Book publishing is experiencing the biggest business-culture upheaval since the invention of the printing press. Competition, slumping profits, and rising costs – including the cost of office space – have all contributed to belt tightening on a scale that the old-school expense-account private-office occupants have never seen before.
To reduce real estate costs, many publishers are turning to open office systems. Reading and writing, the basic activities of publishing, require privacy and quiet, something open-plan offices aren’t known for. But publishers seem to be making it work, using “pink noise” to cover distracting sounds, and providing small “quiet” rooms where employees can find silence. Editors’ book-filled “trophy cases” have migrated from private offices to an array of modern shelving in the conference room, where they still can impress visiting authors and agents.
Like open-plan workspaces themselves, the old business attitudes are proving to be flexible. One editor who was dead set against open-plan found that she changed her mind after touring an open-plan space, likening it to a college library during finals week. The New York Times has the full story: http://nyti.ms/1pWKLbo
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Who hasn’t lost their keys at one time or another? For rental-car agency Sixt, headquartered in Germany, keeping track of car keys was a “key” part of customer service. Having to wait while keys were located for a specific vehicle was a major source of frustration for customers and employees alike. And the frustration didn’t stop there. Customers who disputed rental return times had no proof to back up their arguments. Employees who were told a car was ready for rental would often find that it was still being washed. No one was happy.
Sixt decided to try an innovative application of RFID, using UHF RFID tags on the vehicles’ key fobs. The RFID tags showed exactly where the keys were stored; they recorded check-out and check-in times; they could even track a car through the cleaning process. And the results? Customer complaints have dropped by 30%. Just as important, according to Alexander Boone, Sixt’s head of project and innovation management, employees are much happier. “The happiness of the employees at the branch has a positive impact on customer satisfaction.” Read the full story here at RFIDjournal.com: http://bit.ly/1qwzqza
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In some ways, today’s interplanetary travel resembles airline travel: uncomfortable seats, bland food, and very limited storage space. As a manned Mars mission approaches reality and commercial space ventures push the envelope of tourism, Boeing has partnered with NASA to design less spartan spacecraft interiors. LED screens are substituted for windows and a blue lighting scheme creates a calm, pleasant atmosphere. Cargo storage too is a vital consideration; seating can be reconfigured into storage, much like modular reconfigurable storage systems here on planet Earth.
Passenger-oriented design will certainly make the 2-year trip to Mars relatively comfortable. SpaceNews.com discusses Boeing’s plans in detail here: http://bit.ly/1qmsC1f. While industrial designers at Boeing are working on spacecraft interiors, perhaps they will figure out a way to increase the overhead storage capacity in today’s airplanes!
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Any biologist will tell you that adaptable species are the ones that survive. Similarly, space planners know that an adaptable office environment is the one in which employees don’t just survive, they thrive. And as employees thrive, so do the businesses they work for. New research by Steelcase [http://bit.ly/1CnkZgt] shows that productivity calls for a balance between collaborative space and private space. The ideal office environment will adapt easily, allowing for both collaboration and privacy for a varying number of employees as work teams grow or shrink and staffing needs shift.
The dinosaurs didn’t adapt well, but businesses today are finding ways to avoid the fate of T. rex by installing modular, adaptable workspaces, and surviving with style.
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