The post-pandemic office: a thought leadership series for WSP

At the beginning of April 2020, with many of the world’s offices deserted, I began a weekly thought leadership series for WSP about how Covid-19 would transform the knowledge workplace. It ran to eight features – almost 17,000 words – on everything from the cultural impact of physical distancing to virus-proofing the office environment, to whether companies will still bother having their own premises and what would make people want to go there when they are all set up to work from home. The articles appeared on WSP’s Insights page, as well as The Possible microsite, and they were widely shared on social media and republished elsewhere.

As a long-term homeworker, one of the most striking transformations so far is the overnight switch to video calls. To compile the series, I interviewed 50+ experts, getting a glimpse of a dizzying variety of living rooms, spare rooms, home offices and gardens across Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Click the images below to read each article. Graphics by Sam Jenkins at Supermassive Creative.

“If we can’t feed ourselves, then everything else becomes moot”

Food sovereignty and sustainable food systems expert Nick Rose is pioneering urban agriculture in Melbourne. I interviewed him for The Possible issue 06 about why the future of city life depends on it, and created a separate – rather sobering – infographic about food security.

The future of airports

The latest in my series of infographic opuses on the future of the built environment. This time, it’s about airports: how they’re expanding, how they’re being automated, how they’re becoming cities in their own right – and how urban aviation could very soon make cities themselves more like airports.

This was published in issue 04 of The Possible, the thought leadership magazine I edit for WSP, and as a standalone A4 booklet too.

See also: shopping districts, education and the office.

Factories for creativity

Every day millions of people around the world go to one place: the office. Why? Technology has freed knowledge workers from the commute and the cubicle, and no one has their best ideas at their desk – and we’ll all be replaced by robots soon anyway. But the office continues to occupy a hallowed place in the corporate mindset and, if anything, a company’s premises are becoming even more essential to its identity and culture. In this article for issue 03 of The Possible, the thought leadership magazine that my company Wordmule produces for WSP, I explored the future of the workplace in an AI era.

“They looked at me, flabbergasted. They said ‘we never do anything for an entire afternoon’”

Education is a booming sector, thanks to a growing global population with a thirst for knowledge. But how can today’s schools and universities prepare for a world that doesn’t yet exist? In the latest issue of The Possible, the thought leadership magazine my company Wordmule produces for WSP, I compiled this 14-page infographic feature on the many challenges that the Fourth Industrial Revolution presents to educators around the world. What should next-generation learning spaces look like, how can we pay for a transformation on this scale, and how do you teach a digital native anything when they can just Google it?

The Possible: a thought-leadership magazine for WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff

Longstanding client WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff wanted to raise its profile as a thought leader in its chosen fields, so the global marketing team commissioned my company, Wordmule, to produce a new client publication.

The result is “The Possible”, a 68-page print magazine about the future of buildings and cities and the innovative ideas and technologies that can help them function better. It has an initial circulation of 10,000 targeted at a senior audience of architects, developers, contractors, city planners, government agencies and institutes, and building users worldwide.

To inform the magazine’s content, and the company’s thought leadership strategy more broadly, we conducted 30+ in-depth interviews with the company’s clients and partners around the world, as well as speaking to specialists and experts among its 36,000 employees. We then planned, commissioned, wrote and edited the articles, and managed the project throughout, working with creative agency Supermassive and printer Greenshires. The first issue of The Possible was published in November 2016, and the second is due out in spring 2017.

The first issue included articles by a diverse range of global contributors, as well as in-depth features on adapting healthcare and the built environment for an ageing demographic; modular construction and encouraging creativity in the workplace, and a stunning cover illustration by Noma Bar.

Cover of The Possible 01

The new tycoons

I tracked the world’s property wealth to research this infographic for Modus, the magazine of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. By far the greatest concentration is in state hands: the world’s biggest property owners are the growing number of massive sovereign wealth funds and even bigger state pension funds. As of 2015, there were 77 SWFs controlling total assets worth US$7071bn, and by the end of 2013, the world’s 300 largest pension funds held US$14.9trn – two thirds of this in the hands of public institutions. Cross-border investment is an increasingly dominant force across the globe, but especially in London, where three quarters comes from overseas and funds rush from far and wide to cement their wealth in its bricks and mortar. In the capital’s property market, retired American teachers are a surprisingly dominant force, though they face stiff competition from such diverse buyers as Italian insurers, Quebecois developers and future generations of Malaysians…

Modus wealth infographic April 2015

CBRE Law in London report 2015

For the second year running, CBRE asked me to contribute to its Law in London report. I researched and wrote material for 22 pages, which involved interviewing legal firms and crunching CBRE’s own extensive data to identify trends in how the sector is occupying space in the capital. Key issues included the need to maintain flexibility as workload increases but fees don’t, and the perennially thorny topic of whether lawyers could ever be persuaded to hotdesk. (Answer: unlikely.)

CBRE Law in London 2015_cover

CBRE Law in London report 2013

CBRE’s central London research team asked me to write an article on workplace trends among the top 100 legal firms in London – in particular, the gradual but inexorable shift from cellular offices to open-plan. This continues to be a viscerally divisive issue for law firms. For some, it is a chance to break the link between status and square footage and demonstrate that the legal profession has moved with the times. For others, the merest suggestion of the “call centre” prompts dark predictions of the profession’s demise. I spoke to firms on both sides of the divide, as well as leading workplace experts, to write an eight-page feature, which featured in CBRE’s Law in London report for 2013.

CBRE Law in London 2013_cover