Blog archive May 2020

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30.05.20 / 01 / lockdown daily routine

In spite of the lockdown, I have been incredibly busy with work. No furlough for me. The problem with WFH is that there is no particular cut-off point, nor is the day shortened by commuting. My daily routine has been as follows:

  • Log in to work around 8.30-9am over breakfast
  • Half an hour max for lunch, more often 15 minutes, between Zoom calls which are scheduled right across what used to be lunch hour
  • Break around 5pm for big espresso made in my stovetop Mocha Express. With a little milk and a few biscuits. This revives me wonderfully.
  • Work until around 8pm.
  • Evening meal and flop.
  • It’s 10.30pm, maybe 11pm, and I realise I have not yet been outside today.
  • Go out for walk 11.15pm until midnight.

My late night walk is generally around the nearby Brentham estate. It’s beautiful, there are different routes I can take as the fancy takes me, or to avoid other people. Not for fear of infection, just to be alone. I enjoy the silence - no traffic on the North Circular and A40, no planes out of Heathrow, no police helicopters or sirens. Just the peace, and the stars. I will miss it when it ends. My journey has a few landmarks. The abandoned Citroen DS. The huge agave. The house with the Karmann Ghia, MGB and Beetle cabriolet. Jupiter and Saturn. I avoid the brightly lit main streets, I don’t risk the unlit parks.

The espresso is the key ritual of the day. It compensates for the fact that no coffee shops are open. I get my beans mail-order from the local roastery (is that a word?) to grind myself. The smell, the noise, the taste.

13.05.20 / 01 / workplace notes 4

the desk

the desk is an industrial age compromise created by clerical paperwork and fixed technology eg typewriters

is the default new workspace a focus booth?

we do test fits by flooding with desks - to measure occupancy - maxpack
and then we hollow out the 'block of foam' to put in all the other spaces
should it be the other way around? put in the collaboration, focus etc spaces - then see how many desks are needed or there is room left for

a desk is an individual allocation of working space - a useful metric
but does that space allocation need to contain a desk?

what does your space contain?

our thinking is fixed by calling it a desk
but a desk is whatever stops your work from falling on the floor

a surface to put things on and support for a big screen

12.05.20 / 01 / workplace notes 3

older people

covid is a challenge to the age range of the workforce
older people more likely to be seriously ill

we have been keeping people later in work
retaining expertise, people are younger older

generational work cultures
the implicit contract - the unspoken assumptions about what people will get at work
people joining the workforce 30 years ago expect to have their own desk, everything provided at their desk, separation of work and home
how does this intersect with older people needing to work from home?
is technology an issue now? even the elderly are being introduced to video conferencing!

04.05.20 / 02 / workplace notes 2


meeting numbers control to enable safe distancing, ventilation of space
sometimes more people turn up than expected for the size of room booked
difficulty of booking rooms of the right size is already acute
does the room available to be booked determine the number of people allowed to attend the meeting?

should have a purge period between uses (air changes, cleaning)
but meetings almost always overrun
and bookings are squeezed in because of room scarcity and also external factors driving timing, eg availability of client or consultant people

booths - good for focus work, phone, vidcon - but cleaning? ventilation?

04.05.20 / 01 / workplace notes 1

workplace shielding

the default acrylic desktop screen that furniture suppliers have rushed out - acrylic scratches, gets dusty, fingerprints - is environmentally very unfriendly (manufacturing toxins, not degradable, difficult to recycle)

if we have to have these things, make them beautiful and multifunctional

coloured metal shield as magnetic vertical surface - like bookends
could have cutout profile (trellick tower)
fabric would be pinnable but fatter and less cleanable
or timber
moulded ply would be beautiful - nice veneer

small handle cutouts
could they have a pocket to contain things? so the screen is also a carrier.

huddled to death

no more huddles - four people in a pod or tiny room


the growing need for focus pods, booths
plus growing use of video calls at the desk - with acoustic and visual shielding issues
suggest the pod should be the normal personal workstation

work is increasingly split between personal/alone and collaborative/social
where does the open plan desk fit in?
is a hangover from clerical work - typists, overseen by a manager
a compromise not an ideal

is the future a shielded workstation - carrel, pod even better and more spacious collaboration/social zones

but fear of cubicles - dilbert


do we revert to desk ownership - given the hygiene issues of sharing keyboards/mice/phone etc - do we own our own such? just as we already don’t share headphones.
clean the desktop before use.

superloos for all?
sensor taps - ideally sensor flush too
clean after each user

how to avoid touching things - fridge door - bottle of milk - zip tap that needs two fingers - food waste lid

no rush hour - flexible work times to spread commuting

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