place

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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Robots, work and place

by Paul Carder on November 7, 2015

It’s the weekend. I’m not paid by UWE Bristol (my ‘day-job’) to think at the weekend. I can stop working (attending meetings, teaching, writing emails). But I can’t stop thinking – it’s going to happen anyway. As Descartes wrote, “I think therefore I am”. This is part of the challenge of understanding what “work” actually is, for the few of us (knowledge workers¹) – most of the world is still sweating and grafting a living. They know when they have stopped work, downed tools, or whatever their terminology may be. We, knowledge workers, are probably almost as alien to some of the people doing ‘real work’ as robots are to me. All humans are sentient beings, and the robot is not. But the supposed equality of all sentient life forms would be lost, during working hours at least, on the person threading beads onto a string in India, for a rich person’s child to buy on holiday. These poor workers are robots in human form, in a sad and real sense, not like the androids of science fiction.

I have never taken much interest in robots until now, possibly as I have had little interest in what they do. But now I find myself interested in what they do not do! Robots don’t think. They are computers, with useful appendages. Robots are told (programmed) what to do, and they only do that thing when someone tells them to do so. That strikes me as being very similar to much of what we once thought of as ‘work’. Much of this work does not require a sentient life form – and the more sentient the individual is, the more likely their mind will wander, and errors will occur. Robots don’t think, so they do not get bored. So, we humans have creatively made robots which can, on the one hand take mindless soul-destroying work away from people (for a Forbes debate on this issue see this link²), and on the other hand remove their livelihood …a double-edged sword, if ever there was one….

But wait… what is this I am reading in the Guardian newspaper³ today? Robots can think! The article says:

“…the development of artificial intelligence means computers are increasingly able to “think”, performing analytical tasks once seen as requiring human judgment.”

Much of the newspaper’s article draws on a 300-page report, revealed exclusively to the Guardian, in which analysts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch “draw on the latest research to outline the impact of what they regard as a fourth industrial revolution, after steam, mass production and electronics”.

I have picked out two types of work discussed by the Guardian, which would not have been considered (by most people, I would guess) to be a possibility for robot-replacement: financial advisers and doctors.

“Financial advisers Bespoke financial advice seems like the epitome of a “personal” service; but it could soon be replaced by increasingly sophisticated algorithms that can tailor their responses to an individual’s circumstances.”

The implication here for ‘places’ is unclear, but we could imagine some scenarios. Informed users accessing the financial advice via their connected device, anywhere. Less informed users still needing to visit a financial adviser, to talk through the process (but perhaps not in the next generation?). And more work for software companies, located anywhere. In many cases, the user and the service provider (in this case, the adviser) do not need to meet, and the activity can be asynchronous. Will financial advisers offices and retail outlets be needed?

“Doctors Some 570,000 “robo-surgery” operations were performed last year. Oncologists at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York have used IBM’s Watson supercomputer, which can read 1m textbooks in three seconds, to help them with diagnosis. Other medical applications of computer technology involve everything from microscopic cameras to “robotic controlled catheters””

Again, the implication here for ‘places’ is also unclear at this time. The medical service ‘user’ would generally need to be at a specific place (a hospital, or somewhere with the appropriate facilities). But the doctor may be elsewhere. In some cases the ‘user’ would be at home, or still at the scene of an emergency. These things already happen: kidney dialysis patients can have home-treatment machines, and paramedics can treat patients at the emergency scene using head-sets connected to a doctor back at base in the hospital.

Robots change work changes places

The two scenarios above are examples of how the physical places that have become familiar may change, or the proportion of use of places may change, through the increased use of robots. Fewer financial advisers (if that is the way things go) will mean reduced demand for office space. Other new service offerings may replace the old, and office demand would normalize. Conversely, we will always need doctors, but they may not work in the same way, or in the same places at the same times as they do today.

The one area which seems reasonably clear and certain is that there will be growing work for the location-independent digital employees. For example, the software ‘coders’, technologists and data analysts, who together make the computer-driven technologies work smoothly. Where will they work, and in what kind of places? Largely in offices, labs and service-centres; more of the same. Potentially, this ever-growing group of digital employees could mostly be located anywhere. Except where the service user and service provider are working on time-critical activity, like the doctor and paramedic. Whomever is supporting them will need to feel close by, even if they are not physically close. Whereas, a non-critical online transaction, such as the financial advisory applications discussed, could be delivered from anywhere in the same way as much of back-office of financial services is already delivered.

The corporate occupier will be most affected by where the corporation finds and recruits these growing numbers of digital employees. Where are they being educated and trained? This is a concern for politicians and executives at the highest levels – will your country deliver enough people with these advanced digital skills? Will they come to where you are now? Or will you have to build new facilities for them in places where they want to be? Spaces to think? I think, therefore I am…I want…I demand…  Robots would be so much less demanding – but quite boring!

Refs:

1. The Work Foundation (2009), Knowledge workers and knowledge work: A knowledge economy programme report, London, UK.

2. Vanian, J. (2015), Robots: Will They Steal Your Job? Fortune, 4th November

3. The Guardian (2015), Robot revolution: rise of ‘thinking’ machines could exacerbate inequality, Thursday 5th November.

 

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I come from the far west of England; the rugby-loving county of Cornwall. Because I was large, I had to play, but was never much good. My second-row buddy went on to play for Scotland and the British Lions, but I took up music lessons 🙂 Anyway, we had a saying when Cornwall reached the County finals, “last one over the Tamar Bridge, turn out the lights”, as busloads of Cornish traveled to support the county side!

If you are wondering what relevance this has to anything you may usually expect to read here, it just reminded me of the current direction of travel for office occupiers. i.e., out of the office – like we sped out of the county.

There was, in fact, far more drawing us back to our beloved county of Cornwall than there is for most daily occupants of offices. Aside from the Googles and Facebooks of our occupier friends, and some of the large employers that spend serious money on great workplaces, for many others the office is a dull place. You only have to see the hoards of people walking from their soulless business park to the local supermarket to buy today’s “Meal Deal” to understand how dull life can be for those unfortunate people.

No wonder, therefore, that cool cafes and co-working hubs are busier than ever. The legions of freelancers and entrepreneurs are being joined by corporate employees who just prefer somewhere better to work. I was talking to Neardesk last week, and they are experiencing ever-rising demand from people wanting to work closer to home. Not at home: that doesn’t work for everyone (many of us just want the separation of work and home life; or have too much home life going on to concentrate). But near to home, with a short commute, good coffee, and interesting people who don’t really care if you sit on the sofa and read the newspaper for a while. Nobody is watching – they’re amongst friends (or total strangers – either way, no bosses hovering).

If you don’t have to be at the office, why would you go? It may be in a great location, and you may want to go for lunch with the girl (or guy) from accounts. But, otherwise, why not wade through your emails at a desk closer to home, and actually get home before the kids are so tired that they just want to go to sleep. Or fit in that round of golf, now that the summer evenings are here? (not for me that one – golf is a good walk spoiled – certainly for my dog!). Or take some time cooking, instead of buying a pizza at 9pm. Or…or…whatever. Take some time back.

There will always be offices. But, we just don’t need to go there every day. And agile working means desk-sharing ratios can rise, so the expanding company does not necessarily need to take on more office space. Some call it space-less growth.

So, every 4th floor you occupy could be released, if more people stayed near home one or two days a week, and let someone else use their desk on those days. Or, every 4th office building – if you occupy a portfolio within a commuting catchment area.

If you manage the 4th office, switch off the lease on your way out….

Paul

@paulcarder

@occupiers

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

Dear commercial real estate investor, What goes on tour, stays on tour, right? Usually…but I have recently returned from two conferences in the USA, and I feel I have to tell some tales. The first was the Global Workspace Association’s Annual Conference in Florida (@GWAssoc #GWABOCA2014), attended by various sized providers of workspace-as-a-service; mostly hospitality experts and marketers. They are ‘people people’, and I got the feeling that they have their finger firmly on the pulse of what people want from their working day.

The second conference was the International Facility Management Association’s World Workplace 2014 in New Orleans (@IFMA #IFMAWW14), attended by facility / facilities management professionals from around the world. Similarly, I found that many people there really ‘get it’ – that workplaces (offices, especially) are changing. And that change is permanent.

Permanent change…this is the key point really. It is not difficult, in most cities and towns, to drive five minutes from wherever you are, and to find vacant office space. And it will be easy to do so next year…and the year after. And so on. The owners of these vacant office properties may well know something that I do not. If so, I’d love to hear from them. But I just hear occupiers saying they are reducing the size of their office portfolio. And other things are changing too…

One change which was clear to anyone at the GWA conference in Boca Raton – the workspace-as-a-service (WaaS) market is growing. Occupiers (from the sole trader, and small business, through to large global corporations) are experimenting with workplaces leased for short periods of time. Some of the people I spoke with used phrases like “tipping point” and “exponential”. I didn’t take data away with me, but I’m sure it is available and would support these general views.

There are some places, like central London, where you would be forgiven for ignoring these changes. In London, there is a reported shortage of quality available office space. I’m sure that the same is true in other leading global city centres, where corporations will always be looking to attract and retain the best talent. But once you get to the fringes of these cities, or out into the smaller regional cities and towns, the agents (brokers) sign-boards are everywhere.

If I was a commercial property investor, holding tertiary offices, I might be thumbing through the last chapter of my property investment and development textbook. Those diagrams we remember from college, on the ‘property cycle’ – the last stage being redevelopment and/or sale. There just does not seem, to me at least, to be a long-term demand for the soul-less suburban and out-of-town office building. People can (and do) work in so many places today – from home, local ‘hubs’ near home, and many workspaces provided by GWA members. On the days that they do commute to their company office, I’m sure they will prefer a trip into the city HQ – the cool ‘mothership’ where all the money has been spent. But not the boring business park, where the highlight is someone selling sandwiches from the back of a van at 11.30am, and the coffee comes from a jar in the cupboard.

So, my next blog, perhaps “101 uses for a dead office”? All ideas gratefully received (I will quote you, unless you wish to remain anonymous!).

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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

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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PLACEMAKER: Research Programme: Questions?

by Paul Carder on April 17, 2014

by Paul Carder @paulcarder & paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com

This post relates to the open LinkedIn Group of the same name: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/PLACEMAKER-Research-Programme-5093552/about

PLACEMAKER is our next research programme, and we would like to get you involved. It comprises the kind of exploratory research, across multiple-disciplines, which we love – and upon which most of you will have a view! It is also related to my PhD, which officially started on 1st April at UWE Bristol, and as you know will be a long process (hopefully around four years). So, personally, I also very much welcome all your feedback – now, and into the future…

For now, I just want to put these questions out there, for you to comment upon, and add to:

  1. What is the relevance of PLACE to an organisation? Or to a part of an organisation, in a specific place?
  2. Location is one key aspect, but what are the characteristics of PLACE at different levels – region, city, sector, street, building?
  3. An organisation, any occupier of PLACE, is the demand-side of the ‘economics of place’ – what are those demand factors?
  4. Users (employees, contractors, consultants, visitors) form part of the ‘demand’ profile – what level of user engagement occurs?
  5. How does the supply-side of the ‘economics of place’ position itself to deliver to this demand profile?
  6. How do regions, cities, and sectors of cities, impact on and relate to demand from organisations and their workforce?
  7. How does the economics of agglomeration, and the competitive advantage of cities, relate to PLACE?
  8. What, and who, is a PLACEMAKER? City Mayors, property owners/developers, hub operators, and occupiers?
  9. How do they work, and interact, for mutual economic advantage?
  10. What will the future PLACE look like, for organisations and their knowledge-workers? Hooks to PLACES? Or free-roaming?

There are many more questions that we could ask – but what are the key questions? I look forward to your comments! Thank you in advance, Paul.

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