I rather liked the start of Workplace Trends last year – a chap wearing a shirt borrowed from Nigel of EastEnders smiling about happiness at work followed by the butter-rich artery-clogging irony of a pasty-maker promoting wellbeing. All much more white cube this year, in the clinical formality of a tiered operating theatre. “Scalpel”. We will find a use for it later.
One has to tread carefully where Frank Duffy is concerned, as of course he was the man “who started it all”. Thinking about the workplace that is, not the very stuff of life itself – albeit in some quarters barely a difference is acknowledged. Following Freytag’s pyramid of dramatic structure, after Marie Pybaraud’s brief Exposition one could reasonably expect to take the first tentative steps of Rising Action. Dionysus looked confident, Apollo a little pensive.
However. The history of the office in the last fifty years presents something of a dry challenge, epiphanies notwithstanding, because many of us have lived it, and been subject to the “inexorable sadness of pencils”. There are no surprises, nothing to reveal. Its just not like reading Harry Redknapp’s autobiography, nothing from behind the dressing room door. Frank left us a question – how do we justify place in an increasingly virtual world? I thought the point was that he was going to answer it. The operating theatre is full this morning – place, justified. For now.
Rob Harris’ Tale of one City seemed to have drifted in from the BCO conference, even though he – like seemingly everyone nowadays – is ex-DEGW. Its either ex-DEGW or ex-BBC. Ten o’clock and still no-one has said “collaboration”, but we did finally get some graphs. Not pies. The chink that needed wedging open came right at the end, the idea of “spaceless growth”, but by this time we were outnumbered.
Cue Tim Oldman, the “man” half of the Leesman Index. A purveyor of…..numbers. At this point Apollo, now grinning, took a seat next to me at the back, and rested a firm hand of consolation on my shoulder. Dionysus was outside, looking hopefully for an early-opening hostelry. At least Tim didn’t get the job when he was interviewed by DEGW – respect due. When faced with statistics, we are all as nicked as Colin Pitchfork. Yet we here today were all converted long ago to the idea that a great workplace is likely to boost productivity and pride, but are aware that most people’s workplace is still crap – and doesn’t. Its what drives us on. If we didn’t we may as well go and drive a taxi.
Its the coffee break. I am off to call Freytag, and see where Dionysus has got to.