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Workplace Blog

A blog of all things workplace related (when I get time).

© Oseland 2011

My Path to Workplace Consulting

WorkPosted by Oseland Fri, January 11, 2013 12:33:36

Workplace Consulting is a relatively new and specialist profession. Based on the description provided by the Workplace Consulting Organisation (WCO), it appears to be:

“using a range of techniques, including engagement with the business and end user, to gather data that will determine an organisation’s requirements for their current or future working environments”.

There is no formal training in Workplace Consulting, no Masters courses nor accreditation. Even determining the basic criteria for who qualifies to call themselves a Workplace Consultant proved difficult for the Workplace Consulting Organisation, see their website for more details. I am therefore fascinated by how people came to work in Workplace Consulting. I know fellow consultants who have entered the profession via architecture, design, HR, FM and IT. Below is the story of my journey into the Wonderful World of Workplace Consulting.

It all started way back at school. I was all set to do A Levels in physics, chemistry, maths and applied maths - I was a serial scientist. But then I went to a careers fair where I learned about the field of Physiological Measurement. They offered two years training and a college qualification but more importantly they paid people to do the course. I applied immediately and was accepted onto the programme.

I spent the next two years working in and around Birmingham hospitals in various “ology” departments - audiology, cardiology, radiology and electro-encephalography etc I successfully completed the course and this gave me the opportunity to move to London and work at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the Neurology department. Most of the work involved monitoring brain activity in patients undergoing deep invasive surgery such as amputations and open heart surgery. One of my fondest memories is seeing a human heart exposed and beating – it is quite a magical site. But I also started working with a whacky Californian psychologist. I monitored the brain activity and heart rate of people undergoing psychotherapy. My interest in psychology grew and motivated me to study psychology at Keele University back in the midlands. My main interest at university was in what was then called "man-machine interaction".

Well I got my degree then moved back down south to the Building Research Establishment in Watford. There I worked for the Human Factors section researching the impact of environmental conditions (temperature, noise, space etc), on satisfaction, comfort and performance. Research involving observing people in their home and office is quite voyeuristic. I spent 11 years at the BRE and managed to find time to gain my Masters and Doctorate degree. Happy times but I felt I couldn't spend my whole life researching and theorising - I needed to go out into the real world and apply what I had learned.

Fortunately I was offered a consulting post at Johnson Controls. Initially the role was to critically evaluate buildings and their impact on occupant satisfaction and performance. But this soon turned into working with designers and applying my knowledge to create new cost-effective and productive workplaces in places such as the Shetland Isles, Algeria and Singapore. Without realising it, I had become a Workplace Consultant.

I then worked with an architectural practice (SHCA) advising many international companies throughout Europe and Africa. I spent much of my time working in Nigeria planning offices, a hotel, housing and an airport – that was until I was evacuated by helicopter due to a violent demonstration. I then worked with a niche workplace consulting practice (AMA). We mostly worked with public sector bodies such as the British Council who I advised in Dubai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Eventually I joined the world’s largest workplace consulting practice – DEGW. Over a 15 year period I honed my skills and knowledge, evantually becoming internationally recognised in the field of Workplace Consulting.

I was so proud of my new profession that I co-founded the Workplace Consulting Organisation - a professional body for us specialist consultants. I have also now set up my own consulting practice Workplace Unlimited.

So I spent just over half my career in training and research and the remainder in workplace consulting. It’s been a long journey, and I’m still learning, but a worthwhile one. Contact me to learn more about a career in the Wonderful World of Workplace Consulting or contact the WCO directly. Also please comment on how you got into Workplace Consulting and why.

This blog is based on my CC1 presentation to Toastmasters.

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Posted by Oseland Tue, January 22, 2013 17:18:19

Thanks Ellen. I put you down in my camp i.e. psychology based.

Posted by Ellen Bruce Keable Sat, January 19, 2013 13:16:57

My path shifted from Urban Planning at University of California at Berkeley to environment-behavior studies when I read a post-occupancy evaluation by Clare Cooper Marcus. Took her course, and others by Galen Cranz on architecture and human behavior and I was hooked. Studied architecture at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee concentrating on environment-behavior research. My career has been guided by great mentors, first Robert Shibley and Lynda Schneekloth in Buffalo then BOSTI to work with Mike Brill for almost 20 years doing workplace research as well as consulting where we invented hoteling in the early 90s. Now I'm in a consulting practice at Jacobs, a huge engineering and design firm, expanding workplace consulting to include full building cycle activities, particularly change management, FM operations, and portfolio strategies.