Work from home advocates beckon us to a living hell

Work from home advocates beckon us to a living hell

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the hell of work from homeLook, I work from home. The liberal in me says: if you want to and can work from home, then why not? Yes, few of Britain’s cramped homes – especially those occupied by young people – are well equipped for home working, which can be stressful. But, as I say, I see no problem in working from home if you choose to. It’s one thing to say people should be free to work from home (WFH). It’s quite another to endorse it as the New Normal, the way to go, and as a path to a low-pollution, low-emissions paradise on Earth, as many are now doing. More →

Progress depends on heterodox thought and difficult questions

Progress depends on heterodox thought and difficult questions

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Between the 9th and 13th Centuries, the world’s intellectual centre and the source of much of its progress, discovery and achievement was Baghdad. This was the Muslim Golden Age and at its core was the House of Wisdom, established by the Caliph Harun al-Rashid. At one point, this library housed the largest collection of books on Earth and drew the greatest minds in the world to share ideas, innovate and explore ancient sources of science and wisdom from Greek and Persian texts. Muslim, Jewish, Christian and atheist scholars worked together to advance human understanding until a slow decline culminated with a later Caliph declaring that its diversity of thought should bow to a literal interpretation of the Quran and Hadith.

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What happens to work when the machine stops?

What happens to work when the machine stops?

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Newton at work

In 1909, E M Forster – not exactly known for a body of work including dystopian fiction – published a novella called The Machine Stops. You can read it here but the story describes a future in which people live below ground, in isolation but with all their needs met by an omnipresent Machine (you can see where this is going). More →

We are in danger of reanimating some bad ideas about work

We are in danger of reanimating some bad ideas about work

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Did you hear the one about a Swiss court ruling that firms should pay to rent space in the homes of remote workers? It’s a hell of a thing, especially when so much has been made of the cost savings of a reduction in office space. It’s a notion that is extremely likely to be tested in other countries, so brace yourself. It also illustrates why so many of the narratives about working life after lockdown aren’t as straightforward as they might appear. More →

Future Shock: a message from the past that defines the present

Future Shock: a message from the past that defines the present 0

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We are all futurologists now. We all have our 2020 visions, at least for a little while. But there was a time, not so long ago, when the title was reserved for a few people who would be able to shake and shape the world with a single idea and a book. Yes, a book. Nowadays a book has to go hand in hand with a Ted Talk, blogs on the Huff Post and a speaking tour to get you anywhere at all. But within living memory it was possible to shift the thinking of the planet with a book. More →

Charles Handy was a true visionary about the modern workplace

Charles Handy was a true visionary about the modern workplace

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It’s incredibly hard not to be impressed by Charles Handy and even harder not to find him likeable. The scope of his intellect and humanity is evident on the page, in his interviews and in his broadcasts. He reeks of credibility and warmth. Do a Google image search of him and the pictures you find epitomise English middle-class academic decency (despite the fact that he’s Irish); jumpers, churchyards, armchairs and a benign smile. More →

Wellbeing for remote workers should not be lost in translation

Wellbeing for remote workers should not be lost in translation

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flexible workingAs the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the world of work – seeing many businesses remote working – employers are learning more about the importance of effective communication. Diminished in-person contact can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness among employees. And managers are also facing new challenges in providing the level of social interaction and support that is crucial in maintaining the mental health wellbeing of employees while away from the office. More →

Building a culture of trust has never been more important

Building a culture of trust has never been more important

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building a culture of trustTrust is a concept we often find hard to describe. It’s sticky, intangible and difficult to pinpoint but we know when trust is absent. When it’s missing from a workforce, a culture can unravel. According to the Culture Economy Report 2020, 43 percent of employees in UK SME’s don’t trust their employer to do the right thing – a 16 point decline since 2018. This is alarming. Working remotely over the last few months has highlighted just how important workplace trust is, between employees and management, and vice versa. More →

Never mind the agile workplace, here is something you already know

Never mind the agile workplace, here is something you already know

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The myth has it that John Lydon’s audition for the Sex Pistols consisted largely of wearing a Pink Floyd t-shirt with the words I HATE scrawled above the prog rock group’s name. It appealed to the new band’s managers and its existing members at a time when they needed a singer with the right attitude as much as the right chops. Before Lydon’s involvement, bass guitarist Glen Matlock had taken to approaching anybody he saw of his age group with short hair to ask them if they could sing. This was a time when everybody had long hair.

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A thank you for the bitter knowledge offered by the lockdown

A thank you for the bitter knowledge offered by the lockdown

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With all challenges come opportunities. Covid-19 will most likely be the single largest challenge and disrupter of a generation. It has the potential to create the greatest significant shift in working behaviours and standards of the past hundred years. Workspace consultants, enlightened clients, designers, researchers and commentators have been hammering the agile / home/ remote working drum for the past twenty years or more, waiting patiently for this kind of opportunity. More →

The paradox of how routines can help us be more productive and creative

The paradox of how routines can help us be more productive and creative

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Former US president Barack Obama famously had a wardrobe full of identical suits. As a world leader, life presents more than enough big decisions – Obama’s reasoning was that it made sense to minimise the complexity of the small decisions. Artists are often thought of as rather different. Francis Bacon, for example, had a tempestuous personal life, a notoriously chaotic studio, and a penchant for late nights at London’s seedier drinking clubs. Yet even Bacon’s working habits were surprisingly regular – usually starting work at first light with strong tea, before heading out around midday for his first glass of champagne.

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Right, said Fred. Here I am again

Right, said Fred. Here I am again

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If there has been an underlying driver of workplace thinking over the past several decades, it has been a rejection of the principles of scientific management. These begat the idea of the office as a factory, subject to the same rigid times and places of work and the same culture of process, efficiency and productivity. This made a pantomime villain of its key figure Frederick Taylor. The worst adjective you could use to describe a working culture was Taylorist. More →

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