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The Big Bold Shift

Christopher T. Hood RIBA Dipl. Arch Oxford

February 22nd 2011

This paper is not really a paper at all.. at least not in the formal sense! It did not originate as a deep topical study, nor does it reflect the rigor of a well-researched academic offering. It started life as merely a series of notes gathered to help me create one slide to begin to explain the results of the Big Bold Shift survey, more affectionately known as BBS. The BBS survey was an initiative hatched within the Corenet Workplace Community with a single purpose in mind: to help those who were coming late to the subject of contemporary Workplace Strategy to learn a little more, a little faster. By learning of the programs of others, we felt that newcomers could begin to partition this intimidating subject into the things that really matter and the things that dont.to see how the particular culture of their organization could be reflected in the types of solutions that were chosen. The participants included: Accenture, American Express, Cisco, HP, Nokia, Microsoft, NSN, Philips, TIAA Creff, Wolters Kluwer and Vodafone The whole study was originated, driven and sparkled because of Kate North. I merely chose to put pen to paper, but she is certainly the inspiration for the work and as capable of talking on this subject as anyone. Her persistence, high spirits and encouragement move mountains each and every day. The views expressed here are personal but heavily shaped by a series of conference calls with various interested parties with whom Kate and I enjoyed much discussion in sharing and interpreting the results. A partial list of these participants can be found at the end of this document. Thanks also to Jim Long from Herman Miller who was most kind in offering to review this material and, in so doing, pass on his wisdom. If I offend academics by even suggesting that this a paper, please accept my apologies, for others who may derive benefit from the incites therein.enjoy!

Christopher Hood RIBA


Williamsburg, Virginia

The Big Bold Shift


A recent study of 11 companies, all of whom have been engaged in more mature implementations of Alternative Workplace Strategies, solicited responses on a variety of topics associated with the marketing, implementation and the outcome of their efforts. The answers were sometimes predictable, and sometimes not. The following listing gives a sense as to those workplace implementation characteristics that are common to all (at the top) followed successfully by an increasingly diverse set of answers that demonstrate the range and diversity of thinking which presumably reflect the character, culture and experience of the survey respondents

100% agreement: These issues resulted in 100% agreement of the survey respondents
CRE is leading change As much as the prevailing wisdom demands that workplace change needs to be a well integrated effort between CRE, HR and IT, seldom is that the case . We do know of companies where HR has taken the lead in leading change but this was not the case with any of the respondents. We know of no companies where IT has lead the change. Logically, the leader of such change might be another body that typically doesnt exist with any formality. It might be described as the future of work group and would be tasked with understanding the evolving implications of technology, workplace, the generations, culture, global competitiveness in their industry, resource availability, environmental psychology and socio economics in a very strategic sense. But for today, it is the CRE organizations which develop, build and promote alternative workplace strategies and programs. Use of utilization studies All respondents ventured to develop their programs using fact-based discussions starting with an understanding of utilization. It is quite common to have perceptions of utilization completely at odds with reality and this realization often becomes the first step in building support for a program where space is no longer provided on a one person, one desk, basis. There has been a flood of measuring methods and technologies which make this possible, concerns of which are usually centered on invasive observation. Regardless.. understanding evolving work patterns is critical to planning and sizing the dimensions of change, forecasting future needs and adjusting management attitudes to changes that have often already occurred but continue to be managed with traditional assumptions of proximity. Work-style profiles are created For planning purposes, it is often useful to group individuals together into categories that have similar attributes. These descriptions are used to develop space, technology and service platforms aimed at making the individuals who populate them, productive. Sometimes these categories follow job categories but this approach is usually not preferred. Experience demonstrates that different individuals are capable of doing the same job in completely different ways, but both equally effectively. For this reason, it seems more useful to describe groupings 3

which have common infrastructure needs that can be sized and planned for, than to try to guess the likely breakdown of job-type totals into sub categories of behavior or more detailed scrutiny of need. Employee satisfaction surveys are done Everyone cares about results! The fact that different organizations may interpret results in different ways, may have differing expectations as to what constitutes success, or differing levels of commitments to respond to the results, the fact is that all organizations at least recognize the need to get a reaction to Workplace change. Organizations quickly begin to realize that the interpretation of the results is an art form. In one location a particular solution invokes a specific response, while the same solution elsewhere results in a completely different reaction. Why? How does this happen? How should they respond? Often, the difference between success and mediocrity is small and fickle. It is often a factor of timing and communication as much as brilliant execution of the infrastructure plan. A resource for answering questions is established Outbound communications is a logical must for new programs but, surprisingly enough it was not highlighted by all survey participants. What was recognized though was the need for dealing with in-bound questions, concerns and comments. All respondents built some kind of mechanism to field inputs from their employee base whether it be web-based responses or warmer dialogue with another voice on the other end of the phone.

More than 90% of the respondents agreed that:


There is an executive sponsor A senior management member could be identified who was an advocate for the program and was driving the program. This, it should be said, is not necessarily the same as saying that there is unequivocal support from all executive members. Typically there is division at senior management ranks over alternate workplace programs and executives cannot all be relied upon to equally drive and support the program as it cascades downwards, but the fact is that programs do not usually go anywhere without at least one strong supporter in the C-Suite whether it be on financial, productivity or softer HR attraction/ retention or work-life balance issues. Use of utilization studies/ individual occupants Utilization studies come in many forms, some attempting to assess only the maximum occupancy levels of space, IT or services demand. It is perhaps surprising thought that most companies brought this down to the level of observing individuals. This is done by a variety of methodologies including security entry, log-in data, parking numbers, bed-checks and sensor derived observation, but the major message was that a large number of companies feel comfortable observing activity at an individual level and using this data to drive tactical solutions. The attitude to big brother watching over employees, varies greatly from company to company but it is clear that there is a growing recognition that having the best possible data on overall work patterns is a critical planning tool and not out of sync with a world where more and more data is collected and used to inform business. Keeping that information transparent and using it wisely seem to be the keys to acceptance. 4

Activity-based work settings are provided Most alternative workplace strategies involve the notion of addressing specific tasks, really well, in a few locations and having individuals specifically move to those locations to perform those tasks rather than to try to address all functionality, perhaps less well, in personal workplaces. Under this scenario, as an example, small meetings dont take place in an individuals work station, but take place in space specifically designed for the purpose which leverage technology, acoustic qualities and lighting conditions and can be affordably provided when the requirement is only to meet momentary demand. Training is provided to managers and employees Most programs do not assume that managers and employees can just figure things out when confronted with new space allocation paradigms, indeed whole new space types. The risk of not successfully introducing individuals to the new environments is that they adopt old ways of working in the new environments and often, the two are ill-suited. Frustration, lack of engagement and a downwards productivity trend could all be casualties of this disconnect. For this reason a series of both self-help and face-to-face training methodologies have arisen which serve to educate, change minds, shift attitudes and facilitate the leveraging of new ways of working that ultimately may prove to be easier and more productive than those they replaced. Most companies recognize this need and provide such training sessions to employees. Managing a remote or distributed workforce and being managed remotely are two other obviously useful training entrees into the new world. The survey did not attempt to pose the question: Who does the training? Most likely there would be more diversity on this issue: Internal: HR, Learning and Development, IT, Business leaders etc? External: Consultants, design firms etc.? A mobile work program exists Most alternative workplace strategies leverage the use of the mobility that has come to exist in their workforce mostly as a result of their enabling technology. This mobility comes in many forms, and to different degrees. Some employees are mobile within an office or campus in that they come to a site to work each day but rarely sit in their home base for very long and are always moving across the site in some work or meeting-driven fashion. Others do not appear on a company site very often, or appear in multiple sites. Regardless, the point is that many individuals do not spend the majority of their time in a single nominated position and companies act to remove the wasted no-show time by providing leveraged free-address space to serve these individuals desk-based needs. By providing the amount of desks only to meet demand, it is possible to consolidate office space and intensify the activity within the space remaining thereby increasing the energy and zest of the workplace. A by-product of this mobility is that it provides choices as to where, when and how individuals work. Having choice is often a high satisfier. A tele-commuting program exists There is a substantial amount of data which suggests that the office as we know it is actually a quite unproductive place particularly where the focus is on heads-down work. With this in mind, for many people working from home is a perfect option. By avoiding commuting, office bound interruptions, and a plethora of face-to-face meetings one is able to better divide and use ones 5

time. This is particularly true for those who are part of virtual teams or whose work is fairly independent. Many companies have built formal programs to support work from home whether it be full, or part, time to ensure that the support, services and skills of leveraging this remote workforce are fully deployed.

80% of survey respondents agreed with the fact that:


Their program is well-funded The idea of the Big Bold Shift programs is that they are suitably audacious as to provide significant long-term cost savings to the companies that introduce them. In the boldest programs, significant reinvestment is wise, not only to support the new and evolving needs of the workforce but made even more affordable by the savings that accrue to the ensuing space consolidation. The physical space becomes an agent of change as does the provision of enabling technology. It is important to invest into these infrastructure platforms to guarantee that the separation from traditional ways of working is both complete, and productive. Under-funded programs typically do not reach the tipping point where employees thirst for the new environment and end up stuck in no-mans land somewhere between the old and the new. This tipping point occurs when, in the minds of executives, the doubt-meter drops to very low levels regarding concerns of the outcome relative to employee attrition, group and individual productivity, employee engagement and satisfaction. At this point they cease fighting the concept and join a constructive dialogue directed towards perfecting processes and skills such as remote management, productive virtual teams, truly enabling technology, indeed a high value pondering of the question what is the purpose of this thing we call the office? On the employee side, the tide turns when they have become electronic, can work from anywhere (and do) and explore themselves how they can best use the technology to make work easier, quicker and free of encumbrances. The crutches of old ways of working: stuff, paper files, insistence on place, are assigned to the wastebasket of learning as more pragmatic and meaningful needs emerge: technology capability and connectivity reliability, for example. Exceptions to mobility are made Most mature programs demonstrate the reality that there are always exceptions to be made to mobility. The reasons for this vary greatly but center around the fact the fact that for one reason or another, individuals cannot be mobile. This might be for reasons of disability where specific accommodations need to be made, specialized equipment or storage needs, special network dependencies or an unusual dependency on a desk for other functional reasons. The fact is that a well broadcast and understood exceptions process is an important asset to the program and imparts a notion of care and concern for the realities of people and their business. Third places are not used Interestingly enough, having just reduced space, most companies do not demonstrate enthusiasm for going out and contracting more albeit it to fill point officing needs for individuals with inconvenient access to the newly consolidated workplaces. Although basic phone and computing needs can be addressed in a wide variety of places, it is not unlikely that as workforces become less drawn to the company office, more will seek on-demand services either 6

as individuals or groups from third-places. The key will be for space providers to be extremely cost-effective in matters of space and connectivity and to offer technologies and resources in advance of their own company provisioning. Locations and atmosphere are also critical, and one can imagine downtown loft environments providing an attractive work-style alternative for some to those who would otherwise have to commute to, for instance, the suburban office campus. An IT Help desk exists The greatest inducer of stress that most people experience when remote, is when their connectivity or connectivity device fails. The IT Help-desk is a vital life-line for most. Depending on the size and maturity of the company, the IT Help Desk may take many forms. In large sophisticated companies, there is a move to self-help with the advent of remote diagnostics, well documented solution sources and rapid equipment replacement services. For others, a more hands-on approach is available and, if truth would out, preferred. The criteria for developing the service model will be influenced by cost and a range of productivity and employee engagement criteria.

The above attributes of alternative workplace programs are common to most solutions but there also exists also a whole range of deployment components where companies choose to differ on their preferences. These differences reflect both the maturity of the programs but also funding levels, Corporate culture, the nature of the business and the competition within their industry for people and market .

Program areas where there is less consistency:


Support varies greatly from tops-down to bottoms-up Strong management support cascaded down throughout the organization Strong local support which hasnt necessarily been bought into by the C-Suite Strong senior support with a pull from the grass roots but nervousness in middle management A single executive sponsor with variable support from his other leaders Utilization sampling techniques Security card-swipe data Log-on statistics Water consumption Food service Parking levels Bed-checks Sensing devices Communication types Facilitated by individual managers Web-based facts and information 7

Facility-based distribution Focus groups E-Mail distribution (programmatic or project specific) Executive general communication messaging Combinations of all of the above Visiting other sites Facilitated coaching

Communication tools Face-to-face engagement Electronic Web-based information Self-paced exploration, training and research (via web) Video Level of HR and IT integration Full integration with all three groups full on-board with program and a common view of success (rare) HR leads with a visionary set of productivity and satisfaction goals (rare) IT proactively driving the change resulting from the enabling quality of technology (rare) IT is on-board but only to the extent that they have tactical implementations aligned with the real estate actions (more common) IT and HR along for the ride but at a tactical level, not at a strategic or visionary level (more common Companies allocate implementation charges in different ways Costs for free-address space allocated at high level to incent business users to give up space Free-address space assigned tightly to individual businesses units Only space dedicated to specific business units (work stations and specialized spaces) assigned directly to business units. Remainder charged to real estate and perhaps allocated to business units and functions at high level Criteria for being a mobile worker No criteria. All employees are candidates for mobility Qualified through informal vetting process Qualified through objective and structured evaluation tests Briggs Meyer (or similar) used to vet suitability Unstructured manager decision Compulsory Voluntary Enrollment practices for mobile workers Informal arrangement agreed with manager 8

Formal classification within HR system Formal classification, requires separate employment contract No arrangement, just happens

Types of jobs that are applicable to mobile and remote working Very structured list of job types and job codes that are applicable No job types are excluded Job types and personality criteria determine suitability Business leaders make broad decisions based upon personal insight, experience and preference Percentage of bookable spaces No spaces bookable All spaces bookable Mix of spaces, some bookable and others, not. Performance reviews reflect that employee is mobile Company has performance-based management system which does not consider desk assignment status Performance management system differs between mobile and dedicated space users Performance actually scores ones ability to be effective in mobile environment Technology deployment Choices of type, manufacturer, features of enabling technologies: o Computer (desktop/ mobile) o Mobile phone o VOIP o Smart phone o Storage o Connectivity o Back-up o COE o Imaging (print, scan, copy) o Software platforms Need to deploy new furniture New furniture in totality Partial deployment, mixed with existing Refurbishment of existing Re-use of existing Participants Contributors from the following companies and organizations have been most generous in offering their views and opinions of the survey data and helping Kate and I to discuss the results. 9

AT&T, Bank of New Zealand, CitiGroup, Conoco Philips, GSA, Herman Miller, HP, Lilly, Macquarie Bank, NSN, Pfizer, Pitney Bowes, Standard Charter Bank, Steelcase, Wolters Kluewer, Xcel Energy, Co3, People Coach and Agilquest

And finally to those who kindly contributed ideas, thoughts, counterpoints and encouragement. What an amazing group! Dan Johnson, Alex White, Kevin Sauer, Dave Barban, Tim Lorman, Martin Jeffrey, Chuck Keel, Robyn Kaiser, Chris Mach, Helen, Kaufert-Leyland, Anthony Henry, Peter Nicoll, Denis McGowan, Simon Wise, Bethany Davis-Swanson, Edward Ciffone, Daniel White, Gavin Bloch, Wendy Jones, Nigel Rye, Gary Pellett, Isabel Romeo, Curtis McLean, Kristen Karabensh, David Franke, Claudine van Vlimmeren, Sally Augustin, Jan Johnson, Fabienne S, Eric Richert, Fran Ferrone and Bas Singer.

Let me also say a special thank you to Jim Long who offered more than ordinary interest, wisdom and engagement in looking over these words.

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