The future of work, today

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….


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?


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)


A Report from the Lisbon Workplace Conference

by jimware on February 21, 2013

The Lisbon Workplace Conference 2013 took place on February 19th in the new Headquarters of Microsoft in Lisbon, which was designed by 3G-Office (President of 3GOffice, which explain the context of the Conference and introduce the New Ways of Working Concepts according to the new economy “We must do something with the Corporate Spaces, they are not aligned with the mobility, work-life balance and collaboration at work” ” Companies are spending huge amount of money in RE&FM and the real occupancy is less than 70%” said Francisco Vazquez. Then Marie Puybaraud, research from JCI, look to the New WorkplaceTrends up 2040 in what she has been working for the last ten years “Rethinking the world of work: nomadic, digital,engaged, focus on experience, green,..” Marie said. Fernando Carneros,Iberian Head of RE&FM of Microsoft, explained the project of the New HQ of Microsoft in Lisbon together with Maria Rosa Abeijon, General Manager of 3Goffice in Portugal “Attention to human factors is part of the workplace focus” said Fernando. Catherine Gall, Research Director of Steelcase, “dealing with local & global tensions in workplace: getting the right mixed in the hotel of globalisation””east and west divided cultures at work”. Finally Marie introduced to the more than 100 delegates into the Digital Natives needs and ways of working. After the Conference there was a tour visiting the New Microsoft Head Quarters.”>

The Conference began with Francisco Vazquez, President of 3GOffice, who explained the context of the Conference and introduced the New Ways of Working Concepts according to the new economy:

We must do something with the Corporate Spaces, they are not aligned with mobility, work-life balance and collaboration at work. Companies are spending huge amounts of money in RE&FM and the real occupancy is less than 70%.

Then Marie Puybaraud, a senior researcher from Johnson Controls, discussed  the New Workplace Trends up 2040, which is what she has been working on for the last ten years:

Rethinking the world of work: nomadic, digital,engaged, focused on experience, green…

Next Fernando Carneros, Iberian Head of RE&FM at Microsoft, together with Maria Rosa Abeijon, General Manager of 3Goffice in Portugal, explained the recent project of the New HQ of Microsoft in Lisbon:

Attention to human factors is part of the workplace focus.

Catherine Gall, Research Director at Steelcase, spoke about “dealing with local and global tensions in the workplace:  getting the right mix in the hotel of globalisation, east and west – divided cultures at work.”

Finally Marie Puybaraud introduced  the more than 100 delegates at the conference to her research on the Digital Natives’ needs and ways of working.

Following the Conference the delegates were able to tour the New Microsoft headquarters in Lisbon.

– Reported by Francisco Vazquez, President of 3G-Office and OJL Regional Partner


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



This is the first of several notes about the just-completed Corenet Summit in Orlando, where I was able to connect with many old friends, make several new ones, and sit in on some remarkable learning sessions.

Here’s the way my first two days in Orlando unfolded:


I arrived late afternoon after a long flight from San Francisco. I had not thought about it in advance, but I think the plane was about half full of Summit attendees. I found myself sitting next to Terry Wood, Vice President of Workplace Solutions of JDSU and chair of the Northern California Corenet Chapter. We had a good time reconnecting and chatting about OJL’s “Raising the Bar’ study (to be published later this month by RICS).

Then, halfway through the flight I discovered that my long-time friend and all-around good guy John Igoe of Google was sitting in the window seat right across the aisle from me. And as I got off the plane I bumped into another good friend, Joan Price of Gensler. We were all headed to the same place – and it wasn’t the Magic Kingdom (though the Summit sometimes felt like magic).

From the time I arrived on Saturday afternoon until my departure on Tuesday evening, I never left the grounds of the Marriott World Center (but it’s a big place and I did get out very morning for long, brisk walks, so there are no regrets on that front).

Saturday night included a wonderful small group dinner with some more good friends, Kevin Rettle and Rachel Permuth-Levine of Sodexo (and several of their colleagues).


Sunday was quiet for me until mid-afternoon, though I kept bumping into other good friends and long-time Corenet stalwarts like Ellen Keable of Jacobs Engineering (a co-author with me on the award-winning IFMA Foundation book Work on the Move) and Brady Mick of BDHP Architects in Cincinnati (Brady and I managed not to talk about the then-active National League Division series between the SF Giants and the Cincinnati Reds; can’t let something like that get in the way of professional colleagues; but I sure liked the way that series turned out later in the week).

Ellen and Brady were both teaching in the MCR.w (for workplace) class that was winding up on Sunday. That was first “outing” for the new class, and I understand it went very well. Which certainly made Mark Gorman and Patrick Donnelly feel good.

The Workplace Community

Things then got much more interesting when Brady dragged me into the “business” meeting of the Workplace Community, which was of course also loaded with many folks I’ve known and worked with for years, like Kate North and Bryant Rice.

But that’s where things finally got serious. The Workplace Community, which is now about six years old, is struggling just a bit – not because of its focus or purpose, or obvious relevance, but because all of us well-meaning folks who care deeply about workplace also have “day jobs,” are always on the go, and can’t give the community the care and attention it deserves.

This particular Sunday afternoon we wrestled with that reality, and brainstormed how we could meet our primary goal of developing, codifying, and sharing important knowledge about workplace strategy, workplace innovation, and the impact of workplace design on people and performance.

Look for more news about this vibrant community filled with really smart and caring people on the Corenet website, and in newsletters and other communiqués.

The “Block” Party

The Summit then got officially underway with its opening reception, held in the foyer of the conference center, and spilling out into the surrounding outdoors, where we were treated to tasty concoctions from several first-class food trucks and some upbeat tempo from a loud (at least to this old coot) rock band. It was an unusual but welcome change of pace from the “normal” indoor reception where it’s usually too loud to hear yourself think, let alone network with friends and colleagues. The evening was warm and pleasant, and though rain threatened it stayed away.

And look for my next post, where I’ll reflect on the first “real” day of the Summit, which was filled with energizing and insightful speakers, and way too many difficult choices. There is unfortunately only one of me, so my perspectives on the whole Big Show reflect the ideas and topics that I’m personally interested in. But isn’t having those kinds of choices what the whole Summit was all about?



Corenet Summit: Off and Running

by jimware on October 8, 2012

Theme this year is “Reimagination: RE-orient, RE-ignite, RE-invent – all about the importance of innovation and creativity.

First order of business: presenting the Global Innovator’s Award – goes to Space Florida – the Boeing Commercial Crew program.

The keynoter this morning is Bill Benjamin, on “Leadership 2.0” – stressing the importance of understanding emotional intelligence. Shifting towards human-centered workplace management that produces employee engagement. Focusing the workplace on well-being.

Stay tuned for real-time reports as the speech unfolds.


I picked up a copy of “The Kinetic Organisation” from the Regus stand at CoreNet Global #CNGLondon. It is written by my ex-colleague, Andrew Mawson, owner of Advanced Workplace Associates, a UK workplace management consultancy. I’d like to also give credit to Regus for continuing to fund reports into interesting subjects.

Now, it is always dangerous to comment before you have read a report thoroughly! So, I’m prepared to be corrected of course, as the devil may well be in the detail within the 40pp report. However…..I just have some observations on first skim through the summary and conclusions sections.

The opening paragraph states the following:

“With the advent of cost-effective IT and social networking technologies there are possibilities for communicating and controlling the activities of an organisation, which are potentially more efficient than the ‘hierarchical models'”

But, surely “communicating” and “controlling” are two different (albeit related) issues. IT and social networking do make communication ubiquitous and 24/7/365 – how managers chose the best form of communication for the ‘task’ is becoming a core skill, perhaps always has been. But “controlling” is surely about communicating with some level of authority. That authority comes from hierarchy, or “grade” perhaps (for example, in the very flexible project-based structures of management consultancies, where the grades of Consultant, Manager, Director, Partner – or similar – are well understood and interchangeable between competitors when people move from employer to employer).

And that brings me onto the second paragraph of the summary:

“…the traditional command and control organisational model is broken…..why does it endure? Simply because there are no other models that have been demonstrated to work…..” 

Really?? So what about the example I have just mentioned – large consulting organisations. Not only do they advise their clients on strategy & structure, but they practice what they teach! Education and training is absolutely vital, and so is a clear risk-related hierarchy, of decision-making responsibility. I learned this at Deloitte, where consultants, Managers, Assistant Directors, and Directors all had clear decision-making guidelines, peer review, and Director or Partner sign-off prior to issue of work into the ‘public domain’ (mostly, clients – sometimes, events etc.).

So, to say that there are “no other models” is, frankly, uninformed. However, there are no references given, nor even a bibliography, at the end of the report – so how one can understand where the “no other models” conclusion came from is ‘opaque’ if not invisible.

One last point. The Conclusion on p.37 starts “This research provides a body of evidence…..”

No it doesn’t I’m afraid, and that discredits the concept of “research”. The report tells us nothing about the body of work which surely exists in this field. I’m sure my co-Director, Dr Jim Ware, could quickly unearth several previous publications from his library shelf, or his friends at Cornell and Harvard.

I would like to know how many organisations were studied, which sectors they were from (that is very relevant to the type of work, and therefore need, or not, of hierarchy), and numbers and geographical spread of responses from the “user survey”. Without all that, it is in no way “a body of evidence”, is it? So I cannot really use this report as I’d like to, because anyone can ask “so how were those conclusions reached?”…I don’t want to have to say, “erm, they didn’t say”!

I hope that in the future, Regus will set down guidelines for what they call “research” if it wishes to be taken seriously. A useful “thought leadership” piece, or opener for debate, is fine. But please reserve the term “research” for studies with a fully documented research process – literature review, references, data analysis, recommendations for further work, etc. Talk to Jim….he is one of the best anywhere!

Paul Carder, Founder/Director – Occupiers Journal Limited
twitter: @occupiers or @WorkAndPlace ;


Corenet Summit – Workplace Community

by jimware on May 1, 2012

Live blogging the Corenet Workplace Community: What’s the Future?

Come back for updates over the next 90 minutes

Kate North opening up,  welcoming people, explaining the concept of WPC

Brady Mick – introducing panel

Jan Johnson, Steve Hargis, John Hampton, Georgia Collins, Julie Seitz, Melissa Marsh, David Barban, Roy Lopinski

Intention to have quick conversations on topics, poll the audience, reveal results immediately

[Read more…]