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29 January 2016

Job automation

Embracing the inevitable rise of the robots in the workplace

Embracing the inevitable rise of the robots in the workplace

We often have reason these days to speculate on the truth of an idea known as Amara's Law. First coined by the researcher Roy Amara it states that "we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run". But defining what we mean by short and long term can be very difficult when technology is changing so quickly. Nothing better illustrates this than the issue of how automation will transform society and workplaces. For the past few years, the effects have mainly been the subject of academic and scientific research alongside some lurid headlines in the mainstream media. So, a fairly typical 2013 paper from researchers at Oxford University assessed the risk faced by over 700 professions and discovered that nearly half of all jobs in the US could be categorised as at high risk of automation. Less academic studies such as a report published last year by Deloitte draw similar conclusions.

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Public sector

Government plans to cut size of estate by 75 percent by 2023

Government plans to cut size of estate by 75 percent by 2023

The UK Government has today published the latest edition of its annual State of the Estate report, which gives an update on plans to consolidate, divest and modernise the central government property portfolio. Minister for the Cabinet Office Matt Hancock claims that the current administration has reduced the size of the estate by 2.4 million sq. m. since 2010. (As is the way of these things, the minister claims this is equivalent to 336football pitches, 43 Shards or more than the entire principality of Monaco. Presumably individual departments measured their own successes in blue whales and double decker buses.)  He claims that this means that the total central government estate has fallen below 5,000 holdings for the first time and could fit inside the area of West Finchley (which is a new measurement on us). The reduction has been achieved by selling property ranging from the historic Old War Office (top) to an old bakery and lighthouse.

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Flexible working

Flexible working is now a requirement for many job seekers, claims report

Flexible working is now a requirement for many job seekers, claims report

Employees are increasingly keen to find jobs that offer them flexible working, according to a new study of the global labour market published by recruitment firm Indeed. The report also found that several of the world's largest economies, including the US, Germany and Canada are suffering because low wages and lack of skills mean employers are unable to find the right people to hire. According to  the report, Labor Market Outlook 2016: Uncovering the Causes of Global Jobs Mismatch, interest in jobs that offer some form of flexible working as measured by online job searches that include terms such as “remote”, “work from home” and “telecommute”has increased by 42.1 percent over the last two years in nine of the 12 countries studied.  More than half of the top 50 keywords associated with searches for flexible work globally were related to high-skilled jobs, many in the tech sectors.

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Commercial property

Maturing TMT sector fuels demand for office space in Central London

Maturing TMT sector fuels demand for office space in Central London

The Technology, Media and Telecoms (TMT) sector was the largest source of demand for office space in Central London in 2015, for the fifth consecutive year finds the latest Knight Frank London Report, Canary Wharf is set to have the strongest Central London office rental growth in 2016 with an increase of 12.8 percent. This is followed by Shoreditch at 10 percent and Midtown at 9.6 percent.  Affordability is the main driver, along with the development of Crossrail, integrating Canary Wharf with the rest of Central London, and a general shortage of available offices across London pushing tenants seeking high quality affordable offices eastwards. Expansion by TMT firms is contributing to the shift, as they are increasingly seeking larger offices. Shoreditch’s increase in office rents will principally be driven by Tech sector expansion as the more mature, established heavy weight tech firms have firmly established a London rival for California’s ‘Silicon Valley’ in the area.

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Office design

What the commercial property market tells us about trends in office design

What the commercial property market tells us about trends in office design

It's become commonplace in recent years for certain people to foresee the death of the office. The problem with this argument is that, in spite of its drawbacks, office life maintains an attraction for both employers and employees and there will always be an upper limit on how long people want to spend away from other people. Things are changing but the death of the office is a myth. As we’ve known for at least a quarter of a century, there is no absolute need for us to go to work at all. Theoretically we could just do away with offices completely if we wanted to. But as we have seen, the fact we have evolved technology to the point where we could forget about bricks and mortar, doesn’t necessarily mean we will. Not only are there practical reasons for offices to continue to exist, there are emotive ones too. If you want evidence of this, look no further than the records currently being set by the UK's commercial property markets.

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Workplace

Whatever you might be told, this is not the Office of the Future

Whatever you might be told, this is not the Office of the Future

It seems like we don’t have to wait more than a few days at a time before some or other organisation is making its own prognoses about how we will be working in the future, especially at this time of year. The thing these reports about the office of the future all share in common, other than a standardised variant of a title and a common lexicon of agility, empowerment, collaboration and connectivity, is a narrow focus based on several of their key narratives and assumptions. While these are rarely false per se, and often offer some insights of variable worth, they also usually exhibit a desire to look at only one part of the elephant. The more serious reports invariably make excellent points and identify key trends, it has to be said. However, across them there are routine flaws in their thinking that can lead them to make narrow and sometimes incorrect assumptions and so draw similarly flawed conclusions. Here are just a few.

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Work life balance

Flexible working men pay a greater career premium than women

Flexible working men pay a greater career premium than women

The growing complexities of flexible working and changing gender roles are laid bare yet again in a new report published in Australia by management consultancy Bain & Company and advocate group Chief Executive Women. The report, The Power of Flexibilty, claims that male workers pay a penalty in their careers when they opt for flexible working because they enjoy less support and are more harshly judged than their female counterparts. Many are regarded as anomalies, caught between the expectation that men spend longer hours at work on the one hand, while striving to create a more balanced life, often in a household in which a woman is increasingly likely to be the main breadwinner. The authors of the report claim that men are currently experiencing the same sort of stigmas and biases faced by women in the early days of flexible working, even though both sexes continue to face barriers when opting for flexible work.

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Wellbeing

Stress is now a fact of life for the vast majority of employees

Stress is now a fact of life for the vast majority of employees

Excessive stress threatens the wellbeing of employees across the UK and the rest of Europe, with 88 percent of British workers regularly experiencing stress at work, according to research by payroll software firm ADP. Nearly half (43 percent) of UK employees go further to say that stress is a constant factor in their roles and that they feel stressed ‘often’ or ‘very often’. In fact, just 12 percent of employees feel that they never experience workplace stress while 79 percent of UK workers feel that their employer is trying to help them manage stress levels. The report, The Workforce View in Europe 2015/16, surveyed 11,257 working adults across Europe, including 1,500 employees in the UK. It found that many employees now believe flexible working will help them deal with stress and achieve a better work life balance while over three-quarters (79 percent) of UK respondents feel their employer is trying to help them manage stress.

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Human resources

HR managers must innovate to stay relevant in the evolving workplace

HR managers must innovate to stay relevant in the evolving workplace

As the workplace moves from the traditional 9-5 model, management needs to adapt accordingly. Facilities managers are already being forced to think outside the box, and now human resources and line managers must do the same. The latest CIPD/Workday HR Outlook leaders’ survey spells out the challenge; that new ways of working and operating is an increasing reality for organisations. Yet while there is general agreement about overall strategic priorities it seems to be less clear to the wider business world how HR professionals will contribute to achieving these. Despite nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of HR leaders saying that their current people strategy will help the organisation achieve its future priorities, just a quarter (26 percent) of other business leaders agree. The CIPD recommends that the profession must look at ways in which it can innovate itself in order to stay relevant and more visibly demonstrate its 'enabling role' as the workplace evolves.

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