Tag Archives: mobility

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’?

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The Resilient Workplace

By Judith Heerwagen and Michael F. Bloom

In systems biology, resiliency is the capacity of a system and its inhabitants to bounce back from disruptive change, to cope with adversity without losing essential functionality and identity. The result is a more adaptive state with a greater capacity for effective re-organization. At the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), we have been implementing strategies to make the GSA’s vast number of workplaces more resilient and, thus, sustainable.

The GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings is the GSA’s green building center of excellence. As the federal government’s high-performance building thought leader and catalyst, the office strategically facilitates the adoption of integrated sustainable practices, technologies, and behaviors to accelerate achievement of a zero environmental footprint. GSA oversees 37.02 million square feet of office space in 9,624 buildings owned or leased by the federal government; 12,536 federal employees work in these buildings. Thus, the lessons from GSA’s federal building stock can be applied to many workplaces, large and small, in many contexts.

The federal building “system” today is much like a biological system facing disruptive change. The need to achieve aggressive environmental, financial, and operational goals and to reduce the federal spatial footprint, while maintaining the health and productivity of the workforce, is creating strong pressures to change. Can the built environment—and specifically the workplace—respond to disturbances and stresses with resiliency? Can we intentionally develop the capacity to adapt and cope by drawing on lessons from the natural world?

It is possible, but it will take unprecedented integration across boundaries, drawing on the knowledge and skills from disciplines that do not normally work collaboratively. Designers, technologists, policy makers, building operators, organizational and behavioral scientists—all have parts of the knowledge required to build a new way of thinking about work and workplace.

Unlike other organisms, humans have the potential to anticipate, create, evaluate, and change based on feedback and evidence. A resilient workplace requires a shift in the way we think about, use, and value space and highlights the need to establish feedback loops in order to adapt to and replicate what works. It also requires a shift to a more science-based understanding of the nuances of human behavior.  Ultimately, the main source of resiliency is people. Thus, we need to shape the workplace and its support system to provide the experiences that promote the human capacity to be creative—both individual and organizational—in the face of challenges both external and internal.

We define the resilient workplace as a system of interlinking components, none of which alone will generate resiliency. But in combination, they create synergies and mutual reinforcements that will drive the co-evolution of behavior and place toward resiliency.

The components include:

• A new way of thinking: Consideration of the workplace as an integrated whole, attuned to the relationships among space, management, work behaviors, policy, furnishings, technology, operations and communication practices. Today, most of these capabilities are in boxes and organization charts, each with its own perspective, rules, and ways of thinking.  Removing the barriers created by boxed thinking may be the most difficult challenge to implementing the resilient workplace. But as people learn to work collaboratively, the desire to engage others in thinking and planning will occur readily if it is nurtured.

• An evolution away from individually owned space: If work is not where you are, but what you do, why continue to assign individuals permanent space that remains vacant 60 to 70 percent of the time? This is a prime example of a non-adaptive workplace:  people for more than a decade have been characterized by mobility at work—whether just moving from meeting to meeting, or more broadly in multiple cities. Exchanging static, individual assigned space for the appropriate blend of support spaces that fit how work is accomplished broadens access to space that supports agency mission and releases resources that are unnecessary or wasteful. Assigned workstations may soon be to workplaces, as the vestigial appendix is to the human anatomy—present and taking up space but without performing a useful function.

• An evolution toward dispersed functionality: To be truly effective, the physical workplace should be just one node in a multiplicity of spaces that support connection among people across time and space boundaries. Organizations in which dispersed work teams become routine and the norm will be more effective in carrying out their missions even when disruptive events occur. Having the right kit of tools and technologies to work effectively as a team from multiple sites is a critical component of dispersed functionality.

• An investment in social capital: the workplace exists to support the people who work there, an employer’s most valuable resource. To survive, the workplace should service a niche and provide value that isn’t fulfilled elsewhere.  We believe that real value is supporting the synergies that drive effective teams. Face-to-face interaction is important for enculturation, socialization, creative problem solving, negotiation, and setting strategic direction.  But maintaining relationships in between face-to-face meetings can be readily supported from multiple locations, as can quiet, focused work.

An evidence based process: one that uses performance results as a basis for design, operations, technologies, furniture, and equipment purchases, as well as policy making over the life cycle of the workplace. By evidence, we mean not just objective data on factors such as space utilization, but also the tacit knowledge that develops through experience to become “know how.”

Elements of the resilient workplace

Taken alone, the elements that support the resilient workplace are not especially novel. Their transformative power comes through their combination. Here, we outline the key elements of the resilient workplace.
Space: Invest in space as social capital with focus on the different ways people work, focusing on collaboration, co-creating, and learning. Plan space by attending to best practices in indoor environmental quality, ergonomics, comfort, worker performance, operating performance, and technology supports. Space is no longer owned by individuals or linked to status; it may be shared with other organizations.
Furnishings: Furnishings are varied, flexible, and interchangeable—like a stage set that can be reconfigured easily. Ergonomics and comfort are critical, with an emphasis on work surfaces, including collaborative white boards. Increase reliance on consolidated storage of files and documents and ready access to shared electronic files.
Technology: Wireless, cloud-based, pervasive mobile tools (laptops, smart phones, tablets, etc.) are embedded into work practices with comprehensive technical support. Deploy technology to aid understanding, relationship development, information visualization, role playing, scenario development, and other practices that enable people to see in new ways. Technology supports both face-to-face and dispersed collaboration.
Management Strategy: Manage to performance rather than presence; create opportunities for cross group rather than stove-piped work and reward it when it occurs.
Work Behavior: Empower people to work wherever they work best; work is not where you are but what you do. Emphasize collaboration to achieve results and develop practices that work.
Policy: Co-create policy with workforce; policy becomes an accessible, living document that changes with new evidence to reflect
best practices.
Sustainability: The touchstone for all aspects of work, office design, renovation, and operations is sustainability, including life-cycle financial sustainability.
Operations: Building tenants are actively engaged in the impact of their behavior on how facilities function. Policies and programs to actively support behavioral change are common practices. Web-based discussions share how individual behavior affects building performance and how building performance impacts tenant health and productivity.
Communication: Communication is multi-modal and ubiquitous through asynchronous meetings, social media, chat, Webinars, and collaborative creation in the cloud.

A resilient workplace will succeed only where these characteristics intersect, and will thrive only when people are empowered and supported to work in new ways. Many of these elements are currently in place in public and private sector offices and telework experiments. But rarely have the elements been integrated in a systems perspective across the workplace life cycle.

Judith Heerwagen is an environmental psychologist specializing in the human factors of sustainability. She is a sustainability program expert at the GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings, where she focuses on integrating research into policy making and on the relationship between building social and physical systems. She is co-editor of the book Biophilic Design: The Theory, Science and Practice of Bringing Buildings to Life (Wiley, 2008).
Michael F. Bloom is a sustainability and green program advisor with the GSA’s Office of Federal High-Performance Green Buildings. He is a workplace strategist and project lead for GSA’s new Sustainable Facilities Tool,
www.sftool.gov.

2011 IFMA Workplace Conference – Madrid

by Juan Luis de la Peña of 3G Office, Madrid (http://www.3g-office.com/inicio.html)

2011 IFMA Workplace Conference was held on 26-27th October kindly hosted by ENDESA in Madrid. All attendants (near 100 people) agree that it’s been an excellent conference with outstanding speakers and presentations as well as keynotes, moderators and round tables (plus a great catering!) where we all learned and shared real experiences, figures and trends regarding today’s ways of working and workplace solutions from several countries and business sectors.

Moderators:

Francisco Vázquez. President of 3G Office Group and Director of International Relations of IFMA Spain.

Leopoldo Alandete. Managing Director, LA & Asociados.

Xavier Llobera. General Manager, Microsoft Innovation Centre for Productivity Center.

All of them, Partners of the Workplace Innovation Group, played a great role in the conference, not only introducing the speakers but also questioning them and sharing their experiences and points of view regarding key matters in an open and frank way.

Conferences:

Introduction to Social Dynamics (by Francisco Vázquez)

Francisco made a clear introduction to how social dynamics are changing – dynamics that are mainly driven by technology, and new generations of people which are demanding new ways of working that suit their needs, and how companies are consequently adapting their workplaces to be flexible.

Agile Working in the UK (by Andrew Mawson, Managing Director, Advanced Workplace Associates Ltd)

Andrew introduced us to UK workplace trends, where there is some of the most expensive Real Estate in the world, and where most organizations are under pressure to reduce costs, but increase productivity. “Agile Working”, which is a dynamic way of working that frees people to work where and when it is appropriate for them and their organizations, pops up as solution. What is needed to support agile working are new layouts of office schemes with no owned spaces and overlapped areas with central or anchor points where groups gather around. He showed the today’s workplace situation by sector, from traditional (Legal, Retail) to mature (Telecoms, ITs). He pointed out that the change to agile working needs not only change management but “change maintenance” thereafter and that leadership from the directors of the business is the essential element.

Measuring the Value of Virtual Working (by Philippe Jimenez, Managing Director, Regus)

Philippe talked about a Regus research study based in big companies regarding measurement the benefits of the agility@work, a mix of real estate, commute, sustainability, technology, people and culture. The survey was done from three points of view: Virtual, AdVantages and Value, and showed results such as 63 % people still go to the office at least 4 days a week, 59% people takes more than 41 minutes to reach the office and the same to return home but only 12% want to work from home, and that 55% of the workplaces are not used. He also introduced the BYOC (Buy your own computer) model and the trend towards BYOW (Buy your own workplace).

Microsoft Milan (by Fernando Carneros, Real Estate & Facility Manager Microsoft Spain)

Fernando presented how Microsoft has evolved from “Bill’s Office” to a mobile workplace, by means of continuous research and, of course, technology. Before, team and individual settings were segregated and undifferentiated (highly hierarchical), today, a variety of team and individual settings mixed in clusters, with technology driving a multidimensional approach. He also introduced us to Microsoft Milan Innovation Campus (see YouTube) where new ways of work are continuously implemented.

Best Practices in the Financial Sector in London (by William Poole-Wilson, Director Pringle Brandon LLP)

William introduced his company and experience in the financial sector. He pointed out several general questions: Is London going to survive? What will be the landscape now? What does this mean for refurbishing? Numbers don’t stack up? Where is the money? Where is the space? And others more specifics: How can current available space be utilized for trading floors now and in the future? He went through several great examples of financial offices to answer the questions (case studies: Barclays, Macquarie) and showed the results of a survey conducted in trading floors users (for example they need faster communications and prefer clusters configuration of the space).

Importance of Measuring Workplace Spaces (by Carmen Ramos, Managing Director, Fama Systems)

Carmen, fromSpain, focused on the importance that new technology has in managing workplace spaces and the value of Computer Aided Facility Management (CAFM) software as a tool of measuring spaces and knowing exactly what there is in a building and so making easier to book and change spaces as well as move people when needed.

Measuring the activities in the workplace (by Germain Verbeemen, CEO, Wicely)

Germain, fromBelgium, started showing the evolution from “old” offices, passing by shared offices, to Activity Based Offices. He questioned how to conceive and manage Activity Based Offices. The answer is to measure occupancy and activities in an detailed manner with the right methodology and technology get trustworthy results that can be translated in “Activity Blocks” spaces that fulfill the needs of the people which are tuning in a “Generic Office Concept”. He concluded that an office must support effectiveness, flexibility, efficiency and attractiveness.

Measuring Productivity and Performance (by Tim Oldman, Founder and Managing Director, Leesman)

Tim gave a detailed presentation of what they name the Leesman Index by which they measure workplace effectiveness, the capability of workplace to support the productive activities of those it accommodates. He showed very interesting results from a study based on 5274 respondents, 22 surveys, 19 clients, 51 properties, c. 85,000 sq m and with a 70% response rate. He finally recommended that every company should ask themselves the following questions: what makes a workplace productive? What makes it unproductive? Where is it failing the occupiers? What interventions are required? How can it be bettered?

The office Code Project (by Catherine Gall, Director WorkSpace Futures Research, Steelcase)

Catherine presented a Steelcase Workspace Futures Study to know what the relationship between national culture and workplace design is. The study was based in 5 dimensions of culture: Power distance, Individualism, Masculinity, Uncertainty avoidance and Long-term orientation. She showed how the result of the study gives different “Office Codes” for each country.

Understanding Cultural Issues (by Marie Puybaraud, Director of Global Workplace Innovation, Johnson Controls)

From the point of view of the “Multi-generations @ Work” Marie introduced which are the workplace characteristics by generation (Veterans, Baby boomers, Generation X, Generation Y) and showed the very interesting, and sometimes surprising, results of a survey to answer the question of how important the workplace is in attracting, recruiting and retaining multi generations of workers with 8,800 respondents in total. The conclusion was that people and space should work in synergy and that the space design must be for flexibility, collaboration, performance and social interaction.

Social Dynamics Affecting the Workplace (by Kate North, Vice President, e-work)

Kate based her presentation in what she calls the “Big Bold Shift”: a move towards mobility with unassigned work space plus activity-based work environments, focusing in how important is to overcome the resistance to change and, particularly, how to help to the change and preparing the workforce for the new workplaces, processes, behaviors and tools. She talked about the trends in learning and change management and the role of e-learning has on them as well as the differences between generations.

Vodafone Holland (by Tjeu Verheijen, Project manager “the changing workplace”, Vodafone Netherlands)

Tjeu showed the pilot project done by Vodafone in the Netherlands that led to the optimization of the workplace used together to the fulfillment of the ways of work the employees (i.e. people) demand today: flexibility, mobility, freedom of choice and work and private life balance.

Nokia Berlin (by José Luis Sanchez, Workplace solutions manager EMEA & India, Nokia, and Niklaus Arn, Managing Director, RBS)

A very interesting case and best practice was presented by both, José Luis and Niklaus. They showed us how business growth made the company also grow in locations and, very important, change its workplace strategy. In that new way of working “the team is becoming the critical unit” where “new work cultures are merging life and work, requiring Nokia to provide locations and spaces that support those blurred boundaries”. They show us the lay-outs of the Berlin office, the reason behind them as well the improvements achieved, both for people and business.

Coming next

During next year we’ll work to find new best practices and speakers to have the 5th IFMA Workplace Conference even better than this one (a difficult goal!). Some organizations have already changed the way of working, many others are already thinking of doing so and all of them are interested in, so 3g office will be, by different means, continuously promoting the benefits of the flexible working and helping them to implemented it since 3g office is a consultancy firm specialized in this matter.

Juan Luis de la Peña, Head of Facility Management Consulting at 3G Office

jldelapena@3g-office.com 

WorkTech’11 – West Coast (report by Dr. Jim Ware)

WorkTech11 West Coast was the first event hosted by Unwired Ventures Ltd in Silicon Valley. And it was a good day, time and money well spent. Great lineup of speakers, intriguing stories, and excellent opportunities for networking. I don’t know the numbers, but I’d guess there were about 150 people in attendance, from all over the U.S. and some further afield.

Randy Knox

The Conference Chair was Randy Knox, Senior Director of Workplace Solutions at Adobe. He introduced an impressive roster of speakers and panels, and wove the conversations together throughout the day.

Nokia Silicon Valley

The Conference venue was the new Nokia Silicon Valley headquarters (see NYT article), and the first speakers took us on a virtual tour of the building, including the story of how it came about. The innovative workplace design, primarily for software engineers, was led by Colin Burry of Gensler; he and Lisa Hsiao told us about how the design emerged from a focus on agile development and small teams. The facility is 100% open space, split between individual “I” workspaces (53%) and collaborative “We” spaces (47%), but it also includes substantial informal gathering areas for relaxation and recreation.

Hamid Shirvani, President California State University, Stanislaus

Dr. Shirvani then took us on a historical tour of urban design, drawing many intriguing parallels between cities and workplaces – the need for “neighborhoods, the variety of “single-family” dwellings, the clustering of factories, and the need for multi-use spaces over the course of a day or a year. He showed us many pictures of suburbs (including the infamous Levittown), suburban shopping centers and office parks. Where too next? Hard to say, but one theme that is emerging in “new urban design” is small, local villages where people can walk or bicycle to their workplaces.

Urban Design: Panel Debate

We were then treated to an open conversation that included Dr. Shirvani, Jim Arce of Cushman & Wakefield, Luigi Sciarabarassi of Symantec, and Tom Sullivan of Wilson Meany Sullivan. The major insight:  the blurring of cities and suburbs; work is coming out to the ‘burbs, but many people are also moving back into center cities. But the most important variable in location decisions (by both individuals and organizations) is the availability of mass transit. And both cities and companies must learn to build in flexibility and anticipate future change. One thing is certain, and that is that nothing is stable. Younger generations care more about technology access (ie, broadband and wireless access) than they do about the local space itself.

Kevin Kelly, author, “What Technology Wants”

Kevin Kellywas the keynote speaker for the day. His new book, “What Technology Wants” is a sweeping overview of the history of technology, with a focus on how technology has changed us as human beings—including but not limited to our health, weight, and other physical characteristics. We are who we are because of technology. And technology is an ecology; modern inventions are dependent on 100’s if not 1000’s of prior technologies, and could not exist on their own. Kelly described the complex ecosystem of technology as a “Technium” that has its own “needs” and “wants” as it continues to evolve over time. All things are interdependent, and there is a natural tendency towards more complexity and more diversity. Intriguingly, some technologies become obsolete, but not extinct; there are today more blacksmiths in the world than at any time in the past. Something to think about.

Nathan Waterhouse, Ideo

Nathan Waterhouse talked about OpenIDEO, a “crowdsourcing” approach to solving large, complex social problems. OpenIDEO is a global virtual community that has been enlisted to tackle very difficult challenges. The community is supported by collaborative technologies through a process of innovative problem-solving that includes four phases: brainstorming, evaluation, solution-finding, and implementation (my words, not Nathan’s). We were treated to a rich story of how this process produced an inexpensive and very sustainable solution to sanitation in one of the poorest of African cities.

Marie Puybaraud, Johnson Controls, and Sudhakar Lahade, Steelcase

Two separate presentations on GenY—really about workforce demographics, with an emphasis on the GenY “digital natives.” Marie Puybaraud shared an overview of her recent research for the “OxyGen” project sponsored by Johnson Controls, including an “up close and personal” look at a day in the life of “Niki,” a young woman who views technology not as an accessory but as an “extremity” or extension of herself. Niki and her peers are fully cloud-dependent and Internet-addicted; they are completely comfortable with multitasking and have been seen using three separate monitor screens at the same time.

Sudhakar Lahade then reported on his research on GenY-ers in the U.S., China, and Russia. He stressed the way that GenY-ers all over the world think of life before work, and view job-changing as career-building, not disloyalty. They network with peers all the time, they collaborate spontaneously, and they think of the workplace as wherever they are. Most striking statistic:  there are 72 million GenY’s in the United States, 426 million in India, and over 800 million in China.

Vwork: Michael Leone, Regus, and Philip Ross, CEO Unwired and the Cordless Group

“Vwork” (see YouTube from WorkTech’11 New York) captures three “V’s” about work in 2011:  Virtual, Value, and advantage. This dual presentation reported on recent research that Unwired and Regus have conducted. While people today view “work” as a verb and not a noun, almost 2/3’s of people still commute to an office most of the time. What’s important however is that people want a 10 minute commute, rather than working at home all the time. This desire to be with others, and to have professional office facilities, is leading to an explosion in local work centers—what many now call “co-working” operations, and others (like me) have called “Third Places.” Think of a corporate headquarters now as the hub of a network, not as a singular destination.

As Leone and Ross pointed out, however, the new challenge is “getting the right people at the right place at the same time.” Thus, scheduling and having good places for collaboration is at the heart of the future of work. How can we make office costs more variable? Citrix gave its employees a budget and let them buy their own PC’s. Why not do the same for offices? Clearly, people want to commute less; the challenge is to create those local work centers, and then help people use them productively.

Rational Mobility:  Kevin Kelly, GSA (The “Other” Kevin Kelly)

We were then treated to our second Kevin Kelly of the day—this one a senior Architect with the Public Buildings Service of the General Services Administration (the “landlord” of the U.S. federal government). This Kevin Kelly reported on life “back at the ranch”—all those buildings that are being used so very differently today than they were designed for. As Kevin put it, the GSA challenge is to provide a “superior workplace at superior value.” Too often workplace strategists do not do an adequate job of analyzing the activity patterns of the workforce. The GSA looks at two dimensions of work:  interactivity and mobility. That produces four distinctive work patterns, with very different needs for “I” and “We” space. Kevin also stressed that noise remains a problem in open offices; he likened the typical open office to Houston, a very large U.S. city with essentially no zoning. He sees “zoning” as the major solution to acoustical issues; set aside spaces where quiet—like a library—is expected and required.

Going Mobile: Dawn Birkett, Salesforce.com and Bryant Rice, DEGW

This brief presentation (the schedule was running late) by Dawn and Bryant focused on the transition that Salesforce.com made to enable employees to work out of the office on a regular basis. The key was that the program was developed centrally for the company, but then implemented on an “opt-in” basis for individual employees who had to obtain manager approval. Thus, the program was available to everyone but applied only to those who chose to do it. The program policies were shaped carefully by a core cross-functional team that included not only HR, IT, and facilities, but also representatives from the legal department to deal with compliance, risk, and equity issues.

Mobility and Virtual Work:  Panel Debate

This panel, comprised of the previous four speakers, responded to questions from  the audience regarding the Unwired/Regus research and the GSA and Salesforce.com stories. The major themes of the debate focused on “opt-in” versus mandatory mobility programs. But in all cases the clear message was that mobility is now a way of life and organizations must find ways to leverage it, reduce real estate costs, and attract/retain talent—because the talent today expects mobility almost as a basic working condition.

Real Time Working:  James Calder, Woods Bagot and Ray Mays, Macquarie Group Americas

This final case study of the day, by James and Ray, focused on the Sydney offices of Macquarie Bank, where no one has an assigned workplace. The presentation included several stunning pictures of the newly redesigned facility, which is very open and filled with light. And the entire facility is open to Macquarie’s customers; none of it is off-limits. Most impressively, 93% of the staff would not go back to “owned” or assigned workdesks. And employee engagement scores are up 30% and sick days are down 42%. How did they do it? As Ray Mays put it, change management was key; the CEO was actively involved, and took many opportunities to express his support. Now he is even more enthusiastic, because he can walk around the building and see staff working “in real time.” And he other bank executives spend much of their time meeting with staff in the small café’s that are sprinkled around the building.

Future of the Workplace Panel Debate

This closing panel of the day was moderated by yours truly, so my notes are sketchy at best as I was “on stage” throughout the session. Other panelist included Mindy Glover of Rio Tinto (U.S.), Jeremy Neuner of NextSpace (a co-working operation with facilities in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Los Angeles), and Chris Henderson, Cisco Systems.

We did our best as a group to pull together all the threads from the day. Workforce mobility is clearly a way of life in 2011; the corporate office is now “competing” in a free market, in contrast the “regulated monopoly” back in the days when no one had a choice about where to work; and “third places” like NextSpace offer low-cost alternatives to expensive, underutilized corporate facilities.

From there we all retired to the Nokia lobby where Unwired generously provided wine and nibbles, and a good time was had by all.

It was a powerful day, with almost too much information and too many ideas to sort through; but there is no doubt that the future of work is already here.

Dr Jim Ware, Research Director, Occupiers Journal & Exec Director, The Future of Work…unlimited

jim.ware@occupiersjournal.com

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

One of the best from CoreNet Paris: “AiaDW” (All in a day’s work)

Paul Carder; Tuesday 20th Sept 2011; Paul was at the CoreNet Global Paris Summit. What follows below is his interpretation, so any errors are his alone.

A presentation at the 11.15 breakout session was given by Rob Wright of Johnson Controls GWS, (JCI) and Julie Boshoff, of Quest (a staffing solutions company, and JCI client, from Johannesburg).

I picked this session out for the blog, because it was excellent, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it introduced a genuinely new tool for understanding the workplace, albeit not a ‘public’ tool as it is owned and delivered by JCI GWS (actually designed by Rob Wright, who has a track record of designing useful web-based tools; he was also one of the drivers and creators behind QLW, or Quantum Leap for Work). Secondly, it was an international application of this new tool, as it was developed by Rob, an Englishman (only just – he’s a Geordie – very close to being Scots :-), tried out in the USA (where Rob is now based), and applied for a client in Johannesburg, RSA. Thirdly, I think it showed that large organisations like Johnson Controls do, contrary to some commentators, deliver innovations like this. Julie Boshoff, their client, was warmly singing their praises, which is perhaps proof enough. It is certainly not one of those cases where a service provider does a project for an innovative client, learns on the job, then passes this off to their next client as ‘our innovation’….this process below was developed and led by Rob Wright.

Understanding work: a business programme (not an RE/Facilities programme)

The session was really about understanding work (or at least, understanding work in the context of one organisation – we all know that every organisation has some similarities, but many differences).  And it was clearly a business programme, with an emphasis on changing people’s ways of working, and helping staff to become more efficient and effective in their work tasks.

To put it in context, the client has 12 branches across the Republic of South Africa (RSA), with 14,000 what it terms “flex staffers”. As the company supplies staff, and teams, for temporary positions and projects, and some outsourced functions, it has been the focus of some pressure from the Unions, and accused (like all similar agencies) as a “form of slavery”. The client wished to address this, and has implemented benefits that more permanent, long-term staff, would
expect, such as medical aid and retirement plans. The client expressly wishes to
be seen as an “employer of choice”. It is also around 99% women, so we are told
it is “very productive”! But this is a challenge, as good people want the best
jobs, and they perceive this to be in permanent employment.

WOW was born….(how many programmes are there globally called “WOW”?)

Space in the current (first pilot) office was not effective, or efficient. So the WOW programme was originated by the client, using JCI’s four part plan, as follows:

  1. Workspace Review
  2. Workstyle Review
  3. Design & Planning
  4. Supporting the Change

Workspace Review

Utilisation studies were conducted in 3 locations. Nothing especially new in this – we have all seen workplace utilisation charts, I’m sure, showing utilisation of the offices at several ‘timepoints’ throughout the working day. This is usually repeated (in my experience) over a 3 week period, and can be broken down by desk, meeting room, and other facilities, depending on how the survey is made up. The end result showed an average utilisation of 48%. This is probably +/- 10% from your offices, and most other offices – unless you have already implemented some form of ‘agile working’ programme. Or unless you sit in a call centre, or a country where people predominantly sit at their office desk and work long hours (i’m thinking particularly in parts of SE Asia & Japan where people routinely sit at their desk until the boss goes home….having said that, I have experienced that in London also!)

There were a variety of spaces, from induction and training rooms, to testing (examination, psychometric tests, etc.) and lots of meeting rooms. So some utilisation levels were up in the 80/90%.

Workstyle Review

This is where “A day in the life” comes in as a process. Rob asked selected members of staff to complete a diary for a day, outlining their work experience. 187 days of diary evidence were received and analysed. Different diaries were collated from different functions and roles across the client organisation. This especially highlighted barriers to working. The results were collated in terms of number of minutes wasted per day due to a variety of factors. The overall results were as follows

  • Technology                 40 minutes per day
  • Workplace                  31 minutes per day
  • General work            26 minutes per day

Alongside this, the survey showed particular issues with workplace factors, and ‘general work’ factors. No surprises with the top ‘barriers’ – these were noise and disruption. Any workplace consultant could have guessed that before the surveys, but that is not the point – the point is engagement. Listening to the staff, and feeding back.

The FBI was engaged – the “Finance & Branch Infrastructure” department – headed by Julie Boshoff. With JCI-GWS, a list of potential solutions (which, to me, looked much like a ‘risk register’) was compiled, and given a ranking number.

AiaDW – a user friendly online survey

The interface for the online survey is easy to use, which could be why they received a record 80%+ response rate (266 staff), from a good mix of groups across the organisation. The survey is designed to feedback primarily (1) understanding of workstyles, (2) a quantitative measure of unproductive time, in minutes as above, (3) insight into attitudes towards working ‘differently’.

Rob admitted, “the high response rate was a surprise”, and puts it down to the relative simplicity of the process and the survey itself. It goes out to staff as an email link, and is easy to fill in.

The survey starts with 24 categories of work, which the respondent selects according to their usual work routines. It then asks how much time the respondent spends doing each type of work. It then has 4 groups, which the user must ‘drag and drop’ their work categories into – simple! The 4 categories are:

  1. Focus
  2. Collaborate
  3. Network
  4. Develop

So now, the team can analyse the types of work, time spent on each, and which of the 4 boxes they fit into. This is quite a lot of analysis from which the design team can start to adjust the sizes of different categories of space to suit work patterns.

Instant feedback, and constant communication – keys to success

One of the features of this survey and analysis tool, which I have not seen in similar processes before, is the ‘playback’ at the end of the survey. People can (and were asked to) print off their ‘playback’, and the ones who were to be invited to workshops would bring their own ‘playback’ with them. This just adds to the excellent communication process, before, during and after (via workshops, and announcements from the ‘FBI’ team).

Time in different spaces/ places

This was shown to be 60% in the office, but only 35% at “the desk”. Out of the 60%, in addition to 35% of time at the desk, 12% of time was spent in the open support areas, and 13% in rooms. The other 40% of time was split between being out of the office, and around 11% spent at home. So this showed that there was already some implicit home-working, even though, like in many organisations, this had not been made explicit until now.

Two ‘Group’ companies, merge into one office? Data….

The question arose, during the project, of ‘could Quest and Emmanuels, two companies in the same Group, work in the same location’? The same data collection process and analysis above was applied at Emmanuels, which showed that the types of work and work-styles at both companies had a very similar profile. So the project team were able to say ‘yes’, and back up their views with facts.

This would clearly mean moving to different ways of working, which means in effect varying levels of workplace sharing – desk sharing ratios above 1.0, and shared meeting rooms, etc. But the survey had asked people to rank their attitude towards working in a different way. Of 4 categories, the top two were (1) enthusiastic, and (2) open-minded; i.e., not quite ‘enthusiastic’, but open to try it. Both categories are considered to be positive attitudes, and totalled 90% of respondents (37% enthusiastic; remainder ‘open minded’). This was good to know, and will now result in the same process being rolled out in the Cape Town and Durban branches.

Design & Planning stage

Following this analysis stage, the next step is to move into thinking about how space can be redesigned to support people to work more efficiently and effectively. This consisted of 3 key processes, as follows:

  1. Results of the analysis fed into the design concept
  2. Users connecting their survey responses, and the ‘playback’ that they kept copies of, with the new designs – important to close the feedback loop
  3. Making new tools work for the user

It was interesting that this programme was completed with very little new furniture or technology. Mobile staff got laptops issued before the move (what is mobile? Outside the office – OK; but people are mobile around the office also, even if they rarely or never work elsewhere).

Stage 4: supporting the change

The key word that sticks out strongly is engagement. Communications were clearly very good throughout the programme, led by the ‘FBI’ team on the client side, with support from JCI-GWS.

In addition to the ‘playback’ of results described above, a website was set up for users to keep them in touch with the process, and any milestones or decisions on design and features. The fact that people were listened to, and they saw this in effect in the new designs, was critical to the success.

Economics / results

Some headline real estate results given by JCI were impressive, as follows:

RE (space) cost per head                              down by 44%

RE (space) cost per SqM                              down by 13%

SqM per head                                                  down by 36% (from 29 to 18.8)

These results clearly show that, although some smaller (but not insignificant) savings were made in the overall space costs, it is the change in working practices that leads to the large reductions in cost per head, as people use the space more effectively. This is not news – but worth reinforcing!

Q & A session

I asked Rob whether, if the project had not involved a full scale refurbishment and move into bright new offices, the perceived productivity gains would have been the same. Rob replied that

we could have achieved some of the
productivity gains without the new fit-out, but not as much

Julie added that “connectivity”, including the new laptops for mobile users, and introduction of the office intranet, had improved people’s productivity also.

Tim Oldman, Founder of Leesman (and the Leesman Index, or LSi) made the point that “this is an employee engagement project firstly, and a property project secondly”. That seems very true, as engagement, feedback and action on the results, was the critical factor in the success. Tim also reminded delegates of the “productivity toxins” research by HBR (Harvard), and asked how many of these “toxins” had been removed from the old environment. Julie responded that the old environment was dark, and some people called it ‘the dungeons’! The new café spaces where people are encouraged to work, and other open shared space, had removed some of these “toxins”.

Melanie Woolcott from Pringle Brandon made a valid point that perhaps in future the process could capture the positive factors about the existing workspace, as well as the productivity inhibitors. Rob said that he was considering how to feed that in.

The session moderator, Rene Buck, asked a question that I have heard other senior managers ask before, ‘Rob, if you have been doing these types of surveys and collecting data for many years, surely you know what people are going to say, what the issues are? You don’t need to repeat the survey for every building, do you?’ Rob Wright’s reply was two-fold: firstly, every organisation (and I would say many parts of the same organisation) have different work types, styles and attitudes. So the answers don’t necessarily roll-out across a portfolio (Rob
has found that recently even in his own JCI portfolio in the USA). But the key
point, and one which backs up this entire case study, Rob said as follows:

“You may get the same results every time, but I would still advocate doing the survey every time – its about engaging with people”

Germain Verbeermen, Partner at Wiceley in Brussels, made a point based on his similar experience of these types of workplace surveys:

“Managers know how to cheat on these surveys! They will tell you that they spend most of their time on ‘concentration’ tasks, and at their desk – they are just angling for an office!”

Rene chipped in, “yes, and its not only managers that do this!” Rob had an answer though, saying “that’s why the list of work types, and amounts of time spent on each, come before the section that asks them to move these work types into the 4 boxes of ‘Focus, Collaborate, Network, Develop’…so they cannot do that”. Mmm, maybe?

Rene also asked “What didn’t you do, that you would have liked to have done”. Rob replied,

“working with the designers from day 1…when people get the data and analysis, and they were not the ones that collected the data, they don’t always like it”.

That is what happened here, as Rob explained. The designers were brought in by the client, not JCI-GWS, and didn’t at first accept the analysis. This may be in part due to the fact that ‘workplace’ and ‘new ways of working’ generally are at an embryonic stage in RSA. Perhaps, though, the way to achieve a greater project success is for the client to appoint one firm to see the project through from analysis into concept design at least. Perhaps another designer can pick up the detailed designs, or a lower cost/lower level part of the design organisation. The strategic upfront work is always going to be more expensive, whereas the more ‘routine’ design work uses lower level (lower cost) staff.

Tim Oldman again picked up on this issue, asking “where do you draw the line between data “harvesting”, data analysis, and feed into the design solution. Rob replied that he “would like, in JCI-GWS, to have more people in the design team that can do the analysis, to create an effective handover into the detailed design”.

Julie added, “yes, that would be better – there were some problems with getting the designers to follow what we had set out”.

Final word

Rob Wright had the final word, saying

“one funny thing that happened on this project was that I had 20 interviews set up [with key end users]…and I met about 120 people! I had expected to meet one person, and 5 or 6 may turn up to the interviews, because they all wanted to have a say, and were genuinely interested in the project”.

I know from experience that many corporates would restrict this, and claim it is a waste of staff time and resource for them to ‘all go’. But all credit to this client, not experienced in workplace projects, but experienced in engagement of people in change processes, that they went along with it. They may have had 180 hours (or so) of time taken up by people attending interviews, instead of 20-30 hours. But, how much has this saved the organisation in the longer term. Julie and her team clearly understood how to effect change in their organisation, and with Rob Wright’s workplace strategy skills, have been able to deliver a successful pilot which looks likely to be expanded across RSA….many people in sub-Saharan Africa will probably be looking carefully at how they can learn from this case study by Quest and JCI.

paul.carder@occupiersjournal.com
twitter: @occupiers

20th Sept 2011 (in the vicinity of, but not that close to) Paris at the CoreNet ‘Paris’ Summit.

CoreNet members can download the slides here.

Mobile freedom, or enslavement?

Those of us that seek to promote the benefits of agile working or flexible working see the exploitation of mobile technologies as the main enabler of change. Most of us possess a smart phone or laptop and use them regularly, throughout each working day and beyond.

Sales of the iPad, and similar competitive tablet devices, are rocketing. Corporate organisations are considering their mobile IT support strategies. There can be little doubt that we are becoming entranced by the immediate access to information and communication. It all looks great as a means of freeing us from the shackles of working at specific places and at specific times. But, is their a downside?

MIT psychologist, Professor Sherry Turkle (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherry-turkle/14/522/982) drew a different side to the potential impact of these technologies. In her book “Alone Together –Why we expect more from Technology and less from each other” – she draws upon the research she has done over the 40 years of the computer age. She speaks of many of her subjects who have withdrawn into using technology as their main means of communicating with “family and friends”. Throughout that period, technologies have replaced what were rich, direct, face to face conversations with a blitz of superficial messages delivered in a way which avoid people from confronting another person directly. Many young people today live their lives around social network sites and would rather text their friends than speak to them on the phone or directly face to face.

Whilst reading her book on my iPad (!) on a commute into London the other day, I glanced up to look at my other travellers and found a good 80% in my carriage were doing something with their BlackBerries/iPhones.   Again, this week we saw in an Ofcom (UK) report, “A Nation Addicted to Smartphones“, a real concern over addiction to the smart phone. Apparently, over a quarter of adults and nearly half of teenagers in the UK own a smart phone, and 81 per cent use it to make calls every day. Not to say that this is bad in itself, but Ofcom estimates that 37 per cent of adults and 60 per cent of teenagers in theUK say that they are ‘highly addicted’. The mind boggles with the  statistic – 22 per cent of adults use their smart phone in the bathroom.

In China, where there are estimated to be over 400m users connected to the internet, the authorities were so concerned over addiction to the internet that in 2005 a residential unit was set up in Beijing – now there are 200 organisations in China offering a variety of therapies from bootcamps to electro-shock treatments. ‘Wired’ covered this last year, in an article “Obsessed with the Internet: a tale from China“.

Internet Addiction Disorder, recognised in the mid-1990s, is being considered by psychologists as being now sufficiently serious to add to the official list of mental disorders, as covered in this academic journal.

Another symptom of our addiction that we all experience is the email overload problem of which we all suffer and complain, but only add to by our own behaviour.

So how do we manage our addictive behaviours, that enslave us in technologies that offer the opportunity for so much freedom?

Do we ban their use when in meetings and during meals? Do we have smart phone free zones such as in cinemas? Do we treat excessive use as a mental disorder? Do we, perhaps, put health warning messages on phones?

Whatever the solution, we need to be mindful of the risks that our own behaviour towards these technologies presents, and we need to moderate our dependency. Consideration of others, and “doing to others what you would wish to be done by” wouldn’t be a bad way of thinking.

Author: Graham Jervis, PhD, is a Director of Advanced Workplace Associates Ltd, London, UK

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

With some vision, you can see where robots WILL be useful in global office networks….

First, watch this brief clip (only 2mins 38s): You Tube: telepresence robot in action. This is just the start, and I’m sure that the boffins who create these things have already started to iron out some of its faults (and its look…not engaging, and too short!). It looks wacky, but so did mobile phones when they first came out, remember? Now everyone, or at least every schoolkid, mum, and business person, has a mobile phone, or some form of handheld device.

When we are out of the office, but need to be there for a discussion/meeting, the robot in this clip is better than a ‘sqwauk-box’ spider-phone, or even telepresence screen on the wall (which only a few people at a time can use). How long before we each have our own “robot double”? It comes out of the office to go to a meeting, when you aren’t there, then goes back to your desk and waits to be called….like an obedient dog!

Or, perhaps, we have a Department Robot, that has some unique features so everyone knows “Hey its the RE&Workplace Dept….coming to join our meeting. Who’s in there today?”…..”It’s Jim Double, I’m in China this week, but know I had to get to this meeting…” etc.

The bit of our human bodies that “work” is largely interested in is the brain – and the face I guess. A smile goes a long way….This ‘robot’ almost delivers both! If it looked more like a person, and was at the right height, it could engage in conversation better.

Its not a replacement for face-to-face contact. But, there are many reasons why that is not possible, but where a company needs your brain+face to input somewhere where the rest of your body cannot be…..

This also opens a whole new world of opportunities for people with disabilities, or who live in remote locations, etc, etc….their ‘real brain’ can be wherever it needs to be, whilst engaging in discussions with people around the world.

A bit more customisation (eg., some personal identity, so people know its you) could make this work well. Don’t you think??