Consulting is a relatively new and specialist profession. Based on the description
provided by the Workplace Consulting Organisation
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

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.