Workplace Insight https://workplaceinsight.net Wed, 03 Jun 2020 05:59:02 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://workplaceinsight.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/cropped-Insight_logo_only-3-144x144.jpg Workplace Insight https://workplaceinsight.net 32 32 The second wave of digital transformation after lockdown https://workplaceinsight.net/the-second-wave-of-digital-transformation-after-lockdown/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-second-wave-of-digital-transformation-after-lockdown Wed, 03 Jun 2020 05:59:02 +0000 https://workplaceinsight.net/?p=53022 The reimagining of business in the digital age to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements has been happening at varying speed for decades. The coronavirus pandemic is impacting digital transformation in a range of ways. Just three weeks into lockdown an ongoing study […]

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The reimagining of business in the digital age to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements has been happening at varying speed for decades. The coronavirus pandemic is impacting digital transformation in a range of ways.

Just three weeks into lockdown an ongoing study by Sapio Research found that 17 percent of business expected the speeding up of digital transformation to last beyond the pandemic. Now, as we adjust to the latest phase of the UK lockdown, the number of business reporting that faster implementation of new IT programs will continue into the future has risen significantly.

After 7 weeks of lockdown, 22 percent of UK businesses reported digital transformation measures.  The NHS, famously slow to innovate adopted telehealth measures extremely quickly in response to the changing environment. The broadcast function that allows hospitals to broadcast messages in large volumes developed by the automated appointment booking system DrDoctor reached 150,000 patients just three days after its launch last month.

Service and production led industries were initially the most agile, 23 percent reporting the increased momentum of digital transformation. However, just two weeks later the digital and finance sectors have grabbed the bull by the horns, 31 percent now expecting faster digital transformation beyond COVID-19, compared to only 15 percent of them previously.  Food and drink continue to remain slow to adapt (10 percent wave 1, 12 percent wave 2).

 

Key work

Businesses that have a proportion of key workers in their staff, although not those wholly staffed by key workers, are also more likely report the continuation of faster implementation of digital solutions (27 percent vs 20 percent of those wholly staffed by keyworkers).

It is the ‘high touch’ economy of businesses that are either dependent on physical travel, or which provide business services or products that are able to be postponed (such as taking a holiday) that are mostly likely to be seeing digital transformation speed up and don’t expect it to fall back to a slower pace once we are ‘out the other side’ (30 percent and 29 percent respectively).

The largest of enterprises are also more likely to be witnessing the impetus of the situation (30 percent for 1000 to 4,9099 employees and 32 percent for 5,000+), compared to 18 percent of those with up to 25 employees.

“The importance of context in decision making is key, it’s amazing what we can do when we have to.  However, few people could have foreseen the magnitude of the sudden changes we’re currently working through. Now of all times its vital that we listen, ask opinions and monitor signals, so we keep one step ahead adapting and evolving to behaviours and needs in an empathetic manner.” – Jane Hales, Managing Partner, Sapio Research

A full set of findings can be found here. Further waves of the Covid-19 UK Business Barometer Survey will be conducted and released on an ongoing basis.

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Data is changing the role of the workplace and HR https://workplaceinsight.net/data-is-changing-the-role-of-the-workplace-and-hr/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=data-is-changing-the-role-of-the-workplace-and-hr Wed, 03 Jun 2020 05:13:37 +0000 https://workplaceinsight.net/?p=53019 Business leaders have been heavily dependent on HR, real estate, and technology functions working together to help their organisation adapts to this new world of work during the pandemic. Ensuring personal safety, promoting wellbeing, encouraging collaboration, and maintaining efficient service delivery will never be more important than in the coming months. The challenge facing CRE […]

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Business leaders have been heavily dependent on HR, real estate, and technology functions working together to help their organisation adapts to this new world of work during the pandemic. Ensuring personal safety, promoting wellbeing, encouraging collaboration, and maintaining efficient service delivery will never be more important than in the coming months. The challenge facing CRE leaders is how to advise on the appropriate range of workspaces and hygiene standards to allow organisations and their people to thrive, and how to cut through the complexity of accessing and interpreting data to achieve this.

In recent years, we have seen some exciting examples of real estate teams taking a central role in the strategic decisions of their organisations. A recent financial services client undertook a multi-year collaboration between its real estate, HR and technology functions to push forward a data-driven approach around where to operate and why over the next ten years.

Meanwhile, advances in data collection have seen CRE teams face new challenges around how to interpret increasingly complex information around not just properties, but also the people who use them: attendance, distance to travel to work, movements within a property, and use of key facilities are some examples – and these data sources now have more relevance than ever due to COVID-19.

As a result of this convergence between CRE, HR and technology, an array of possibilities have opened up around how to measure the impact of real estate on individual and team working patterns, and how these patterns can in turn influence future workplace design and real estate strategies both during and beyond the lockdown.

 

Art of the possible

Gone are the days of simply measuring your estate with traditional metrics such as cost per square foot, employee, or workstation. Organisations now expect a more holistic approach, towards a model of real estate delivery centred around human experience and productivity.

As a result, new value drivers and KPIs are emerging to allow business leaders to answer the following questions:

 

How can I boost productivity and collaboration in my workforce?

Business leaders are keen to ensure that productivity does not suffer as we adjust to new ways of working. But to boost productivity, we need to measure it – which can be simple or extremely challenging, depending on the nature of your organisation.

For example, call centres look to the number of successfully resolved calls as a reliable indicator. For sales teams, the number of deals closed, and so on. But for managerial and other teams, HR functions have a range of specialist methods for accurately measuring productivity. These include quantifying manager feedback, observing how a team’s outputs are supporting company objectives, and measuring the quality of tasks completed.

Once real estate teams have visibility of productivity measures, demographics and geographies, there are a number of strategic levers they can use to drive them up. Greater collaboration and breakout spaces, environments that promote learning and knowledge sharing, varied lighting levels, and tactical use of quiet areas are some of the design interventions that CRE teams can deploy, provided they are closely aligned with the proven working practices of their target occupants.

 

How can I ensure that our offices are designed to attract and retain talent?

Companies have never been more eager than they are today to ensure that their offices attract the very best skills and personalities. This is one of the most powerful selling points for any CRE leader seeking to have more input into C suite decision making.

Leveraging HR insights into workforce behavioural and performance patterns combined with the productivity measures highlighted above will provide you with all the information you need to start creating workspace for the talent your organisation is seeking.

Limit your risk by trialling new concepts in existing spaces, and gather feedback from occupants. Speak with line managers to see if this had an impact on productivity and collaboration. Work with curated experience experts to scale this up with detailed occupant journeys, taking into account demographic and working-style splits between different teams.

Finally, work closely with technology to gather the digital data, including usage of physical assets by occupants in any IoT environment, and you will be in a strong position to deliver modern, data-driven office spaces occupants will thrive in.

 

How can I ensure that my workforce is safe in a post-COVID 19 world?

As government advice starts to emerge in this area, organisations should act quickly to ensure they can return to full operational capacity in a safe and transparent way that protects employees.

Organisations need to act quickly to ensure they can return to full operational capacity in a safe and transparent way that protects employees.

As organisations clarify those functions and individuals that will return to an office environment, modelled to reflect the fact that many are still at risk of a highly infectious virus, CRE teams will need to respond to these changes with flexible workspace designs.  These will need to be able to be modified at short notice, account for one-way systems of people traffic, and cater for staggered working arrangements that will see a reduction in the total occupancy of properties at any one time.

By segmenting staff based on risk profile, priority to maintain a physical presence in the office and ability to travel safely, an occupant hierarchy will start to develop around which workplace designs can be delivered.

HR and CRE teams will also need to start looking beyond the immediate post lockdown period.  Ensuring that the workspace and the broader property portfolio and designed and located appropriately, potentially facilitating out of town meeting and working spaces, facilitating appropriate longer term home working environments are potential challenges. These solutions will require ongoing communication and employee buy-in if they are to be successful.

 

Considerations for CRE Leaders

Now, more than ever, CRE Leaders need to focus on maintaining close relationships with their peers in HR and IT functions.  Without an ongoing dialogue, teams lose focus and their objectives diverge. To avoid this, focus on the following goals:

Identify useful sources of data

Avoid becoming overwhelmed with people and property data, and focus on what is important in supporting your joint objectives of keeping people safe, and running a cost-effective estate that supports core business operations.

While attendance and utilisation data will remain vital sources of data, highly specialised (and typically sensitive) people data from HR will grow in importance as we navigate the COVID workplace, and will become indispensable when combined with attendance and utilisation in order to provide an accurate picture of occupant journeys both inside and outside of offices.

Invest in robust data technology solutions

Understanding what data is important and having access to it is a good start. But you will need to ensure that your technology environment is prepared to handle high-volume, high-velocity data that will provide CRE and HR leaders with a real-time view of building use.  Data warehouses, data quality, compliance, and end-user consumption of data are all issues to be communicated and addressed properly.

Privacy and trust

With the potential for technology to measure areas such as real-time property utilization, building performance, employee tracing and productivity, privacy naturally comes to the forefront as a risk needing careful management.  When engaging with HR and technology teams to carry out initiatives of this nature, ensure that you communicate the importance of privacy to stakeholders and follow through by implementing strict privacy standards to protect employees.

 

With new working practices likely to be thrust upon us, CRE teams have a unique opportunity to shape and deliver the workplaces that will support an organisations’ recovery post COVID.  By leveraging the rich sources of data across HR and IT, CRE teams can play a significant role in ensuring that recovery is safe, rapid and supports the productivity and success of the organisation in the coming months.

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Working life set to become more precarious and unequal https://workplaceinsight.net/working-life-set-to-become-more-precarious-and-unequal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=working-life-set-to-become-more-precarious-and-unequal Tue, 02 Jun 2020 08:30:10 +0000 https://workplaceinsight.net/?p=53010 The future of work is likely to be even more precarious and unequal, according to a new research review from academics at Durham University Business School, Kings College Business School and University Paris-Dauphine. Dr. Jeremy Aroles, Assistant Professor in Organisation Studies at Durham University Business School, alongside colleagues, Dr. Nathalie Mitev (King’s College) and Professor […]

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precarious working lifeThe future of work is likely to be even more precarious and unequal, according to a new research review from academics at Durham University Business School, Kings College Business School and University Paris-Dauphine. Dr. Jeremy Aroles, Assistant Professor in Organisation Studies at Durham University Business School, alongside colleagues, Dr. Nathalie Mitev (King’s College) and Professor François?Xavier de Vaujany (University Paris-Dauphine), reviewed a wide range of research related to working life new work practices and summarised this into a number of predictions for the future of work. This research review paper was published in the journal ‘New Technology, Work and Employment’, which is open access throughout June.

This review paper draws from prominent research into ‘new work practices’ from the over the past thirty years. These new work practices refer to a wide range of work activities based on flexibility and diversification, from remote work to collaborative entrepreneurship to digital nomadism.

The researchers reviewed key work practices through four separate dimensions:

  • What we perceive as working practices: Types of employment, entrepreneurship, freelance work etc.
  • What we perceive to be a workplace: The rise of home working, hot desking and shared offices
  • Individuals and organisations: How and when people work, flexible working hours, co-employment and contract work
  • Power and control in work: The power relationship between those in management and employees whether they be freelance, permanent staff or part of the gig economy.

The researchers suggest we are set to see an increase in new modes of employment, including zero-hour contracts and other forms of unsecure employment, a growth in popularity of online labour platform workforces; the development of crowd-based and collaborative forms of entrepreneurship and the increased emergence of new spatial work arrangements (coworking spaces etc.) – all of which fall outside the normal realm of a ‘formal organisation’, and blur the boundaries between work and private life.

It is likely we’ll see an increase in power to management and organisations as well as lack of security and short-term orientations linked to new forms of work

The researchers also suggest that home and virtual offices are likely to be key components of the new world of work, with a rise in those who work from home and from non-traditional workplaces (i.e. restaurants, coffee shops), and those who work on the go, for instance conduct work on their commute.

In terms of the relationship between individuals and the organisation, the researchers suggest that there will be an increase in flexibility of employment, which includes both full-time and part-time workers in an organisation, co-employment (employment mediated by a recruiting agency) and contract work (short-term, project-based, hourly-paid). Flexible working times and hybrid forms of work, such as digital nomadism, are also set to rise.

The academics suggest that it is likely we’ll see an increase in power to management and organisations also, due to the precarity, lack of security and short-term orientation that lie at the heart of these new work configurations.

Dr. Jeremy Aroles says, “Dr. Aroles says, “Globalisation, economic volatility and technological changes have been the catalyst for a number of changes to the wider workplace in recent years. The impact of COVID-19 has called into question this globalisation, created further economic volatility, and forced millions of workers to work from home and further utilise technologies, accelerating the transition into a new world of work further. This ‘new’ world of work simply repeats asymmetrical power relations and inequalities that characterise current work activities. The changes only exacerbate even further disparities, inequalities and precarity in employment.”

The researchers suggest it is important to continue engaging with these four dimensions to understand the ways in which changes to the world of work occur at different levels – micro, meso and macro, but also social, economic or political – and unsettle work practices, their spaces and tempo, forms of collective action as well as power relations and dynamics.

Image by ma_esch 

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Embracing emotion and empathy to drive us beyond this crisis https://workplaceinsight.net/embracing-emotion-and-empathy-to-drive-us-beyond-this-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=embracing-emotion-and-empathy-to-drive-us-beyond-this-crisis Tue, 02 Jun 2020 05:48:20 +0000 https://workplaceinsight.net/?p=53006 We’re currently living and working through some of the most intense, challenging conditions many of us will have had to endure – and we all will empathise that it can be particularly difficult to manage your working life. A recent study in Harvard Business Review found that tiredness, fear and panic all reduce our ability […]

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We’re currently living and working through some of the most intense, challenging conditions many of us will have had to endure – and we all will empathise that it can be particularly difficult to manage your working life. A recent study in Harvard Business Review found that tiredness, fear and panic all reduce our ability to think clearly, to be able to manage our relationships effectively, to focus on the right priorities, and to be able to make intelligent and informed decisions.

In a time when many will be looking to their leaders for guidance – it’s a particularly tough context to lead in. So, what makes for a good leader in times of crisis?

We continually research workplace behaviours and attitudes and recently studied over 1,500 employees from 30 companies to help determine the answer. Here are some of our findings:

  • Over 60 percent need to feel reassured about the future right now
  • 40 percent want their company to be transparent and let them know what is going on
  • Listening and sharing were seen as some of the most important qualities in manager, while the ability to ‘go back to the status quo’ and to ‘be firm’ were seen as far less important
  • In terms of power, the ability to convey optimism for the future far outweighed the showing of strength in the present

The most telling finding, for me, is that many of these findings link back to what we call ‘emotional intelligence’. It’s an attribute sought after in many companies and seems to be a key indicator of success. A study by Goleman found that when comparing ‘exceptional performance’ to ‘average performance’, nearly 90% of the difference lies in emotional intelligence rather than cognitive knowledge, which may surprise you greatly and counter your assumptions.

 

Embracing emotions

Emotional Intelligence, in the context of leadership, means accepting that there is a place for emotions in the workplace, providing a safe space for these emotions to be expressed, and, crucially, being capable of empathising (reading the room). Doing these things well will help you to give an exceptional leadership performance, and hence achieve exceptional goals, particularly in a time of crisis when emotions are high. It’s a real type of magic that calms and transforms situations and people around you.

There are 3 main situations that can help us to practice and train emotional intelligence:

  1. Discontinuity: This is an unexpected event that requires our attention to resolve. When something doesn’t quite go to plan, it can conjure up a range of emotions and requires strategic thinking to overcome.
  2. Transilience: The realisation that something work-related is connected to something ‘real’ in our lives, with a solution you can take from one role into the other. For example, maybe you have divided and shared housekeeping tasks with your partner and need to channel those same delegation skills amongst your team.
  3. Empathy: Simply put, practising empathy and putting ourselves into other people’s shoes, as much as possible will help develop automatic mechanisms that guide our habits.

Another related element of effective leadership, that I would encourage everyone to embrace, is Generative Leadership. It’s an extremely effective method of leadership, particularly in times of uncertainty, where the paths for future generations are seemingly in jeopardy. In our own research, I mentioned earlier, 89 percent of our participants felt that generative leadership is ‘what is needed right now’ – so we know that it’s absolutely crucial.

Our instincts may drive us towards the power of authority and control, it’s much more important to practice empathy

It’s the instinct to raise and guide the next generation and can be applied to both home and at work . In business terms, it’s about creating and nurturing something productive that will outlive your tenure. Surely that’s the highest level of leadership imaginable? Furthermore, influential US Psychologist Erik H. Erikson, considered the father of generative leadership, finds emotional intelligence an essential element of generative leadership, showing how absolutely fundamental it is right right now.

Simply put – these leaders know the importance of delegating tasks, as a means of making others responsible and accountable, and they strive to have an impact, may it be in their working life, in their family or in the whole society. These leaders also recognise that the more roles that people have, the stronger they become – which is really important. They encourage their team to bring their true, authentic self to work.

Whilst our instincts may drive us to strive towards power of authority and control in this current time of crisis, it’s much more important to practice empathy, providing opportunities for people to express themselves, and showing that your priorities are on nurturing the future. By focusing on a positive future, and not going back to normality that was far from perfect, you might just do the right thing to address the crisis in the present.

Image: Connection

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Zoom fatigue and the new era of online meetings https://workplaceinsight.net/clumsily-adjusting-to-the-new-era-of-online-meetings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=clumsily-adjusting-to-the-new-era-of-online-meetings Sun, 31 May 2020 23:18:27 +0000 https://workplaceinsight.net/?p=52314 When it comes to that annual announcement the publishers of dictionaries like to make about their Word of the Year, 2020 will have only one candidate. But if there were a shortlist, you can bet that Zoom would be on it. The uptake of Zoom and other apps to help people connect during the lockdown […]

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When it comes to that annual announcement the publishers of dictionaries like to make about their Word of the Year, 2020 will have only one candidate. But if there were a shortlist, you can bet that Zoom would be on it. The uptake of Zoom and other apps to help people connect during the lockdown has been remarkable. Numbers emerge each week of the scale of growth, but they’re instantly out of date and probably meaningless anyway. We could make up something like there having been a 2,300% increase since March 23rd, and it might as well be true.

Any rapid change of this kind inevitably offers its own challenges. For once these don’t seem to be about adopting the technology because this seems pretty straightforward. They’re mostly cultural.

For a start there’s the whole problem of inviting colleagues into your home. For those who like to draw demarcations between their work and home selves – which means all of us – this brings its own challenges. There’s even a name for the switch we do between the different personas we adopt inside and outside the home. It’s called free trait behaviour.

The unwelcome intrusion of real life into this carefully constructed professional façade has generated its own memes, most involving the intrusion of cats, children and half-dressed partners

The unwelcome intrusion of real life into this carefully constructed professional façade has generated its own memes, most involving the unwelcome arrival of cats, children and half-dressed partners.

But you can also be judged on the backdrops you choose. Many opt for bookcases, which is understandable for a home office, but then you have the whole problem of which books are visible on camera. Do you go for the obviously unread Proust, you pretentious windbag, the surprising collection of Barbara Cartland novels or the dead giveaway of a stack of self-help books? And what’s that other thing on the bookshelf?

You could buy a green screen and have a virtual background, but which do you choose? The Golden Gate Bridge? The Simpsons’ front room? A beach? Or Stephen Fry’s bookcase?

Then you have the issue of what to wear. Most of those tedious lists of tips for working from home include an injunction to shower and get dressed, but they are less clear on what that means in reality.

This seems to have been a particular problem for politicians, who were already likely to try a bit too hard to look normal, and usually ended up looking anything but. Nobody who saw Nigel Farage dressed like he’d picked his outfit from the lost property basket of a leisure centre before positioning his camera at the worst possible angle on a table in front of him could forget it. And I don’t recommend googling it. But then again there’s no need to go the way of MP Stephen Kinnock who was dressed in full suit and well polished shoes.

Finally there are problems adjusting to the tech itself. A serried rank of onscreen heads like the intro to The Muppet Show will be one of the enduring images of the year but do this many people usually attend meetings together? And why don’t they mute their microphones when not speaking, a particular problem for Welsh politician Vaughan Gething whose sweary rant about a colleague during a Welsh Assembly meeting went viral.

And finally an appeal to sort those camera angles out, especially if you’re on television. Maybe take that stack of books you’d rather people didn’t judge you for off the shelves and prop your laptop on them. That way we can look you in the eye, rather than nostril.

This piece features in the new issue of IN Magazine. 

Image by Alexas_Fotos 

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The new era of work will embrace an ecosystem of spaces https://workplaceinsight.net/the-new-era-of-work-will-embrace-an-ecosystem-of-spaces/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-new-era-of-work-will-embrace-an-ecosystem-of-spaces Sun, 31 May 2020 23:00:11 +0000 https://workplaceinsight.net/?p=52999 The results of a new survey on people’s experience of working from home during lockdown will accelerate the  shift from primarily office-based work to a “total workplace ecosystem”, based on offices, homes and other locations including digital space. That is the conclusion of a new report from  Cushman & Wakefield which analysed responses from more […]

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The results of a new survey on people’s experience of working from home during lockdown will accelerate the  shift from primarily office-based work to a “total workplace ecosystem”, based on offices, homes and other locations including digital space. That is the conclusion of a new report from  Cushman & Wakefield which analysed responses from more than 40,000 individuals from around thirty companies across nearly twenty sectors.

The survey suggests that, during the pandemic, productivity generally remains strong and team collaboration has improved through better application of remote technology. Three quarters of respondents agree or strongly agree that they are collaborating effectively with colleagues in the current environment – up 10 percent from data gathered during the pre-COVID-19 period – and 73 percent of respondents would like their companies to embrace long-term or permanent flexible working policies.

Remote working may be here to stay, but survey results also show human connection and social bonding are suffering, thus negatively impacting corporate culture and learning. Slightly more than half of respondents feel personally connected to their colleagues in the work-from-home environment.

“It’s imperative to recognize that the workplace will no longer be a single location, but an ecosystem of a variety of locations and experiences to support flexibility, functionality and employee wellbeing,” said Brett White, Executive Chairman & CEO of Cushman & Wakefield. “That said, we expect current real estate footprint sizes to remain steady. Flexible working practices may result in fewer people in the office at any one time, but that space-saving is offset by the need to accommodate social distancing in the office.”

“As we look to the future, the office will have a new purpose: to provide inspiring destinations that strengthen cultural connection, enhance learning, encourage bonding among colleagues and customers, and foster creativity and innovation,” said Despina Katsikakis, Head of Workplace Business Performance at Cushman & Wakefield.

Image by Free-Photos 

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What happens to work when the machine stops? https://workplaceinsight.net/what-happens-to-work-when-the-machine-stops/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-happens-to-work-when-the-machine-stops Fri, 29 May 2020 07:35:32 +0000 https://workplaceinsight.net/?p=52965 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 […]

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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).

People are allowed to travel, but tend not to and instead communicate and share ideas entirely through technology. Some are not satisfied with this life, including the protagonist Kuno who on a call to his mother says “I want to see you not through the Machine. I want to speak to you not through the wearisome Machine.”

As so often in this kind of fiction, Kuno rebels against the strictures of society, visiting the surface without permission to find people living without the Machine. Soon, those in isolation are forbidden from travelling to the surface completely and the Machine becomes the quasi-religious focus of life for those below ground.

Over time the Machine starts to develop defects and eventually fails completely, taking civilisation with it, leaving the main characters to conclude that people should never have left behind their connections with each other and the natural world.

 

Technopoly

There are obvious parallels between this and our current circumstances, but there are always problems with this kind of narrative, not least its underlying conservatism and yearning for a possibly mythical past.

However, it’s also possible to discern the religion of tech – what Forster calls Technopoly in the story – in some of the reactions to life and work under lockdown. I’m not going to dwell on these except to say that the problems with some of the claims being made for a world of isolated individuals connected almost entirely by tech are the same now as they were in Forster’s imagination over a hundred years ago.

These are often driven by vested interests such as this piece in The Guardian and draw entirely the wrong conclusion about where we go from here. You have to hope that organisations don’t act on this kind of stuff, just as they shouldn’t assume we’ll just go back to work as before.

 

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Having it both ways

Fortunately, some powerful and already understood narratives are gaining widespread acceptance as we emerge from lockdown. These acknowledge the benefits of isolation while also highlighting the advantages of travelling to the surface, even though what we find there should be different.

The office of the future is not a single location; it is a network of spaces and services

Jennifer Senior highlights the benefits of travelling to the surface in this New York Times piece, while also acknowledging the dangers of placing too much emphasis on work as a source of meaning.

Working from home doesn’t necessarily shield us from the more troubling aspects of office life, as Anna Shields points out in this piece about how conflicts with colleagues aren’t necessarily sorted just because we don’t bump into them in the kitchen at work.

Many of the best informed commentators are refreshing their existing ideas about how we blend the different times and places we work into something that takes advantages of their different pros and cons. Lisa Picard makes the point clear in this piece, arguing that we don’t need to choose between the Machine and the surface. We can have both.

I’m not even sure why this needs emphasising, but it does in the face of a tsunami of nonsense about the death of the office. We have more than two options.

The most likely outcome of this new era will not be no offices, but better offices. These will be integrated into a new system of work which takes place in different times and places depending on people’s needs and those of the organisation. As Dror Poleg writes in his book Rethinking Real Estate, published pre-pandemic but more relevant than ever, “The office of the future is not a single location; it is a network of spaces and services”.

As the machine stops and we visit the surface again, this is the most important lesson we can take from our lives underground.

Image: Newton by William Blake. The painting can be seen at Tate Modern

 

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The role of workplace professionals in the new era of work https://workplaceinsight.net/the-role-of-workplace-professionals-in-the-new-era-of-work/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-role-of-workplace-professionals-in-the-new-era-of-work Fri, 29 May 2020 06:02:11 +0000 https://workplaceinsight.net/?p=52962 Many consequences of the COVID-19 crisis are immediately apparent to workplace managers and users. Potentially less obvious, are the fundamental changes to the job roles involved in managing commercial property, both within occupier businesses and property management teams alike. Before the pandemic, the conversation about flexible working had been steadily moving up the corporate agenda. […]

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Epicenter Coworking Space in Stockholm workplaceMany consequences of the COVID-19 crisis are immediately apparent to workplace managers and users. Potentially less obvious, are the fundamental changes to the job roles involved in managing commercial property, both within occupier businesses and property management teams alike.

Before the pandemic, the conversation about flexible working had been steadily moving up the corporate agenda. As research findings pointed to the potential benefits for both business performance and employee wellbeing, concerns about the practicalities – the investment, implications for training and development, the impact on knowledge sharing and creative thinking – grew louder as well.

Then, in March, things changed almost overnight. Millions of workers decamped to their living rooms and were forced through a crash course in VPN software and Zoom conference calls. Only 10 percent of UK office space has been in use during the past two months according to Landsec and, with Twitter announcing that its staff will have the option to work from home for good, many others are understandably asking: will we go back? If so, when?

For office owners and property managers, now’s the time to think further ahead: what support, skills and services will these occupiers need from us when they do return? And what will the format, fit out and experience of commercial workspaces look like in the future?

 

Looking with different eyes

The ‘six feet office’ solution seems entirely based on the assumption that offices should carry on as they were

This is a important subject to consider, and unsurprisingly many of the bigger players are making predictions about the future of work that support their commercial interests. The ‘six feet office’ solution recently posited by one large property company for example, seemed entirely based on the assumption that the workplace should carry on as it was pre COVID-19, only with new measures introduced to enforce social distancing. These ideas are practical for adhering to new public health guidelines but miss the point of why the most progressive and modern organisations invest in office space in the first place.

While clearly well intentioned and not without merit, I fear this approach would fundamentally hamper collaboration, team working, the buzz of creative ideas and the human need for contact – in short, the joy of working with others. The post-lockdown implications for public transport alone mean we need to accept that people are going to be in the office less, at different times to some of their colleagues, or perhaps not all.

This means adapting environments to suit remote working, hot desking and conference calling while upholding new cleaning and social distancing regulations. This will surely engender a significant shift in the responsibilities of traditional office roles at all levels, from MDs to office managers. For example, will the latter take on new responsibilities for ensuring everyone feels connected in a virtual workplace?

 

A new role

The job specification for a health and safety manager is one in particular that may change dramatically. As well as the building fabric, office space management and regulatory compliance, how do you begin to look after the physical and mental wellbeing of employees while they are working from home? It feels inevitable that health and safety will increasingly overlap with more traditional HR priorities and become even more central to employers meeting their duty of care.

Many of us will have acquired new aches and pains in recent weeks

How will you notice who’s burnt out, who’s not taking enough breaks, or who’s having a tough time at home? Employers will need new services to bridge the gap of small talk and social interactions, such as access to an employee helpline or private healthcare provision.

For larger employers, this could extend to diet and nutrition as well: if we’re to believe, as some have said, that the good old staff canteen is a thing of the past, is there a knock-on effect for staff health, and as a result on productivity? Let’s not forget that many employers have been using their staff restaurants as a route to encourage healthier eating and breaks from computers by providing alternative informal meeting space.

Many of us will have acquired new aches and pains in recent weeks as we hunch over dining tables and balance on unsupportive seating – how will a health and safety manager monitor home working environments and consider things like desk space, ergonomic set up and RSI?  These are the things that have dominated workplace guidance and legislation for years, and now it’s all been turned on its head.

 

A new definition of work

Away from health and safety, there will need to be reconsiderations regarding the design of the new workplace – decisions about layouts, access routes and lifts, must all be taken on the basis of consultation with the people who run, and work in, these spaces.

As our working environment mushrooms out of bricks-and-mortar offices, it’s also time to unshackle our thinking.  Office support staff will become even more critical to business strategy, the health and productivity of workers, and central to successful building operations, in unexpected and previously unforeseen ways.

Property developers and agents will need to work with property managers, facilities managers and health and safety staff to anticipate new occupier requirements, beyond the immediately obvious of physical space, and ensure that workplaces remain fit for our changing world.

Main image: Epicenter Stockholm

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