The digital, online world, can give us back our lives: if only we let it

In my last post on this subject, digital progress may give us more analogue time, I provided a link to one tech firm’s vision of the future. What is the ‘future’ depends where you are right now, of course. The vision provided by Virgin Media is well into the future for most people; but for others, there are parts of this vision that is already reality. For example, the freedom exhibited by the main ‘character’, to visit her father in the countryside whilst on the same morning taking part in an international online meeting. The ‘tech’ shown is futuristic, but I (and many colleagues) do this every week, as we talk with each other around the world.

Time is finite. We cannot afford to waste it. Most of us feel that we do not have enough of it. Time is therefore a precious ‘commodity’, to be traded. You sell your time to your employer, or clients. You give your time to others freely, by personal choice. You wish for more time with some people, those you love, and who love you – that time has a higher premium. Do you trade that time for ‘paid’ time, sold to your employer? Maybe you have to do that – maybe time is short, but so is money!

I am forever telling my teenage children not to ‘waste’ time online, in their own digital world. But at their age, they have more time free, and therefore more choice. Depending on the stage in your life-path, you have less time as an adult, and eventually (we all hope) considerable free time as an older retired person. But somewhere between 25 to 65 years of age, most of us hit ‘peak time’, with little room for anything else but work, family, friends, and other commitments that we pick up along the way.

My point? For busy people, somewhere in that mid-life section, a better digital life can provide more analogue time: i.e., the balance of digital and analogue life.

To me, it is about work (using the widest definition – i.e., what you do between rest, play and leisure time) and place. The latter being key to life balance. In the days before our digital life, we needed to be somewhere specific to do our ‘work’. Many still do, but so many more people are now finding that they can get at least some of their daily work done in any place. Test it.

Take the most unlikely digital online worker – someone you think must be somewhere specific to do his or her work. Say, a Police Officer? Mostly, we want to see Police out in public, as we feel reassured and safer (in the UK anyway!), but they also have to write reports, fill in forms, exchange emails, as do the rest of us. Some of that could be done on a laptop or tablet, somewhere non-specific. That could be in a school cafeteria, or staff common room (public building) rather than tucked away in a police station.

Better still, if that school was close to home, whereas ‘the station’ was many miles away, that Police Officer may be able to finish off the ‘paperwork’ (now, less paper, more online) and meet his or her child from school….straight into high-value analogue time. So, digital life has just added to analogue life. Without it, the Police Officer is many miles away, stuck in the Police Station, filling in forms. And his or her child is in after-school club. Both lose valuable time, forever.

Should we invest more in digital, to give us all back our high-value analogue lives? I think we should. What do you think?

Paul (@paulcarder)

Death comes to us all: but don’t go without talking

I have pasted an exchange of messages below, between myself and a good guy whom I have never met – one of many ‘contacts’ we have these days in the ‘virtual’ digital world. He has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and I feel for him and his loved ones.

I have no right to a viewpoint, but I have shared this exchange just in case it helps someone else. I may be wrong, or even harsh – but its just my view.

My point is simple (and perhaps harsh): one has to accept what is inevitable at some point in time – death comes to us all. There is no ‘fairness’, reason or rationale. Why me? Why not me? It is easy for me to say – I have not been diagnosed with a terminal illness. But, I have lost a quarter of my family to cancer over the years.

In my humble opinion (and I am not a believer, so I don’t pray) one has to accept what is coming. You cannot do anything without first accepting your fate. And thereafter, one can make the best of whatever time is left.

Mainly, to talk – to say those things you want to say, but that many people do not. Some do not get the chance – death is immediate, and a shock to those left behind. But with modern drugs, many illnesses can be kept at bay for long periods before the inevitable end.

Science (not your God) has provided that extra time. If it were me, dying, as we all do eventually, I would want to spend time with the people that I care most about. And say the things that many people do not say – how much you love them, the great things you love about them, and your wishes for their future.

Above all, to be happy, to celebrate at my funeral (not to be sad), drink, eat, break open the cigars, and the best single malt. Light a fire, with coal and logs (I love fireplaces), look at the flicker of the flames, enjoy it, knowing it will burn out eventually as we all do – enjoy it while you can.

Love, Paul xx


(I have changed the identity to ‘Dear Friend’)

Dear Friend,
I’m sorry, I read my message again, and it is a bit harsh. I sincerely hope that your doctors are wrong.
I have a different perspective because I have lost a quarter of my direct family (mine and my wife’s) to cancer.
There is no reason or rationale – it is just bad luck.
You are a braver man than me; I know I would be wallowing in self-pity. But I would stop doing anything I didn’t need to do, and spend all my time with my family and friends.
But crucially, as the family members I lost did not do this, I would talk to them (if I thought they could deal with it) and say “Look, I don’t have much time left, I love you – lets talk properly, while we can”.
I’m close to tears writing this – cancer is a bastard.
All my best wishes

Friend wrote:
Thank you Paul
for a fresh perspective and different view.
Keep you posted.

On 08/11/14, Paul Carder wrote:
Dear Friend,
I admire your spirit. One cannot get to middle age without having some experience of cancer.
I am not religious, but I hope it works for you.
It seems pointless to simply say ‘good luck’, but what else can one say? Life is predominantly luck, isn’t it?

I can only speak from personal experience, where family members have continued fighting it until the end. They mostly never got to say the things they may have wanted to say.
I know what I would do: face up to the realistic probability, and spend what time I had left with my family, talking honestly.

my kindest regards,

Friend wrote:
Dear colleagues

Recently I was diagnosed with [cancer] ….Doctors say my condition is terminal, however at this time I am not accepting this as inevitable.

I am undergoing six sessions of chemo, as this is the best conventional treatment I can be offered at this time, but I am also pursuing alternative and natural treatments, power of positive thinking, the support of my family, friends and colleagues and of course the help of God through your prayers, to fulfil the plan that is written for me.

Therefore I have taken a sabbatical from work as long as may be required, and am now self declared CEO in order to be in a position to concentrate on this “New Job” 24/7.

Currently after four chemo treatments lasting three days each, I am feeling better physically, but the cancer has not responded as well as we had hoped for now……

There is lots of fight in the dog yet, and your thoughts and prayers will be appreciated.

I will keep you posted on progress periodically.

Digital progress may actually give us more analogue time

Apologies, it was last summer when I penned my last blog on this site. It was my opening thought on the balance between digital and analogue life…but I failed to follow through!

However, over those last few months, I have become increasingly convinced that ‘digital’ may actually help ‘analogue’ life. If we understand the difference, and we manage it well.

The better that digital communications become, the more immersive and ‘real’ the experience becomes, then the less we actually need to BE anywhere specific. Look at Generation:IP (by VirginMedia) as a futuristic example. It is a little way into the future – but how long? Just a few years? I’ll bet their labs are using it now, testing, and these technologies will be on the market soon.

That means less commuting, less stress, and more analogue time. Historically, ‘commuting’ is very recent! Perhaps digital process will make it ‘recent past’?

Life is not digital; we need a balance with our natural ‘analogue’ life

I am starting to think of life in this way. We spend so much of our professional lives ‘connected’ to one or more digital devices, it is increasingly important to ensure that we have ‘analogue’ time. That is, unconnected. Real footprints, not digital footprints. Conversing face-to-face, eating, playing, kissing, hugging, loving…and all the things we do which are not connected to something that has no soul. A walk through a wood in the autumn (Fall) awakens all the senses – few of our senses are used when connected to the digital world via a computer or device.

There is no question that the digital world is a large part of our future. But the ‘analogue’ world of our past has a vital role to play in our future too. Children must not be left to ‘their own devices’ as quite literally that is what they will all too often revert to – their digital devices. Games consoles, phones, laptops, and other ‘gadgets’. But, are we as adults so much better? What are we losing from the pre-digital days? This blog will take a personal view, that we are in danger of losing so much from the ‘old fashioned’ world before computers and connectivity – but that we are not realising and taking action as individuals and as a society.

I’m now blogging at

I will leave my old blogs on here, and start using this blog for personal musings about life, work, family, fatherhood, and anything else that comes to mind!

If that is of interest to you, great….if you are only interested in ‘occupiers journal’ commentary on corporate real estate, workplace design and management, facilities and such like, then do please follow the OJL team at:

Thanks & regards,


Twitter: @occupiers  …  @paulcarder … @WorkAndPlace

WORKTECH12 by @UNWIRED May 15/16 NEW YORK (TIME & LIFE Building)

Hi all – my friend Isabel Dewhurst-Marks , Conference Director at UNWIRED, has asked me to spread the word about WORKTECH12 which is taking place in New York on 15th/16th May….only 2 weeks time! It is being held at the wonderful TIME and LIFE building. If you can get a day or two out of the office, this is the place to be, for sure. I’m going to tell you why, below….

On the 15th (0900-12.30) there are several Masterclasses. The main Conference is on the following day, 16th May.

There are no less than 26 speakers at the Conference, many of whom are global workplace industry ‘names’, including the CEO of Cordless Group (owners of UNWIRED), Philip Ross , author and workplace strategist Cindy Froggatt , and one of the ‘founding fathers’ of Facility Planning & Management, Professor Frank Becker.

But what sets WORKTECH aside from many other events is the array of ‘non-workplace’ interesting people that Philip, Isabel and the UNWIRED team are able to amass in one place at one time!

At WORKTECH’12 this month, you will have the opportunity to hear first-hand from some of the most interesting writers of recent years, as follows:

Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other

Sherry Turkle will talk about her book Alone Together , the result of MIT technology and society specialist Turkle’s nearly fifteen-year exploration of our lives on the digital terrain. Based on interviews with hundreds of children and adults, it describes new, unsettling relationships between friends, lovers, parents, and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude.

This is a real insight into a real world problem, that all of us have experienced in some way. With more people working (and being managed) remotely, working in global teams, it is easy to forget what I have called an analogue life – what you need as a human, which is not online.

The WORKTECH12 programme says this:

Technology proposes itself an architect of our intimacies. These days, technology offers us substitutes for direct face-to-face connection with people in a world of machine-mediated relationships on networked devices. As we instant message, e-mail, text, and Twitter, technology redraws the boundaries between intimacy and solitude.

Science Fiction and the Future of Work

Brian David Johnson , Chief Futurist at Intel, is the author of Screen Future, described as:

a technical book about people, technology, and the economics that are shaping the evolution of entertainment. Blending social and computer sciences, the book provides a vision for what happens after convergence and what we need to do to get there

You can read more about Intel’s work and SCREEN FUTURE at this link

This is what WORKTECH12 says in introduction to Brian’s talk:

The future is not set; it is not a fixed destination in time.

The future is manufactured every day by the actions of people all over the world. As a futurist, Brian David Johnson believes it is incredibly important that we all become active participants in the future. We must ask ourselves what kind of world we want to live and work in. Where do we want to go? What should we avoid? What scares us?

We have not even reached lunchbreak yet, in the description that I have tried to outline above!!

I am going to try my very best to get across to New York for this event, even if its a quick fly in/fly out trip….rarely do you get the chance to be amongst such a great group of workplace thinkers.

I hope you can also attend. Feel free to contact Isabel: , or +4420 8977 8920

regards, Paul / @occupiers

Facilities Management: 10,000 hours – generalists need experts, not ‘outsourced generalists’

Facilities Management is still fairly young – only around three decades old, I would say. But, 30 years old is no longer feckless youth. It is a time when one should have learned from ones mistakes, at least a little. However, it seems that Facilities Management has not had some ‘home truths’ spelled out. It still has a few ‘elephants in the room’, and one of these is the recurring belief that in-house ‘Heads of’ property, facilities and procurement want to outsource to ‘generalists’. And it continues to make the same mistakes.

Let’s release this particular elephant…currently (of course, this may change) my research in the UK shows that, mostly, clients do NOT want outsourced generalist FM firms. Some do, particularly for very large, multi-national and complex portfolios, perhaps. But, most do not.

Facilities Management is, in my opinion at least, a general management discipline. It is an important management function, in all organisations that are not ‘virtual’ – i.e., if an organisation has people who routinely need to work together in workplace environments, then that organisation needs a manager responsible for the provision of that workplace environment, and all its associated services provision.

If you are the Head of Facilities Management (or property, or both) for an organisation, then you ARE the generalist! You don’t need another generalist to second guess your own strategies and programmes. What you need are experts, whom you know that you can rely on to deliver the ‘best’ of their specialist field.

Malcolm Gladwell asserted, in his book Outliers, that one needs to invest 10,000  hours in an activity in order to become an “expert”. There are people that I know, in our industry, who clearly fit this description. And the companies that employ them clearly already know, and value, this expertise.

Phil Johnson, a management coach and writer, started a discussion on Linkedin on 11th Sept, titled \”Are you an expert?\” He continued the line above:

What’s 10,000 hours? Its 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year for five years – non-stop…[Gladwell] asserts that you need 10,000 hours, or about 10 years of practice, to be a world-class expert in virtually anything…..Anything that is cognitively complex seems like it requires at least 10,000 hours. … Its deliberate practice, so it’s focused, determined, in environments where there’s feedback, where there’s a chance to really learn from mistakes.”

So, that is what an “expert” is….the question for buyers of Facilities Management services must be, are you buying in people with anywhere near this level of expertise? Where is the ‘expert’ when you really need him or her? When you have a problem with cooling at your Data Centre, or you need to turn around ‘average’ catering at your HQ?

Marc Emmer, author of Intended Consequences, wrote a recent blog post titled Expertise in a World of Hyper-Specialization, which included a section that could have been written (but was not) about Facilities Management:

Perhaps the most common strategic blunder I observe within  entrepreneurial companies is a penchant for addressing overly broad  targets. Marketers, seeking the largest audience cast too wide a net. In  their need to satisfy the largest number of prospects, they become de  facto generalists. That is, instead of addressing a niche market with  specific solutions, they try to satisfy a larger audience with a  multitude of products and services. At some point, the value they can  provide suffers from diminishing returns.

Spot the elephant? Too broad, diminishing value, diminishing returns – remind you of any companies that you know?

What can we do to address this issue? In the tender process, really test out the knowledge and expertise of the “key people” who are going to be involved in the facilities management for your portfolio. Make sure that you are not buying a ‘generalist’ who simply buys in expertise……is there a point in that? Its ‘margin on margin’, is it not?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Managing Director, Occupiers Journal Limited
Twitter: @occupiers
Hong Kong – London – San Francisco