Posts tagged trading desk
Can better trading floor environments mitigate stress?
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A team from Gensler conducted secondary research to identify opportunities for design to improve the health and well-being of traders, addressing issues of stress and poor decision-making often associated with today’s trading environments. The goal was to explore the neurological and biological considerations relevant to the financial workplace, alongside progressive ergonomic, technological, and design strategies relevant to creating healthier and more effective trading environments.

This study stemmed from the following factors. Financial trading ranks among the most high-pressure and stressful knowledge worker occupations. With success or failure hinging on the traders’ ability to instantaneously process, analyze, and react to multiple and increasingly fast-paced streams of information, debilitating stress and high burnout rates have become all but endemic for traders, a startling state for a profession where most workers are only in their 20s or 30s.

A typical trader’s workday begins long before market opening with research and preparation, and extends long after closing, recapping the day’s efforts and planning for the next. While the market is open, turnaround times for trades are often measured in seconds or even milliseconds, with traders performing a delicate balancing act between risk taking and risk avoidance. One wrong decision or even an incorrect keystroke can spell disaster.

But change is on the horizon. The financial crisis still looms large over Wall Street, causing firms to question industry and company norms. With clients seeking change, Gensler’s research project is a critical step in helping trading firm clients redefine both their workplace and, in turn, their work culture.

By understanding the current physical characteristics of trading floors and the potential to map behavior and space, financial firms can redesign these environments to mitigate stress, shape positive behavior, and break the risk cycle. The potential rewards are profound. It is not just the health and well-being of traders at stake, but in many ways the health of financial markets themselves.

Gensler discovered that while the technology and increasingly high-pressure processes of trading have changed drastically in the digital age, the trading floor itself has seen little workplace design innovation. In contrast to the dramatic changes in other corporate workplaces, trading floors remain defined by dense, unvarying linear layouts more akin to a factory or production floor. These layouts ignore the potential benefits of more progressive workplace strategies characterized by openness and collaborative spaces, support of focus, and variety of work settings.

To begin the research, Gensler identified broad areas in which the physical trading floor environment might help improve the employee experience. From that initial list, three topics revealed themselves as having the strongest potential for positive impact: control, sensory stimuli, and behavioral ergonomics. Additional factors to consider include acoustics, amenities, density, indoor air quality, lighting, lines of sight, mobility, and temperature/humidity.

With this in mind, Gensler drew the following conclusions. Control of the physical environment may mitigate risk-seeking behavior. Traders are prime candidates for “control illusions” in their daily practices. They are prone to seek and over-estimate their control of the market—the greater this feeling of control, the worse their performance. We are exploring the possibility that familiarity and certainty within the immediate work environment may reduce the need to control the uncontrollable.

Curate sensory stimuli to minimize stress, rather than amplify it. The quality of light and sound cause physical reactions that affect performance and cognitive state. Prolonged exposure to fluorescent lighting in the absence of natural light is associated with dampened moods, a particular problem for traders working long hours. Views and sight-lines also impact experience, especially when providing connections to nature.

Consider posture carefully. Proper posture has been shown to improve cognitive function, emotional disposition, and decision-making. Open or expansive postures may even improve confidence and minimize errors. This improved confidence does come with a caveat—open postures are also associated with increased levels of risk and dishonesty.

Originally published in Gensler’s Design Thinking section, 2015. 

Expert Series Part II: Can trading desk design affect productivity of the trader?

by Bruce Wells, Director of Marketing & DevelopmentimageLast month, I shared some thoughts on what furniture manufacturers are (or are not) doing to deliver productivity benefits to high pressure, high performance employees (traders) in dense, open plan trading room environments. I concluded that for the most part, the limited list of trading desk manufacturers have primarily developed their products to accommodate the IT personnel who service the product. Additionally, a single direction trend to compete on cost has resulted in value engineering to the point where the bulk of the market for trading desks is essentially mature and commoditized. As a result, many trading desks are being specified at a baseline quality level with little to offer in terms of end user benefit (beyond a 60x30 worktop with the same cable and technology management features that have been in place since the 90’s). Though adjustable height work surfaces that allow traders to stand while working is a significant contributor towards enhancing productivity, the reality is that height adjustability was introduced into trading desk design as much, if not more so, for the IT servicing benefit.

In the past few years, our efforts at Innovant to position ourselves apart from competition in a maturing, commodity-like market were focused on dominating the higher end of the market; essentially attracting clients seeking a sophisticated, tailored aesthetic with high quality detailing. It has paid dividends in terms of revenue, but working with more quality- and performance-conscience clients has also provided Innovant’s team with significant insight on design considerations that may deliver productivity benefits to the traders.  

One “high” hurdle question that has been raised is “Can the furniture and technology support at the desk quickly morph the personal environment for the trader from open, interactive and collaborative to closed, concentrative and focused?” The grid-like, high density space planning of most trading floors combined with multi-tier monitor arrays has all but killed the line-of-sight communication and collaboration that the trading floor was intended to deliver in the first place.  

I offered an idea to a friend of mine who trades at a prominent Wall Street bank, “What if the entire trading desk, complete with CPU, phone and display technology could rotate in situ somehow?”  We used business cards on a tabletop to represent the footprint of a trading desk in a common cluster and started rotating them at different angles to see how possible visual sightlines could open up across a room, or how privacy could be accomplished by “cocooning” to achieve better focus.   He loved the idea, but it became clear that the conflicts of rotating rectangles created big problems in terms of practicality. The answer may lie in a radical rethink of how a trading desk is engineered, opening up the concept of separating the raceway, technology supports and displays into free standing elements that can move independently of one another. My colleagues in the Innovant rendering department will be the first to help me conceptualize this. Stay tuned.

Innovant Trading desk in New York Times Article “In New Office Designs, Room to Roam and to Think” see featured image   
 
 Ms. Choe, a former member of the City Council here, is the foundation’s chief administrative officer, and she had considerable input in the building’s design. One objective from the start was to give the 1,000 employees a variety of spaces to accommodate different kinds of work. “There’s a recognition that we work in different modes, and we’ve designed spaces to accommodate them,” she says. “I think one of the lessons is to understand your business, and understand what your people need to do their best work.” 
 The building was designed by  NBBJ, a 700-employee architecture firm  whose largest operation is in Seattle. The structure is a culmination of ideas about the 21st-century workplace that NBBJ has been exploring in corporate office designs worldwide, including its own offices here. 
 These are the main concepts: Buzz — conversational noise and commotion — is good. Private offices and expressions of hierarchy are of debatable value. Less space per worker may be inevitable for cost-effectiveness, but it can enhance the working environment, not degrade it. Daylight, lots of it, is indispensable. Chance encounters yield creative energy. And mobility is essential. 
 
   http://nyti.ms/wSy1SF

Innovant Trading desk in New York Times Article “In New Office Designs, Room to Roam and to Think” see featured image

Ms. Choe, a former member of the City Council here, is the foundation’s chief administrative officer, and she had considerable input in the building’s design. One objective from the start was to give the 1,000 employees a variety of spaces to accommodate different kinds of work. “There’s a recognition that we work in different modes, and we’ve designed spaces to accommodate them,” she says. “I think one of the lessons is to understand your business, and understand what your people need to do their best work.”

The building was designed by NBBJ, a 700-employee architecture firm whose largest operation is in Seattle. The structure is a culmination of ideas about the 21st-century workplace that NBBJ has been exploring in corporate office designs worldwide, including its own offices here.

These are the main concepts: Buzz — conversational noise and commotion — is good. Private offices and expressions of hierarchy are of debatable value. Less space per worker may be inevitable for cost-effectiveness, but it can enhance the working environment, not degrade it. Daylight, lots of it, is indispensable. Chance encounters yield creative energy. And mobility is essential.

http://nyti.ms/wSy1SF

TRADING PLACES

Join ESD’s Joe Du Temple and Charlie Du Temple, in the Innovant Showroom for an AIA Continuing Education Class that addresses how seemingly small decisions involving technology direction can have a significant impact on design and constructability. Using trading fi rms as an example, the class reviews deployed technologies and how they drive MEP systems, construction and space planning.

Hosted by Innovant, the evening promises to be interesting and educational. Whether you are a veteran trading fi rm designer experienced with the unique requirements of trading fi rms or are becoming familiar with these cutting edge environments, this class provides background and fresh insight.

RSVP to Laura Finn at lfinn@esdglobal.com 312  456  2312

Innovant Showroom is Located at 440 N. Wells, Suite 310  Chicago IL 60654  

ph 646 368 6254

Download the Invitation>