Category Archives: The future of work, today

Thoughts on current trends, or products, that we might extrapolate into the future…all that we know, is that we don’t know…but we can entertain ourselves guessing!

CoreNet Global’s Chicago Summit 2011: part 1 – “The way we’ll live next”

I was very fortunate to attend CoreNet Global‘s Chicago summit last week, on two of the sunniest days the ‘windy city’ could offer its guests. I’m told that I was one of around 2,000 delegates, and there was certainly a full complement of leading end users and service providers in attendance.

This blog (‘part 1’) is based around the General Session 1, which opened the summit, in the spendour of the Ballroom at the Navy Pier. Greg Lindsay, an author and futurist, presented “The Way We’ll Live Next: New Frontiers of Globalization”.

New Frontiers of Globalization

Greg Lindsay looked at how urban living will be shaped by new frontiers of globalization, and took much of his fascinating material from his soon-to-be-published book, Aerotropolis. This is described as “a combination of giant airport, planned city, shipping facility, and business hub”. Essentially, cities built around airports at the centre – not on the fringes (or a long distance outside) as they most often have been designed in the 20th Century. And Mr. Lindsay gave several examples of mega-cities, current and planned…mostly in Asia of course!

Some interesting facts also emerged, that I certainly was not aware of. For example, Emirates Airlines is now the largest long-haul airline in the world – and it didn’t even exist 25 yrs ago! If Aerotropolis is to be believed, then this must surely make Dubai one of the most important cities now, and into the future? Not so much the economic ‘basket case’ that it has recently been perceived as being? But it appears to be in large part Chinese money that is driving this – at the 1.2km (yes, inside!) Dragon Mart (Dubai) Chinese buyers are trading in what Dubai World (its owners) call the “gateway for the supply of Chinese products in the Middle Eastern and North African Markets, offering Chinese traders and manufacturers a unique platform from which to cater to the needs of this sizeable market”.

In fact, Mr Lindsay talked of the “New Silk Route” – like the old silk route from Asia to Europe and the west – but now selling goods into the rich MENA region. This is immense – US$60bn china exports to the Arab world in 2010 alone.

But surely, I hear you ask, places like Dubai cannot possibly be leading cities of the future? You would be forgiven for finding limited ‘cultural satisfaction’ on a visit to Dubai over the last few years. But, like everything else, it is being imported….take Saadiyat Island, 500 metres off the coast of AbuDhabi, close neighbour to Dubai. The Cultural District is “set to become an internationally renowned arts hub, featuring the Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Performing Arts Centre”. OK, it is not going to replace the sophistication of Paris, the history of London, or the buzz of cities like Hong Kong and New York. But as a business and travel hub, UAE is ‘user friendly’.

Cities are hubs for knowledge and innovation

Cities are also built around intellect and knowledge though, right? Developers of a new ‘Aerotropolis’ cannot replicate this knowledge culture, can they? The intellectuals of Boston, Oxford & Cambridge, or the Sorbonne will surely not want to drink their fine wines in a desert? Well, once again, we may be wrong – NYU Abu Dhabi opened last year. And Mr Lindsay told us that NYU will open in Shanghai in 2013! Harvard Medical School is also in Dubai.

In turn though, and as another example of reliance of airports, the UAE is a major ‘exporter’ of medical treatment to Bangkok and Singapore. For example, Mr Lindsay described the Bumrungrad international hospital in Bangkok, where operations cost 70-80% less than in the USA. Its a global hospital, which “just happens to be in Bangkok”. Singapore is also on leading edge of healthcare, and  “wants to be able to be a hub for this sector”. And in India, the Apollo Hospitals and Fortis Healthcare organisations are providing similar services.

“The brain drain is working in reverse” said Mr Lindsay, as Chinese and Indian doctors and medical staff see better opportunities for themselves in Asia.

How sustainable are these new cities?

Several examples were given, including the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City, around 150km from Beijing, where “man living in harmony with his fellow man, with the economy and with the environment”. Another fascinating one is Mentougou City, again near Beijing, which is described as “a gorgeous new “Ecological Silicon Valley.” Located close to the urban metropolis of Beijing, the new city will combine research institutes for modern science and innovation with environmentally friendly and eco-efficient urban living
“. Back in the UAE, there is the Masdar City in Abu Dhabi – the zero carbon city, and “one of the most sustainable communities on the planet”. It is a pioneer of new clean and green technologies. And Living PlanIT valley in Portugal, one of a new generation of “intelligent cities”.

What about all the air travel? How can an Aerotropolis essentially be ‘green’, when flying is central to the model?

This is the real question that I was left with, and talked about with a few friends after Mr Lindsay’s session. Before entering the room that morning, I would have argued the absolute opposite of many of Lindsay’s points! I guess I’m now compelled to read the book thoroughly, and make sure I understand his arguments properly.

I would have argued that we only moved from an agrarian society a couple of hundred years ago, through the industrial revolution in the western world. And I probably saw ubiquitous technology and fast communications as a way for people to ‘spread out’ again across the global landscape. And key to this – to travel less, and to communicate using new technologies, which become increasingly like ‘real meetings’. But, I am swayed at least in part by the idea that people need to be together – socially, and in business. And cities are the solution to that need for ‘togetherness’ that is lost in remote communications.

The answer, I guess, is that as human beings we are all different – some will desire the quieter life and clean air of rural life. They will push the boundaries of technology to facilitate living and working in this way. Whilst others desire the hustle and ‘buzz’ of city life. But they too will want their cities to be eco-friendly as far as possible.

Cities, travel, and the real cost (and price) of carbon

The unknown factor, and for me the ‘elephant in the Ballroom’ last Monday morning, was the real cost (and price) of carbon. Maybe I missed this point in Mr Lindsay’s lecture? But I dont think so.

In the UK, the government is leading the way, unilaterally (to the frustration of many businesses, it has to be said) to be the “greenest government” anywhere. Schemes such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) have set a price for carbon trading, not just for the large energy-intensive industries, but “to cover all organisations using more than 6,000MWh per year of electricity”.

Currently, this is based solely on metered electricity use. But in the future one can see this being applied to air travel. If businesses had to pay for the real cost of carbon reduction required to mitigate their business air travel, flying would become very much more expensive…..this would kill the concept of the Aerotropolis as proposed by Mr Lindsay.

Maybe there is some middle ground..there usually is.

Third Places‘ now give themselves up for ‘Fourth Places’ – perhaps?

Lindsay went on to discuss the “disolving of physical plant”, where people come together when they need to, but we don’t need as much physical corporate-leased space. It was at a CoreNet summit in the US two or three years ago now that I first came across the term “Third Places“, a phrase and description first coined by Dr Ray Oldenburg. Third Places are “…nothing more than informal public gathering places. The phrase ‘third places’ derives from considering our homes to be the ‘first’ places in our lives, and our work places the ‘second'”

In Chicago, I heard the term “Fourth Place” for the first time – i.e., somewhere not at home, or the office, but actually designed for work (not like coffee shops, which are designed for coffee!). I have worked in one myself, regularly, for over two years – but I hadn’t heard the term before. Richard Florida may have come up with the term, in his article, where he said “Entrepreneurs and real-estate providers are increasingly recognizing the need for what I call Fourth Places—places where we can informally connect and engage and dialogue, but also where we can work. Places that freelancers or startups can use on an as-needed basis, or where travelers can set up shop temporarily”

What I heard from Greg Lindsay was a step on from this – where companies encourage workers to use these Fourth Places, and where “the entire point is to go outside”. He mentioned Eli Lilly & Company where they actually want to get people out into the outside world, to increase productivity. The company wants employees to meet people, not co-workers.

An example of a purpose-built Fourth Place is “The Squaire” at Frankfurt Airport, Germany. And its “New Work City”, aimed at providing a business facility for people with a common interest in great architecture & place.

An interesting idea, that fits more with my ‘ideal model’ than some of the larger eco-cities, is Mesa del Sol, a “place where work and home and school and fun are within walking distance of each other”

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, it is designed for around 100,000 people, and designed as a hub for creatives. Its essentially a city where you work from home! But it fits the Aerotropolis model of Lindsay’s, as it is also “only around 6mins to the airport – people fly to LA to the office occasionally”. The city has electric cars, and people typically work at home 3 days/week, often with some time up in LA. It is a 40/50 year project….interesting to follow!

What does all this mean for business, and specifically to corporate real estate and workplace professionals?

Like the ‘paperless office’ and other such myths, we can safely assume that the “officeless portfolio” is not going to happen anytime soon – and probably never. All large organisations will have a core of offices, and the chances are that in 10 years time many of them will look much as they do today…and will not be in one of these new eco-cities or an ‘aerotropolis’.

However, what is clear is that the corporate real estate portfolio, and the workplace/IT manager’s remit, is changing in a big way around the edges of the traditional ‘core’. Unless my predictions of high carbon prices (via some form of taxation) take hold around the world – and we see little sign of that so far – business flights seem destined to continue. But at the same time, people want to work closer to home, travel less, and hence ‘third and fourth spaces’ look likely to become permanent parts of the work landscape. So there will continue to be some core HQ space, and a need to provide employees with an agile working support to make best use of working in a variety of settings – from office, to home, to ‘third places’ and a growing number of specialist ‘fourth places’.

Mr Lindsay quoted the late CK Prahalad, who said that there was ‘no such thing as emerging markets or multi nationals’. He talked about organisations either centralising OR decentralising, whereas Prahalad proposed that organisations do both. He proposed:

20 hubs, no head office; not ‘run’ from anywhere

– networking of offices

– shared central economies of scale, such as R+D perhaps; other elements, disperse as needed

Where will these hubs actually be?

One would expect that some of the examples of ‘aerotropolis’ given to us by Greg Lindsay will become leading ‘hubs’ of the future. Much, I suspect, will depend on the relative growth of global-regional economies. I certainly got the strong feeling once again that all the growth is in the east – in Asia Pacific. Will that actually be at the detriment of US and European leading cities of today?

A McKinsey report, “Urban world: Mapping the economic power of cities ” was quoted by Mr Lindsay. The report says, “Today only 600 urban centers generate about 60 percent of global GDP. While 600 cities will continue to account for the same share of global GDP in 2025, this group of 600 will have a very different membership. Over the next 15 years, the center of gravity of the urban world will move south and, even more decisively, east”.

Will more of our regional ‘hubs’ be in these cities in the South and East? Will some of our organisations in fact be taken over by Chinese or Indian multi-nationals? Will our US and European offices reduce in size, with a smaller workforce, whilst rapidly growing in China and Latin America?

None of us has the answer to these questions, of course. I only hope that more of the leading cities of the future spin off more places like Mesa del Sol as described above. Living a sustainable life (in all senses – ecologically, physically, and in social/family terms) must be our goal? Three days a week ‘at home’ or a local third place, half a day travelling, and a day in an ‘aerotropolis’ sounds like a better future ‘week’. Far better than the taxing schedule of daily commuting, 8-6 desk-bound working, and pollution that many of our corporate employees endure today.

Paul Carder  (paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com)

http://www.linkedin.com/in/paulcarder

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Where should the “Director of Work” fit into large organisations?

There are several questions mixed into this one question: what is “work”? is it different from the business itself? or, its many business units and functions? And why would “work” need its own Director? Then….where does that Director of Work best fit into any large organization? and what should they do?

I have not read the literature on this topic, of which I’m sure that someone will tell me that there is a ‘stack’…maybe not? But I would propose my own definition of “work” – it is the structured combination of tasks that a person carries out to contribute towards the achievement of specific organisational goals. Of course, these days, many of us work for several organisations at the same time. But each task is usually for one organisation at a time, or for a programme involving several organisations…which then becomes another organisation….and so on. But lets just look at an employee, in one large organisation. Lets call him, or her, Sam (could be male or female…makes life easy!)

Who advises Sam ‘how’ to work? Not, what to do – thats usually fairly clear, and dictated by line management or some form of matrix structure. But when, where, and how to work? Nobody really provides much in the way of vision, or policy, to help ensure that people are adopting ‘best practice’ ways of working.

Lets take ‘when’ to work first. Sam probably has a contract that says working hours are 0900 to 1730 (or similar), with a half-hour unpaid lunch break. But who actually works these hours, these days? Maybe some public sector workers, and union-backed employees? But most of us never take any notice of contracted hours – we work however many hours it requires to get the work done. Its all about output, not hours worked. So the Human Resources (HR) Director sets policy on working hours, but what about work outside of these hours? HR will probably say, thats down to the employee and his/her line manager. But how many line managers know how many hours their staff are working? In todays mobile, global, business environment, manager and employee may not see each other daily. How many line managers say “Hey, Sam, how many hours are you working each week? Too many, I think. You should work less, its bad for your health and creativity…”. Very few? Its up to us, isn’t it? Maybe, but who protects the vulnerable? Who makes sure that people do not overwork, get stressed, or worse. Work suffers, relationships suffer, society suffers…it needs to be managed. It needs corporate policy.

How to work and where to work used to be hard-wired to each other. But no longer, at least for most office-based, or ‘knowledge’ workers. Its a case of “have laptop, will travel”. Not all office workers need a laptop, but even desktop PCs are going ‘virtual’, so the employee can work from any desk, logging into any PC.

So lets take ‘where to work’. Sam may wake up in the morning, and start work straight away, thinking about the day, checking the BlackBerry, replying to messages. Stop for coffee and croissants, and have a shower. Then maybe a phone call or two before heading off to the office, or to a meeting somewhere else, or maybe staying put to work from home for a while. Sam’s partner probably works too, so Sam may stop for a couple of hours at 3pm to collect children from school, or visit the gym, walk the dog, or whatever. Then may work through until 8pm, before meeting friends in the pub. So what is the policy here for ‘where to work’? Maybe there doesn’t need to be one?

The problem comes back though, when one combines ‘when to work’ questions with ‘where to work’, and then looks at the most vulnerable employees. If Sam is already working too many hours, perhaps it is due to a skill shortage or lack of training. Or management problems with workload spreading. But if Sam (or manager) also has it in mind that work must be done in the office, and Sam has a 2 hours round-trip from home each day, that is simply adding to stress.

How to work is perhaps more complex again. It can be a combination of ‘when and where’, along with ‘who to work with’ at times. And at other times, ‘how to work’ can be solely the decision of the worker. Communication and visibility are often key factors. When is it necessary to have face-to-face meetings, and when can this be done in different ways – telephone, Skype, Webex, video-conferencing, etc.

Line managers are often ill-equipped to advise staff on ‘how to work’. They know what needs to be achieved, and they may (hopefully) set clear objectives and targets. But thereafter, its often, maybe mostly, down to the employee to get on with it. How much training to people get on the work tools around them? In my experience, its pretty patchy to say the least. Even diary, calendar and task management – how many people know how to use all the features of MS Outlook or Lotus Notes? But today, there are so many other software and hardware tools, from simple dial-in phone numbers to ‘Telepresence’ by Cisco and others.

Who brings together the ‘when, where and how’ of work, to set policy and options that can support employees?

HR has a role to play, for sure. But HR Directors do not set policy on ‘when, where and how’ to work. Line managers do that, to some extent. But, for the reasons discussed above, most line managers or Business Unit heads do not have the skills to advise on the options for ‘when, where and how’ to work. Or probably just as importantly, they often do not want to make decisions – they would rather avoid the issue of things like working from home, or stress of travel to work.

What actually happens, in many organisations, I would guess is a mixture of apathy and avoidance of responsibility (and therefore risk, in getting it ‘wrong’), with little support from the Exec Board. The HR department think that ‘work’ is the line managers responsibility, and the line manager is hoping that HR is dealing with any ‘human/personal’ issues that people have with their work effectiveness, stress, motivation, etc.

Enter, stage left…..the “Director of Work”

The Director of Work may sit in the line management area, under the Chief Operating Officer (COO), or under the HR area perhaps. But either way, the role would bring together the issues of ‘when where, and how to work’, looking at the vision for how the organisation should work most effectively, reviewing options, and setting policy for when these options may be most appropriate. The Director of Work would then also set a programme of training for line managers, to make sure that they have full understanding of all the options for when, where and how to work. And the human and organisational risks of getting this wrong – stress, inefficiency, morale, staff turnover, etc.

Director of Work meets Director of Workplace…

The Director of Work would be a key ally for any Director of Real Estate and Workplace Resources/FM. We all need advice on ‘ways of working’, and without it have to create our own policy by negotiation and discussion with business units and functions. The Director of Work, with a mandate from the Exec Board, would be a breath of fresh air for most RE/Workplace professionals….

Paul Carder

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/paulcarder

How do we build corporate culture, and mentoring, in a mobile world?

I finished a report on Workplace Mobility a couple of weeks ago – specifically ‘how to maintain the commitment to mobility after the project team has moved on…’  It followed our research, and a workshop, with the Workplace ‘PIN’ (performance innovation network) group of real estate occupiers in the UK  Workplace \’PIN\’

I should say, I am a passionate believer in ‘mobility’ – enabling work to be conducted in many settings around the office, or away from the office with customers, or at home, or anywhere…and our research has shown clear benefits in a number of ways, for organizations and individuals alike.

But one area that needs some work – and a collection of brains, from different disciplines – is how the corporate organization creates and maintains its culture in a mobile world. And also, perhaps a subset of this, how does mentoring happen when people are less often together in the same space & time?

Lets take one of the best examples of a productive, flexible and mobile working environment, at Microsoft Workplace Advantage, Schiphol (NL). It really is a great environment, with multiple settings for working in different ways and with different people. People love it, and its won awards – deservedly so.

The key question I have – and I dont have any predetermined answer, as I’d like to know your views – is how do you pass on knowledge when people are less often together? Or rarely together, in one place, at one time?

I guess the first, and most important, group are the ’20-somethings’. Either fresh from University (in most cases these days), or perhaps transferring into a second job, and learning about the organization, what it does, how it does it. And also learning how to do their job – packed full of knowledge from University, but this is now the real office environment, and they have to learn how to get things done, how to persuade and influence…or just how to work!

In a traditional professional training, there has been a heavy reliance on mentoring throughout the structure. Graduates are mentored by qualified professionals, the recently qualified are mentored by the experienced, and the latter by the business directors or specialist partners. People learn from many experiences, some even ‘subliminal’. Sometimes simple, like over-hearing telephone discussions, consciously or perhaps unconsciously listening to what was said, how a customer was dealt with, how questions were answered, and so on. Most, if not all, people who have gone through a professional training will have experienced the pain (and repeat it on someone else, usually) of sitting with a senior person who red-lines and re-drafts your lovingly prepared report. Or cuts 30 of your presentation slides leaving the 10 she really needs….all good learning!!

Everyone remembers a good school teacher – in the same way, we remember experiences that taught us crucial lessons in our professional or business careers. So, how does this happen in a mobile world?

Cities like London, UK, have expensive real estate, so pressure to increase the DSR (desk-share ratio) will continue. This is accepted in mobile teams, like accountants (auditors) and management consultants. But can it ever work for bankers, business operations, software developers and the like?

Maybe the answer is mobile teams, rather than mobility for individuals? If the team is mobile, and can ‘camp’ in various places in groups of 2, 3, 4 or more, the corporate culture and learning experience is maintained. But where individuals are encouraged to be mobile, how do they maintain that link to the organization, and pick up the crucial learning and development that we all need?

How does this work in your organization? I’d love to hear your views….

Paul Carder

Bank branches “open, casual and clubby”? The business lounge…

After my last blog on coffee shops, this BBC news article again made me think about the High Street business lounge:The High Street bank re-imagined (BBC)

Its going to happen isn’t it? But will the current big players do it first? Or will it be a new market entrant?

Now, speaking personally (Sir Richard, I hope you are reading…) what I would like to see is Virgin Money offering a business account with access to a “Virgin Lounge” in larger branches…modelled on a smaller version of the fantastic Virgin Atlantic clubhouse at Heathrow T3. Virgin Atlantic Club Lounge, Heathrow

The article again says that it is difficult to get people to switch bank accounts. Business users, perhaps even more so? But perhaps these kinds of business lounge facilities on the High Street would temp people?

Security will always be a big consideration and hurdle for banks – they need to protect staff from raids. But how about having some key branches cashless – “This is a Business lounge – No cash held on these premises”…? More on that later…

What’s the costa this workplace? $2/hour+free coffee? $2/cup+free seat?

This ‘review’ site lists 20 coffee shops that people have bothered to comment about: Compare Coffee Shops.  That suggests to me that there are dozens more across our towns and cities…so what? Have you sat in one recently? Yes, sure you have…but why? Quite possibly you bought a coffee to make yourself feel less guilty about “camping” in Costa, Starbucks or wherever, with your laptop and phone out on the table…working! Did you actually want a coffee? Maybe, but equally likely you just came out of someone’s office where you already had one or two cups…

The question is, what are you paying for here? $2 for a desk for an hour, with a free coffee? Or $2 for a coffee, and a free seat? I know that I have paid both ways…if you’re a ‘glass half full’ person, you’ll think its a cheap coffee for $1 and you pay $1/hour for the “desk”. Thats not bad value, is it?

So how long before coffee companies just admit this is going on, and set up “business class”…? A “frequent drinker” card (no, OK, doesn’t sound like ‘frequent flyer’), which lets you turn left at the end of the coffee bar in to the business area, instead of right into the ‘normal’ cafe? With a chip+pin, to charge the account back to your company account. And you get larger seats, space to plug in your laptop, perhaps waitress service, etc..? Its gonna happen isn’t it…you heard it here first (unless its already happening – in which case you didn’t…!)

So for the corporate occupier, this is another facilities management operating cost, is it not? Another cost of employee mobility, along with the phone and laptop.

But its far lower cost than most corporate workstations. Especially where these are used by mobile employees in a desk-share arrangement, often at a desk-share ratio (DSR) of 2 or 3+. If a workstation in the office costs $10,000 per annum, thats say $40/day…thats too much coffee for the average person!!

Watch this space my friends….you will have a low cost flexible workplace on every High Street, properly set up for business users, very soon…that won’t Costa too much….