About Neil Usher

https://workessence.com/

Neil Usher is Chief Partnership Officer at GoSpace AI, an internationally renowned workplace strategist and former Workplace Director at Sky. His books The Elemental Workplace and Elemental Change are a must read for anybody with an interest in work and workplaces. 

Posts by Neil Usher:

Change like everyone is watching 

Change like everyone is watching 

At a time when we aren’t generally supposed to get within two metres of each other, depending on what the rules happen to be today (or part day), there’s a lot of embracing going on. Almost in some quarters as though it’s a resigned acceptance. You know the curve, with the part at the end where having denied it, got angry then depressed and reluctantly bargained with it, we finally get on with it. Which of course isn’t how anything happens at all. But that’s what us dedicate followers of Covid-era fashion are supposedly doing: embracing change.  More →

The slacker`s guide to working from home in ten easy steps

The slacker`s guide to working from home in ten easy steps

working from homeIt’s funny how all the stuff we read online over the last few years about how to be and behave at work suddenly contradicts all the guff about how to be effective while working from home over the last few weeks. Well, here’s the guide for those who’ve been taking their internet reading to heart over the last few years. More →

Out of the shadows – and staying out?

Out of the shadows – and staying out?

Our understanding of the positive contribution a fantastic workplace can make to the people and organisations that inhabit them has come a long way since the Hawthorne experiments almost a hundred years ago. The conclusions of the study were that the physical workplace was a mere hygiene factor, able to make little difference. Claims to its almost mystical powers we frequently hear today would have been unthinkable for the majority of the century that the workplace spent in the shadows. More →

The vaguery of workplace serendipity

The vaguery of workplace serendipity

It has become vogue to refer to the workplace as being ‘all about people’. It points in all directions at once. Organisations need fit, healthy, happy, skilled, motivated, engaged and purposeful people being (and feeling) productive and doing their best work every day. They want their people working closely together – they’ve spent a lot of time and money drawing in those they feel can contribute to a whole that is other than the sum of the parts. More →

The agile workplace: try to catch the wind

The agile workplace: try to catch the wind

Wheatfield with Crows depicts the pointlessness of trying to capture agile workIn the chilly hours and minutes, of uncertainty sang Donovan in ‘Catch the Wind’. That’s us, arriving at the agile workplace. We are all Donovan. The comment was recently made on Twitter that agile is “as natural as the wind”. Seemingly however, the anxiety and frustration generated by our experiences are proving as impossible as catching it. Change programmes issue us with a metaphorical bag to catch it in. Where the problem seems bigger we get given a proportionally bigger bag, forgetting the problem of mass.

More →

A fantastic workplace does not have to be innovative, just fantastic

A fantastic workplace does not have to be innovative, just fantastic

The agile workplace at SkyA recent report from AWA, Global Workplace Analytics and Haworth identified that over half of those surveyed in 130 organisations work in assigned positions. What was more interesting – than the report was the positioning of the key findings – the message being that in many respects organisations were denying their people the full benefits of an agile (or activity-based – we’ll use agile here) workplace, the blunted old farts.

More →

A cheap day return to Farringdon, please

A cheap day return to Farringdon, please

Timing is everything. Re-launching a professional body while the country’s politics unceremoniously implode could not have been foreseen, but the vacuous space was full of the registered and invited, many with a trail of string going back a few decades or more. What a lovely gathering of old friends it was. On Monday 12th The BIFM formally changed its name to the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management. This event was to reveal the new creative collateral and celebrate the optimism/excitement/apprehension (delete as applicable).

More →

The year we discover the elemental workplace

The year we discover the elemental workplace

We love a survey. Not a week passes without another startling revelation of the poor condition of our workplace, the fragile state of our engagement, or the dearth of meaning at the heart of our daily pursuits. The data (and I use the term lightly) tells us we want to be productive, if only we could be productive. Our intent and motivation is never in question. We have become masters of realising and articulating that we have a problem, and so we ask ourselves over and over just to make absolutely sure. We bang the table, we sound enlightened when we declare “something must be done!” Unless, of course, you work in one of the 10 Coolest Workplaces in the World in which case you are okay and do not need to worry. Unless you worry that yours is not as cool as the others in the list, envy is a terrible thing. We are drowning in hastily-gathered, invariably sponsored survey data, yet suffer a poverty of solutions.

More →

In a crowd of truths, we can discern and reclaim what it means to be human

In a crowd of truths, we can discern and reclaim what it means to be human 0

This is the second of two responses to an excellent article by Antony Slumbers, the first being this perspective from my mirrored room, in this instance offering that his views offer a far too presumptive picture of how technology will shape our work future. The paragraph headlines are from Antony’s original article. One person’s optimism is another’s pessimism. A decade ago the dream of liberated commute-free teleworking was, to many, the nightmare of enforced seclusion to the soundtrack of the dishwasher. The deployment of robots for the performance of menial tasks creating time and wealth for leisure is another’s horror at the loss of employment and resultant anomic fragmentation and decay. The fatally pointless optimism of Candide’s Dr Pangloss was agnostic in regard to every such outcome. It was positive only because there could be no alternative, and therefore no better alternative.

More →

Reflections on the future of work from a mirrored room

Reflections on the future of work from a mirrored room 0

This is the first of two responses to an excellent article by Antony Slumbers, in this instance offering that his views offer too conservative a view of how technology will shape the future of work. Dr Pangloss, the teacher of metaphysics in Candide, Voltaire’s hilariously sarcastic attack on Leibnizian optimism, offered a timeless and universal explanation of the most cruel and tragic events as “the best of all possible worlds”. I would argue however that far from creating a landscape of optimism, it facilitates a dismissal of all significant change as an irrelevance given that effectively we have no option other than to happily accept it. For example, whether property transitions to a service or remains locked in its existing institutional quagmire, it doesn’t matter. Either way its fine as it’s the best we can hope for. Accept it, happily. A Panglossian future only looks appealing if you’re –well, Dr Pangloss.

More →

A unity of opposites at Sky Central

A unity of opposites at Sky Central 0

It’s drummed into us from an early age that we can’t have it all, as a result we consider choices as being a binary either/or situation. The workplace design brief (where it’s actually undertaken, an entirely separate discussion) positions choices similarly – open or closed, focussed or collaborative, modern or traditional – the decision point existing along a sliding scale from one natural extreme to the other. Yet there is a way to consider workplace design as an attempt to achieve the “unity of opposites”, an idea proposed by the pre-Socratic aphoristic philosopher, Heraclitus, the original thinker on change. This holds that the existence of an idea is entirely dependent on the existence of its opposite, that one cannot exist without the other. The framework is considered here in its application to the recently completed Sky Central in Osterley (West London), a newly constructed 38,000m2 NIA activity-based workplace over three floors that is home to 3,500 of the total 7,500 people on the Campus. It may be considered as tool for aiding workplace brief development, or for understanding how a workplace has been conceived and functions.

More →

Translate >>