PLACEMAKER

A sojourn into biology, rewards, and place

by Paul Carder on January 2, 2016

by @paulcarder

For the time-poor, here: The memory of the great place where you went, replays (fast) whilst you sleep, and is stimulating the memory of what you learned. So avoid crap places/spaces if you want people to remember stuff…. OK, that’s lost a few people… a poor life this, if full of care, we have no time…

For the benefit of the reader who may wish to follow this little diversion into ‘real science’, I will provide a routemap via Google Scholar (which, in itself, if you have not used it, is an absolute treasure trove). So…in Google Scholar, click on “advanced search” (a drop down menu), and in the first box labelled “with all of the words” type the two words reward and place.

[why? – because I have been researching whether ‘place'(s) etc., corporate space, has been linked to HR compensation and rewards. i.e., does anyone actually think about place as a “benefit” to employees. Then I went off on this tangent… I urge you to do this too… regularly].

So, alongside the text “where my words occur” make sure you toggle to “in the title of the article”. Today, it gave me 75 articles …by the time you try this, there may be more.

Next, alongside the text “without the words” type in the words dopamine, drug, foods and “conditioned place preference” (we’ll come back to that term in a later blog!). And search again…now you may be down to about 33 articles. I have listed just the one paper referenced in this blog, at the footer below.

What comes next is truly fascinating! Real hard science about the link (mostly in poor old rats, but hey…) between place and reward. Not our usual social science, based on opinion, discussion, surveys (which I love, and practice, as I was put off statistics at a young age) – no, the study of brain activity by biologists!

First on the list is Lansink et al (2009) who introduce their paper with this familiar feeling:

Thinking back to an exciting event often includes the scene in which the event took place. Associations between specific places and emotional events are consolidated in memory, but how this is achieved is currently unknown.

Their research took a step further. In discussing brain activity, they demonstrate that “a combination of spatial and emotional aspects of a learning experience is replayed in the hippocampus and the ventral striatum during sleep, which is likely to contribute to the consolidation and strengthening of memory traces”. In layman’s terms, my interpretation, the hippocampus is associated with spacial awareness (or ‘place’), and the ventral striatum is associated with emotion. What Lansink and colleagues discovered was that, during sleep, memories of a place can (and do) stimulate other memories, and consolidate these memories (Memory Consolidation Theory):

  …the hippocampus initiates and orchestrates replay in connected brain areas. In addition, sleep replay occurs at a time scale about ten times faster than during the actual experience, which makes it a mechanism suitable for strengthening synaptic connections associating place with reward

Put simply, say you go to a really great place – a stimulating environment – then you are engaged in some activity in which you learn (perhaps a presentation, or even just a discussion amongst peers… a meeting). Then you go home, later you sleep. Your brain double-taps like Special Ops! It fires the ‘place’ memory, quickly followed by the ’emotion’. And the sleep replay is on ‘fast-forward’ x 10. The memory of the place where you went, is stimulating the memory of what you learned.

How does this make you feel about your next team away-day? Maybe you’ll persuade the boss that it really is worth spending a bit more money (or just being creative, perhaps) in finding a great place to meet up.

….but not that “Training Room” with no windows, in the basement….your hippocampus will not talk to your ventral striatum if you go down there! And you’ll all forget whatever Rupert from Group Legal took half a day out from his golf practice to tell you about.

As a corporate placemaker, you know that place matters. So do clever rats, biologists (and lawyers).

 

Refs:

Lansink CS, Goltstein PM, Lankelma JV, McNaughton BL, Pennartz CMA (2009) Hippocampus Leads Ventral Striatum in Replay of Place-Reward Information. PLoS Biol 7(8): e1000173. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000173

 

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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

paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com

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A huge coworking hub in middle-America

by Paul Carder on November 30, 2015

The marketing blurb for Timothy Sprinkle’s 2015 book, “Screw the Valley“, says:

The most exciting high-tech startups are escaping the expensive and inbred environment of Silicon Valley. Welcome to the future.

Really? To where? …NYC? – yes. Austin, TX? – well, yes, less obvious maybe to those outside the US, but it is a fairly popular place. …Kansas City? …really?

The 2015 book’s blurb continues:

Entrepreneurs know they must embrace innovation to excel—starting with where they locate their new venture. Fortunately, budding companies seeking fertile ground have more options today than ever before. Screw the Valley calls on today’s entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners to forget California and explore other options across the country—cities that offer more room to breathe, easier access to funding and talented workers, fewer heads to butt, and less money down the drain

Timothy Sprinkle visits seven areas that “offer a superior landscape for tech startups” – Detroit, New York City, Las Vegas, Austin, Kansas City, Raleigh-Durham, and Boulder. He explains “the startup potential” in each city, detailing which industries are thriving where, and highlighting “the unique appeal and character of each location”.

The book’s blurb ends with this statement:

Bright ideas are not geographically limited, and innovation is happening every day in cities all over the country. It’s time to think outside the box when it comes to startup location. It’s time to say Screw the Valley.

It’s kind of like saying “if you can make it there, you can make it in the middle of nowhere…” (etc… to Sinatra’s music).

In “Screw the Valley: Kansas City Edition” (a brief extract of the main book) Sprinkle provides an overview of the assets and help available to Kansas City startups and #tech entrepreneurs. It appears that the “City of Fountains”, with its French-style boulevards, has many resources to offer businesses.

Sprinkle does, however, admit that Kansas City, “as a tech ecosystem, still has a branding problem”. He asks:

Why would anyone want to live in the middle of the Great Plains? Where do they work? What do they do for fun? Really, what’s the appeal? …As a State, Kansas has long been misunderstood…

Well, I can’t answer many of those questions. But, we can at least now see where some people will work in Kansas City. They are going back to school, almost literally.

The local Startland News reported that Sustainable Development Partners (KCSDP) purchased the Junior High School in January 2014. And that Kansas City Public Schools approved, in September, the sale of the High School to Sustainable Development Partners. The KCSDP website has more images and information relating to the Collaborative Innovation Hub.

The redevelopment scheme for the combined 300,000 square-feet of space will cost about $23 million. What was once Westport Junior High will become ‘home’ to non-for-profits, whilst the former Westport High School will be a space for tech and innovation.

On 18th November, Startland News ran this piece: The ‘world’s biggest coworking studio’ is coming to Kansas City. The KCSDP is partnering with coworking company Plexpod to deliver the facility.

In fact, it is not just a coworking studio:

the space will feature an array of amenities for entrepreneurs and the community as a whole, including office space, a business incubator, access to investors, an event space, a maker’s studio and more

The Startland News piece states that the Kansas City metro area already has 11 coworking spaces, but that “none will come close to rivaling the amenities and size offered at the Westport Commons project”. KCSDP reckons that “given current trends, Kansas City needs about 500,000 square-feet of coworking space to accommodate independent workers.” Wow! So coworking really has taken off in a big way.

But, can they create a place where people want to be, in those numbers, in an old school building? Most of the other coworking spaces, as the article notes, are about 5,000 square feet. Is there a reason for that, perhaps?

Do “huge” and “coworking go together? Do “huge” and “boutique hotel” go together?… I’d say, no. There is something about place which relates to scale.

I’d like to visit a year or two after it is up and running. Will the place have a ‘buzz’? Or will it feel big and corporate? It would be fascinating to read the objective views of a social network analysis study, sometime down the line. Will the operator assist that social network to develop, so the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts?

Or will people drift off to the 5,000 sq.ft. ‘buzzy’ coworking hubs? We’ll see, I guess…

@paulcarder

 

Further reading:

Bartels, L. M. (2006). What’s the Matter with What’s the Matter with Kansas?. Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 1(2), 201-226; available at: http://www.princeton.edu/~bartels/kansasqjps06.pdf

Frank, T. (2004). What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.
New York: Henry Holt & Company

Sprinkle, T. (2015). Screw the Valley: A Coast-to-Coast Tour of America’s New Tech Startup Culture: New York, Boulder, Austin, Raleigh, Detroit, Las Vegas, Kansas City. BenBella Books, Inc.

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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.

NEXT?

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.

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PLACEMAKER: a cure for commuting

by Paul Carder on December 12, 2014

By @paulcarderhttps://www.linkedin.com/in/paulcarder

Type the words “cure for commuting” into Google, you will find 6,580 results. Type the words “cure for stress” into Google, you will find 212,000 results. And so on…. “cure for cancer”, finds 656,000 results

[and “cure for” (anything), finds 34.4 million results]. So we are looking for many cures for many issues. It is a very human facet, to seek to find cures to make the lives of other people more bearable.

Almost 100 times more focus (simplistically using Google as a lense on the world) goes on cancer than it does on commuting. More than 1 in 3 people in the UK will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. Again in the UK, Cancer is the biggest fear but 34 per cent put it down to fate. Cancer is scary – it can kill you. Though thanks to great research, a lower proportion of people are dying as more cures are discovered, and as new drugs come on line.

Commuting is a cancer on modern life

Commuting is not really comparable to cancer, is it? Really? Come on – its not going to kill you, is it? …is it?

Not in the same way, of course not (though stress is a killer) – but commuting is a ‘cancer’ on modern life. In fact, it has been for generations now, and it is getting worse. You do not even need to be in a gridlocked metropolis to experience commuting pain. It seems that every city and town has its commuting problems these days.

Yet not many people, or organisations, seem to be looking for a “cure for commuting”, relative to all the other ills of the world. We all seem to be putting a sticking plaster over a nasty-looking growth, and hoping that will make it better. It is not working. It never will. It needs to go under the knife.

In fact, if you take away from the search term “cure for commuting” the words “stress”, or “chaos”, or “blues”, or “problems”, there are very few references remaining. Urban transport planners are looking to make commuting easier, less stressful and perhaps less chaotic in some places. But they are generally not looking for a cure itself. Most people seem to assume that commuting has to happen, and therefore all one can do is to make it less painful. It has become almost like a form of palliative care….i.e., sorry, we can’t cure your disease, but we’ll try to make your life bearable. We’ll take away the pain, but we know you’ll still have to suffer.

Work and life do not need to be separated in this way. Commuting is not inevitable, nor can it continue in its current form. It is bad in many western cities – it is far worse in many recently developed or developing countries. We may complain in London or Melbourne about traffic, but we have public transport.

Johannesburg is a commuting nightmare. The Gautrain airport service won an award this year for its airport service (Sandton to OR Tambo International). But that does not help the many thousands of daily commuters with no option but to sit in traffic for hours every day.

Some of the most ‘developed’ cities are hardly better than developing countries. This article from LSE Cities describes similarities between Los Angeles and São Paulo where “a much smaller area is accessible by public transport compared to the car”.

The cure for commuting is not binary, either-or, but rather either-and

All working people must commute sometimes. We all need to travel, from where we live, to where we need to be with other people. We just do not need to do so every day, without questioning the rationale.

Real estate professionals need to consider how many different options can be created to help people to work where they find it most effective. Some of these options are as follows:

  • working at home
  • working nearer to home (as Tom Ball, CEO of neardesk.com is pioneering) in work ‘hubs’
  • working at partner/client offices, nearer to where you live
  • companies providing their own small workhubs, which are more regionally distributed
  • and…of course, sometimes you really must be in the corporate office, at certain times

The problem occurs, of course, where the latter is the daily default option – and where the other options are not available, nor considered.

The cure for commuting needs visionary leadership, by corporate executives

Transport planners fight for resources to make commuting more bearable for the millions of people who must commute daily. But the cure for commuting, for many thousands of people who could make use of one of the other options listed above, must be led by visionary executives.

If a CEO makes a decision to implement various work and place options, as above – making clear that ‘the office’ is not the only (or default) option – hundreds of people can begin to get some precious time back. Their lives will improve.

In fact, so will their engagement levels; so it is a win-win for corporation and employee. Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace”  discovered that 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged or actively disengaged at work. And when looking at what leaders can do to improve employee engagement and performance in their companies, trust was a key factor. And trusting employees to work remotely from their company office was cited as one way of improving employee engagement.

Build it, test it…do it again

As real estate professionals, working with occupiers of space, especially for growing numbers of knowledge-workers, we need to test out these workplace options. We need to build work-hubs closer to where people live – perhaps in their local main shopping street. We need to seek out those who are already doing this, and form partnerships and alliances.

Imagine a world where most employees could, for part of their working week, walk or cycle to their local ‘hub’. Not just the haphazard arrangement some people are forced to use today – taking their laptop to a coffee shop. But, a fully-functioning workplace, with people from many organisations, co-working together in their own town (or part of a city).

The challenge – as ever – is changing the mindset of executives and managers!

This is the one we all must work on! But the more facilities that are provided, to work effectively without the need for commuting, the more people will use them. And slowly, senior executives will see that they are not the domain of the work-shy, but rather they are used by highly engaged and committed employees who have just ‘seen a different way’.

If you own or manage a workhub, perhaps the way forward would be to try everything you can to entice CEOs to use your ‘hub’. Then they may just bring their people with them! We hope….

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by Paul Carder@paulcarder

How often has someone said to you, “there is a time and a place…”? In my case, it is usually because I have chosen the wrong time, or place…or both! My card was stamped early: he must read, listen, think, write, and occasionally be mixed with some smart people. And that is broadly what I have done. Never to be a diplomat, nor a senior executive. Relied on to be creative, and to do a good job perhaps; not always relied on to tow the party line (!), nor to suffer fools and time-wasters. I don’t want to spend all my time working; so, short efficient meetings, get decisions made, get stuff done – more time for life. I find it hard to deal with people who go around in circles and can’t make decisions!

The good team leaders I have worked for always know these things. They know how to get the right mix of personalities and skills; and the team members will know their place in that team. Those who have worked through an exercise on Belbin Team Roles as I have (a few times) will understand their place. I am always a Plant!

So, we are all different – OK, and good. Provided that we know! But I’m not always convinced by what I read about GenY (or even GenX – my lot), for the same reasons. I’m a Plant – and my eldest son is almost certainly a Plant! It is not about age, or generation even, but more about the individual. Assumptions can be dangerous. But how does a PLACEMAKER create and manage attractive places for all types of people?

There is a higher level of ‘time and place’. Have you ever considered the bigger picture of life, time and place? I’m convinced that workplace strategists, designers and corporate real estate professionals rarely consider this. Or what is called ‘life course’ research. Giele & Elder (1998: 22) define “life course” as “a sequence of socially defined events and roles that the individual enacts over time”.

Is the time and place of work a life course issue? It certainly changes, for most people, over time. I think it is an issue to be considered, especially as the workforce gets older. What is an attractive place to work when one is 25, is unlikely to have the same appeal at 65 – and far from being retired, many of us (and certainly our children’s generation) will be ‘at work’ in some form well past current retirement ages. Again though, it is not about age per se, and even in writing that last sentence I have made an assumption.

Barristers Chambers would be an interesting case study. A 25-year old or a 75-year old may be equally comfortable in the timeless surroundings of tradition, if they ever wanted to be there. The pleasures of rank and status may keep the ‘old’ lawyer just as content (or more, probably) than the fortunate young lawyer who recently worked hard to get there. They both know that they are part of a fortunate elite, in a club atmosphere.

But let’s face facts – most workplaces have been stripped of all their ‘status’ trappings and benefits. The accountancy and management consulting firms feel very different to the barristers’ chambers. The corner office looking over the river is now a meeting room of course – for use by anyone on a ‘needs’ basis. The long and expensive lunches are few and far between. The older accountants are mostly those whose income quadrupled when they made Partner, and who don’t wish to give that up. Those who haven’t made it, or decided it was not worth it, are opening a bottle at 8pm rather than opening emails in the office….

What will keep people in the corporate, city office, at different stages of life? What will keep them in the company, period? What’s in it for them? Money, perhaps. But many realize, some later than others, that wealth is a multi-faceted thing; not about money. Perhaps they enjoy the buzz, and imparting their knowledge to the younger generation. Maybe (as another increasing trend) they live alone, and/or are bored at home, and the corporate office is their social world. Another increasing trend is for ’empty-nesters’ to trade their cavernous 5-bed detached home in ‘the sticks’ for a bijou apartment in the city. To walk to work, to the restaurant, and the theatre; also happy with the corporate office, for its convenience and conversations.

San Francisco Bay area has certainly seen all this happening, amongst the savvy tech firms especially. The ‘kids’ want to be in downtown San Francisco – a cool place to be. Those with a family need a larger house, and trade the less ‘buzzy’ atmosphere of Palo Alto. But, some return downtown later, when they can afford the high prices attached to an apartment in one of the world’s most sought-after cities. So, there we see times and places to suit – a life course; and every one is different.

I think this may be a fruitful area of research for workplace strategists. So far, I only have anecdotal evidence from my own experience and discussions at workshops and events over the years. But, this will be part of the PLACEMAKER research as we move forwards.

Refs:

Giele, J.Z & Elder, G.H. (Eds.) (1998). Methods of Life Course Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches, Sage Publications

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By Paul Carder: @paulcarder & @WorkAndPlace

This article caught my imagination: http://www.citylab.com/design/2014/06/who-really-owns-public-spaces/373612/

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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PLACEMAKER: Independence

by Paul Carder on July 5, 2014

By Paul Carder @paulcarder & @WorkAndPlace

May I take this opportunity to wish our friends in the USA (and our own Jim Ware of course) a peaceful or hectic weekend, whichever is your preference! It is the 4th July, and that’s the National Day….big celebrations! All weekend for many.

This made me consider independence, and what it means today. We live in an inter-connected world, so the concept of independence as a country is arguably very different today than it was in 1776. That doesn’t seem to stop the many countries currently driving towards their own independence from their geographical neighbours. That is about power and control. It is locally important, but globally? Irrelevant? Unless you pay a lot of tax.

It seems particularly apt to quote Benjamin Franklin (in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789) who said:

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

Until recently, Franklin was correct. But today, global organizations shift their operations around the world, to avoid tax. Some large organizations are arguably more influential than many countries. They have a level of ‘independence’ from any location.

Independence & Place

Of course, tax is only one reason that organizations choose to be in a particular place. It seems (to me, at least) that there are essentially three types of place – historic, popular, newly created….and combinations.

(nb., academics – do please send me references to any models which back up this hunch! thank you)

Putting taxation to one side, there are places and there are people – both far more interesting than tax!

Cities and people, in fact, are the beating heart of a global economy. Cities are rarely independent from their country, but they are ‘places’ at a macro-level, with an ability to create their own brand of independence. And educated knowledge-workers today have significant levels of independence.

Cities like London are historic (they have attracted people, and grown, over decades or hundreds of years). London is also popular (people want to be there) and that also drives the ‘newly created’ parts of London. Cities like Dubai are newly created, and popular with people, for different reasons.

The global PLACEMAKER

Is there a role emerging, that has responsibility for making sense of all of the above? A City Mayor, and inward-investment professional, focused on the success of their ‘place’. And a Workplace Strategist in a global organization, creating ‘places’ at a micro-level, within cities where people want to be. And of course, the architects, planners, investors and real estate developers who physically create these places for both city leaders and organizational workplace leaders.

A useful conversation at the PLACEMAKER conference, where these people will meet, would be the concept of independence at a country-level, city-level, in commercial organizations, and for individual people and families. With increasing independence, where will (or where do) people aspire to work and live? In which country, which city, and in what kind of workplace (and home)?

To what extent is ‘place’ a critical success factor for organizational performance? How can the PLACEMAKER contribute, and measure their contribution, to high performing organizations? And how does this interconnect with successful cities?

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By Paul Carder : @paulcarder

I attended a fascinating ‘Mobilities Workshop’ on Friday at University of the West of England (UWE). It was one of a number of research seminars and workshops run by the Department of Geography & Environmental Management (GEM) which is fortunately in the same Faculty as my colleagues in Architecture & Built Environment. This allows, and promotes, some great multi-disciplinary thinking, between Departments across the Faculty.

As Frank Duffy said in his introduction to Rob Harris‘ book, ‘Property and the Office Economy, the study of geography produces people “well formed in that most physical and integrative of all disciplines”. That was certainly the case at the Mobilities Workshop, with attendees from human geography, sociology, planning and architecture backgrounds.

The agenda intrigued me, with the stated aim, “to connect home with mobility and migration, to explore how home is theorized and analysed within the mobile paradigm”. In our market sector of workplace strategy, and perhaps corporate real estate and facilities management, we talk about mobility in a very different way – it is all about agile working. And we talk about working from home, from offices, and from a multitude of thirdplaces continuously springing up in urban environments. But, do we think about the concept of ‘home’ and what it means?

My colleague Edward Wigley framed the discussion:

Home sometimes disappears in the analysis of mobility, where the experience of being on the move is the focus, rather than the places at either end.  Of course, home itself may be nomadic, but the place called ‘home’ still has social resonance and meaning, even if those meanings are contested.  There is an opportunity to explore how the home is positioned in existing academic narratives of mobility and migration, and the potential for new interpretations and approaches.

This made me really think hard! In the world of work, and the places which we create and manage to support that work, to what extent do we consider the concept of ‘home’? Thoughts, feelings and emotions about home. We have all heard the phrase ‘a home from home’, but do we create this concept for people at work? More widely, who thinks, and who leads, on the corporate organisational side?

Who creates ‘home’ for people at work?

That is not to say that we want to re-create some physical resemblance of homes; workplaces are not homes! And we all have different tastes! But perhaps to re-create the feeling that people have for (and of) home – but somewhere else, where they are with other people in a work setting. So they walk into a place and soon feel ‘at home’; comfortable – not distracted, or stressed, or alienated. But able to entirely immerse themselves in whatever it was that they went there to do. To work, in some form, probably with others, or maybe alone in concentration.

Hotels – not for the first time, mentioned in this blog – clearly know how to do this.

What is the difference between an office and an hotel? Many years ago, there was a great deal of difference. But in the best of offices (and in most thirdplaces and co-working hubs especially) the feeling of an hotel exists to varying extent already. An office is simply an hotel without bedrooms for rent. Though even that is not a concrete definition, as I have visited offices in the City of London with visiting executive and VIP guest suites.

The real question is ‘who creates’ this experience of ‘home from home’? It is part of the professional toolkit of the PLACEMAKER. If that person has a hotel management background, and has sufficient seniority and budget to back up their skill-set, you will feel the experience of a hotel, possibly before you even set foot in the place. The signage will be clear and welcoming – not security style. The reception will be attentive, efficient and relaxing. The hospitality will be immediate and consistent throughout your visit.

You’ll feel at home….just, you are not. The PLACEMAKER is at work, even if you don’t feel like you are.

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Imagine that a child was given school homework, to make a PowerPoint slide of Mum’s journey to and from work. It may look like this: https://app.box.com/s/w19otbry4gt53m3zfs3q – hopefully not too much better, as I’ve just done that with basic clipart!

Now, imagine how much of that picture might make little sense to a school-child in 2040 (or, thereabouts). Or at least, I truly hope that it would not be a ‘normal’ daily journey. It might make a fairly interesting educational boardgame actually? Roll a pair of sixes, to work from home. Dash it, I rolled two ones – have to catch that crowded commuter train again….any entrepreneurs out there, call me!

Transport infrastructure is a political hot-potato, probably in any city or densely populated region. But, one has to ask the question, is infrastructure the right way to spend our way to a better future? Politicians seem to think so. Look at our ‘boardgame’ though, and it would be immediately obvious to a child that there are many options other than travelling the winding route all the way to the corporate office.

My regional partner in Australia, Martin Leitch, was telling me about his home city of Melbourne on our regular call last week. Aparently it is currently expanding faster than Sydney. This is creating a serious issue with travel into the CBD, and the politicians (like everywhere) seem to believe that throwing money at transport infrastructure is the solution. So, we got discussing whether they should redefine infrastructure as a wider support for working in a different way. That infrastructure should include places, spaces and technology which allows people to do their work without travelling too far from where they live. Just like our boardgame picture – walking to a ‘desk’ in a coffee shop, or using the beleaguered Main Street which has been starved of customers since the advent of out-of-town shopping centres. Or perhaps even travelling to the railway hub, but not boarding any train! Why not – lots of parking and buses, so why not have a ‘work-hub’ at every rail hub?

It is all about city, urban, suburban, and rural planning. Land economics – what is the best economic use of land. The cost to live in the centre of cities, even if one wanted to, is always going to be too high for most families. The cool CBD is for the young professionals, singles, affluent couples without children, and a few ’empty-nesters’. Unless you are very wealthy, the rest of us need to commute to an office from various distances away from the centre. That daily grind seems to get more expensive, and stressful (due to many factors – overcrowding, delays, etc.).

It is also not sustainable, in the human or environmental sense. Carbon has had a price now for many years, due to schemes such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. And that carbon ‘price’ will only rise over time. Add that to the actual ‘real’ fuel cost of travel, commuting will become a balance between necessity and affordability. It will be reduced, and ‘rationed’ in effect, to the one or two days a week that a person actually needs to be ‘co-located’ with the rest of their team in order to stay sufficiently ‘in touch’. But, commuting five days a week over long distances will surely be deemed wasteful, and environmentally damaging – not to mention costly and inefficient.

Then, there are the social pressures on families, especially – childcare, and elderly or carer responsibilities. It would be far easier, for many working people who also have carer responsibilities, to be able to get home in a shorter amount of time. There is no time to expand on that here, but there is extensive literature available on flexible working, and many governments are supporting with legislation.

In our little real estate world, who should be interested in all this? Real estate economists and developers, for sure – what they develop, and specifically where, needs to change. There will not be the demand for tertiary office space, especially older and inflexible property stock. Occupiers will need less space in the corporate ‘head office’, but what they do need will be good quality, highly flexible, in attractive locations where people can easily access transport links.

They will invest in fewer, smaller, high-spec ‘hubs’ in key cities – and they can spend a little of what they have saved on attracting and retaining staff, by giving them some form of flexible workspace ‘clubcard’ to access a facility closer to home.

Aha, the lamp lights – what will these ‘local centres’ look like? Well they may look like the existing small town Main Streets, retail centres, and rail hubs as mentioned above. Most of the buildings that we will be using in 2040, of course, already exist – we only add a little to the ‘stock’ every year. But those existing buildings can be redesigned, and refurbished of course (developers eyes light up too, now). Property development opportunities. Also the creation of a new service economy, aimed at making peoples’ working day more effective – and attracting them to their ‘local centre’. It will have to be high quality though – if you have worked in central city locations for years, and now you are contemplating working 2-3 days a week in your local hub, it can’t feel like second-class experience. But, if we get the quality of facility and experience right, people will come – they will not mourn the loss of their daily commute into the corporate office. After all, they will still commute once or twice a week, to stay in touch, socialize, meet clients, or for many other reasons. And if commuting is not a daily grind, it may become a welcome trip to see friends. Absence makes the heart grow fonder!

So, perhaps the question should have been, not ‘what’ was, but ‘why’ did we commute Grandma? That one, I’ll leave to you to ponder!

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