About Neil Usher

https://workessence.com/

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

Posts by Neil Usher:

What IS hybrid working?

What IS hybrid working?

A man working at a laptop in a pub to illustrate the possible definition of hybrid working In an uncharacteristically Waddellian moment*, the Word of the Year for 2022 according to The Economist was ‘hybrid work’. Yet despite its ubiquity, in the comparative calm of social channels over the holiday period lurked claims that no-one knows what hybrid working is. Even though millions of people are doing it. Given that such an assertion came as a surprise, there was only ever going to be one opening post for 2023: an attempt to explain it. More →

Who’s driving this bus, anyway? A critical review of Leading People in Change by Jennifer Bryan

Who’s driving this bus, anyway? A critical review of Leading People in Change by Jennifer Bryan

A caterpillar sits on a dew dropped leaf to serve as a metaphor for changeWriting about change isn’t easy, but too many people try it. I tried it with Elemental Change (LID, 2020). Jennifer Bryan succeeded where I didn’t, and managed a short book about change. Her book Leading People in Change also succeeds where I didn’t by focussing on one aspect of change, leadership. So far so good, despite my initial uncomfortable reaction to the title suspecting it might be a handbook for ensuring people did what we wanted them to do, regardless. Fortunately, not so. More →

The hybrid workplace sagas, part two. Valhalla

The hybrid workplace sagas, part two. Valhalla

“Wow, Dougie, they’ve remodelled our office while we were away!”

“Fantastic. Did you know about it?”

“No, they said the surprise was a key part of the change programme.”

“So what’s different?” More →

The hybrid workplace sagas, part one. Ginnungagap

The hybrid workplace sagas, part one. Ginnungagap

An image of Odin to illustrate the hybrid workplace saga“Hi Dougie – how’s the new hybrid workplace going?”

“Morning Clara. You mean the Team-Rostered Attendance Programme. It’s fantastic – we have control at last!”

“Wow, I’m jealous. I guess you all just fell into it?”

“Yeah. How did you know?”

“Just a hunch. So how does it work?” More →

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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