March 12, 2012

We welcome comments from anyone on any blog post; we want to generate active, meaningful dialogue about issues related to the future of work, the workforce, and the workplace. However, we will not approve blatantly commercial comments, and we reserve the right to edit submitted comments to ensure mutual respect and remove commercial promotions.

What’s the Common Good?

April 14, 2014

Several hundred years ago most villages had at their center a “commons” – an area of public land that served not only as a meeting place (the “public square”) but usually also as grazing land for the villagers’ cows, sheep, and other animals. It was a shared space that offered food and protection for individuals who were members of the community. Ownership of the Commons was shared by everyone who lived in the village.

Now it’s April 15: here in the United States it is tax day – the day many of us mail our checks, at the last minute, to the Internal Revenue Service. And while it always hurts to pay taxes, I view them as our investment in society as a whole – our “dues” for having a healthy, safe environment to live and work in, and for having an infrastructure that provides us with those things (schools, roads, national defense, and so on) we cannot build by ourselves.

Our federal and local governments are the means by which we design, build, and manage our modern-day Commons. All of which makes me think about what kinds of corporate infrastructures are needed today, and where the boundaries lie between public and private support capabilities.

[click to continue…]


Three Special Events

April 14, 2014

There are three important professional events coming up over the next couple of months that you should seriously consider attending. Here’s a quick overview of each of them, with links to where you can find more information and register to attend them.

WorkTech14 - New York City (May 15)

This one-day event sponsored by Unwired is one of about 20 similar gatherings that will take place in major cities all over the world in 2014. Spend the day hearing the latest stories and case studies focused on the intersection of workplace and technology.

Subscribers to The Future of Work Agenda and readers of this blog can get a significant discount to this event by registering using the following link:

Positive Business Conference – Ann Arbor, Michigan (May 15-17)

This is the first national conference being sponsored by the Center for Positive Organizations at the University of Michigan. It will be followed by an informal half-day gathering on May 17 by many of the active champions collaborating to create the Great Work Cultures movement (I am one of the co-founders of Great Work Cultures).

This is a marvelous opportunity to learn more about how organizational cultures and management practice are evolving away from “Command and Control” and towards “Respect and Empower.” Please review the two events at this link, and join us in Ann Arbor May 15-17.

Immediately following the Positive Business Conference, a group of champions, instigators, rabble-rousers, and work revolutionaries (the Great Work Cultures gang) will be gathering to discuss — and take action on — one straightforward question: Where do we go from here? Click here for more information about this free, post-conference open space event.

Workplace Strategy Summit – Wokefield Park, United Kingdom (June 8-10)

On June 8-10 of this year, University College London will host a gathering of the leading thinkers in workplace strategy.

Building on the success of the first Workplace Strategy Summit held at Cornell University, the 2014 summit will feature leading academics and experts in the fields of facility management and real estate speaking about the most innovative concepts to emerge in workplace strategy. Attendees will not only hear from these global innovators, but also be able to engage with the presenters and other attendees from all over the globe in round-table discussions on a range of issues related to work and workplace in the 21st century.

Meet with the best and the brightest FM professionals from Europe and the United States to review the “state of the art” of workplace strategy and help chart the course for future research about the business impact of workplace design. Sponsored by the IFMA Foundation and University College London.


Stop Managing Me!

April 7, 2014

In all the debate and discussion about workplace design one very fundamental factor is often overlooked:  the importance of individual choice in where, when, and how work gets done.

In my humble opinion, there is far too much effort being expended on trying to come up with the ideal workplace configuration – whether it’s open office design, benching, cubicles, high walls, low walls, bright colors, calming colors, music, white noise, employee lounge areas, small conference rooms, large conference rooms, or private spaces.

I’m convinced that the search for the “right” design, or even the “best” design is doomed to failure. If you are looking for one workplace that will optimize workforce productivity and engagement for everyone, it will be a very long search.

Rather, we need to recognize that different tasks require different physical environments, and different people work best in different places at different times. As I wrote some years ago, “I don’t need a workplace, I need many places” (see “Musings on Knowledge Work and Place” for more on that idea). [click to continue…]


I’m sure you are on the lookout for silly emails and headlines every April 1 – I am reasonably certain that April Fool’s Day is celebrated almost everywhere around the world.

But my message today is deadly serious. The future is going to happen, whether you are ready for it or not.  The only question about the future you have to face (and we all face it every day) is whether you are ready for it.

And that is an important question whether you are focused on mundane things like what appointments are on your calendar tomorrow, or major life-changing experiences like an interview for a new job or whether to invest millions of dollars in a new product.

As we in the United States await next Monday’s NCAA Championship Basketball Game and the end (finally!) of our annual March Madness, it’s worth thinking about what we can learn from sports teams about how to get ready for the future. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

Over that past five years the United States has lived with high unemployment that rivals what this country experienced during the Great Depression. As we all hear in the news almost daily, there are now millions of long-term unemployed, many of whose jobs have disappeared and will most likely never return.

However, the picture in Germany today is very different. As New York Times op-ed contributor Glenn Hutchins observes:

In 2009, Germany suffered a more precipitous drop in gross domestic product than the United States, but it experienced almost no change in unemployment.

(see “Work Like a German,” March 14, 2014)

While unemployment almost doubled in the United States after the Wall Street meltdown, in Germany it hardly budged. Today German unemployment is actually lower than it was before the “Great Recession” and – even more impressively – long-term unemployment is virtually non-existent. How could that be? [click to continue…]


We are able to offer Future of Work…unlimited members a special rate to attend Worktech14 on May 14-15 this year.

The program overview is online at this link:

To receive the Future of Work…unlimited discount, use this link to register for the one-day event: [click to continue…]


With a bow to Aretha Franklin, our focus this week is on the central role that Respect will play in the future of work.

I have emphasized the importance of Wellness and Wellbeing in the workplace over the last several newsletter issues, largely because my “Talking About Tomorrow” members have been actively exploring the topic in our recent monthly conference calls [links to those articles are here (Part One), and here (Part Two), and here (Part Three)].

Our conversation earlier this month brought that focus to a very personal level as we shared our own tips and techniques for coping with the emergence of what increasingly feels like a 24×7 work week.

We began the March conversation by visiting with Rebecca Scott of Sodexo, who compiled and edited Sodexo’s recent Workplace Trends 2014 report. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

This article continues the conversation that began with the first “Wellness and Wellbeing” note in late February and continued with “Wellness and Wellbeing-Part Two” last week.

Here we focus on some differences between the United States and Europe in dealing with wellness and wellbeing. If you have not read the first two parts of this series I encourage you to click on the links above and spend a few minutes catching up with the beginning of this conversation (which took place on February 6, 2014) as part of my monthly “Talking About Tomorrow” series.

Erik Jaspers [Planon]: First, I must say I was a little surprised about the short conversation about Medicare and putting that in the perspective of wellness and wellbeing. I’m from Europe, and we don’t have this conversation, and certainly not in that context.

I have a question because I’m a newcomer in this area. How would you go about measuring results or determining the effectiveness of what you’ve been trying to achieve in these types of projects? How do you measure wellness in the larger context of an organization? [click to continue…]


This post continues the conversation that began with the “Wellness and Wellbeing” note last week. If you haven’t yet read that post, I suggest you click on the link and read it now, before proceeding with this one.

Here we pick up with Kate Lister’s overview of the biggest issues surrounding wellness and wellbeing in the workplace.

Kate Lister [Global Workplace Analytics]:

As I suggested earlier, there are two sides of this issue: the physical and the psychological. Not surprisingly, the organizations that are focusing most on wellness are those in the healthcare business.

The cost of absenteeism goes far beyond the direct costs which are estimated at about 6% of payroll. But when you consider the indirect costs, including insurance, the total is more like 20% of payroll.

On the psychological side, there are a variety of problems that impact employee performance such as addiction, depression, stress, and the like. And poor mental health often leads to poor physical health and vice-versa.

Then there’s the problem of “presenteeism,” where people come to work sick because they don’t et paid for sick days, they feel guilty about letting their co-workers down, or there’s simply a culture that frowns on taking time off, regardless of the reason. So what do they do? They come to work sick. They sit at their desk not getting much done. And they go home at the end of the having spread their germ among their colleagues.

Healthways recently did a wellness study for a Fortune 500 company. When they asked employees if they’d lost productivity due to working while they were sick, 86% said “yes.” The study also showed that people with wellness issues are less productive and more likely to leave.

The study reported that for each $1 of medical costs, the company lost another $2.30 because of reduced productivity. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }