workplace management

by @paulcarder

I’m in reflective mood. On #WorldFMDay, I thought I should reflect on my affection for, and criticism of, Facilities (or Facility) Management. It is merely one person’s perspective. But it may provide a viewpoint, perhaps useful (or not) for the younger professionals joining our sector. There are some great, varied, and sometimes well-paid careers ahead for people who pick up the education and variety of skills needed in today’s FM market.

And to keep my friends happy, I’ll take the widest definition of FM that you may find! It is different in almost every organisation, and only limited by what one chooses to add to the FM portfolio. And the confidence shown in FM by the leadership of that organisation. That confidence is in the people who lead, manage and deliver FM – and there are some great leaders, managers and ‘do-ers’ around the world. It is a truly global sector.

People often fall into FM …today, it could be a career of choice. And should be.

I didn’t “fall into” FM, as many did a couple of decades ago (today, young people coming into FM can justifiably see it as a career of choice – it wasn’t in the early 1990s). I read about it, and saw it as a new and interesting sector. It wasn’t an FM practitioner who brought me into FM, but an architect and academic, Dr. Frank Duffy CBE, past President of the RIBA. More importantly, Frank was co-founder of DEGW, arguably the first workplace consultancy (see Reading University’s DEGW Archive for further information on this incredible firm). I was lucky enough to work right in the core of his international office, a desk or two away from Frank, Colin Cave (CEO), Professor John Worthington (when he was in :), and to sap up knowledge like a sponge for a year or so.

But I wasn’t an architect, designer, planner or social scientist (of which, DEGW had many greats over the years). I was a graduate Building Surveyor (“a what, sorry?” they said, in Germany or the USA, where I first travelled with the DEGW Workplace Forum). At the time, FM was being defined (it had been in existence for around a decade, publicly at least), and what I was reading was more about “workplace” than FM. That is what appealed – the whole workplace, and its contribution to organisations. A long way from surveying (and still is today, one could argue).

The Total Workplace….FM and organisations

I had Frank Becker’s 1990 book, “The Total Workplace – Facilities Management and the Elastic Organization”. Duffy and Becker were good friends, and I was fortunate to meet and talk with Prof. Becker on a couple of occasions.

I left DEGW, to join Symonds FM, in the office of another great FM thinker, and London Business School MBA, Oliver Jones (a far more successful businessman than the academics at DEGW had unfortunately been). Then I was offered my first company car 🙂 and more money in 1996, to join Procord (an IBM management buy-out of the property and FM department – one of the first large and successful ventures of its kind).

Procord (later Johnson Controls Integrated FM… much later GWS – Global Workplace Solutions …and recently acquired by CBRE) was a “total workplace” provider. And again, I was fortunate enough to get to work with top minds like Barry Varcoe (who later went on to run CRE & FM at Royal Bank of Scotland, and Zurich Financial…and is now an academic at Oxford University! If you’re in FM, you can get to Oxford…! (but only if you have a brain like Barry’s).

Occupiers …it all comes together ‘client side’

It was only really when I had my ‘baptism of fire’ at Barclays Bank in 1999-2003 that I learned the fundamentals of how all the areas of property, capital projects, policy, planning and facilities management came together. And that all of it is led by the occupier organisation – in this case, a large High Street bank. It was all very structured and orderly, and I found it hard going for at least a year. A great team of people, led by another first class mind in Peter Jones (now an MD at G4S) and working alongside someone I learned a lot from, Debi Rowland, now a Director at Sodexo.

10 years… half in consulting/supply-side… half with an occupier, client-side

I think that would be my recommendation for anyone coming into FM …and I would recommend anyone to join FM (though I have argued elsewhere, it is becoming “Workplace Management”…that’s for another day!). There are two sides to FM, and both are vital. Supply-side, working for an FM service provider or consultancy, provides a commercial understanding, and often leading practices. And client-side, working in an occupier team, for only one client…you are the client…provides a true understanding of how FM (and all its peer-group support functions) work together. And how they work with the ‘core’ front-line customer-facing units.

That was appreciation…now onto criticism 🙂 constructive, and necessary

I have not used the word profession above. I have mentioned ‘market sector’, or ‘management discipline’. And for good reason, I think – FM is not there yet. Not unlike many sectors which are only 20-30 years old, the FM sector has not done enough to become a profession…yet. And I’m not, here at least, getting into the issue of whether FM becomes “Chartered” or not (that is a British institutional thing, which albeit now global, is not the only way to become a profession). I don’t have space here to do this subject justice, but made a start in a 2013 blog.

FM needs three things to happen:

  1. the pursuit of excellence. And self-criticism, openly and honestly, with the aim of achieving perfection. Like a surgeon – not slapping themselves on that back and saying ‘how great we are’, but rather, analyzing what could be improved. And being constructively critical of what is wrong with FM.
  2. more continuous learning – and sharing that learning. That means a desire to research, to collaborate, to publish learning for the benefit of other professionals, for the benefit of the profession as a whole, and its customers.
  3. FM must consider society, and the environment (human and natural) as its customers – not just the organisations that pay directly for its services.

As I said in the 2013 blog article, there is hope for FM to become a true profession if we focus on these things:

FM has a promising professional career ahead, making a difference to society, by lifting the human spirit through people’s surroundings and a passion for service. And making a difference to the environment, by providing facilities that do as little damage to the planet as possible, and also give people the opportunity to ‘work, rest and play’ with less need to consume resources for travel.

So, I join into the spirit of #WorldFMDay – we all need to celebrate our successes. And I thank all those of you I have met along the way, over 20+ years, some mentioned above, but many more not. And I hope that, after the celebrations are over for another year, we can all focus on more reflection, self-criticism, research and learning – that will be the route to the true profession of facilities management.

Take care all.

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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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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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PLACEMAKER: a cure for commuting

by Paul Carder on December 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

Commuting is a cancer on modern life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cure for commuting needs visionary leadership, by corporate executives

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

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

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

Build it, test it…do it again

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

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

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

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

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

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By Paul Carder : @paulcarder

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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By Paul Carder; t. @paulcarder

This blog is a bit UK-oriented, for which I apologize in advance, but the key points are fairly universal.

I have just travelled up from Bristol to east Docklands, London – a bit of a schlep. Near London Docklands City airport, but not exactly central for the rest of the UK. The Facilities Show might reconsider this – Birmingham was more central. Inevitably the train was also delayed on the way back. Oh for more video-conferencing! However, it was just-about worth it to catch up with some old friends, most of whom I didn’t expect to be there.

My original reason for the trip was to find out more about The Building Futures Group (@TheBFGrp), a recent merger between trade bodies and training organisations. They are “the only organisation collectively representing the housing, property, cleaning, parking and facilities management sectors in the UK”. That is, as a trade body, representing their member companies in those sectors.

It was interesting (to me anyway) that our friend and supporter Johnny Dunford (@johnnydunford1) had sponsored the seminar, in his role as Global Commercial Director at RICS. I had tweeted before the event that it would be great to see TheBFGrp apprentices work right through to Chartered FM Surveyors…it could be done, and what a great success story that would be.

The panel discussion was as follows:

Building Trust and Professionalising FM

Panel included: Ian Jones (ITV), Guy Stallard (KPMG Facilities) @Guy_Stallard, Johnny Dunford (RICS), Sarah Bentley (@SarahBFGrp), Chris Hoar and a guy from Compass Group (sorry, I didn’t write down his name).

I’m not sure where to start with trying to summarise this discussion. Sarah opened, followed by Chris Hoar; then an uplifting presentation by Ian Jones about his view on being a great FM. Thereafter a slightly rambling discussion ensued, mostly by the panel, with a few questions. The audience were a bit on the quiet side.

Sarah reminded us that the TheBFGrp launched in April 2014. The story of the merger is across all the FM trade press, so we all know who joined, and who withdrew (i.e., BIFM). In fairness, two months is not a long enough time to expect much output yet. But, unlike the BIFM, the purpose of the TheBFGrp is at least clear. It is a trade body, in support of the service providers in our broad industry.

I noted two specific aims, from Sarah’s opening piece:

  1. Training: fit-for-purpose, for the industry – and defined pathways for progress.
  2. Professionalising: bringing the industry up to the levels increasingly expected.

‘Trust’ was the main subject of Chris Hoar’s opening words, and I found myself entirely agreeing with what he said. He talked about “love-in’s” that we all see at conferences; i.e., where client and service provider tell the audience how much they love each other, and that all is going so well.

It’s true – maybe it happens in many industries, I wouldn’t know – but in property and FM we hear a lot of mutual back slapping and limited useful analysis. Chris asked, “Are we afraid to tell the truth?” For sure, and worse – we’re in a culture of ‘good news only’. That’s why we get so much more from the breaks during conferences than we do from many of the ‘sales pitch’ presentations – over coffee you can ask, “OK, so what ‘really’ happened then?” Wry smile from the presenter, and maybe the truth – or occasionally a look of horror that you may dare ask for the real lessons to be shared!

Chris also asked whether there is a difference between public and private sectors, and if so, should there be? And he followed this by asking whether partnerships really happen. Sezgin Kaya (Accenture) made a good point in response – that any relationship with a fixed term (like a contract) cannot be a partnership. And Sezgin also inadvertently kicked off a discussion about ‘economies of scale’ (bundling contracts, looking for cost savings)….and we were off! Down the same route as always…we should not be competing on cost, but rather on service and value-add to users.

I entered the debate with a comment that I could have made (and did) more than a decade ago. That is, FM has driven itself into becoming a commodity, in most cases. And it is not all the service providers’ doing, as many clients have pushed for lowest cost. But, I was working on a “cost versus service level” matrix, for each service line, in 1998 at Johnson Controls. I took it with me to Barclays later that year, and a couple of years in, tried again to get FM companies to create such a matrix. They didn’t get it, or didn’t want to ‘codify’ service and cost in that way – maybe a bit of both.

It was a simple as the car-wash price card at your local petrol filling station. Do you want a quick wash for three quid? Or wheel scrub etc? Or the full wash and wax for five quid?

I’m not naïve enough to think that a matrix of cost versus service level for any FM service would be quite so basic as a car wash! However, with some thought (and the will to do so) this kind of information could be presented to the market: even with lots of caveats.

Without something akin to what I have described above, sadly much of the great advice given by Ian Jones will not get acted upon. Ian talked about the need to “hire character, train skills” (a quote from Peter Shutz). Ian’s talk was really all about investing time in the development of people, through apprenticeships, job rotation every two years, job swaps and mentoring. I’m sure that all the service providers in the room would like to work for Ian! It takes time to do all of this great stuff, and time costs money.

So where do we go from here? Will we be having the same discussion in five years from now?

It does not need to be that way. The BFGrp could lead a programme to bring together service providers to agree a set of common ‘service level’ categories. It would take a bit of time and thought – but over several workshops, it could be achieved. Then, using the standard IPD/en15221 cost code, with a layer of additional granularity added, we could collate and plot FM service cost against service level, for different buildings in different locations, and so on.

Lastly, then anonymize the whole data-set, and publish it, as a ‘rough guide’ to the industry’s clients. They will clearly see, then, the differential between say, a ‘Bronze’ service level and a ‘Gold’ or ‘Platinum’.

Eventually, the whole industry will start to learn how not to answer the question, “how much?” with a number, but rather with a series of questions. What level of service do you actually need? And are you prepared to pay for that level of service?

Professionalizing FM debate:

Well, as I said, it didn’t really happen. Nor did I discover anything new about TheBFGrp plans, which I was hoping to. But hey, they’re only two months old – we need to give them a chance.

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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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Workplace is discipline; see one, do one, teach one

by Paul Carder on February 7, 2014

We cannot always ‘just do it’, like the Nike adverts suggest. For the future, we also need to teach.

This point is perhaps missed in the 150th post on workessence, a reflection by Neil Usher – see more at: http://workessence.com/workplace-is-a-discipline/

Neil argues that, “Workplace – like many disciplines – is a composite of many others….Why nail ourselves to a definition?” I tend to agree, for the most part, especially having witnessed the continuous debate over “what is facilities management?”, for over two decades!

Summarizing Neil’s blog:

Workplace = ? (human resources, culture, brand, design, psychology, project & facilities management, social art, communication…, x, y).

I added ‘x, y’ because, of course, Neil is right to say, “Its part other stuff, that comes and goes, butts in and disappears. I probably should know better, think a bit more about what that might be, but it’s not that important.” 

Here’s the punchline:

There won’t be a professional body to erect barriers to entry, mysticise the boundaries, and fend off those without a certificate – we are fine with the wider network of the social web….We will float in and out of other conversations, and gatecrash parties that look interesting – or need livening up. We are okay without rules, without answers …..Workplace is a discipline, but without discipline. Long may it stay that way.

So, do we agree? In part, yes. But….what happens to teaching?

“See one, do one, teach one” is the medical schools’ signature pedagogy, now being seriously considered in legal education, and doubtless in many other less well-developed professions and disciplines. Maximum learning results when the student goes through all three stages – they visualize the activity by watching first. Then they try it for themselves. Lastly, they embed their knowledge (and usefully pass it on) by teaching the activity.

Neil Usher’s underlying criticism of the “professional body” may be well founded. Whilst the best professional bodies are fundamental promoters of new knowledge and learning opportunities, the worst are self-serving self-promotion groups. But then, the best are “professionals” whereas the worst are merely trade bodies and PR machines. One can quickly spot the difference by reviewing their publications, and/or support of serious academic and practice-based research.

Workplace is a discipline, with fuzzy edges. But, it will not develop as a discipline “without discipline” as Neil suggests. There are building blocks that every workplace strategist, consultant, designer or corporate manager needs to know. It would be wasteful to society if every young professional had to learn purely from their own experience. Of course, for medical professionals, it would also be dangerous! There are a few legal minimum standards affecting the workplace discipline, but mostly the result of a poorly executed workplace project will be an unsatisfied customer – and possibly a less effective occupying organisation.

Workplace practitioners are busy ‘doing’. But, for the future development of the workplace discipline, someone needs to capture the best of what they are doing, and document it, so that the discipline can be taught. And better still, we need a structure of “see one, do one, teach one”.

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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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