29 July, 2018

Feeling the heat?

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy—or so they say. In reality, emerging from the long summer months fully recharged takes some skill. We’re here to help you be prepared. Head on down to “On Our Minds” for PLASTARC’s Summer Survival Guide.

On our minds

The dog days are upon us in the Northern Hemisphere. We’d love to be whiling away the afternoons under a shade tree somewhere, sipping iced tea and listening to Sade. But alas, we must soldier on. Sweltering heat and midday malaise can make summer feel like a slog, but like your own personal Bear Grylls, we’re here to help you through. This is PLASTARC’s Summer Survival Guide.

Maintain your body temperature

In any survival situation, maintaining your core temperature is key. Many office-dwellers find themselves in constant discomfort during the summer months; business culture demands that some of us wear three-piece-suits—and set the AC accordingly—leaving folks who dressed for the season shivering. When we go outside, the tables are turned and the suit-wearers get to sweat, a situation only getting worse with global warming.

Historical and cultural forces make this very difficult to change, but we should try. Aside from the substantial environmental cost of overcooling our offices, it’s a drain on well-being. There is also evidence that bumping the temperature up a few degrees can actually help with performance. Let’s consider a dress code that prioritizes comfort and performance. The clothing designs and fabrics we choose also directly influence how we feel at work. While choosing sensory-focused yoga pants might be a stretch, let’s find a middle ground. Adopting a more West Coast office style might be the perfect solution.

Investing in technology that allows each person to customize the environment for their comfort can also pay dividends year round. Our friends at Comfy, which puts workplace comfort right in the name, just announced that they’re joining forces with Siemens. Proof that leading companies are taking this issue seriously, and that mobile enabled comfort managment is more than a trend.

Eliminate distractions

You’ll need to be able to focus on whatever challenges the day throws at you, and noise can be a big distraction. In fact, it’s one of the biggest distractions in our built environments. You could just put on headphones, but this tells colleagues that you’re focusing on individual work, and can cause you to miss opportunities to contribute. One cool alternative is a wearable speaker system. Something like this is great for those days you need to power through a post-lunch lull with some summer jams, but don’t want to shut out what’s happening around you.

Keep your spirits up

Morale is critical. If you’ve got the summertime blues, try to find ways to increase your activity level. This can be as simple as taking your lunch to a nearby park to soak up some health-boosting sunshine or take in some stress-relieving natural views. You can bring it to the next level by integrating movement into work itself. We’re big fans of the trend toward Activity-Based Working, which can inject little bits of activity into your day.

Use your surroundings

Work with your teammates to take advantage of your environment. What’s around the corner from your office, or across the street? You might be surprised to find there’s a museum you’ve never visited, or a free summer concert series. Be the community manager that every office needs, and lead a field trip. Ask colleagues to join you on one of those slow summer afternoons to build comradery and learn a bit.

It’s a great time to socialize with colleagues, too. Why not have a BBQ? A little fresh air and food can help build relationships. A keen listener will also find out how people really feel about what’s happening at work. As a colleague recently observed, the true measure of workplace experience is what people say in BBQ conversation. WeWork, by the way, has been having its own BBQ conversation.

Let nature support you

Your surroundings don’t have to be your enemy. A quick, easy, and cheap way to add some life to your office is also tried and true: add some plants. It’s not just about decoration. Simply seeing natural patterns can reduce stress. It’s an opportunity to practice caring for something, and a rejuvenating reminder of the natural world we are so often separated from. If you don’t like feeling tied down, the plants don’t even have to be real to generate real benefits. Even looking at images of simulated greenery throughout your day can help you focus. If you want to think bigger, look for ways to integrate biophilic design into your office.

Be prepared

Make sure you’re equipped for anything. A few affordable gadgets, like a mobile document scanner, can turn a laptop into a fully functional office. A growing number of jobs can be done remotely, at least some of the time. Yours might be one where a bit of flexibility might be allowed. Play your cards right, and people might not even know you’re gone.

Know when to run

Sometimes the best thing to do is get as far away as possible...for a few days. The amount of unused vacation time in the US should worry anyone who thinks about workplace health and sustainability. For a few years, it seemed understandable (if still lamentable) that Americans weren’t taking vacation due to the stresses of the Great Recession.

A recent study reveals that this trend actually began in the late 90’s, right around the time the Internet started connecting us to work all the time, everywhere. While there are many factors, the study points to disapproval from managers and colleagues as a key reason. In the absence of encouragement, many people are assuming that time away is discouraged. (Proof that absence of a policy, is not really a good policy.) Are you taking time to really disconnect? If there are people who report to you, have you told them to do the same?

Hang in there

As hard as it may seem, summer will be over before we know it. In the few weeks that remain, make sure you’re getting rest and having the fun you need to feel recharged for the rest of the year.

From the archives

Summer is a great time to take note of elements of your environment that aren’t working for you. A year ago, we shared a few takeaways from our collaborative research with West Elm on ways to "unoffice" the office. For more, you can also dig into our full findings.

We believe great workplaces can do more than drive top line performance. They should enrich the lives of the people in them and contribute positively to our communities. Back in 2013, we talked about the need for companies to measure themselves by the Triple Bottom Line, making wellness and sustainability first-order concerns.

In Case You Missed It

Summer’s a busy time! Don’t sweat it if you missed these recent events and writings.

Ergonomics for Agile Workplace

Professor Alan Hedge of Cornell's Human Factors and Ergonomics Lab discussed the role of ergonomics in today's flexible workplaces.

PLASTARC advises Verizon on new Singapore Facility

Incorporating strategic input from PLASTARC, and partnership with Justco, Verizon opened an open innovation center in Singapore.

Bring Life to the Office

Varis Niwatsakul reflects on emerging trends at NeoCon and ICFF this summer, and what they mean for workplace.


We traveled to the City of Lights to make a case for multisensory design in the workplace.

Culture Camp

Anthropologist Grant McCracken spoke about the opportunities businesses miss when they undervalue culture.

Lighting with People in Mind

Preeminent lighting designers discussed the surprising ways that lighting carries symbolic meaning about the environment.

Looking Ahead

It’s a great time of year to get out in the world. Here’s a sampling of our late summer plans.

Data 4 Good Exchange

Participants from across industry, government and academia share insights on applying machine learning and data science methods to social issues. (We made it on stage back in 2016.) Hosted by Bloomberg, September 16 in New York.

ANFA 2018 Conference

Explore the neuroscience behind the human experience of architecture, both exterior and interior. We'll be presenting on the best of next generation amenities. Hosted by the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture in La Jolla, CA, September 20-22.

CMX Summit

CMX Summit seeks to expand the discussion around strategies, techniques and tactics for building community across both digital and physical environments. Hosted by CMX in Portland, OR, October 1-3.

IFMA World Workplace

Join this global event, and don't miss our presentation on Building Awareness: What It Means When Facilities Become "People Literate". Hosted by IFMA in Charlotte, NC, October 5.