mental illness. When they return, take the time to check in with them, and find out how to best support them moving forward.

Promote wellbeing

A mentally well workplace has a positive and transparent organisational culture. Encourage workers to discuss problems and issues as and when they arise in a supportive and non-judgemental atmosphere. Mind has some great resources for promoting positive wellbeing in the workplace, and you can find them here; http://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/
 Ensure your workplace is an environment in which everyone is comfortable, there should be zero tolerance on bullying, harassment, and discrimination. Not sure how to promote such an atmosphere? The policies are available to read here;  https://www.gov.uk/workplace-bullying-and-harassment, and here; https://www.gov.uk/discrimination-your-rights/types-of-discrimination




Thursday, 9 March 2017

What’s next in the water industry?


Outdoor water tap


Much like water itself, the water industry is fast moving and unpredictable. In order to help you keep up with what’s going on, we’ve investigated the current state of affairs within the water industry, as well as what we predict will be happening in the coming months and years.


Market reform


Doors

The biggest news within the water industry, is the upcoming water market reform in the UK caused by the Water Act of 2014 (if you’ve a spare few hours, and a lot of patience, you can read the whole act here). The impact that this act will have upon the water market will be enormous. From April 2017, nearly every business water customer will be able to choose where they buy their water services from, affecting 1.2 million business customers, charities, and public sector organisations.

This will create the largest competitive water market in the world, with an estimated UK benefit of around £200 million. The supply sources will be stored on a central data system available online, called the Open Water. This is an impartial, customer facing, website, which will provide guidance to customers. The government state that this change in water provision will lead to lower bills, improved services, and will stimulate retail competition within the water industry – ensuring no one organisation will have a monopoly on water services.

Technology within the water industry


Water droplets
Increased use of technology within the water industry has been seeping (excuse the pun), into common usage within recent years, and this is only set to continue. Berkeley professor, David L. Sedlak, released Water 4.0 in 2015. This publication outlined the history of our drinking water systems and procedures, as well as outlining how these are set to be reinvented in the near future. This has been expanded on in this season’s Institute of Water Journal, which predicts increased digitalisation and networking of automation and monitoring systems within the drinking water industry, as well as the use of smart technology.

The most recent Water and Sewerage Journal (Issue 97), outlines how new technology is set to revolutionise drinking water disinfection. It outlines how computational fluid dynamics can be used to design disinfection units for drinking water. This should increase the effectiveness of disinfection methods such as ozonation, chlorination, and UV disinfection.

Events


Conference
There are some exciting events, exhibitions, and conferences within the water industry occurring across 2017. We’ve picked out some of our favourites to share with you. One of the major events, is the Institute of Water’s annual conference, which will take place on the 15th and 16th of June at Chetham’s School of Music. The theme of this conference is, ‘Together we achieve more’, focusing on collaboration, and how to drive the industry forward during changing times. You can find out more about this conference here.

Marketforce are hosting Water 2017 on the 21st – 22nd of November, at the Hilton Tower Bridge, in London. This conference will discuss the future profitability of the water industry, and will consist of senior executives from water companies, and water regulators across the industry. You can find out more about Water 2017, here.

The 18th UK International Water Association Young Water Professionals conference will be occurring at the University of Bath, on the 10th – 12th of April. This will allow young water professionals to network, and share ideas, skills and best practices, fostering career progression, and cross field engagement. If you’re a young water professional, and fancy popping along, you can sign up for this event here.


Our resources


If you would like to investigate our links and sources further, you can find out lots more information at The Institute of Water, The Water and Sewerage Journal, The International Water Association Network, and the Open Water website.  


Monday, 6 March 2017

Keeping your workplace hydrated


Previously, we’ve discussed the importance of providing hydration within the workplace, and this week we’ll be providing you with our favourite tips on how to ensure that your workplace is hydrated, happy, and healthy.



But, why?




So, why are we suggesting you increase hydration in the workplace? Aside from needing to adhere to the Workplace (Health, Safety, and Welfare) Regulations from 1992, that state you must provide an adequate supply of drinking water for your employees, hydrating your employees will also provide you with a productivity boost. Dehydration of even 1-2% causes a reduction in concentration levels, affecting the brain’s executive function. The executive function concerns our planning abilities and our visuo-spatial skills, essential skills in most workplaces!

Why are some employees not doing this?




Keeping your employees hydrated may seem like a logical strategy, but why are some companies neglecting to do so? There are a few reasons why employees may be under-hydrated, the Natural Hydration Council (you can find some great resources on their website here), list the following as barriers to adequate workplace hydration;

  • Employees not having access to drinking water facilities
  • Warm working environments (workers who are often exposed to hot conditions tend to drink less fluids as their thirst response is insufficient)
  • High altitude environments (such as those working in construction, or as part of an air crew)
  • Air conditioning usage
  • Heavy or strenuous work (A person doing heavy work can sweat one litre of fluid per hour, so will need to replenish this liquid.

How to remedy the situation



If you struggle with some of the above barriers, or just wish to generally increase hydration levels within your workplace or business, never fear, we are here with our top tips to increase hydration in the workplace!



Firstly, audit your employee’s access to workplace refreshment. Employees should not have to conduct a small hike merely to obtain a glass of water! Ensure that every workspace has a watercooler within an easy distance that is frequently maintained. Assess how many staff members will be using any one cooler and choose a machine with an adequate capacity, we recommend choosing a plumbed in water dispenser to ensure that you’ll never run out of water, Borg & Overström have a fantastic range of plumbed in watercoolers that you can choose from here.



Ensure that workers undertaking physical labour, or working in outdoor locations, have frequent hydration breaks, especially when working during the summer months. Provide refillable bottles that workers can top up frequently and carry with them as they go. Borg & Overström provide sports bottles in both 500ml and 750ml capacity that are ideal for this purpose, as well as branded glass bottles, and you can view these in their accessory range here.



Our daily hydration comes from a wide range of sources, not just water. Provide your employees with access to hot drinks also. A hot coffee in the morning goes a long way to boosting productivity, and hydration levels! You can also provide employees with items that jazz up the humble glass of water. Squash, herbal tea bags, and vitamin tablets are all easy and cost effective methods to infuse water with a touch of flavour.



You can also consider choosing a watercooler with the option of sparkling water to provide your employees with an even wider choice of hydration options. This is a great sugar-free alternative to popular fizzy drinks such as cola and lemonade, for the health conscious amongst us. We love refreshing with sparkling water, and we’ve written a whole blog about the fizzy stuff here. Many Borg & Overström watercoolers offer the choice of sparkling water, alongside ambient, hot, and chilled water, choose the ideal option for your workplace here.



This was a guest post from our partners at Borg & Overström. who hone and develop water systems that are efficient, functional, and beautiful.  If you'd like to discuss your workplace refreshment, contact Borg and Overstrom today, here.