The World’s Most Average Workplaces 2014

surveysA new survey report published this week by ‘The Institute of Activities’ has revealed that the worlds 25 most average workplaces have much in common.

The report states that the highest ranked workplaces are visually characterized by a number of recognizable features; their low rent densely packed open plan bench desking, white walls, mineral fibre ceiling tiles, grey floorcoverings, and seating in the corporate colours of the company logo.

To qualify for top 25 ranking in the prestigious ‘average’ section of the institutes annual survey, employees in the businesses surveyed should physically work very closely together; sit in near silence, and in an atmosphere of fear mingled with humility and hope. “Much like the passengers of a jet landing in a storm at night” as the CEO of one surveyed firm put it.

Also, organizations in the survey were singled out for their offices limited daylight or aspect to the outside world, although fluorescent strip lighting was noted as plentiful in each workplace. Most of which worked intermittently in a range of whites from blue to the red end of the spectrum. On a related point, 50% or greater of employees in the organizations surveyed had to complain of stress, headaches and respiratory conditions in order to make it into the top 25.

Professor Guff-Smith who supervised the survey and report has said “In order to achieve top 5 ranking this year, the organizations listed have demonstrated an impressive array of inconsistent short term draconian policies that support a total disregard for individual autonomy or self expression by employees, including a complete ban on social media, and for instance, limited timed access to what surveyed executives referred to as the ‘Electric Interweb Machine’.”

Jacque Le Mac, CEO of Misinformation Inc. ranked 1st in this years survey has said “We recognize that it’s not enough to give everyone a one metre wide strip of work surface; Its imperative not only to restrict legroom but also communication with colleagues and the outside world as much as possible. We must maintain the delicate balance between investment in the workplace, our people and profitability, whilst maintaining large annual dividends. Therefore we find it eminently sensible and easier to encourage our people to remain at their desk all day and every day.”

“We used to let our employees walk around the office freely and meet with colleagues face to face, but we had too many health and safety incidents. Folks were walking into each other or worse, walking into the walls, and causing a facilities management nightmare.” Le Mac also said “We even piloted that home working thing for a while, but nobody seemed to come back to the office after they started daily reruns of The Rockford Files on BBC2. We thought a form of ‘Hot Desking’ or booking free space would work too, but soon discovered the unpaid interns were in league with the mail room boys and were selling the unoccupied desks to any takers off the back of the goods-in bay.”

Mr Le Mac continued “Forgive me, I digress, there are activity based working (ABW) policies we do encourage at Misinformation Inc. and that’s to take advantage of the twice daily permitted toilet breaks, and at lunchtime we recommend the excellent burger van facility only 17 minutes brisk walk from the executive car park. Equally by locating our offices in a business park setting at least 30 minutes walk from the nearest transport links, cafes and retail outlets we actively encourage our employees to remain fit and healthy, if not a little tired from time to time, but our people value the sense of teamwork, security and belonging that comes with a highly structured and disciplined environment.” Mr Le Mac added, “With the improvements in speed and efficiency of our internal network, nobody ever has to leave their desk to attend a meeting, or chat with colleagues in person, never mind leave the office. He concluded, “It’s very efficient you know!”

28-year-old Wilma Jones, Misinformation Inc.’s longest serving employee was quoted as saying in the comments section of her 10-page ‘Most Average Workplaces’ survey questionnaire;

I have been asked to say, I have had 12 long happy weeks at Misinformation Inc. I never thought that after qualifying with a degree in Economics and an MBA in Business Analytics that I would be where I am now. I had been job-hunting for 6 years following my graduation, and in this very challenging post recession economy it was more than a little character building, I can tell you. I have however, now found my perfect job in my perfect workplace. Life has never been better for my colleagues or me, and we are so grateful to work in such a sinister well-managed environment in an atmosphere of complete trust and openness. We all work in the open and as our manager can see us all the time, he really trusts us.”

Professor Guff-Smiths’ next project at ‘The Institute of Activities’ will be to examine the business psychology behind balancing false-economics and ecological imperatives in the retail sector. He will conduct the first detailed study into the combined number of supermarket carrier bags actually needed to perform the intended function of one. His white paper will be entitled  ‘Do you want me to double those up’.

Post gratefully inspired by the good folks at @InsightOnWork who posted a great little commentary article linking to the strange and apocryphal source publication The Worlds Best Multinational Workplaces.

ChromaNet – 1. The Chromatagon

It is 3.59am, June 18, 2084. Having just shifted from laying on his left to his right side, Mike Sand had once again become immediately aware of an array of interconnected monochromatic patterns filling his entire field of view, or were they in colour? He wasn’t quite sure. He didn’t know what he was witnessing. He momentarily observed shapes in white, orange, red, blue and green, but then all the colour merged in an instant leaving only white lines, forming 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional shapes, he had never seen or imagined before. The thin white lines formed a myriad beautiful fixed patterns before his eyes, they seemed to undulate gently upward, downward, and slowly from side to side, as if they were being drafted by an invisible force upon a vast heaving black ocean, which spanned the horizon as far as he could see, into a silent clear but moonless night.

Mike Sand thought the sky and the ocean, and the very air itself was now composed of floating white iridescent wireframe line patterns. He could almost see definable structure and form, but the patterns never formed up long enough to create an identifiable or familiar object or form.

Was he asleep or awake? Whether Mike Sand was asleep and dreaming or conscious and aware, he was transfixed by this beautiful display of indefinable shapes filling the dark void in which he found himself. ‘How wonderful!’ he thought at first, breathing slowly and quietly, lest the shapes became aware of his presence, and vanished.

It was as if he had floated weightless into a state of hitherto unknown consciousness, which was about to reveal to him the true nature of the universe and all it’s forms of energy. It’s design; it’s purpose, its beauty and its infinite possibilities. He was convinced he was beginning to see the basic building blocks of everything. It briefly occurred to him that he and this universe might indeed be the product of someone else’s subtle but complex creative vision; perhaps brought about by a technology so far unimagined by the human race. It was a revelation to Mike. It was both exciting and frightening, and it was sadly his subconscious fear that had awoken him moments before all the hidden secrets of the cosmos and life itself were revealed to him.

With no more than a little disappointment however, as though he had anticipated it, he quietly mumbled under his breath ‘Oh well, back to reality’. It was five more hours until network login at ‘Project 8’, and Mike resented being awake at 4am, especially for what seemed like the one-hundredth day in a row.

A ‘Red’ level Archon from ChromaNet had initially approached Mike seven years earlier to work on ‘Project 8’ when he was only fourteen years old. It’s extremely rare that any ‘Red’ on the Chromatagon will deign to interact with a ‘Green’ in any context. Especially one as young as fourteen, but to have been requested to train and work on ‘Project 8’ by a ‘Red’ and even more remarkable, a council ‘Archon’, was even more of a revelation. In fact it was unheard of at the time.

Mike’s mother had been immensely proud, and when his Father Jack is woken from cryogenic stasis in 3 days time on June 21st, he’ll doubtless be extremely proud too. His ship, the ‘Northern Star’ will have completed the journey to the Alpha Centauri B system in less than 7 years. Twice as far and four times as fast as any previous ChromaNet data mapping mission.

Archons, it should be noted are the most senior ChromaNet councillors, and network thought leaders, and are elected for a minimum seven-year term by their ‘Red’ level peers, or at least those already sitting on the ‘ChromaNet’ council. The council itself consists of 27 elected ‘Red’ members representing all global districts. Only ‘Reds’ are permitted to participate in council elections, in fact it’s mandatory.

Mike, then as now was blissfully unaware of his immense potential. His gregarious and generous personality had often inhibited his capacity for what most would define as achievement. He was a sucker for fun and frivolous distraction when it suited him, and he delighted in a more personal definition of achievement.

It’s common knowledge upon graduating to level ‘Blue’ from ‘Green’ at age 21, that you can interact with anyone else on ‘ChromaNet’, no matter what their designation on the four colour ‘Chromatagon’. You could still interact with a younger ‘green’, or youthful twenty something ‘Blue’ like Mike, or an adult ‘Violet’ of 35 years plus or an older and wiser ‘Red’, who were typically 49 years and over.

Although, there were exceptions to all ‘ChromaNet’ designations on the ‘Chromatagon’ scale. It just depended upon four key factors. Firstly, your age which was categorized as either under 21 (Green), 21 – 35 (Blue), 35 – 49 (Violet) and 49+ (Red). Secondly, your DNA markers, any tested faults indicating unreliability mentally or physically? Namely, were you likely to develop any diseases later in life, or were you genetically prone to violence or addictive behaviours? Thirdly, but arguably most importantly, your intelligence rating defined by ‘ChromaNet’ standard neural testing, and lastly your educational attainment through the ‘ChromaNet’ learning regime.

Following Mike’s initial three year ‘ChromaNet’ project 8 induction training, he had now been working full time as a design tech for four years as a ‘Green’, and as today was his birthday he was intrigued to know what new knowledge and insights would be revealed, if any, at 9am, when he moved up the ‘Chromatagon’ scale to designation ‘Blue’.

He needed to calm himself down, and stop thinking about the new possibilities afforded by the higher network colour designation. It was dawning on him what the source of his weird dreaming might have been.

Mike looked toward the opposite end of his long curved living space, raised his head and his voice and stated clearly, purposefully and without hesitation; ‘Music: Bowie, Track: Moonage Daydream’. In less time than takes to breath in and out once, the rich sharp emphatic opening chords played out as if ‘Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars’ were actually in the room. The energy and expansive sound filled the entire apartment.

Mike swivelled upright in his bed, and ran his right hand, with fingers outstretched over the top of his head and through his shoulder length dark brown hair, resting the palm of his hand on the back of his neck, which he squeezed once to relieve a little muscle tension, and at the same time placed his feet on the dark oak floorboards, which felt cool against his warm feet. The sensation was soothing. The gentle hum of the air conditioning can be heard in the background. He clenched his toes for a second or two before standing up in his black briefs, and walked slowly, tilting his head left and right, which satisfyingly caused two distinct but muffled cracking sounds. He shuffled his warm feet across the cool wooden floor; and sauntered through the open plan space toward the kitchen. He sat on one of the four white leather stools at the curved breakfast bar, which was facing the window and courtyard below, and hunched forward, wearily and bleary eyed, he lay his sleepy head in his left hand.

While moving his left heel up and down in unison with the music. Without thinking, he also tapped out the slow steady beat with the outstretched fingers of his right hand as if the muscles on his right thigh were a tightly tuned drum. He mouthed the lyrics without singing until the song reached the spacey enigmatic chorus, which he blasted out at the top his voice;

‘Keep your ‘lectric eye on me babe’

‘Put your ray-gun to my head’

‘Press your space face close to mine, love’

‘freakout in a moonage daydream…Oh Yeah!’

It soothed Mike’s anxious early morning sleepy thoughts to concentrate on the music for a few moments. He knew it would inject him with enough ambient energy to kick start his day. He often relied upon music to raise himself up or calm down and reflect.

Lost in thought, he glanced out of the south facing kitchen window in front of him, and cast an eye across the apartments on the other side of the communal gardens. The eight-storey block of 144 apartments was planned in a long smooth curve, arcing from left to right, and emanating from a central circular core. The mathematical geometry proportioned to follow the ‘Fibonacci’ number sequence, notably found in nature.

This is a number sequence pattern that begins with 0 or 1, where the next number in the sequence is the sum of the previous two numbers. Namely; 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,24,55,89,144 etc. A good visual example would be the arrangement of seeds on a sunflower, or the beautiful symmetrical structure seen in seashells, and even aurally in a more subtle form, such as the tonal composition of the most highly structured music, such as in a Bach Partita.

Nobody ever asked why the community hub blocks were always built in this shape, or indeed why the central mega hubs were built to the same design, albeit on an altogether much larger scale. It was beautiful to look at, and unarguably space, light and energy efficient. That’s just the way it was, and everyone accepted the uniformity.

Each individual block in plan view was designed as if one of three blades on a propeller, each linked into a circular lobby and services core, and served by three lifts and a staircase. The three apartment blocks or blades of the propeller were separated from the next by a carefully maintained Japanese influenced garden.

There were eighteen living spaces per floor, across eight floors, arranged around three central landscaped gardens. The gardens were composed of undulating well maintained lawns, flower beds of white, yellow and orange roses, silver birch trees and an ornamental fountain set within a shallow black polished granite pool. The circular pools in each of the three gardens, adjacent to the entrance lobby were the focal point for five long curved oak benches, and were arranged to architecturally follow the same gently curved shape of the glass fronted apartment buildings. Internally, the lobby floors were laid out in dark oak floorboards, with cream coloured plaster walls. Although, the curved wall facing the open oak staircase was in fact a full height ‘Luminos’ view screen running ChromaNet ads 24/7.

The first glowing nano post Mike noticed displayed in the glass of the upper left apartment opposite was ‘Did anyone see episode 73 of ‘The Field’ last night, I missed it?’. Mike smiled to himself and made a quiet grunting snort as he laughed inwardly, ‘What a loser!’ before shaking his head from side to side in disapproval. He then cast his eyes down a level and across three apartments to a window that displayed ‘Got to get up at 5am tomorrow’. Mike raised his eyebrows and acted out a fake shiver for his own personal amusement. He struggled with the small hours of the morning. Anything from 4am to 7am, he felt that these hours were so offensive that he couldn’t bring himself to even say them out loud, and he stopped anyone else mid sentence should they utter any time close to sunrise. He was more a self-confessed afternoon person or more accurately a night owl, and unashamedly a member of the ‘Parliament of Owls’.

He looked at the ‘Luminos’ screen in the centre of the apartment, which was formed of a continuous thin blue-white line of laser light. It was as thin as the edge of a sheet of paper. It ran discreetly and neatly across the floor, running the width of the apartment, up one wall, across the ceiling and down the opposite wall, meeting seamlessly at the floor again. It was always on, mostly running ads of the same type run on the lobby screen. Ironically, an annual contract to ChromaNet for network connection and services was 90% cheaper if you opted to have the always on function enabled, although you could mute the volume and dim the light level at night, between 9.00pm and 7.00am.

Mike spoke aloud, ‘Display time’.

In the centre of the room, two-foot high green numerals phased up. The time was superimposed upon the current broadcast, an advertisement, which was the case more often than not.

‘Upgrade your Chromachip to the new C7S before the compulsory rollout on August 1st and earn 10,000 bonus bits towards an early Chromatagon upgrade’. ‘Experience the fulfilling wonder of new knowledge, new connections and new friends on a higher colour designation’. ‘With a voluntary 7S upgrade, you won’t have to worry about anymore cumbersome or time consuming verbal instructions on ChromaNet’. ‘Benefit from our new 24/7 ‘always-on’ two-way communication to the network’. ‘If your busy concentrating at work, talking to friends online, or watching an old movie, even sleeping or just relaxing, the new Chromachip 7S works silently and instantly accessing not only your conscious choices like previous ChromaChips, but also for the first time your memories and subconscious too’.

‘No more forgotten facts or personal memories, no more struggling to find the right words to express yourself’. ‘You think it, ChromaNet supplies it’. Like every ChromaNet ad it always ended with the softly spoken words of the corporate mission:

‘ChromaNet, Your Rainbow of Possibilities’.

The phased up clock numerals were semi transparent but clearly defined and easily readable. Their green hue cast a light without a shadow upon the dark wooden floor, giving it the impression of glowing violet, lilac and purple. The numbers read 04:03.03am, 04:03.04am, 04:03.05am, and then faded out again as quickly as they had appeared.

The 30 second long ChromaNet advert continued to run in a loop, as it had done for 5 minutes at the start of every hour on every comm channel and ‘luminos’ device.

Mike couldn’t help but think he was increasingly uncomfortable about the forthcoming cerebral chip upgrade. He had initially considered getting the early upgrade from his old C6 chip when the ad campaign started back in January, but with one thing and another it had slipped his mind, ironically. As winter became spring, and spring became summer he had been focussing on other things, and considered it less and less important. Besides, the local community med-centre would install it by legal mandate after August 1st. Although 10,000 free bits toward an early ‘Chromatagon’ upgrade would be nice. He felt that he was banking a good amount of credits through his exam results and ChromaNet project work.

The truth is that Mike wasn’t entirely convinced that a permanent two-way network chip installed in his brain was as good an idea as the ads had been making out. There was no doubt that he had found the C6 chip extremely useful over the past three years. He had been happy to access ChromaNet in a conscious one-way choice scenario, through thought alone. However, a compulsory two-way connection with no off function, even if it were running in the background, made him feel instinctively ill at ease. If not downright worried. So far he had managed to dismiss any thoughts of it actually happening.

Given there was only 6 more weeks until the end of the voluntary upgrade period on August 1st, and then the 7 day warning period before ChromaNet cut him off from the network. Mike found himself forced to confront the long-term reality of a lifetime literally being a living part of ChromaNet at a neural level.

© Adrian McNeece 2014