Lies about work, the limits of wellness programmes, sleepwalking architects and some other shoes

Lies about work, the limits of wellness programmes, sleepwalking architects and some other shoes

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There are lots of reasons to worry about where the World might be taking us, or perhaps where we are taking it. You can take your pick but for me one of the most worrying aspects of contemporary discourse is the obvious dearth of empathy. We might like to think of this as an innate characteristic of human beings, but it really isn’t. It’s something that we also need to learn. This idea is explored in this piece by Hanna Rosin who centres her argument around an analysis by Sara Konrath, an associate professor and researcher at Indiana University who has discovered that our willingness to empathise with people is eroding rapidly, especially for those who we see as ‘other’ or irrelevant. If you want an example of lack of empathy, you can see it in this footage of a banker being taken to task for it in a US committee hearing.

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Ancient Greek wisdom for the leadership crisis of the 21st Century

Ancient Greek wisdom for the leadership crisis of the 21st Century

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What makes a good leader? This question confronts us at every election and with every domestic and international policy decision. As a professor of classical languages and literature for more than 30 years, I marvel at our insistence on addressing this question as if it were brand new. Centuries ago, myths helped the Greeks learn to reject tyrannical authority and identify the qualities of good leadership. As I write in my book Enraged, the same myths that long predate the world’s very first democracy have lessons for us today – just as they did for the ancient Greeks centuries ago. More →

Shining a light on remote work at Google, willing slaves to tech, why design matters and some other stuff

Shining a light on remote work at Google, willing slaves to tech, why design matters and some other stuff

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Away from you know what, one of the most talked about issues this week was the news that the smart devices we’re voluntarily incorporating into our homes are not just obeying us but acting as microphones on our lives. This is happening in the context of growing mistrust of the world’s tech giants, uncertainty about our relationship with technology and taps into a primal fear about control and surveillance. All of this is complicated by the fact that these systems of surveillance are not the telescreens of 1984 but the products of private sector firms who currently often exhibit ‘power without responsibility’, as Kipling once said about the media. More →

The growing urbanisation of work and workplaces

The growing urbanisation of work and workplaces 0

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The question of what makes a city great is an old one but has never been asked more than it is right now. It is usually couched in terms of the urbanisation of large parts of the world but it is important for other reasons too, not least because the urban environment is an increasingly important part of the virtual workplace many of us now inhabit and offices themselves increasingly resemble the agglomeration of spaces we have typically associated with our towns and cities. Recently, McKinsey published a  report into urbanisation, based largely on the usual premise of the proportion of the world’s people involved, but it is an issue that touches all of our lives and in unexpected ways.

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Is salutogenic design the next big issue for the workplace?

Is salutogenic design the next big issue for the workplace?

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Colleagues talk in a bright and lively office designA number of progressive workplace issues have crossed into mainstream thinking over the past few years, and perhaps none more so than biophilia. It is now a principle that has become an issue talked about in the mass media, as shown by a recent CNN interview with one of Europe’s leading proponents of biophilic office design, Oliver Heath. The interview explores how biophilia taps into our embedded love of nature to evoke certain behaviours and emotions.

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Ten employment law changes to look out for in the rest of 2019

Ten employment law changes to look out for in the rest of 2019

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A row of legal booksThis year is set to be a busy year for HR and employment law. From post-Brexit immigration rule changes and gender pay gap reporting, to age discrimination at work, employers are faced with amended employment laws and new deadlines for their organisation to meet. These are ten important areas of the law that HR professionals and business owners need to be aware of. More →

The ladder of life, the death of work, the cane toad of property and some other stuff

The ladder of life, the death of work, the cane toad of property and some other stuff

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A large and colourful team of people work together to create a human towerWe start with a question. Why hasn’t the gig economy killed traditional work?, asks Greg Rosalsky and goes on to explain what many people have now realised. The answer, as Greg points out, is that the gig economy doesn’t replace traditional work, never has, and the rise of casual work of this kind has primarily been a way for people to deal with a volatile labour market and shrinking real incomes. Offer them the choice of a decent monthly income, benefits and a contract and most of them will take you up on it.

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Against metrics: how measuring performance by numbers backfires

Against metrics: how measuring performance by numbers backfires

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A still from Jacques Tati's film playtime as the protagonist looks out over cubicles in an officeMore and more companies, government agencies, educational institutions and philanthropic organisations are today in the grip of a new phenomenon. I’ve termed it ‘metric fixation’. The key components of metric fixation are the belief that it is possible – and desirable – to replace professional judgment (acquired through personal experience and talent) with numerical indicators of comparative performance based upon standardised data (metrics); and that the best way to motivate people within these organisations is by attaching rewards and penalties to their measured performance. More →

How the 21st Century office was born in post war Europe

How the 21st Century office was born in post war Europe

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Central Beheer Building There was a curious addition to a 2016 report on the Top 10 Technologies Driving the Digital Workplace from tech researchers Gartner. It wasn’t a technology at all but rather a slightly obscure office design concept that originated in Hamburg in the late 1950s, but which tells us a lot about how we work in the 21st Century office, according to Gartner. Its history lies with the German consulting firm Quickborner. Led by the brothers Eberhard and Wolfgang Schnelle, the firm applied the egalitarian principles of the post war world and rejection of the scientific management theories that had created the familiar factory-like rows of desks that had come to dominate open plan offices to create something more in tune with the new age.

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The pursuit of happiness, lumpy tech, space science and some other stuff

The pursuit of happiness, lumpy tech, space science and some other stuff

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A community of people on a headlandUnderlying most of the stuff you read about the workplace is the quest for happiness. Indeed happiness has become something of a preoccupation for those pondering the issue at the apex of social and economic thinking, as epitomised by Gallup with its latest World Happiness report. As always, the Gallup report stumbles over definitions of happiness, often using the word interchangeably with wellbeing and stuffs it with other ideas without explaining how or even whether they contribute to happiness.

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What a 90 year old study teaches us about flexible working and productivity

What a 90 year old study teaches us about flexible working and productivity 0

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uncertainty Flexible working has developed a reputation as something of a silver bullet for a range of workplace challenges. It is the perceived solution to almost any of the major workplace problems you care to mention, including the gender pay gap, work life balance, churn, property costs, staff engagement, personal autonomy, stress, physical wellbeing, productivity and – of course – as a way of meeting the needs of those alien beings we refer to as Millennials. There is some truth in all of this, as we have known for some time, but things are far more complicated than often presented.

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Pressing self-destruct, a final solution to workplace noise, a broken psychological contract and some other stuff

Pressing self-destruct, a final solution to workplace noise, a broken psychological contract and some other stuff

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I’ve never really wanted to go to MIPIM. I’m suspicious of it all for a number of reasons I won’t go into although you might reasonably guess what they are. So, I enjoyed this piece from Polly Plunket-Checkemian about her own misgivings. I understand that the testosterone level has been dialled down recently, but like Polly I’d like to see a re-examination of its format and intent, especially given that the real estate sector is having to rethink where it fits into the new era of work and meets the challenge of coworking.

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