Workplace Technology

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Creating activity based spaces that encourage employee engagement and collaboration via seamless technological integration continues to shape the workplace

However, in the 2016 Dell and Intel Future Workforce Study, 44% of employees are of the view that their workplace is not “smart” enough. Additionally, more than 50% of employees expect to be engaged in “smart” workplaces within the next five years. Businesses that have not considered upgrading their offices may have to realign their priorities when it comes to meeting the expectations of new talent.

By cleverly integrating the latest technologies into an office fit-out, employees can feel more creative, productive and engaged. A study by Steelcase and Microsoft has shown that the creativity process requires diverse work modes as well as different types of technology. Whether working alone or in groups, activity based working demands a need for a range of devices that are mobile and integrated into the physical workplace.

Recently, in partnership with Design Worldwide Partnership, Summertown completed the fit-out of the Smart Dubai office – the headquarters of Dubai’s tech-led Smart City initiative. Smart Dubai wanted innovative technology in their workplace that embraced their core values and mission to establish Dubai as the most efficient, seamless, safe and impactful experience for residents and visitors.

The office was designed to encourage collaboration via cleverly integrated sharable ‘digital spaces’. Meeting rooms featured seamless connectivity with multiple devices and writable walls to help foster creativity and productivity. Additional technology installed included a virtual unmanned reception, a café with a curved LED screen to broadcast live feeds of social media and events, an auditorium with flexible seating and quiet zones where employees can choose to work thanks to 24/7 wireless connectivity.

The technology integrated in the Smart Dubai office is a prime example of the UAE leadership’s commitment to becoming one of the world’s best connected cities. As new technologies and working habits continue to transform traditional workplaces, designers, architects and workspace solution providers will have to work together to introduce these principles into projects to increase user satisfaction and productivity.

 

Collaboration with External Partners is Key to Success

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What is collaboration in business? The definition of collaboration from the Oxford Dictionary is “The action of working with someone to produce something.” But in business it is more likely to be working with someone outside your team, and potentially with different expertise to achieve a common goal or product. Organisations are now reaching beyond their internal employees and collaborating with external partners to achieve their goals.

Harvard Business Review surveyed business leaders worldwide about how collaboration is changing with their organisations

  • 72% say “effective team communication” has become more important over the past 2 years
  • 54% are investing in easier-to-use collaboration solutions
  • 64% report that collaboration with external parties has increased in importance

(Retrieved from http://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/solutions/collaboration/index.html?stickynav=1)

During our 20 years in business we have supported and collaborated with our industry architects, designers, suppliers and project managers to create high quality interior solutions for our clients. We have also collaborated with industry groups like the Dubai Chamber of Commerce who has helped guide us on our CSR journey, and The US Green Building Council (USGBC) to achieve our LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and LEED EBOM (Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance) certifications. Without external collaboration with other likeminded businesses we could not meet our client’s expectations or achieve our ‘green’ and CSR goals.

In 2017 Summertown is extending our collaboration with external partners to form a global alliance – The United Workplace Group – which is a much more formal external partnership.

The United Workplace is a network of likeminded businesses, sharing a passion for the workplace– inspiring design, innovation and a culture of collaboration underpins everything we do. All members share common ethics, values and goals bringing with them a wealth of knowledge and experience. The fundamental goal of The United Workplace is to provide consistency of service and local insight on a global scale- to fulfil your workplace design, fit-out or commercial furniture consultancy and installation needs.

Globalisation is accelerating and having the ability to link businesses, exchange best practices and share knowledge is seen as a distinct advantage. The United Workplace consists of a handpicked collection of businesses selected in recognition that each country and market has specific requirements.

Summertown is very excited to be part of The United Workplace Group and we will share more details in the coming months.

 

Contributed by Sally Jones, Marketing Manager

Happiness in the workplace

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It is not new news that having happy and engaged employees is good for business; CEOs and business leaders have been advocating this message for many years.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” – Richard Branson, CEO & Founder of Virgin Group.

What is evolving is that global leaders and governments are now incorporating happiness initiatives into their policies decisions and strategic plans.

In 1976 the King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck introduced the term Gross National Happiness – a philosophy that governments should govern for the happiness and well-being of its people. However, happiness measures and initiatives have only really grown momentum with other global governments and leaders in the last 10 years.

In 2012 the United Nations produced the first World Happiness Report. Recognition of this report has increased in the last 5 years by governments and organisations, leading to many happy indicators being incorporated in to policy decisions and plans. In 2017 the UN World Happiness report included an analysis of happiness in the workplace. The report states that “recent research suggests that high levels of worker wellbeing may even lead to gains in productivity and firm performance, a finding that points toward the benefits of engaging in what might be called ‘high-road’ employment strategies conducive to employee wellbeing.” (United Nations Word Happiness Report https://youtu.be/Se2gfFKp1Iw)

In 2016 the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum appointed Her Excellency Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi as the country’s first Minister of State for Happiness. This appointment is unprecedented and exemplifies the new paradigm of governments and global leaders incorporating happiness into policies and decisions.

The UAE’s vision is “To be among the happiest countries in the world,” and one of its core objectives is to incentivise entities “both public and private, to launch and champion initiatives, projects, and policies to achieve happiness and positivity in society.” (https://www.happy.ae/en/discover-why)

According to the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s World Happiness Report, the UAE is ranked the happiest Arab country and 21st globally – a prime sign of progress after the adoption of a happiness charter by government departments. Moving forward, the country has set a goal to enter the top five happiest countries in the world under its Vision 2021 objectives.

At Summertown, we strongly believe that the strength of our company lies within our team, and that we have both an ethical and corporate responsibility to create and support a happy workplace. We are delighted that the UAE government has recognized that happiness is such an important initiative for its people, and one we will continue to embrace and practice. We believe one of the key drivers for people to be happy at work is to create a workplace environment that is conducive to happiness. Happiness of an organisation’ s people includes the workplace itself – the work or office space, and the leadership and support provided for employee wellbeing and wellness.

One of our key business pillars is to enable our clients to create ‘inspiring workplaces to enhance employee health and happiness’, and we strive to practice this in our own workplace by adopting and implementing our CSR initiatives. These include wellness workshops, promoting healthy eating and lifestyle activities.

After all – a happy person is a productive person.

Contribution from Sally Jones, Marketing Manager

Diversity in the workplace

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By Marcos Bish, Managing Director, Summertown Interiors

As we quickly reach the end of the first month of 2017, we look forward to yet another year of delivering high end interior projects for our clients – helping them achieve their environmental goals whilst delivering operational savings and a better workspace for employees.

At Summertown, we strongly believe that the strength of the company lies within our team, and that we have both an ethical and corporate responsibility to create and support a diverse workforce of highly motivated people.

Diversity in the workforce is of utmost importance to us – and at the core of who we are as a company. This means not only embracing our employees’ nationalities, gender, cultures, religious and ethnic backgrounds, but also respecting their ‘diversity of views’ – allowing them to bring new ideas, innovations and thinking styles to the table.

Much research has shown that there is a strong link between a diverse workforce and innovation. We see first-hand how the diversity of our team positively impacts our critical evaluation process, encouraging fresh perspectives and different points of views on any given situation.

By creating a workplace which supports diversity, our employees are encouraged to contribute as integral members of the company. It is clear that the more effective an organization is at supporting diversity and inclusion, the more engagement that organization will experience among its employees.

According to a recent report by Mckinsey on ‘Why Diversity Matters’ more ‘diverse’ companies are better able to win top talent and improve their customer orientation, employee satisfaction, and decision making, and all that leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.

At Summertown, our business model is successful because of our people – the commitment to the welfare of our people is reflected in our low staff turnover which over the past two years has been approximately 11% – a favourable comparison to the UAE’s average of 31%.

 Together as a team we will continue to foster an open and transparent culture, which encourages diversity. We believe this is essential to retain our employees and encourage productivity, and will, in turn, continue to enhance our overall success.

Dubai welcomes new green building regulations

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By Marcos Bish, Managing Director, Summertown Interiors

The Dubai Municipality’s decision to introduce Al Safat, a green building rating system for new buildings in Dubai is set to improve corporate sustainability in the UAE. The rating system has been designed to achieve high sustainable performance of buildings by strengthening their planning, design, implementation and operational phases.

It is now mandatory for all building owners, investors and developers to meet the Al Safat’s minimum bronze rating – those failing to meet the minimum rating criteria will not be given permits. According to the Dubai Municipality, by applying Al Safat standards a building can produce savings in energy use of up to 34 per cent – currently, more than 90 per cent of buildings in Dubai constructed after 2001 already meet the necessary criteria to qualify for the bronze certification.

The introduction of Al Safat is a promising move by the Dubai Municipality – since Dubai pledged to make Expo 2020 the first sustainable Expo the UAE Government has made very clear its intention to become a successful model of a sustainable economy and has put in place some ambitious targets to make this vision a reality.

The UAE Government’s implementation of plans and policies such as the Al Safat System are highly important in helping to promote and enforce policies to reduce its carbon footprint. Dubai’s commitment to becoming a world leading ‘green’ city provides businesses with an opportunity to understand and implement strategies that can translate to their bottom line.

Summertown Interiors Achieves LEED EBOM Gold Certification

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By Marcos Bish, Managing Director

We are very proud to announce that we have been awarded the Gold LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED EBOM) certification for the ongoing operations and maintenance of our headquarters.

The LEED EBOM certification identifies and rewards current best practices and provides a framework for buildings to use less energy, water and natural resources; improve the indoor environment; and uncover operating inefficiencies. The certification requires implementation of policies such as the sustainable purchasing of materials, equipment and consumables, and the extensive monitoring and tracking of operations.

To be the only company in our industry according to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) among a total of eleven companies in the UAE is a huge achievement. We would like to thank both our team and our green partner Green Technologies for their continued support in helping us to lead a ‘greener’ lifestyle.

For us, achieving the LEED EBOM certification was the next step on our ongoing CSR journey. As a company that walks the talk, placing our clients, partners and the business community at the forefront of our operations; the next step for the team in achieving sustainability excellence was to go beyond our Gold LEED certification for interiors and develop an ever-evolving sustainable framework for the premises, its operations and maintenance.

Specifically, we created a number of policies to document the organisation’s operational procedures detailing everything from operating hours to waste management. We were then able to track and monitor our activities inline with the policies, and implement measures that would enable us to further reduce energy and water consumption, or manage business operations in a more environmentally friendly manner. Targets were set in accordance with the LEED EBOM certification system, helping to further embed sustainability into our internal processes.

In addition to improving the operational activities across the business, LEED EBOM also recognises the value of human capital and considers the importance of employee wellbeing as a critical success factor to achieving excellence in sustainability. At Summertown Interiors, we have witnessed how the implementation of LEED EBOM has resulted in greater employee satisfaction and encouraged productivity by keeping staff more motivated and committed to the business – this has positively contributed to our company’s bottom line.

CSR is an ongoing process and we believe that our LEED EBOM framework will be a vital tool to further progress our efforts in achieving carbon neutrality by 2020. Next step will be to embed these policies and procedures into our ISO processes to ensure we strive to continuously improve on our carbon footprint measurement in our bid to become carbon neutral by 2020.

 

 

 

My Internship with Summertown Interiors

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By Benedict Brenninkmeijer, student, University of St Andrews

How did I end up working for Summertown Interiors?

The process started when I decided to take time out from my studies at the University of St Andrews to attain first-hand experience within the sustainability industry.  My course, Sustainable Development, is extremely broad and is going to take me five years to complete in total. After two and a half years, at my half way point in 2015, I started to worry about how I would be able to apply the theory I was learning into practise.  Taking a leap of faith, I put my studies on hold from December so that I could embark on an internship to gain the industry experience I craved.

So why Dubai?

I had lived there as a young child in the 90’s and have always been fascinated by the way the city had progressed in such a short space of time. At University, I did a case study on Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, ‘the world’s most sustainable eco-city’, and this further sparked my interest on the region.  While researching Masdar City, I came across Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and found that interestingly, Summertown Interiors had completed some of their offices – this is what led me to get in touch with the company as I thought what better way to learn more about Masdar City and other projects in the rest of the UAE than to work for Summertown Interiors.

What did you work on?

I applied and succeeded to get the opportunity to intern with Summertown Interiors for a six-week period. I was tasked to help the team with the integration of the recent processes defined for the company as part of their recent completion of LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED EBOM), the certification for the ongoing operations and maintenance of existing commercial and institutional buildings.

Specifically, my focus was to assist with the Facility Management and Procurement areas. In order for the project to be a success, LEED EBOM would need to be viewed as a core component of business operations and not as a standalone extra task to be completed. To facilitate seamless integration of these sustainability practices I had to learn more of Summertown Interior’s ISO process driven operations.

After gaining a familiarity with LEED EBOM and the ISO system, I worked alongside key team members to propose changes to existing ISO processes that would address the demands of LEED EBOM.

Any highlights?

The Summertown team gave me their full support – I was able to have access to all departments and through meetings with department heads, I gained an amazing insight into the inner workings of the business. With my background as a Sustainable Development student, Summertown Interiors was also eager for me have external meetings, to give me a better understanding of what is being done in Dubai and the rest of the UAE to achieve the country’s sustainability goals.

I was fortunate enough to meet on a number of occasions with the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and learn more about their efforts to support the widespread adoption of sustainability and CSR practices throughout the GCC region. Additionally, it was fantastic to have been part of the Summertown Interiors team when it was awarded the Dubai Chamber’s CSR label for the fourth year running.

Another interesting meeting that took place was with the Sustainability Manager at Brookfield Multiplex – a global contracting and development company. It was brilliant to be given further insight into what large multinational organisations are doing to support green design and build in the region.

In my final week I was fortunate enough to take a tour of Masdar City with one of Summertown Interior’s team members to learn more about the initiatives and technologies the city already had in operation and their vision for the future. To take a ride on the automated PRT system around Masdar City was really exciting and felt like something from a sci-fi movie.

What have you learnt?

Looking back over my time at Summertown Interiors I am so grateful for all of the experience I was able to garner and take back to Scotland with me. I surpassed my initial goal of understanding more about how sustainability works within a business context and was fortunate enough to learn from one that is pioneering the way for the green movement in the UAE.

I have developed professionally with my written and oral communication skills, my networking capabilities and analysis capabilities. I have also developed personally, gaining an insight into what life is like as an expat, living by myself, driving to work in Jebel Ali everyday and making some amazing friendships along the way.

Millennials influencing workplace design in the UAE

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By Marcos Bish, Managing Director, Summertown Interiors

The UAE’s commercial fit-out market has experienced a greater demand for office workplaces that meet the expectations of the ‘Millennial Generation’ who are reshaping workplace design in the UAE. This ambitious, tech-savvy generation has notably different working styles and preferences than other generations and place much higher value on the office environment and workplace culture. Designers, architects and workspace experts have started to introduce these principles into their projects to increase user satisfaction and productivity.

Millennials look for collaborative working environments where they can share ideas and learn from their colleagues. As ‘digital natives’ they rely on 24/7 connectivity to technology so they feel less reason to be tied to a desk. Offices that are designed to encourage collaboration via cleverly integrated sharable ‘digital spaces’, such as a top-of-the-range conference rooms, help to foster collaboration and improve creativity and productivity within the workplace.
Transparency is one of the top qualities that Millennials look for in leaders – honest, open cultures where there are limited barriers between management teams. This is reflected in office fit-outs where the focus is shifting towards open and airy spaces. Glass partitions for office cubicles are increasingly favoured over gypsum partitions. However, these open spaces also need to be balanced with private areas. Millennials want to know their colleagues are always approachable, but also want to enjoy their own privacy when they need to concentrate.

‘Rethinking’ the use of space has fast become a top priority for companies in order to encourage employee engagement. Many Millennials want to feel that their company really cares about their wellbeing and this has seen a rise in the demand for health amenities in the workplace. From yoga rooms, to pantries stocked with free and healthy foods and sleep corners, companies are increasingly understanding the role that the physical environment plays in promoting wellbeing at work.

‘Millennial offices’ are firmly shaping the future of the corporate real estate industry. By 2020 Millennials will form 50% of the global workforce and, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the UAE is the top emerging market destination for young professionals looking to further their careers. Interestingly, a survey carried out by HSBC’s private banking arm showed that the UAE has the youngest successful entrepreneurs in the world.

Investing in the workspace should not be considered an extra cost, but an investment that has a positive impact on employees’ happiness, productivity, and loyalty. This will, in turn, enhance the organisation’s overall success. As Millennials continue to dominate the workforce, companies must adapt to new ways of doing business in order to retain employees and encourage productivity.

Increased corporate sustainability awareness needed in the UAE

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By Marcos Bish, Managing Director, Summertown Interiors

Despite the progressive measures the UAE Government is taking to make the country a successful global model of sustainable development, UAE businesses are still considerably behind their Western counterparts when it comes to implementing sustainable practises.

Since Dubai pledged to make Expo 2020 the first sustainable expo, the UAE’s sustainable development agenda has been thrust into the global spotlight. The UAE Government has made very clear its intention to become a successful model of a sustainable economy and has put in place some ambitious targets to make this vision a reality.

In 2015, His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the Dubai Clean Energy Strategy 2050. This aims to make Dubai a global centre of clean energy and green economy by providing 7% of Dubai’s energy from clean energy sources by 2020, 25% by 2030 and 75% by 2050.

The UAE through its diverse strategies and investments in clean and renewable energy is leading global efforts in this area, despite having the second-largest oil reserves in the world. Since the recent unveiling of the new cabinet including the appointment of Thani Kharkhash as Minister of State for Climate Change and Environment, much effort is being put into diversifying the UAE’s economy away from oil by 2021 to create a business environment that ensures economic and social stability.

Although there has been an increased interest in building green in the past few years, the corporate and economic benefits of sustainability are still underestimated in the region. Being green is a lifestyle choice and a business strategy, which, if done well, positively impacts the company’s bottom line. People will be more engaged and work better together, costs will be managed more efficiently, and the company will gain credibility in the market.

As a company that walks the talk, our clients, partners and the business community in general look to us for advice and knowledge when it comes to integrating sustainability into their business operations. From our own experience, the most common mistake companies make when they want to embrace sustainability is having too narrow a vision: setting just a few goals and metrics for measurement, and then following those without looking at the big picture.

Sustainability has always been at the forefront of Summertown’s operations and we will continue to pioneer the ‘green’ movement here in the UAE. We look to inspire and help other companies to integrate ‘green’ practises into their business strategy to help sustainability become the standard modus operandi, both in the UAE and worldwide.

Top trends towards a more productive workplace

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By Esra Kayhan, HR Manager, Summertown Interiors

Workplace wellness, sustainability and employee engagement are three emerging trends that are influencing workplace design in the UAE. Get all three right, and you will be well on your way to creating a more productive workplace, according to recent studies.

Wellbeing at work means much more than taking care of employees’ basic needs; it fosters an atmosphere of healthy competition and processes that make the workplace more conducive to performance and positive thinking. This, in turn, boosts productivity and reduces stress levels.

Investing in the workspace is no longer considered an extra cost, but a productivity investment that enhances an organisation’s overall success. From paying more attention to the quality of lighting, indoor air, sound level and visual design in the office, companies are now understanding the role that the physical environment plays in promoting wellbeing at work.

The fit-out industry has experienced increased pressure to implement environmentally-responsible practices. The UAE is a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement and by 2020, as part of Dubai’s Clean Energy Strategy 2050, the emirate intends to obtain 7% of its energy from clean sources.

As buildings are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, more attention will be given to the construction of green buildings and the maintenance of sustainable interiors. Regulation will likely be a driver of this, but so will end-user demand. As clients become more aware of the advantages of building green, and their responsibility to the planet, they will put more pressure on the fit-out industry to implement environmentally responsible practises.

‘Rethinking’ the use of space to accommodate employees will also be a key consideration. Until recently, open plan offices were considered the best environment for staff, encouraging collaboration, innovation and team work. Now many studies have proven that a lack of privacy negatively affects concentration levels, productivity and creativity. Today, the focus is shifting towards building a space that offers the perfect balance between collaboration and privacy.

Creating workplaces and spaces that encourage employee engagement via seamless technological integration continues to shape the commercial fit-out industry. Technology is a vital component which spearheads and enables creativity amongst the workforce when its implementation is thoughtfully considered. By cleverly integrating the latest technologies into an office fit-out, employees can feel more creative, productive and engaged.

These are increasingly important considerations to bear in mind when designing the ideal workplace environment. The workspace of the future will have to be efficient, sustainable and healthy, while providing the right environment for a creative, productive and engaged workforce.