Director of Work

The (not far) Away Day (part 2)

by Paul Carder on May 8, 2017

by @paulcarder (with contributions from @therealsulim)

If you have read the story so far, in Part 1, three managers met at the bar of a corporate training centre. Frankie (from HR), Sam (from FM – Facilities Management), and Jules (from CRE – Corporate Real Estate). There has been some usual banter, but underlying that, is a plot unfolding? The HR Director has called this Away Day, which has surprised Sam and Jules. Apparently, “so we actually talk to each other, and share information and experiences”. They are not convinced.

Back at the bar….

Frankie has left, for dinner with the HR Director. Sam asks, “So what do you think, Jules? Is this an HR Away Day, with invitees from other Group Functions? Or, is something else going on?”

Jules went off to boarding school at the age of seven, so politics and intrigue come naturally. With a degree from a leading University, and ten years with a commercial real estate firm, Jules fell into CRE when a client offered the chance to move across to their in-house team.

“Definitely something more than just an HR Away Day” Jules replies, “Its not just CRE and FM being invited – I saw Charlie, Head of IT Strategy, in the car park. Procurement are here too. It looks like someone is trying to bring us all together. I guess we’ll find out in the morning!”

Sam nodded, leaving a silence to see if Jules would say more. It was unlikely. Jules was the deal-maker, a collector of information from all sources, but disseminated very little. It was the way of the broker. Information is power. But the rules of the game were clearly changing. Collaboration was the new game, and Jules was having some difficulty with it.

“You always have your ear to the ground, Jules” said Sam, smiling. “How’s progress with the search for the new HQ?” Sam wasn’t convinced that the firm needed to move, and was even less convinced by the buildings being considered. But more worrying for Sam was the limited input FM had so far been able to gain.

Jules took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, “Well, the size of floor-plate we are looking for is scarce. There are developments in the pipeline, but not much choice if we want to move in the next year or so”.

Sam gave Jules a raised eyebrow, “I hope its more ‘or so’ than ‘next year’ Jules. We have three years on the existing lease. There is a whole programme of work to do before moving – staff engagement, comms, workplace design, mock-ups, furniture…not to mention the move planning itself.”

Sam could feel the tension rising, but stayed the ever-cool, unflappable Hotel Manager. Almost two decades in large hotel groups around the world had trained Sam to work with anyone. Many people had felt the difference when Sam took over FM a couple of years ago. Heads of Business Units had fed back up the line. Marketing loved Sam, as visiting customers and VIPs had commented on the great ‘atmosphere’ and slick management of corporate events.

But Jules held the CRE purse strings, and had the ear of the Finance Director. Sam was poised to jump across to another function, and get out from under CRE, if only the chance arose. Jules knows that. If Sam was able to get FM under HR, then a big part of Jules’ power base would vanish.

Jules brushed off Sam’s concerns, “We have time. There will be at least a year after we sign up, and we haven’t found anywhere suitable yet. But our current landlord has indicated that they may redevelop if we exit, and may accept an early lease break. That could mean a saving – our current lease was signed at the top of the market”.

Sam knew there was little point arguing. If there was an identified saving, it would be in Jules’ performance review! Sam could expect a myopic focus on Jules’ bonus until that was in the bag! And that would be true of the Finance Director too. But what if a case could be made, convincingly, to move FM under HR & Organizational Development?

Sam was convinced that the physical workplace, design and services, was all just part of the employee package. It’s what a staff member expects, working for one of the Group companies. Maybe the new CEO had seen this too? Maybe that’s why the HR Director had been tasked with bringing all the support functions together?

Jules left the bar to catch up on emails, whilst Sam ordered another beer. Tomorrow may be the start of something.


The (not far) Away Day (part 1)

by Paul Carder on May 3, 2017

by @paulcarder

Three managers walk into the bar [always a good place to start]. They all have gender-neutral names, so I’ll leave you to work out whether they may be male or female. Not that it matters in this context.

Frankie gets there first. “Hi. Large glass of wine please. What do you have?” The young barman pauses, and replies “We have…red…or…um…white. Um…oh, and pink”. Frankie thinks, and orders a beer. Its a corporate training centre. What can you expect? A wine list?

“Hey, Frankie – I’ll get that. And another please barman” says Sam. “It’s good to see you’re here representing HR – we don’t get chance to talk in the office”.

“Thanks Sam. Well I do walk up to your floor, but you’re never at your desk. And booking a meeting room is an operation in itself. I blame FM [smiles]” says Frankie, as the barman opens two bottles of bland EuroFizz. There’s no real ale either, as usual.

Sam thinks quickly, “Well, there’s the thing, you see. If HR didn’t insist on everyone having a desk, we would be able to create more meeting rooms…most of my team, especially me, are rarely at our desks [smiles back]”. Touché. Or touchy. This has been a battle ground for a while.

“Anyway, that’s why we are here, right?” says Sam, “to discuss what successful Workplace Management means to the Group Companies, who should lead it forward, and how…should be interesting”.

Jules jumps in, now off the mobile, “Hi Sam. Hi…Frankie? We haven’t met. I’m Head of Corporate Real Estate…CRE on your agenda. Good to see HR is here”.

Sam looks surprised, “Hey, Jules. I didn’t realise you hadn’t met Frankie. I thought you would be up in HR all the time, with your headcount planning files”. Jules smirks, with a knowing look towards Sam. Both know very well that HR is a net receiver of information, and has the reputation for never having current data.

Frankie knows. “That’s why the HR Director called this Away Day, of course. So we actually talk to each other, and share information and experiences”. Jules smiles, “Yeess…mmm…I read that on the agenda too. I sniff an ulterior agenda, not written on that paper there Frankie”.

Frankie knows, again. The HR Director is on the Group ExCo. But CRE reports into Finance, not even to the FD, but one level down. And FM reports into CRE, as it has done for many years, since the Group ‘centre’ was formed. The HR Director has initiated this Away Day. But only Frankie knows why.

“Jules, you old cynic. We just want to share information and experiences.” says Frankie.

Sam chips in, “Its unusual, that’s all. We usually have an Away Day with just CRE, FM and a few people from Finance. We may get a pitch from HR, but that’s usually about it. …I mean, it’s good. But, we were surprised that this is being led by the HR Director.”

Frankie is thinking how to reply, without giving away tomorrow’s opening speech by the boss. But, avoids it with a quip resembling Theresa May, “It’s about strong and stable governance!” she smiles.

Jules snorts, “It’s gunna be a beautiful thing!” in a bad Donald Trump impression.

They all laugh, and move the conversation onto politics. But Frankie knows. Its not going to be a beautiful thing. At least, not for Jules and Sam.


HR > Finance > CRE > FM

by Paul Carder on July 22, 2016

by @paulcarder

This is a simple post. It is intended to cause a good-natured argument amongst professionals.

I’m more interested in how things are achieved, by whom, than perhaps by the end result. Take workplace transformation as an example. I’m not an architect or interior designer. Pictures of cool new spaces don’t especially interest me. I gave up sitting in ball pools when my children grew out of them. Like my good friend Mark Eltringham, I agree that “the reality is that for the majority of people, the office of the future will be a sober and nuanced evolution of the office of the present“. People like to feel that they are being treated well, their comfort and happiness is somewhat important to their employer, and they see money being spent on their new environment. But trends, fads, gimmicks and aesthetics are very personal – one will never please everyone, so I take little interest.

What really interests me (and many of my colleagues in the OJL network) is how organisations cascade their strategic aims to the various “workplace” professionals in their team. And how that team organizes itself to deliver spaces and services which are aligned and support the organization’s goals.

In the past (vague, I know… lets say, 10-15 years ago +), we all talked about the Finance Director (or CFO), and what she wanted to achieve. Buildings, and fleets of buildings (real estate portfolios) were, and still are of course, a significant expense to most organizations. Cost reduction was king, and therefore the CFO was the focus. Corporate Real Estate (CRE) grew out of the 1980’s onwards, and became the lead function in managing real estate. Facilities Management (FM) was operational, and mostly reported into CRE.

Of course, the CFO’s office is still involved, especially in large capital programmes. But the fat on the bone of real estate portfolios has largely been well trimmed in many (most?) organizations. CRE leaders have realized that tinkering with FM costs is the proverbial water in the wind. The larger cost savings come via portfolio rationalization (as do energy savings, by default). Much of that has been done too. What’s left is ‘fine tuning’ of buildings, to operate as closely to the ideal of the efficient factory (sweating the assets) or the efficiency of the airport, with people coming and going, checking in and checking out, throughout every day. Hot desking – or at least, fairly warm!

In the present, the focus has shifted to the Human Resources function (CHRO, if you must). Especially now that the economy in many regions has slowly dragged itself out of the deep financial malaise we all felt since 2008/9. Organizations are moving from survival mode, back to competing. And competing for ‘talent’ is once again a hot topic. As is getting the most out of people and resources (productivity) once an organization has successfully recruited people.

HR has grown in strength and influence (imho), and in many cases has become more strategic and future-oriented than it was in the past. Tools such as ’employee engagement metrics’ provide hard data (there is literature supporting, and criticizing, most employee engagement efforts – but there is no denying it is everywhere). People are expensive, and if we know what makes them ‘tick’ then HR can drive transformations in many areas of the organization. Workplace is one area. It is believed (at long last) to make a difference to how people work.

So HR is currently greater than Finance,

…Finance is greater than CRE (Workplace still has to stick to financial constraints of course),

…and CRE is greater than FM.

HR > Finance > CRE > FM

For now, at least.

FM is still operational. This twitter discussion this afternoon convinced me of that. Once again. I don’t see much change from the picture Jim Ware and I painted in the RICS-sponsored “Raising The Bar” (RTB) reports we delivered in 2012 and 2014.

We are starting work now on the third RTB study, thanks to RICS continued support. So if you violently disagree with what I have written above, do please comment below. Or email me, or Jim. We would love to hear from you.



Towards the Corporate Placemaker in 2016

by Paul Carder on December 23, 2015

by @paulcarder

I have been studying and thinking about this concept of the Corporate Placemaker for some time now. I trace it back to our work on Raising The Bar, a global study for the RICS which, after more than 140 years of history, seemed to coincide with their awakening to the importance of Facilities Management (FM). But, take a look at the link path, and it is Home/Property/FacilitiesManagement. So, FM is still a subset of property (real estate, or ‘real property’). But, is it?

I can categorically state (as we are dealing in how to ‘categorize’) that whatever we decide the “corporate placemaker” may be, it is not just property/ real estate or facilities management. Property (real estate) is heavily biased towards ownership (as its very name suggests), and maximizing the benefits of ownership of some physical asset. It can easily be seen how little the real estate market and professions care about the ‘use value’ of property by the comparatively tiny proportion of media dedicated to the subject (a key reason for our launch of Work&Place, our journal, in 2012). And facilities management is such a nebulous term which I sincerely hope can be eventually replaced with something clear and meaningful.

I think we are all searching for what to call real estate and facilities management, working together, are we not? Corporate Real Estate is represented in research, with Corporate Real Estate Journal (Henry Stewart Publications), and Journal of Corporate Real Estate (Emerald). But what is the “subject area”? – Property Management & Built Environment. As is also Facilities and Journal of Facilities Management (both Emerald).

But what of place in the context of organizations, and the people who use spaces and places for some other reason than for the asset? There is a Journal of Place Management and Development (again, by Emerald), supported by the Institute of Place Management, a body that “supports people committed to developing, managing and making places better”. Sounds promising. And the concepts are promising for the future – such as marketing and branding of places (corporate marketing take note!), the consumption of place (yes, that is what occupiers do!), and place competitiveness (again, a subject of interest to HR and corporate executives in deciding how to support their efforts to win the ‘war for talent’). But, before I get you too excited, this whole subject is about cities and town centres generally. Take a look at one of the leading Masters courses in this field and that is immediately apparent. However, this course is positioned in the department of Marketing, Operations and Digital Business at MMU Faculty of Business and Law, which is a good start! It is all about the use of places, not the built environment as an asset.

Still, nothing yet for the use of places by organizations and their people. Research and teaching has yet to make much impact on the ‘supply-side centric’ thinking which abounds in the real estate and built environment disciplines. The world of the occupier, or ‘demand-side’, is under-represented.

This is why I am so focused on the term (and hopefully the emerging discipline of) the “corporate placemaker”. I hope you can see where I am coming from. This is wider than corporate real estate and facilities management. It must pick up some of the social sciences and business administration disciplines covered by “place management” above, but focus on corporate places rather than city public spaces and town centre management.

In fact, my PhD study is grappling with exactly what it is to be a corporate “placemaker”. Leading placemaking for an organization, rather than wider society in urban spaces. The subject areas are diverse, and may include the following:

  • Organizations, Occupations and Work – sociological change, and the future of work;
  • The ‘draw’ of places – perhaps ‘place appeal’?;
  • The psychology of environment and behaviour (org. psych.);
  • Strategy and competition (esp. in competing for talent, a key HR issue)
  • Brand and image – marketing – the impact of place;
  • The consumerization of everything – including ‘the place to be’ on any one day;
  • The experience economy – not just place, but service, and experience;
  • The health & wellness debate: stress, work-life balance and related issues;
  • Workplace economics – cost vs value, taking all the above into account;
  • Corporate places, home, and ‘third places’; coworking; hubs; collaboration; innovation;
  • Home or away? – the only real human options (i.e., everyone choses either to stay at home, or to go somewhere… the default in the future may be to stay put! or work closer to where we live)
  • Management, procurement and delivery of places for corporations, employees, and their networks.
  • Relationships between the ‘placemaker’ team and the rest of the corporation & stakeholders.
  • The future provision of corporate places – new market entrants?;
  • A sustainable, low-carbon, low-stress future; we cannot continue the way we are today!

What would you call the management discipline which encompasses all of the above? The multi-faceted and strategically-minded role in large organizations, which moves between Group HR, operations, marketing, IT infrastructure planning, corporate real estate and facilities management?

(clue: the answer is not Facilities Manager. Though there is nothing to say that a good strategic-thinking FM could not develop into this role! But then, so could a good HR manager….)


Happy Christmas all… and our very best wishes for 2016.


Paul Carder

Co-Founder, Occupiers Journal Limited


Development of a teaching ‘case study’: Wallace&Sprocket LLP

(Note: it would be great to receive your feedback – and perhaps, somewhere out there, real-life examples which are similar to this fictional example)

Wallace&Sprocket LLP is a fictional organization in the accountancy and business advisory sector, mainly serving the creative arts, media and film production industries.

Wallace&Sprocket LLP occupied a four-floor office in a CBD, all floors being approximately the same size, and serviced via a reception and lift lobby at one end of the building.

Wallace&Sprocket’s corporate vision for their workplace was to create a high-quality flexible environment which would be attractive to potential employees, and may also retain existing employees. As a professional services firm they had achieved an approximately 50/50 gender balance at most levels of the firm. But, they were finding that more senior women were leaving than men, and the Executive Committee (ExCo) had become almost 80% male.

The Director of Workplace Resources (responsible for property, workplace design and facilities management) had read about how remote working was shown to have increased employee retention. She had reported this to the ExCo and received the go-ahead for a pilot scheme to allow qualified mid-to-senior level staff to work wherever they feel most appropriate on any given day. Junior staff, and those working on professional qualifications, were to be allowed to work remotely when approved by their line manager.

The company’s specific aims were as follows:

  • To improve retention, and attraction of new staff (assessed by HR interview);
  • To improve levels of employee engagement (assessed using a survey tool);
  • To introduce agile working, where space was to be allocated to teams, but not to individuals (except for team co-ordinators, who would have a desk and be focal point for their team);
  • To reduce space used as a result of agile working, but to re-invest savings in the above;

Wallace&Sprocket’s ExCo agreed to follow this 10-step process, as set out below, and to adjust the solution to suit their specific circumstances.

1. Measure:

The first step was to deploy occupancy sensors (see example Sense from Condeco Software) at every existing workstation, and around spaces where people worked such as in meeting rooms. This was done over one weekend, to avoid any disruption to the business. The software was adjusted to measure occupancy at every ‘seat’ at 10 minute intervals (the software does this 24/7, for as long as the sensors are deployed).

A four week period was selected, avoiding national holidays or any events which may affect the analysis.

2. Analyse:

Towards the end of the four week period, analysts began to work with the sensor data, to understand patterns of office space use across the four floors. This analysis showed that average occupancy was 48% across the four week period. This varied by business unit and function across Wallace&Sprocket’s operations.

3. Develop:

Using the analysis, the company’s management were able to develop a workplace strategy and change management process.

The calculations were fairly simple, as an average across all business units (though adjustments were made for some, such as Tax and IT, whose occupancy had been around the 60-70% level).

With 400 people across four floors, on average only 192 desks were being used.

The company therefore decided to re-stack the office space, to move out of the ground floor. The assumption was made that if occupancy levels stayed broadly similar, and 192 desks were being used (average) then the company could cope with 300 desks on three floors (an occupancy rate of around 64%). This could be monitored over time, using the Sense software, to see how well the space coped with any fluctuations in use.

4. Implement:

Over a three month period, the workplace strategy set out above was implemented. The workplace change involved significant training of space users for ‘agile’ working.

This was managed by a third party (workplace consultant) who spent time with each of the business unit Heads, selected a ‘champion’ from each business unit, and held workshops with staff.

All staff were given access to a specially developed website, with a training course module which took them through the stages of moving to an agile working environment. In this way, business unit heads could see how many (and which) employees had completed the course.

5. Realize:

Wallace&Sprocket LLP was able to realize savings, on paper at least. The company was able to reduce space use, by one whole floor (25%), totaling 1200 square metres net internal area (NIA).

At an annual run-rate of approximately £750 per square metre NIA, the saving identified was circa £900,000.

However, at the time that the space was made vacant there appeared to be very limited demand for office space in the local market. So, alternative solutions were required.

6. Dispose:

As far as possible, clearly Wallace&Sprocket aimed to recover the £900k per annum running cost of its ground floor. As the company had taken advice from several real estate agents, and found that demand was almost ‘dead’ for a traditional sub-let, they looked into other options.

The decision was made to keep the ground floor lease until the next lease-break (not for another 5 years), and in the meantime to aim to generate to offset costs.

Wallace&Sprocket approached a leading broker with a brief to look for a serviced office operator prepared to take on the ground floor. Within a month, and still during the re-stack operation, the broker had found a local serviced office operator with two other sites in the area which were almost at capacity.

It was agreed that the serviced office operator would pay £600k per annum, and an additional £200k service charge for shared services provided to the space by Wallace&Sprocket facilities management department.

Wallace&Sprocket was able to therefore recover £800k per annum, to re-invest in its business.

7. Reinvest:

Wallace&Sprocket decided to re-invest 75% of the savings (£600k) into alternative ‘remote’ spaces for its staff to use, closer to where they lived. And also, work with a provider to issue ‘access cards’ to mid-to-senior level staff which they could use to access meeting rooms and workspace on the move.

The serviced office broker was also able to support this programme, through a subsidiary, and manage the card access system for Wallace&Sprocket LLP on behalf of its employees.

8. Train:

Wallace&Sprocket’s Director of Workplace Resources designed and implemented an ongoing training programme, for the following:

  • To train people to use the agile space in the office;
  • To train people to use the alternative remote space (nearer home, or on the move).

This training process is still ongoing (and will be for some time) as people receive regular refresher courses, progress interviews, and training is implemented for new starters.

9. Maintain:

Continuous improvement was always one of the key aims of the Director of Workplace Resources at the start. This involves continuous use of the occupancy sensors and analysis tool, to monitor occupancy (see below), but also ongoing change management.

However, this change management and training is seen as ‘business as usual’ now – the space is continuously ‘tweaked’ to get best value and use from the three remaining floors.

10. Loop back:

Finally, Wallace&Sprocket’s workplace resources team has learned to continuously analyse the occupancy data using the online tools made available by software provider. The company is able to learn, and feedback into further development.

Progress against original project aims

This is ongong, but early signs are that the project has been a success. In the first year after implementation there was significant take-up of the card system for use of alternative remote space. Ad-hoc feedback to senior line managers has been that employees appreciate the trust placed in them to work effectively wherever they deem suitable. Early indications are also that the staff turnover rate has reduced, but this will be monitored over time. The PR impact in the press has also been useful to the HR recruitment team. They have seen a slight increase in applications, and positive comments on interview for jobs at the company, with one reason being the flexible working arrangements.

From a real estate perspective, Wallace&Sprocket LLP now occupy 75% of the space they once did. The organization has re-invested in cards for all employees which allow them to book space remote from the office, often nearer their home. Overall net savings after this investment in remote working have covered the costs of implementation and software licences over a 2 year payback period.


This is a fictional example, based on what we know is starting to happen….have you done it? Do you know of a case study which we might get access to? It would be great to convert this fictional case study into one or more ‘real’ examples.


By Paul Carder: @paulcarder & @WorkAndPlace

This article caught my imagination:

Mid-way through it says, “The AIA New York exhibit attempts to make sense of its subject by organizing public space into three basic categories: congregation, circulation, and contemplation.”

Again I’m thinking, corporate workplace (inside the ‘office’), however great the design and workplace management, is just one part of the experience of work….unless one commutes to and from the office with ears, eyes and nose covered, and then stays indoors all day!

And then, of course (as earlier blogs have described) many people choose not to travel to the office at all (or at least, less often). They are likely to be already benefiting from public spaces, opening out from cafes and other places where they have chosen to work.

Now, I have to focus! – I’m primarily interested in work and place. So what does this have to do with public spaces?
The last issue of @WorkAndPlace had quite a bit to say on this subject, especially Dr Andrew Laing: “the emerging workplace is urban”, and Simon Allford’s feature where he describes bringing the city in off the pavement/sidewalk and into the office, and much more. Both fascinating reads.

A re-definition of #workplace is clearly needed – which is why we chose “Work & Place”, separating the two words.

Corporate organisations need their people to be motivated, healthy, engaged and productive (or creative, or whatever they are measured on). Organisations need every bit of extra performance, however it may be originated.

Public spaces – the city itself (or the town, for smaller locations) – the urban environment – must be an influence on how people feel, their daily experience. And that must, assuming it is a good experience of course, have an impact on health and happiness, motivation, engagement in work, and ultimately outputs.

What would be the difference in work experience, engagement and output, between (say) the same office design and management – but in different public settings? A buzzy, urban setting with almost limitless opportunities for public spaces, cafes, bars, restaurants, galleries, etc.
Or a semi-private campus: purpose designed and managed, with its own facilities (though not as plentiful as the city, perhaps).
What about the organisation that has not considered this at all, and has the same office (inside) but on a soul-less business park, with a petrol filling station nearby for people to walk out and get a poor-quality sandwich, and scuttle back to their desk to eat it?

This must make a big difference….in fact, I know it does, as I have had the pleasure (and misfortune) of working in all of these settings over 20 years!
But, has anyone studied the effects……? Have you……?

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Workplace is discipline; see one, do one, teach one

by Paul Carder on February 7, 2014

We cannot always ‘just do it’, like the Nike adverts suggest. For the future, we also need to teach.

This point is perhaps missed in the 150th post on workessence, a reflection by Neil Usher – see more at:

Neil argues that, “Workplace – like many disciplines – is a composite of many others….Why nail ourselves to a definition?” I tend to agree, for the most part, especially having witnessed the continuous debate over “what is facilities management?”, for over two decades!

Summarizing Neil’s blog:

Workplace = ? (human resources, culture, brand, design, psychology, project & facilities management, social art, communication…, x, y).

I added ‘x, y’ because, of course, Neil is right to say, “Its part other stuff, that comes and goes, butts in and disappears. I probably should know better, think a bit more about what that might be, but it’s not that important.” 

Here’s the punchline:

There won’t be a professional body to erect barriers to entry, mysticise the boundaries, and fend off those without a certificate – we are fine with the wider network of the social web….We will float in and out of other conversations, and gatecrash parties that look interesting – or need livening up. We are okay without rules, without answers …..Workplace is a discipline, but without discipline. Long may it stay that way.

So, do we agree? In part, yes. But….what happens to teaching?

“See one, do one, teach one” is the medical schools’ signature pedagogy, now being seriously considered in legal education, and doubtless in many other less well-developed professions and disciplines. Maximum learning results when the student goes through all three stages – they visualize the activity by watching first. Then they try it for themselves. Lastly, they embed their knowledge (and usefully pass it on) by teaching the activity.

Neil Usher’s underlying criticism of the “professional body” may be well founded. Whilst the best professional bodies are fundamental promoters of new knowledge and learning opportunities, the worst are self-serving self-promotion groups. But then, the best are “professionals” whereas the worst are merely trade bodies and PR machines. One can quickly spot the difference by reviewing their publications, and/or support of serious academic and practice-based research.

Workplace is a discipline, with fuzzy edges. But, it will not develop as a discipline “without discipline” as Neil suggests. There are building blocks that every workplace strategist, consultant, designer or corporate manager needs to know. It would be wasteful to society if every young professional had to learn purely from their own experience. Of course, for medical professionals, it would also be dangerous! There are a few legal minimum standards affecting the workplace discipline, but mostly the result of a poorly executed workplace project will be an unsatisfied customer – and possibly a less effective occupying organisation.

Workplace practitioners are busy ‘doing’. But, for the future development of the workplace discipline, someone needs to capture the best of what they are doing, and document it, so that the discipline can be taught. And better still, we need a structure of “see one, do one, teach one”.

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Our next study, through our Occupiers Journal groups of ‘end users’ around the world, will focus on this very subject. The foundations built from our “Raising The Bar” study, sponsored by the RICS, will be presented at World Workplace San Antonio on 2nd Nov 2012. We will lead on from this, to look at how, and from which disciplines, this new role of Director of Work will be created.

I wrote about this subject two years ago on my personal blog, and the idea has started to take hold across our team. We are convinced that a new role is needed, to bring together the several corporate functions that do not currently have “enterprise-wide” leadership in supporting effectiveness of work, and workplace experience.

Look at this from an employee (or ‘worker’ – could be employed by another party) perspective, in one large organisation. Let’s call him, or her, Charlie (could be male or female of course). Who advises Charlie ‘how’ to work? Not, what to do – that is usually fairly clear, and dictated by line management or some form of matrix structure. What is not always clear is when, where, and how to work? Nobody really provides much in the way of vision, or policy, to help ensure that people are adopting ‘best practice’ ways of working. Or, that they are getting a positive, healthy and productive work experience. ‘Place’ is a factor, as is designing the ‘experience of work’.

Let’s take ‘when’ to work first. Charlie probably has a contract that says working hours are 0900 to 1730 (or similar), with a half-hour unpaid lunch break. But who actually works these hours, these days? Maybe some public sector workers, and union-backed employees? But most of us never take any notice of contracted hours – we work however many hours it requires to get the work done. It is all about output, not hours worked. So the Human Resources (HR) Director sets policy on working hours, but what about work outside of these hours? HR will probably say, that is down to the employee and his/her line manager. But how many line managers know how many hours their teams are working? In today’s mobile, global, business environment, manager and employee may not see each other daily. How many line managers say “Hey, Charlie, how many hours are you working each week? Too many, I think. You should work less, it’s bad for your health and creativity…”. It’s up to us, isn’t it?

Maybe, but who protects the vulnerable? Who makes sure that people do not overwork, get stressed, or worse. Work suffers, relationships suffer, society suffers…it needs to be managed. It needs corporate policy.

How to work and where to work used to be hard-wired to each other. But this is no longer the case, at least for most office-based, or ‘knowledge’ workers. It is a case of “have gadgets, will travel”. Not all office workers need a laptop or tablet, but even desktop PCs are going ‘virtual’, so the employee can work from any desk, logging into any machine.

So let’s take ‘where to work’. Charlie may wake up in the morning, and start work straight away, thinking about the day, checking the BlackBerry, replying to messages. Stop for coffee and croissants, and have a shower. Then, maybe a phone call or two before heading off to the office, or to a meeting somewhere else, or maybe staying put to work from home for a while. Charlie’s partner probably works too, so Charlie may stop for a couple of hours at 3pm to collect children from school, or visit the gym, walk the dog, or whatever. Then, Charlie may work through until 8pm, before meeting friends. So, what is the policy here for ‘where to work’? Maybe there doesn’t need to be one?
The problem comes back though, when one combines ‘when to work’ questions with ‘where to work’, and then looks at the most vulnerable employees. If Charlie is already working too many hours, perhaps it is due to a skill shortage or lack of training. Or, maybe there are management problems with workload spreading. But if Charlie (or manager) also has it in mind that work must be done in the office, but Charlie has a 2 hours round-trip from home each day, this is simply adding to stress.

How to work is perhaps more complex again. It can be a combination of ‘when and where’, along with ‘who to work with’ at times. And at other times, ‘how to work’ can be solely the decision of the worker. Communication and visibility are often key factors. When is it necessary to have face-to-face meetings, and when can this be managed in different ways – telephone, Skype, Webex, video-conferencing, etc.

Line managers are often ill-equipped to advise staff on ‘how to work’. They know what needs to be achieved, and they may (hopefully) set clear objectives and targets. But thereafter, it is often, maybe mostly, down to the employee to get on with it. How much training do people get on the work tools around them? In my experience, it is pretty patchy to say the least. Even diary, calendar and task management – how many people know how to use all the features of MS Outlook or Lotus Notes? But today, there are so many other software and hardware tools, from simple dial-in phone numbers to full experience tele-presence.

Who brings together the ‘when, where and how’ of work, to set policy and options that can support employees?

HR has a role to play, for sure. But HR Directors do not set policy on ‘when, where and how’ to work. Line managers do that, to some extent. But, for the reasons discussed above, most line managers or Business Unit heads do not have the skills to advise on the options for ‘when, where and how’ to work. Or probably just as importantly, they often do not want to make decisions – they would rather avoid the issue of things like working from home, or stress of travel to work.

What actually happens, in many organisations, I would guess is a mixture of apathy and avoidance of responsibility (and therefore risk, in getting it ‘wrong’), with little support from the Executive Board (C-Suite). The HR department think that ‘work’ is the line managers responsibility, and the line manager is hoping that HR is dealing with any ‘human/personal’ issues that people have with their work effectiveness, stress, motivation, etc.

Enter, stage left…..the “Director of Work”

The Director of Work may sit in the line management area, under the Chief Operating Officer (COO), or under the HR area perhaps. But either way, the role would bring together the issues of ‘when, where, and how to work’, looking at the vision for how the organisation should work most effectively, reviewing options, and setting policy for when these options may be most appropriate. The Director of Work would then also set a programme of training for line managers, to make sure that they have full understanding of all the options for when, where and how to work. And, the role would manage the human and organisational risks of getting this wrong – stress, illness, inefficiency, morale, staff turnover, or just plain old boredom.

Director of Work meets Director of Workplace….

The Director of Work would be a key ally for any Director of Real Estate and Workplace Resources/Facilities Management. We all need advice on ‘ways of working’, and without it we have to create our own policy by negotiation and discussion with business units and functions. The Director of Work, with a mandate from the Executive Board (C-Suite), would be a breath of fresh air for most RE/Workplace professionals.

Or is it also a potential career move for some?

Paul  (; twitter @occupiers