What the death of the landline tells us about how we work

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TelephoneOne of the items that always used to grace the brochures of office furniture companies when I started work in that particular industry was a telephone table. For the uninitiated, this was used as a home for the office landline, shared by a team of people, who were often expected to take turns to answer when it rang. It came with a shelf for telephone directories, fax machine and a Rolodex. This might all seem quaint or, if you’re under 25, make absolutely no sense whatsoever, but it was under twenty years ago. One by one the items involved in this particular workplace scenario have vanished. But like the Cheshire Cat’s smile, the telephone itself has remained. Until now, that is.

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2020 vision is a useless metaphor for far-sightedness in a number of ways

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Looking in telescope wrong wayThe year 2020 is a mere seven years away. Yet the designers of the future workplace and those who invite them to talk about it are still referring to it as if it marks the next frontier of human endeavour and as if we weren’t already up to our collective armpits in the 21st century. The idea of 20/20 vision is considered, in ophthalmological circles at least, to represent “normal” visual acuity and is dependent on the sharpness of the retinal focus within the eye and the sensitivity of the interpretative faculty of the brain. In practical terms, this means it’s about seeing and interpreting what is directly in front of us at a distance of around 6 metres. So as a metaphor for farsightedness regarding the future of work or workplaces it’s always been a poor one. And as we get closer to the eponymous year, it becomes worse day by day.

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Zero hours contracts: Are they really such bad news?

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Zero hours contracts

Zero hours contracts have hardly been out of the news in recent weeks. The overwhelming majority of the media coverage has been negative, suggesting that zero hours contracts are exploitative of workers and should be outlawed. The pressure gauge has risen to such an extent that, in September, the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, announced that there would be a consultation process to tackle any abuse discovered. The Labour Party has also announced it will be conducting its own review. But why all this sudden interest? Zero hours contracts are not a new phenomenon… and, on the face of it, they provide employers with the type of flexibility which the Government has been so keen to introduce, allowing employers to maintain a flexible workforce capable of meeting short-term staffing needs.  More →

Interview: Dave Coplin of Microsoft on Big Data, engagement and culture

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Microsoft Thames Valley 1Dave Coplin joined Microsoft in 2005, and is now its Chief Envisioning Officer, helping to envision the full potential that technology offers a modern, digital society. He is a globally recognised expert on technological issues such Cloud computing, privacy, big data, social media, open government, advertising and the consumerisation of technology and is the author of a recent book called “Business Reimagined: Why work isn’t working and what you can do about it”. He is also one of the main speakers at this year’s Worktech conference in London on 19 and 20 November. In this exclusive interview with Insight he offers his thoughts on the lack of engagement between firms and employees, the most common misunderstandings about flexible working and the challenges facing managers in IT, FM and HR.

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Working Time Directive – why the CBI calls for a permanent opt-out

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Working Time Directive - why the CBI calls for a permanent opt-out

The UK’s opt-out of the maximum 48 hour working week being proposed by the EU is yet again under the microscope. This follows the recent publication by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) of a report which highlights the frustration felt by UK businesses regarding the Working Time Directive. “Our Global Future: The Business Vision for a Reformed EU”; focuses specifically on the continuing concerns for UK businesses around the extensive level of involvement EU legislation has on how they operate their business. It shows that the majority of businesses still favour the opt-out and the flexibility it provides. Interestingly however, many did not see the need to change the current entitlement to paid holidays or rest breaks. More →

Workplace Week highlights the changing shape of the office

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'High Street' at Network Rail's Milton Keynes base

‘High Street’ at Network Rail’s Milton Keynes base

This year’s Workplace Week  which took place last week was a great success, with more people participating and more money raised for charity. Across the week, over 500 people took part, visiting innovative workplaces, attending the Workplace Week Convention or going along to one of the many Fringe events. Workplace Week is organised by Advanced Workplace Associates and supported by CoreNet Global, BCS, RICS, FMA and BIFM. All proceeds go to the Children in Need charity. Around 60 people joined the speakers at the headquarters of PWC on London’s Southbank for the Workplace Week Convention to discuss ‘Driving productivity through the connected organisation.’ The informal atmosphere and roundtable format encouraged participation, with a focus on developments in organisational design, change management and technology.

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UK leads the world in talent, but it needs the right culture in which to thrive

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London at nightWe should never take the UK’s talent base for granted. According to a new report from Deloitte, when it comes to employment levels of people in knowledge based jobs in high skill sectors such as digital media, banking, legal services, software development, telecoms and publishing, London is comfortably the world’s leading city. The study found that London employed 1.5 million people in the 22 sectors surveyed, compared with 1.2 million in New York, 784,000 in Los Angeles, 630,000 in Hong Kong and 425,000 in Boston. The report also predicts that London will enjoy rapid growth in employment levels in these sectors over the next seven years, adding around 100,000 more people and that while a decline in employment is foreseen in financial services, this will be more than offset by strong growth in creative and media businesses.

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Looking back on a year in which the office sought a clearer sense of identity

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JanusIt’s not often that workplace management becomes national business news but that happened at the end of February when  the world became very interested for a while in the way we design and manage offices. The reason for this was the decision by Yahoo to ban homeworking for staff at its headquarters.  The resultant period of shirt-rending at this challenge to received wisdom told us more about the changing view of the workplace than the actual decision by Yahoo. As the dust settled, we discovered that the Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer had based her decision to change working practices on data from the company’s network that showed people working from home didn’t log on to the company Virtual Private Network as much as those in the office.

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The journey to get more Women on Boards is one worth taking

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The journey to get more Women on Boards is one worth taking

There has been so much written lately about women on boards and what is holding women back from becoming board members. The evidence highlights that gender diverse companies are less volatile, have a higher ROA and a lower employee turnover rate, yet this still seems not to have spurred on employers to take up the board equality issue. My question is why have so few women progressed to board level? Personally, I disagree with quotas, believing that the best candidate should be appointed. Do we really need a quota to swing the pendulum into a more balanced position? Regardless of your view, the evidence is clear; companies with gender mixed leadership outperform those who have little or no senior female representation. Why then would companies choose to not reset their gender balance in senior positions? More →

Technology fix. What employers can do when social media becomes an addiction

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Technology fix. What to do when social media become an addiction

Recent research shows that technology has helped us to become nearly five times more productive than we were in the 1970s. As well as enabling social interaction and personal expression, social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter can be valuable business aids for innovation and collaboration. However, with over half of people under 25 admitting they have to check Facebook at least once a day, it’s clear that for many, social media has become more than a form of virtual engagement. This can create something of an issue in the workplace, leaving employers with the dilemma of balancing the positive aspects of online communications while discouraging time wasting. More →

There is very little about flexible working that is actually flexible

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upside_down_officeIt’s pretty clear why some of the world’s greatest writers have been drawn to the human propensity for moral and linguistic inversions and subversions. Books like 1984, Catch 22 and A Clockwork Orange are predicated on the idea. And it’s not one limited to literature. If we look, we can see it going on all around us. In the field of workplace design and management we can see it in the use of the word ‘flexible’ as used in the phrase flexible working. This is a word that in this particular context is coming to mean something like its opposite.  According to a survey from YouGov, the 9 to 5 is a thing of the past, supplanted by a style of work labelled flexible but which involves a third of us working for over ten hours a day, many at home right up until the point we go to bed with a smartphone that sits by our side, to wake us with a beep and a wodge of new notifications the next morning.

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IT managers yet to accept the whole challenge presented to them by BYOD

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hands with smartphones and tablet pcHow exactly does an employee’s convenience trump an organisation’s need for control? That’s the debate corporations are facing when it comes to managing the ‘Bring Your Own Device’ trend. BYOD allows employees to use their personal mobile products for business. In 2012, IBM decided a majority of their workforce could use their own phones and tablets for work purposes, but the company had high concerns about security, according to a report in the MIT Technology Review. They needed to quickly find solutions to the problem instead of fighting the inevitable. So given the inevitability of BYOD and the lack of control that accompanies it, what is the upside for businesses and how does an IT department ready itself for the BYOD challenge?

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