Preview: Workplace Wellbeing by Design Online Sessions 14-18 September

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Workplace Wellbeing by Design is a week-long online event during London Design Festival week, 14-18 September, which explores the complex relationship between design and wellbeing in the workplace.

Design and architecture luminaries Thomas Heatherwick, Ab Rogers and HOK’s senior director of workplace Kay Sargent rub shoulders with corporate heavyweights such as Bruce Daisley, the man who developed Twitter for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Cees van der Spek, the communications director of state-of-the-art smart buildings the EDGE, and globally influential workplace theorist Professor Jeremy Myerson of the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the Royal College of Art and the Worktech Academy.

Biometrician and ‘Chief Neuroticism Officer’ Nikita Mikhailov discusses new data-driven biometric techniques for employers and employees, while Martin Dinov, creator of Maaind, uses his deep domain expertise in artificial intelligence, neuroscience, biology and bioinformatics to outline how AI can be harnessed for workplace wellbeing.

The five separate 75-minute sessions on each of the days, starting every day at 3pm BST, are themed around the major issues of workplace design – all of which are being driven not only by digital technologies and changes in work itself, its meanings and the attitudes that define it, but also of course the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Never before have we seen such certain uncertainty amidst a rash of conflicting and overlapping analyses. Each session will be hosted by me – author and design commentator Aidan Walker.

Day One, the Well Workplace 

Deals with design for wellbeing in and of itself, for which there is no better exemplar than Maggie’s Centres. Chief executive Laura Lee explains the organisation’s architectural philosophy and designers Heatherwick and Rogers take us through their latest work for Maggie’s.

Day Two focuses on the Smart Workplace

Led by Dinov and his profound insights into the benefits – and downsides – of AI in personal wellbeing, while van der Spek uncovers the ideas behind the brief for the existing EDGE project in Amsterdam and the new one at London Bridge. People have been talking about – and designing for – psychological diversity, as well as the individual’s control over their physical environment for a generation now. Sensor technology has given a whole new meaning to the smart building and the impact of artificial intelligence is just around the corner. It’s time to take stock and Covid-19 has added currency and urgency to the discussion.

Day Three, the Human / Humane Workplace

Kicks off with the unique and refreshing vision of Andy Swann, whose book The Human Workplace is a standard text for anyone engaged in interior and behavioural design. He is joined by architect Giuseppe Boscherini, ‘Chief Neuroticism Officer’ Nikita Mikhailov and Chapmanbdsp director Ian Duncombe to discuss Psychosocially Supportive Design.

Day Four concentrates on Creativity, Productivity and Diversity

Led by HOK’s Kay Sargent explaining the practice’s sophisticated understanding of how to design for people right across the neuro-divergence spectrum, it calls on Ricoh facilities Workplace Services Director Simone Fenton-Jarvis and Moreysmith principal Linda Morey Burrows, CBRE’s Kate Davies and Art Acumen CEO Catherine Thomas to figure out where creativity ends and productivity starts – and if there is a difference, does it matter?

Day Five simply considers the Future of Work

Which is of course no simple matter. Professor Jeremy Myerson, long established as the lead thinker in this context, delivers the keynote, which then fuels and feeds the thought processes of Dr. Mike O’Neill, Haworth’s lead in Global Workplace Research, and Guy Smith, former design director of WeWork.

All sessions end with panel discussions and Q&A, and on each day an online poll will be held canvassing the opinions of the audience.

The conference, is organised by the creators of the MAD World Summit with Dezeen as the media partner.

Registration is £25 for all five sessions, with profits donated to cancer support charity Maggie’s.

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For the full agenda, visit the event’s website.

About the author

Aidan Walker is Programme Director, Workplace Wellbeing by Design

Aidan’s MA in History from Cambridge University was a highly appropriate education, he claims, for his ‘first career’ in furniture design and cabinetmaking – itself an admirable preparation for 20 years of writing for, editing and directing design magazines. He has editorially directed almost all the professional UK design magazines, including FX, Blueprint, Design, Grand Designs, icon and onoffice. As Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and director of Aidan Walker Associates, he now creates, curates, presents and chairs conference and seminar programmes such as ‘Art for Tomorrow’ for The New York Times and the conference programmes for the London Design Festival’s Global Design Forum, Design Shanghai, Design China Beijing, Grand Designs Live and Workplace Wellbeing by Design. He is also Content Director of culture travel channel Leading Culture Destinations and its related awards scheme.

Aidan has practised Hatha Yoga, including a spell teaching, all his adult life, and in his 20s spent six years as a fully dedicated member of the Brahma Kumaris, living and teaching the principles of Raja Yoga – 100% celibacy, 4am meditation 365 days a year, ‘in the world but not of it’. This led to the publication of his book ‘The Ecology of the Soul – Peace, Power and Personal Growth for Real People in the Real World’ in 2016. His new book ‘Furniture in Architecture: Luke Hughes & Arts & Crafts in the Digital Age’ is published in April 2020, and he is working on ‘Mindful Design – Principles and Practice’, combining his experience in the creative and professional world with a lifetime of meditation and mindfulness – long before it was fashionable.

Aidan lives in rural Sussex with his family, his dog, his Ducati racing motorbike and his guitars.


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