Mobile Work / Agility

by Paul Carder (; Twitter: @paulcarder

When Terry Hall of Fun Boy Three brought Bananarama in as backing vocals in 1982, to release “It ain’t what you do, its the way that you do it”, he couldn’t have foreseen it being quoted in a blog about work, work-styles and workplaces! But here it is, and its true – its the way that you do it, that’s what gets results. Organizations of all kinds are about getting results, for their investors, customers, charitable donators, voters, or any other group of stakeholders. So, one has to question why managers so often feel the need not only to allocate work (‘what’ you do), but also to manage the location and process (the ‘way’ that you do it). Managing the ‘way’ that work is done, especially for highly skilled knowledge-workers, restricts their ability to tailor their work output to their own personal circumstances and preferences. Everyone is different. Why expect them to all work in the same place, in the same way? Its like giving them a car, but fixing the seat height, the steering column, the mirrors, giving them a one-speed gearbox and a speed restrictor…..the car would soon be returned to the leasing company! Why do we do it with workplaces?

The PLACEMAKER, in those circumstances, also has two hands firmly tied. Their skill-set includes finding the best work locations, flexible providers, great service experience, and supporting the individual in whatever way they chose to work. But, the PLACEMAKER may only be allowed to use the one element of that toolkit – the large, standardized, pre-set, corporate office, in the centre of the city. Or worse, not even in an interesting city! The corporate office could be in a nondescript business park, where the only respite from monotony is the entrepreneurial woman from the nearby town who brings a van-load of assorted sandwiches at mid-morning. Or a smoke in the purpose-built smoking shelter, with your other buddies, also ostracized like citizens of the Athenian democracy (albeit not for ten years, just for ten minutes). Yes, I have been one of their number….

In one of our OJ network discussions this week, Marcus Bowen (our man in Hong Kong) raised a very interesting point. It is an unrestricted gulp of fresh air to be PLACEMAKER to the ScrumMasters in the software development industries. They do not suffer from these restrictions. The much sought-after (and expensive) ScrumMaster will fly into a hub like Hong Kong, or Singapore, all pre-arranged and planned by a multi-skilled PLACEMAKER. The ScrumMaster and her team will have done a lot of preparation work remotely, in one of many different personally-suited work settings. But then, at some point, they need ‘face time’. They need that frenetic activity – a short, intensive work period – to get over that creative hurdle. Maybe three or four days – they will be too tired to do more.

Before they get to the Scrum, the group of software developers will have been using remote team-working tools; sharing a work-space in real time, but not real proximity. They may ‘sit’ next to each other, online – but in reality could be a mile or a thousand miles apart. It makes no difference. The PLACEMAKER will be there, wherever, to provide (maybe through a third party) the place, and the space, and the service experience which supports productive work.

I hear some readers saying, ‘here we go again – this is all about knowledge workers!’ The laptop and tablet-carrying free agents of the contemporary workplace. Highly paid and highly skilled people, whose needs have to be pandered to. But, it is no longer true, is it? We would have said, medical doctors need to be in hospitals. But paramedics with helmet-mounted cameras now routinely get advice from a doctor who could be anywhere.  We would have said, teachers need to be in schools and colleges – they may be, but their students can be anywhere with a webcam. Or vice-versa. The man (it is usually a man) digging up the road will be there, until someone invents a machine that can do his job all day without leaning on his shovel for ten minutes every hour. The person fitting caps on toothpaste tubes will equally be physically located on a bench, day in day out, until similarly someone invents a machine with equivalent dexterity. But, these jobs, in fixed locations, are reducing in numbers every time there is a new innovation – and they are not being replaced.

Much has been talked about the future of the office (no….open your eyes….stay awake now) – its quite simple, it will be a bit of what we have today, and part working at home, plus many other locations and spaces which suit the individual at a specific time. Workplace becomes workplaces. Corporate real estate teams will be providing an agile service to the workforce, not a fixed ‘product’, in a fixed place. Facilities management will become more about managing the work experience, of place, space and customer services – but as those places are spread around, to suit the individual more than the corporation, this new higher-level facilities management will be provided by the PLACEMAKER. The developer, the entrepreneur with an interesting ‘place’ where people just really want to work. The bus stops here – all change please, all change….


In November, I wrote about Place-as-a-Service (PaaS), based on the now common term SaaS (Software as a Service):

The article was supply-side focused. I was considering the changes, already being seen in a small way, in how workplace accommodation is provided. Regus is the most well-known, globally; but there are many new entrants – in fact, who really knows how many?

Looked at from the user perspective, is this simply the consumerization of workplace accommodation? In a similar way that cloud-based IT and personal devices have been picked up by users? Not provided by the corporation (usually, the employer), but paid for by the consumer?

Where is this going? How far will it go? Of course, we do not know.

Will flexible accommodation, on flexible terms, reach a plateau? That seems unlikely.

Will agile working become universally accepted as simply the most efficient and effective way of working? That seems likely.

When people can truly work almost anywhere, at their choice, will they choose to commute to the corporate workplace? That remains to be seen. There are many ‘push/pull’ factors at play here – the need to belong to the wider ‘group’, recognition, immersion in corporate culture, versus time and cost to the individual.

How will corporations (employers) react? Or, indeed, plan for this eventuality? IT had its BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and that spread rapidly. Will our sector have its own BYOD? Buy-Your-Own-Desk? And charge its use back to the company? A Regus account will do that already; how many others will follow?

So many questions!….what are yours?


Every human being is different – that fact needs no referencing. Yet, people work in groups, and multiple groups become organisations. The larger the organisation, the more generalization has traditionally been needed to provide fair and equal support for every individual person in that organisation.

But, for how long will that be the case in the world of ‘Big Data’?

Seth Godin’s blog today made me think. Have a read (my extract):

“….different employees–we have the choice to treat them as individuals. Not only do they need different things, but they offer differing amounts of value to you and to your project. The moment your policy interferes with their uniqueness, the policy has cost you something.

We used to have no choice. There was only one set of data for the student body, one way to put things on the shelf of the local market, one opportunity to talk to the entire audience…

One of the biggest unfilled promises of the digital age is the opportunity to go beyond demographics and census data. Personalization….is a chance to differentiate at a human scale, to use behaviour as the most important clue about what people want and more important, what they need….Instead of reserving this special treatment for a few outliers, though, we ought to consider what happens if we offer it to all of those we value.

The long tail of everything means that there’s something for everyone – a blog to read, a charity to donate to, a skill to learn. When you send everyone the same email, demand everyone learn from the same lesson plan or try to sell everyone the same service, you’ve missed it.”

What does this mean for workplace strategy?

Look at what happened in ICT – introduction (demand, not supply-driven) of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). This is personalization of an individual’s handheld device provision (and away from the once-ubiquitous Blackberry for corporate employees).

What about accommodation – the individual’s workplace? When will we hear, “I don’t want that desk, I want to bring my own” or similar statements? Never, of course, but the same personalization may occur in a different way. An individual may say, “I don’t want that desk, I want to work in the office near my home”.

What are the choices available today?

Work at home, at a suitable place near home, at your employer’s office near home, at a transport hub (like the rail terminal – but not actually catching a train!), at another “third place” such as a serviced office (like Regus, or similar) or a coffee-shop…..

Or, if all else fails….or you are lonely and longing to see your colleagues….you can commute to the corporate office.

If workplace provision becomes a personal choice (which it already is for some, but not many), how many will regularly take the “if all else fails” option?


To the heart of the suburban dinosaur

by Paul Carder on October 8, 2013

This article in caught my eye: “C & W brings Merck Headquarters to Market“. It might well have read “brings HQ to life”, as if it was a dying old mammal! The article’s author, Antoinette Martin, describes the leviathan one-million square-feet HQ as:

“another of the big-footed “suburban dinosaurs” emerging on to the commercial office market in New Jersey”.

I once spent a week in one of these weird space-stations that never took off to ‘boldly go…’ Far from being excited by being in a foreign country, and experiencing the culture, I was neither! Much like a free-range chicken going on vacation to a battery-hen farm, I was bored rigid. Much later, the term ‘cube-farm’ was coined by somebody, and such places have been mocked by Dilbert. The concept of mixed-use development was entirely missing – staying in a nearby hotel, there was nothing to do, and nowhere to go. It was not a ‘human’ place.

People just don’t want these places – corporations might like the efficiency, but ‘people’ don’t. And corporations are full of people! But, there is good news for the next generation……

Antoinette Martin notes that developers and planners have learned to become creative about re-use of such unique spaces, however, quotes Andrew Merin, a vice-chairman of C&W.

“Every major corporate campus in New Jersey [USA] over the past three decades has either been re-purposed to meet the needs of a growing corporation’s new headquarters or positioned for innovative reuse”

The NAIOP in New Jersey [USA] discussed this issue: Panel of Experts Offers Solutions for Re-Imagining Suburban Offices

The title of NAIOP New Jersey’s March chapter meeting was “Dinosaurs or Diamonds? Re-Imagining New Jersey’s Suburban Office Spaces”. The link above talks of the “preference by a new generation to work in amenity-driven urban settings”. The discussion followed from a report (one of a series of Rutgers Regional Reports) by the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, titled ‘Reinventing the New Jersey Economy,’ issued at the end of 2012.

In a presentation prior to the panel discussion, Dr James Hughes, co-author of the report, said “By 2007, a new era dawned, with iPads, tablets and iPhones unshackling workers, who were no longer geography- or cubicle-tied”. Clearly, commercial real estate provision has a lengthy ‘lag’ behind demand. But people don’t want to work in these million sq.ft. suburban dinosaurs any longer. The offspring of the baby boomers, “are tech-savvy and like urban settings,” Hughes said. “The suburban corridors won’t necessarily be gone, but times have changed.”

From suburban dinosaur to new “town centre” – a more human urban setting

The developer of an even larger site, the two million-square-foot, 472-acre former Bell Labs complex in Holmdel, N.J., which successor Alcatel Lucent vacated in 2007, discussed their plans. Somerset Development “will be making improvements to recreate it as a town centre”. The Bell Labs complex will include a mix of residences, including affordable housing, both inside and outside of the main building. The building’s signature 70-foot tall atrium will re-emerge as a pedestrian promenade. The heart of the project will be its retail component, anchored by a 65,000-square-foot supermarket. Other components will include a 400,000-square-foot medical facility encompassing a health and wellness center, surgery centre, and an assisted living centre. Finally, a hotel and conference centre, and educational facilities, will round out the rebirth of the historic Bell Labs complex.

The PR article gives several more examples of “re-positioning” these large ex-corporate Headquarters facilities.

The dinosaur becomes agile, and avoids extinction

Yes, this is a well-disguised story about agile working! And social changes that go around, and in between. Ten years ago, most people did not have fast and reliable technology to enable them to work wherever they liked. Now that most knowledge workers do have this technology, they have started to change their whole day! They can work from home, so they don’t see the point (or like the cost, and environmental impact) of commuting too far. If the employer wants to see them in the office, at least a few times a week, they had better make it easy to get to.

Even better…offer someone a job….and availability of a flat/condo just a 5-minute walk away….oh, and a couple of restaurants, a gym, a nursery. Its also near the rail-hub to get into the city on Friday night, or for the weekend.

Your HR Chief will, at some point, realize that this set-up is an attractive part of the employment proposition – it may attract, and even retain, many employees. They may even trade-off a slightly lower salary. Shareholders will like that!…and, the heart of the old suburban dinosaur will be beating again. The same old corporate profit motive, but just quite a lot more pleasant to live around, maybe….

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When: Thursday, March 7, at Noon Pacific Standard Time


Please join me and my colleague, Pi Wen Looi of Novacrea Research, for a lunch-and-learn session to learn about “Leveraging Mobile Work to Engage Your Employees.” We’ll present our 2012 Mobile Workforce Survey findings and share ideas about how you can use these insights to engage and leverage your mobile workers.

We planned to conduct this webinar well before Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! issued her now-famous edict mandating all Yahoo! staff to “cease and desist” working from home and to come to the corporate office every day. But the buzz surrounding that decision makes this webinar all that much more timely.

This session is designed for anyone who manages Gen Y workers, remote workers, IT professionals who are involved with mobile technology, and knowledge workers who work on-the-go.

Past research on the mobile workforce has focused on either the technology needs of mobile workers or the challenges of managing a virtual workforce. Our newly designed Mobile Workforce Survey is the first study that takes an integrated look at both the hardware needs of mobile workers (e.g., mobile devices) and the factors that impact their organizational engagement and personal views about mobile and remote work.

Key Takeaways

  • How and where knowledge workers are getting their work done today
  • What tools they use to be productive
  • How their mobility is affecting their work and their professional and personal relationships
  • Tips for managing and engaging remote workers


Please click on the link below to register for the free webinar, which is being hosted by People-OnTheGo, a firm focused on workforce productivity and achievement.


Date: Thursday, March 7
Time: 12:00 noon PST
Place: Online

Pi Wen and I hope to “see” you on the webinar next Thursday. Feel free to invite your colleagues; the more the merrier!


What is really going on at Yahoo?

by jimware on March 1, 2013

There’s been quite a buzz building around Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s recent proclamation that all employees are now expected to be in their assigned corporate office every day. No more “telecommuting” or working from home.

There is no way I can summarize all the insightful commentary about Ms. Meyer’s edict that is all over the Internets and the mainstream media this week. However, I can point you to several really good starting points for understanding what all the buzz is about.

And I’ll humbly start with my own interview with talk show hostess Turi Ryder on WGN 720 radio (Chicago) on Wednesday evening: “The Perks and Catches of Working Remotely.” It was a fun and provocative conversation.

Here’s a one-paragraph summary of that 20-minute conversation, brilliantly written by my good friend, colleague, and “pioneer” in the the field of remote work, Jessica Lipnack. Her post is titled “Jim Ware to Yahoo: ‘You have a management systems problem.'”

But for a really thoughtful and passionate statement on the issue, you’ve got to read Jessica’s lengthier and far more important note, “Marissa, we need to talk. This genie is way out of the bottle.”

That is the most articulate statement about remote work and its benefits that I’ve ever seen. Read it and bookmark it. I guarantee you will want to come back to it whenever your company starts wavering or waffling about the pros and cons of flexible work.

It’s not a simple or straightforward issue. If you have the time, read through the many Comments (both supportive and dismissive of Marissa Mayer) from readers that accompany Jessica’s posts, and this one additional article on Kara Swisher’s AllThingsD blog, which is where I believe it all started:

Yahoo CEO Mayer Now Requiring Remote Employees to Not Be (Remote)


Kyra Cavanaugh and Jaime Leick, founder and writer respectively, from LifeMeetsWork, discussed “Work, After Sandy” in the latest issue of Work&Place (vol.2, issue 1). They gave some great real-life examples of people just getting on with things, making do, and working in the ways we used to do before we were glued daily to the ‘cloud’ or a laptop!

Of course, “Sandy” was a large storm that wreaked havoc as it tore through lower Manhattan, New Jersey and elsewhere on the US east coast. It is not the first, and will not be the last. But, the very fact that it hit this densely populated part of the US made it particularly newsworthy.

This last year has seen many “storms” of natural and man-made origins. From hurricanes, to political unrest and civil warfare, to terrorism. And even on the very positive side, the disruption (arguably massively over-hyped) that came with the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London in 2012. Those of us that did venture into central London, against the advice of the government and other authorities, found it pleasantly un-congested as so many people were working ‘elsewhere’ (mostly at home).

What we are seeing is, every time that there is a “storm” of natural or man-made origin, more people work elsewhere. Call it agile working, distributed working, or (not always) home working, more people experience it. Work gets done. Life goes on. More previously resistant middle-managers, with entrenched views on “if I can’t see them, they will not be working”, start to see agile working for what it is – a more sustainable way of working and living.

Chipping away gradually at the old guard, like those hammers on the Berlin Wall, sense eventually prevails and the barriers come down. Agile, distributed, home working, all varieties of ‘third spaces’ – all are gradually coming of age….one storm at a time!

@paulcarder  @occupiers  @WorkAndPlace



We were very pleased  to discover that Maija Palmer’s latest article about the “new world of work” in The Financial Times actually uses our director Jim Ware and OJL as a case study.

You can read the story (“So Near and Yet So Far”) online at this link:

(free registration is required to access the article)

As our followers know, OJL’s business objective is to become a premiere a global knowledge network and information resource. We are designing the business to provide end-user facilities managers with access to each other and the latest global research on managing the FM function, achieving strategic alignment with the business and other key functional areas, and making effective use of outside service providers. We are building a network of members and knowledge that will be both global and local in scope.

But the FT story isn’t about Occupiers Journal per se; it’s about how we formed the business while sitting in three very different parts of the world. To date, about a year after incorporating, the four of us have never yet been in the same place at the same time!

And that’s the truth – as I told Maija, I don’t believe we could have done this even three years ago (we have certainly had our share of in-person connections on several occasions and in many places; you can read our story of building the business in more detail on our home page, at

I’ve been ranting about the power of technology to change the way we work for years (and I’m of course not the only voice in that conversation). But it’s nice to see more and more people talking about it, recognizing the new reality, and beginning to adapt their management practices and organizational structures to the future of work.


By Paul Bartlett, Chairman, Office Productivity Network

The Office Productivity Network’s next event will be on Tuesday, 7 February 2012, at PwC’s More London new offices which display “understated excellence”. This will be the 31st OPN productivity best practice Workshop, all of which have shown exemplar workspaces which are delivering productive environments for occupants. Previous workshops have been at Unilever, KPMG, Southwark Council, AAT, GlaxoSmithKline, Herman Miller, Eversheds, Reuters, Johnson Controls, and MOD.

As part of PwC’s two centre location strategy and accommodating just over half of their 10,000 London workforce, 7 More London offered a unique opportunity for PwC to create a workplace that would reflect the values and ambitions of the firm. The objectives of the project included providing a flexible workplace to meet business needs now and for the long term. About 20% growth can be accommodated without physical change as working patterns evolve and people choose to use spaces differently. 7 More London provides:

  • 460,000ft2 across 13 floors.
  • Capacity for 6,000 heads in 4,000 workspaces at an overall sharing ratio of 1.5:1 • A further 690 workspaces in collaborative settings across the practice floors.
  • 112 client facing meeting rooms with 22 dedicated videoconference facilities.

When arriving, visitors and staff can physically see how PwC does business. Exceptional occupier service is facilitated with spaces that work for individuals, groups, when working collaboratively in teams or with clients. There is 100% hotelling for everyone, with high standards of services (including quality refreshment hubs and floor concierges), a choice of workspaces, central secure client filing and, most importantly, continuous engagement with the various business units delivers maximum space utilisation. Sustainability was a key aim; despite its conventional corporate appearance, 7 More London is the first building in the capital to have been awarded a BREEAM Outstanding rating.

The event will include presentations on the property strategy for London, design, change management, POE and the occupier viewpoint. Delegates will have an extensive tour of the building. Places will be limited to 40, so if you wish to see at first hand how innovation can deliver cost efficient sustainable performance enhancement, contact Paul Bartlett, the OPN Chairman, for more details as soon as possible on or +44 01379 678899.

Paul Bartlett, Chairman, Office Productivity Network


The Resilient Workplace

by Paul Carder on December 7, 2011

By Judith Heerwagen and Michael F. Bloom

In systems biology, resiliency is the capacity of a system and its inhabitants to bounce back from disruptive change, to cope with adversity without losing essential functionality and identity. The result is a more adaptive state with a greater capacity for effective re-organization. At the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), we have been implementing strategies to make the GSA’s vast number of workplaces more resilient and, thus, sustainable.

The GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings is the GSA’s green building center of excellence. As the federal government’s high-performance building thought leader and catalyst, the office strategically facilitates the adoption of integrated sustainable practices, technologies, and behaviors to accelerate achievement of a zero environmental footprint. GSA oversees 37.02 million square feet of office space in 9,624 buildings owned or leased by the federal government; 12,536 federal employees work in these buildings. Thus, the lessons from GSA’s federal building stock can be applied to many workplaces, large and small, in many contexts.

The federal building “system” today is much like a biological system facing disruptive change. The need to achieve aggressive environmental, financial, and operational goals and to reduce the federal spatial footprint, while maintaining the health and productivity of the workforce, is creating strong pressures to change. Can the built environment—and specifically the workplace—respond to disturbances and stresses with resiliency? Can we intentionally develop the capacity to adapt and cope by drawing on lessons from the natural world?

[Read more…]