workplace innovation

I’ve got some real estate. Here in my bag.

by Paul Carder on August 22, 2017

by @paulcarder

“America”, (Simon & Garfunkel, 1968)

Let us be lovers,
We’ll marry our fortunes together.
I’ve got some real estate
Here in my bag.

Whatever meaning you may attribute to this beautiful song, to me it reflects a very human feeling of searching, of travelling….of movement even. The need to ‘get away’, to explore, and find new things. Perhaps, to find meaning.

[without getting too political, “to look for America” will be a quest troubling many people right now! One cannot help think Paul Simon will feel more empty and aching now even than in the song.]

Who needs real estate? Who needs more than a bag, a pack of cigarettes, one of Mrs. Wagner’s pies, to walk off and look for America? …a bottle of water perhaps. And obviously a smartphone.

Imagine the words of the song now, almost 50 years later:

“Kathy”, I said,
As we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh,
have you got a good WiFi signal?

The cashless, wireless kid on the Greyhound bus today, off “to look for America” has very different real estate in his or her bag. You will have seen the graffiti’d amendment to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, with WiFi added as the new basic need above all others…it feels like that sometimes.

Providing she has money in the bank, somewhere in the world, and a WiFi signal on the smartphone, she can acquire all manner of ‘real estate’ …fleetingly, temporarily, for a few hours or a few days.

Counting the cars
On the New Jersey Turnpike

The contemporary young Simon, and his Kathy, have no need of a car. They can ‘buy’ an Uber for a few minutes when they need it. Or hire a car for a few days, to drive up the coast perhaps. They can ‘buy’ an AirBnB room for a night, or a week. Or a whole house, for all their friends to meet. Real estate, in the bag, on the iPhone.

Now they want to work like this too…..

And why not? If you live like this, why not work like this too? It is the sharing economy, the experience economy. Owning things is for your parents. Smart people are now buying memories, not ‘stuff’.

The technologists are busy creating platforms and Apps for us to book anything, almost anytime, and almost anywhere. Their business developers are connecting all manner of assets with their Apps …putting the customer together with whatever they need, when they need it.

Early pioneers of corporate real estate used to say most organizations are ‘in real estate’ by default. Not any longer.

Every year, there is less need for any organization to be ‘in real estate’ in any way at all.

Corporate and commercial real estate operators may all be working for ‘booking platforms’ before much longer. A few organizations will still build their own HQ, and hold a few leases on ‘core’ parts of the portfolio. But everything else will surely be ‘bookable’.

Every Monday morning will be a little like that young couple on the Greyhound bus; a journey, a new day, a new place (or favourite old place). Somewhere you want to go, with people you want to be with. If you are a knowledge-worker, of course. If your work is talking, creating, writing, and connected to a device.

I hope. And we all need that right now.

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Try the 4-4-2 fortnight

by Paul Carder on January 8, 2016

by @paulcarder

This has nothing to do with football (soccer). That’s lost a few people who found this via Google search!

I have mentioned this a few times in presentations and various seminars, but realized that I have not actually written it down. So here goes…

Very simple: 4 days a fortnight in “the office” (provided by your employer; where you are probably “based”), 2 days a fortnight working at home, and 4 days a fortnight in some “third place”. The latter is what really interests me. “Third places” can be a whole variety of places, some specifically designed and marketed for working at, and others used for working and a mixture of other activities.

The 4-4-2 fortnight seems to me to be a proxy for what is happening amongst corporate-employed knowledge workers. The numbers will vary, over different weeks, but I’d like to bet that there are many professionals, managers, sales staff and others who are pretty much doing this right now.

There are some roles (not many) which are stuck at 10-0-0. They are at their contractual ‘place of work’ every day. They have no chance to work from home, or anywhere else. Those of us who are fortunate to have the flexibility to manage our own diary, travel, and work in a variety of places, we rely on the “anchor” go-to people on 10-0-0 fortnights. We all rely on Karen in my cluster at UWE Bristol, as we know Karen is in the office, and generally knows what is going on. We have a large team, no secretaries (remember them?) but one very good Exec PA, Karen.

There are home-based workers who, let’s say, come into the office once a week, and are therefore at 2-0-8. So, for 8 days in the fortnight they do not use the corporate office, do not need a desk, and in return do not suffer the commute in and out of wherever. Their commute is lengthened only by walking the children to school, or stopping off to buy a coffee. No trains, planes and automobiles for them…most days anyway.

For a great short film (<5 mins) see Two Lives by WorkplaceTV on YouTube. It is a funny, but absolutely correct, interpretation of two work days – one commuting, the other working at home.

Where is everyone else on this simple spectrum?

Some people don’t like working from home, for a variety of reasons (they get bored, lonely, feel disconnected, worried their work will not be recognized, etc.). For some, therefore, the 10-0-0 is a preference. I had that situation for about one year, when my company moved offices out of London and only six miles from my house. For once, I was ‘in’ nearly every day, and never worked from home. Others just like the routine, or even the ‘time-out’ on their commute. I have a friend who commutes 1.5 hours each way, every day, to and from London. He reads a lot of books! He wouldn’t change that. He loves the ‘buzz’ of London, and his office (where he gets up to all sorts of mischief) but he wouldn’t live in London. So he enjoys reading a lot.

NearDesk – “a million people working near home one day per week”

I share the vision of Tom Ball, CEO and founder of Neardesk.com, to get “a million people working near home one day per week”. Or more, perhaps?

For many people, working at home is either not an option (“home” is too small, or shared, or busy/noisy) or not a preferred option, for the reasons stated above. But neither is commuting ‘preferable’, for reasons of time, stress, cost, or environmental consciousness (which is only going to increase, with commitments made by world leaders in Paris recently).

Working near home could be a win-win for all parties: employers, governments and the working population.

Tom’s vision could be described as 8-2-0. Or, 8 days a fortnight in the corporate office, and 2 days working nearer to home. Then there are many people for whom one day a week at home is fine – not too isolating or boring. Then we get to 6-2-2. And so it goes on… all permutations are possible!

Try the 4-4-2 fortnight, and do let us know how it went!

Try it with your team.

Sit down with the team and explain the idea. Tell them they can work at home. Or at some “third place” (companies like Near Desk can provide many options, and issue cards to your team members which allow them to be charged for the time they use).

What is your team average before you start? Doubt it is 10-0-0. Most teams have someone working occasionally at home, or somewhere else.

The challenge is to get the first number in the sequence down from 10! 8-1-1 may be an initial target? That equates to one day a fortnight at home, and one day a fortnight in a third-place. Across a team, some people may work at home, and some in a third-place, once a week…the number comes out the same of course.

I wonder who will get to 4-4-2 first. Whoever does, depending on distance (!) I will gladly come to your office with chilled champagne…albeit, you will not all be ‘in’ the office 🙂

Paul

paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com

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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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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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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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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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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 (paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com); 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….

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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?

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