Yahoo case doesn’t tell the whole story of teleworking

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Yahoo! Sunnyvale headquarters.  October 28, 2001 (Y! Photo / Brian McGuiness)Yahoo! made headlines across the US and the rest of the world this week by announcing they are terminating the company’s telework program.  Does this signal, broadly, the pending demise of telework?  Here’s my take: this story is actually deeper than just about telework. Yahoo! has been wandering around aimlessly for a number of years, and it would appear that this particular measure is intended as some overdue shock therapy to jump-start a much needed culture shift and focus on what the company needs to survive in a world of rapid innovation and “big bang disruption” (see March 2013 HBR article by Larry Downes and Paul F. Nunes).

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Workplace Anachronisms: No. 1 – the BCO Specification Guide

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Boy Wearing Men's Dress Shoes and Suit --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisThe British Council for Offices claims that it is ‘Britain’s leading forum for the discussion and debate of issues affecting the office sector. Its members are organisations involved in creating, acquiring or occupying office space, whether architects, lawyers, surveyors, financial institutions or public agencies.’ If true, this makes its Specification Guide all the more remarkable for not only being wide of the mark about at least one key issue when it was published back in 2009, but about which it is growing increasingly redundant by the day.

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Building designers should pay more heed to what users need

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The future for London's skyline

The future for London’s skyline

These past two weeks have seen me playing and working in what I believe is fondly referred to as “That London” by those who live and work in the rest of the United Kingdom. Whilst resisting the temptations of the capital’s fleshpots, I’ve had the time to reflect on the design of public spaces and wonder at the architectural munificence that gave us, within a single square mile or so; The Shard, The Gherkin, St Pauls Cathedral and the engineering marvel of Tower Bridge (I also had the chance to sample Japanese octopus balls, but that, as the saying goes, is another story altogether).

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Video: ‘We are not as endlessly predictable as you would think’

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An old one, but still my favourite from the RSA Animate series. It’s always worth reminding ourselves that the issue of motivation is very complex. People are not machines and function within the context of a whirl of emotions, relationships, influences, events, crises, stimuli, personal characteristics and thoughts.  That is why many of our assumptions about motivation are false. One of the presentation’s more important conclusions – that we are purpose maximisers as much as profit maximisers – is supported by the story we published this morning.

Are you working or shirking from home?

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Staff ill health

During recent weather-related travel disruption, I was inundated with various pieces of information on software that spies on home based employees to check that they really are working, not shirking from home. As Acas opens a consultation on a draft Code of Practice regarding the extended right to request flexible working; and figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show the number of people working from home in the UK has risen to over 10 per cent – the advent of these systems begs the question: do employers really trust their staff enough to let them work remotely?

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Yahoo is not the only firm that doesn’t like flexible working

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Yahoo! Sunnyvale headquarters.  October 28, 2001 (Y! Photo / Brian McGuiness)As news emerged over the weekend from Silicon Valley that Yahoo had introduced a new policy that insisted employees work from the company’s HQ, a survey from O2 in the UK highlighted just how many firms are not as keen on the practice of flexible working as they might claim in theory. The question we need to ask is whether this represents a genuine shift away from the assumption that we are moving towards more agile working practices, or is this just the last knockings of the old guard?

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Tips for small businesses on their first office search

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search buttonFinding a great office can be a hugely important step on the road to success for a small business. Business can not only outgrow their existing space, but even for those who want to remain small, escaping the distractions of a home-working environment by moving into a space specifically designed for working can give a real boost to productivity and provide a great sense of identity. Of course, when you’re searching it’s essential for small business owners to do all the most common-sense things: including shopping around, getting out to view properties and so on. But it’s also worth bearing in mind a few of the following pointers:

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What gets measured in the workplace, gets managed

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MeasureAre we finally seeing the first signs of the end of the downturn?  Earlier this week the Government announced that UK unemployment had fallen. While I know there have been quibbles about what this all meant, other data from specific market sectors backs up the idea that we may be seeing some tentative causes for hope.  One of the most heartening was last week’s survey from Randstad which reported growing levels of optimism among financial services firms about their prospects and the fact that the majority would be increasing headcount this year.

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Tipping point reached in battle between tablets and PCs

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Surface proThe signs of the final showdown between the personal computer and the tablet are now all around us. It is evident in the launch of new products such as Microsoft’s Surface and the new generation of more powerful iPads which can (nearly) match the performance of Apple’s own laptops. It is also evident in the restructuring of firms like Dell, once the world’s most successful PC maker. The end result will not only be a new shape for the products on which we work but also a new shape for the places in which we work. Our postures will change and so too will the things we need to support us.  More →

Whatever the office of the future is, it should be there to serve people

Whatever the office of the future is, it should be there to serve people

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Larkin BuildingFuturology is notoriously a mug’s game. Especially when it comes to making predictions about technology. Just ask Ken Olson, the founder of DEC who in 1977 pronounced that ‘there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home’. Or Bill Gates himself who once claimed that Microsoft ‘will never make a 32 bit operating system’. But that shouldn’t make us blind to those predictions that we know will largely come true, not least those based on what we know is happening in the present. This is typified by research carried out by Cass Business School and Henley Business School and presented in a book called Future Work: How Businesses Can Adapt and Thrive in the New World of Work. It found that two-thirds of the 360 managers it surveyed believe that there would be a revolution in working practices over the coming decade. Ninety per cent said that staff were more productive when empowered to decide when and where and how to work.

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Video: The 21st Century Office – how the BBC got it all wrong in 1969

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Two days ago we published a strikingly prescient report from Walter Cronkite dating from 1967 about how the world of work would look in the 21st century. Two years later the BBC was to get things hopelessly wrong, not only with its tired and misguided wannabe existentialism, but also with its vision of a future which was clearly just a slightly mechanised plasticky version of the present. That’s often the problem with futurology. It tells you more about the time in which people are making their predictions than any real vision of what is to come.

Plenty of innovation in Stockholm. Just ignore the price of beer.

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Nendo Stockholm

They say first impressions count so after landing in Stockholm it was a shame that mine veered towards a personal negative rather than a positive when I discovered that my hotel room interior was purer in design than a polar bear’s coat. To a problem solving mind like mine, this didn’t add up. Surely the cold climate would venture towards a more luxurious, cosy and comforting aesthetic. My second impression inevitably arrived courtesy of a local bar. I could have sworn I’d ordered a 40cl beer rather than the bottle of Bolly the bill suggested. So with those problems dismissed from my mind, it was heartening that the rest of the trip to the Stockholm Furniture and Light Fair was roundly positive.

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