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work & workplace, now & when

I would genuinely like to know which workstyle is preferred. I have tried to include every workstyle we have used over the last hundred years, and a few that are still evolving. What follows is not a history as some of the earlier forms that were developed are still with us — in fact none have been so discredited as to have lapsed. Yet none have been so successful that they remain the plum choice if only organisations had the budget, common sense, decency and space available to make it happen.

I have even added a reference — so you can just quote that, made from its genre and sub-genre. A summary table is shown below, and a description of each follows. If you can think of a new one, please let the world know. Then we might be able to have a proper debate.

Somewhere between the X5 and the golf course, this format still exists. Way back when everything was beige, it was considered a human right.

Even now, the size of the office, number of windows, direction faced, the floor on which it is located, carpet pile loop count and thickness, and whether the door opens from the inside depends on your importance — your space says something about you, removing the need for introductory smalltalk. The format necessitates a directly related consequence — the corridor — in which nothing ever happens because everyone ritually averts their gaze as they pass. This format remains associated with power.

It became apparent to some organisations that a bit of flexibility might help with the spiralling cost of drywalling from continual office building and re-building, and that if offices were a bit bigger they could have a few people in them as long as it said something about all of them in equal measure.

Left to their own devices, which no-one ever dares allow, this is often the chosen format for journalists and lawyers. It has when the number of occupants exceeds one all the disadvantages of open plan they like to espouse — noise, interruption, the torment of the tedious half of every phonecall and the amplification of the less desirable habits and omissions of all occupants, and the worry about the myth of the spread of communicable diseases….

It is the workspace equivalent of a static caravan park near Skegness in which all the families have been randomly shuffled. It still had corridors in which nothing happens. Inspired by rail and air travel, the idea of a tiered system of accommodation rather than a complex scale of attributes brought many people out of their incarceration into open plan space leaving the enclosures for managers who are of course the most important people.

Under this format they get the daylight, the views, the windowsills for piles and files, and that ultimate symbol of power their own meeting table. This format first gave Space Standards an importance, where the new frontline became the Battle for an Office. People who are Someone as measured by their accommodation usually get other stuff too like cars and shares and bonuses. The Battle for the Office still smoulders, like an abandoned barbecue. The offices needed glazed fronts to prevent the late onset of rickets amongst the privileged.

It was probably the first small shift in the balance of power, as for the first time the private office became deemed something functional rather than a pure, unabashed symbol cymbal of status with no reference to competence and contribution: The open space assailants often forget, while rattling their pitchforks, its roots in helping dismantle the visible expression of hierarchy within organisations, and disassociating space and power.

The shift then became a shove. We came full circle with the complete removal of walls and opening of space. Managers were finally turfed out of their offices and into the humiliating de-symbolised open plan steppes where everyone could see and hear everyone else, and everyone had the same desk. At the time, other assets disappeared too, as the expensed car became an allowance. Having to sit with their people, managers have to actually talk to their people, and have to be available when their people want to talk to them.

Open plan offices mean that for everyone, managers included, setting a good example and being a good neighbour are important. In a strange twist in the development of workspace, the Trading Floor is an anomaly — a massive rack-and-stack open plan, noisy, disturbing, stress-belching environment populated by people earning more in an hour than most mortals in a year and sometimes losing the same , an insane way to work yet where the idea of working any other way would be insane.

Symbols of status and independence are expressed in monitors with as much unintelligible information on them as possible — and earnings. Nobody ever wrings their hands and says the open plan trading floor is a bad thing.

The response would probably be fruity. Therefore, if desks were not assigned but shared, as they were all pretty much the same, either some could be taken away and less space occupied or more people could be added.

It later aligned with the idea of collaborative consumption — usage trumps ownership — but that seems to have been ignored. Whether a seat is available when you need it is of course dependent upon the key decision — the sharing ratio, as in, how many desks per group of people. Annoyingly this is phrased in two ways — the one we can understand that deals in whole people, as in a number of desks for every ten people 7: In many cases of course, it is.

Just like a pay scale or a travel policy or any of the other things a business does to keep costs down. This is where they get it all wrong. The logic ran that if you take away a quarter of this space and give it back as interesting and useful space for other types of work, you get the same total number seats but a much more useful and interesting workspace it.

So, desks half occupied and 40 seats in meeting rooms and a few breakout spaces occupied by people becomes 70 desks mostly occupied and 70 seats in much more useful meeting rooms, breakout, quiet and interactive spaces. This created its own version of the battle lines once drawn over desks versus offices, with a more subtle prize but no less emotion involved. Managers usually got their own desks even though they needed one the least, because their importance was undiminished, in their own eyes at least.

We here enter a new genre, Agile. The first approach is an interesting one in terms of categorisation because it effectively appeared in the late s early s, attributed with being invented by the Quickborner consultancy but developed in parallel by Robert Propst in the USA in the form of Action Office, and then became swamped by cubicle farms. Today we have reinterpreted this approach, but have been reluctant to credit it, as we like to claim everything we think of as new in the form of environments with both allocated desking and a range of supporting alternative settings.

Allocated desking removes the political squabbles, but without offices it still irks many. The most obvious examples today are the West Coast tech giants, who have been reluctant to experiment with shared desking but have enriched their spaces with amenities and alternative settings.

That might be trivialising devotees of the paper by Luchetti and Stone. Schemes vary in allowing teams to have a locus or to roam free, free as the wind blows, in both cases within defined areas usually called neighbourhoods. Some assign a different name to the former, which is entirely unnecessary and is just more jargon in an overcrowded bullpen see what I did there?

It is however the format that best addresses the problems of traditional and open formats without being a compromise between the two.

While the range of settings within ABW usually consists of around half being desks of some form, in some instances — usually highly creative, small to medium sized businesses based in areas of high concentrations of avocado mashers — have opted to dispense with the desk altogether. People moved, puzzled, between a range of settings wholly unsuited to using a laptop or paper.

Ironically this section was written on the laptop in an armchair and it was bloody uncomfortable. They usually look great, should you wish to stop a while and read your copy of Dazed and Confused , but are likely to remain niche.

With it came a process that quickly institutionalised, complete with a way of working that defined workplace needs, and a huge glossary of jargon left on the cutting room floor after everyone else had finished.

Scrum desking is allocated but the scrums themselves form and re-form every few months — and so they need to be flexible, but not as flexible as agile, and a different flexible from the next genre below. Who said workplace was easy? Co-work is the practice of sharing physical workspace with people not of the same organisation.

Yet a certain character of workspace has been created by the mash-up of the two, with distinguishable features that corporates have tried to mimic to stay with it.

It is essentially a combination of two formats — Traditional mixed cellular , in the shape of the dedicated boxes that a company can rent — and Agile ABW , with free access shared areas comprising desks and alternative settings.

Of course this is a generalisation, there are a myriad of offers in the market, increasing all the time. The workspace also features a very relaxed almost domestic aesthetic and mode, enlivened by an over-zealous community manager, and usually allowing dogs and offering free beer. You may have heard there is a workplace book out. You may even have heard it from me, by mistake. Here are ten reasons why its not for you:. Workplace word of the decade, perhaps.

It all started with the Manifesto for Agile Software Development of course, originating in the wonderfully-named Snowbird, Utah in — and then everyone else jumped all over it. The thesaurus threw up little in the way of usable alternatives for workplace — frisky working, anyone? Most people however still get the approach to change entirely wrong, spending too long through mandatory measures creating no more than tolerance on the part of occupiers that turns out amid surprise to be shallow rather than deep commitment.

What surprised me was how easy it was. If you want to create an agile workplace, you have to be able to respond to all of these. It has balance and poise, a lyrical tone, appearing as it does to take one dismal extreme the isolation and hierarchical symbolism of private offices and another equally dismal extreme fully open-plan degrading battery-farm host-desking and find a middle ground at the apex, a bit of each and a lot of something else too, with a whimsical freedom to determine what is best for you at any point in time.

The logic on which it turns has spirit, too. Workplace consultants and designers simply love talking about it. But where the theory falls down is that it relies entirely for both its logic and spirit on a theoretical occupant, who rarely exists: Like the ones in the stock photos, were they able to come to life.

The agile workplace is therefore lost in its own ideal, de-coupled entirely from the organisation it hosts and from the reality in which it resides. It fails to recognise or understand people, practice, agendas and ambition, external forces, personal whims and wilfulness, and the overwhelming difficulty of providing a playground and expecting everyone to play nicely and wait their turn without a FIFA-qualified parent present.

You can be forgiven for not believing the idea that cost reduction is not a business strategy, because this is where it plays out. The beauty of the agile workplace for the bean counters is that, as we explored previously, it has a natty logic, and a dose of spirit. They like that, they think it could stick.

Which is of course simply not true. The agile workplace is for the staff, there will be something else more appropriate for the leadership. We have never resolved executive space — with their teams, together, open or enclosed, access or security, openness or confidentiality. Risk always wins out. Change is something the staff do, leaders need the old certainties of enough space to practice putting, to host terrifying meetings at a very shiny table for which you need a coaster, and for pictures of the family and pets.

If by remarkable example you do see a CEO sitting in an open workspace it is usually amidst a sea of empty desk — because who wants to sit next to a CEO?

It is Animal Farm , some people are still more equal than others. Rather than countering it, the agile workplace underscores this divide. The agile workplace is disruptive because it gets in the way, it is thoroughly irritating.

It disperses people unnecessarily, creating a shallow pool of trivial relationships while preventing the continuance of deeper conversations that allow work to be done. We end up knowing lots of people in the organisation but for no helpful reason at all, while trying all sorts of increasingly devious ways to ensure we can be close to the people we need to, from reserving spots to taking ourselves out of the workplace altogether thereby defeating the object.

We waste inordinate amounts of time doing so. In reality it is serendipitous nonsense. In trying to be all things to all people, the fabled one size that can fit all due to its inherent elasticity, it ends up failing across the board, by being too quiet for interaction and too noisy for focussed work.

The levels of exasperation experienced do nothing at all for our wellbeing. So we collect our things, and leave. Every day we start again.

And you can stick that in your utilisation study. Trust is preached as a key component as we free people from panoptic management and create a choice of anything from a dozen to thirty settings for people to use.

But as this represents a mighty challenge in trying to turn everyone into our imaginary occupant, we end up creating more rules and regulations that we had in the old workplace. It was in our DNA. And then comes the humiliation, the vilification of offenders as anti-social, untrustworthy, uncooperative dinosaurs. The ASBO for leaving your biro on a desk and having to present yourself at Security to sign for it — with the same biro you left behind.

The attempt to erode all resistance, as though victory is an inevitability. It is dictatorial because all change is political, and the desire to drive it based on a campaign by which one form of workstyle triumphs over another. It all gives rise to the most insane genre of workplace found anywhere on the planet — enforced agile. The only magic that happens is the sawing in half of our will to live.

At the end of the day we have to do our bit for the re-set. We have to put all of our stuff away, taken the work down, rub off the whiteboards, put our chairs on our tables — well, perhaps not the last one, they have castors. Amidst the dictatorial idiocy, rebellion takes on barely perceptible micro forms. We do small things that register our protest, enough to annoy the enforcers without being attributable or damaging, the cumulative effect of which is highly visible and torments the authorities.

Excessive and petty control makes rebels of us all. Trust becomes the despised promise that gave us autocracy. In the traditional workplace, we knew how control operated.

We knew about panoptic management and we put up with it, learning the work-arounds, setting up the breaks we needed. Being in their faces was in our faces. It was quietly tolerated because we knew its limits. In the agile workplace, control takes on new and sinister forms, and as fast as tech is developed the limitations dissolve. The data stream emanating from our system log ins, sensors and automated surveillance now tracks us inside the office and outside, assesses what we say and do, how we say it and do it and to whom.

It knows more about us that we know about ourselves and it never forgets. It is the sort of rich data seam that would have had Frederick Taylor in foaming fits of joy — all is the name of getting better use from our workplace.

We no longer know or recognise control. The agile workplace makes it all spookily possible. Everything has to work, all of the time. The occupants move around, so where they are is where they choose to sit which may not be where they were yesterday so everywhere has to have a reference. The service team in an agile workplace have to understand how the workplace works — or at least is intended to work.

Previously they just knew. That means awareness and training. It also means that all of those steadily-accumulating rules, regulations and policies mentioned need enforcing so that falls to the service team too. They become the police who make cappuccino. The cost gets attacked, the value slips away. People have stuff and in an agile workplace invariably the people and the majority of their stuff become separated. It is a deliberate disruption to encourage people to have les stuff, but the inevitable wellbeing agenda brings increasing amounts of paraphernalia to the office — shoes, cycling gear, gym bags, yoga mats — and some of the stuff is, or gets, wet.

In the crazy merry go round of choosing spaces for particular activities sometimes the stuff gets left behind — occasionally remembered soon enough to retrieve it, sometimes not and only recalled several days later.

The stuff is no more. Heaven forbid the lockers are still activated by that ghastly and archaic remnant — a key. The chances of you losing your key are directly proportional to the importance of you retrieving your stuff that day. Are you sure you want an agile workplace? While there have been a number of point changes, such as the rise of flexible office space at last — it was always going to happen , this is far from a whole whumping era of unprecedented change. While the workplace has progressed, its form is still recognisable in its genre from that when I first stepped into a soul-crusher over thirty years ago.

People seem focused, reminders wedged in their furrowed brows, meetings behind the now-obligatory glass flaking mid-update like a fresh croissant. Everything is as you would expect of a modern workplace.

Too many notices, signs, instructions, signs to tell you to read the instructions and instructions on how to read the signs, all just in case our intuition deserts us which of course the presence of so many signs ensures.

Adjacent spaces with a questionable relationship, forged on a space plan and not in the reality lab. Spaces no-one understands that lie empty, spaces they do rammed like tinned gunnels.

A gunnel is a fish by the way, gunwales are the gun walls of a ship. Not quite sure why anyone would tin a gunnel.

Not enough alternative settings. Hewn lumps of one type of space, the nearest alternative setting a jostly bus ride away no service on Sundays or public holidays. The process of getting there was accompanied by people in hi-vis and hard hats, perennial layers of dust, a hydra of a change initiative and some notable celebration.

Therein lies the issue. The initiative is over and no-one has an appetite for another. The money is spent and no-one can justify anything more being diverted to the workplace. The people thing we rarely get at all, we do stuff that other people do and we hope to minimise casualties and we all end up not wanting to spend time together in the new space because we all just fell out with each other unnecessarily.

There is actually a lot of open water between Satisfactory and Fantastic, in many respects probably more than between the neglected crap you started with and Satisfactory. It never seems that way when it all gets approved and the sighs of relief are multiple sizes of relief. Yet the Satisfactory Trap is actually an okay place to be. That is both its seduction and annoyance, all in one. Number three You can just make out amid the landscaped choice of settings, tumbling greenery and assorted natural mimicry the silhouette of the unicorn of productivity leaders unburdened of their obsession with the tacky symbols of hierarchy needed to mark out their territory the physical expression of an egalitarian meritocracy and no longer the fear that the time taken to go for a pee will be docked from your salary;.

Number four A place for team formation, maturation, energisation and contemplation, all of this without even mentioning the tedium of collaboration Where you can be of one or many and manage your own participation, from isolation to total integration Liberation at last from the numbing desolation of your workstation;.

Number five It helps your hard pressed and over worked and pathologically stressed people thrive With luck they may even survive the always-on knackathon of core hours in the hive of nine to five with mandatory discretionary effort of another five emerging centred, calm, and a lot more than statutorily alive;. Number seven , it brings liberty Enabling people to think expansively, and find their inner will to creativity Removing the compulsion to be a third-rate Banksy and cover the toilet cubicle wall with anti-managerial graffiti Exploring landscapes that bring a calm sense of levity, A compulsive serenity;.

Number nine woven into the very fabric of its design is living, breathing diversity, everyone without exception having a fantastic workplace no-one feeling like a special case values lived not laminated, a universality uncontaminated with unconscious bias, none exposed to adversity fairness in a hard-wired circuity;. Number eleven Its activates and sustains social cohesion Its amenities and pause-points create a natural adhesion We seek each other out with an inclination that needs no reason and build, grow, experiment, a collective accretion of camaraderie In a beta trial that will happily never see completion;.

Those of us who worked through this period were not aware of it at the time, and are probably not aware of it today. We might call it the Taylor Gap — where we actually enjoyed a period of relative freedom, and to the extent that it was afforded and however begrudgingly, trust.

People Analytics PA is all about collecting and processing data, and drawing conclusions and creating predictive scenarios from data — about you.

In the office, and away from the office. There will always be someone interested, however irrelevant to anything you believe the data to be. Purely to watch, record and predict, in the name of data.

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I wanna color my hair but the DIY boxed ones fry my hair. I wish I could get this. Your email address will not be published.

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