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…]


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…]

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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…]

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This article marks the beginning of a slight change in my Future of Work Agenda newsletter publishing plans. Some time ago I simplified the newsletter format, sharing a single thought piece with you about once a month. Now I am committing to a more frequent schedule, with the goal of condensing my rants and ramblings to an even shorter format (and I have also integrated the newsletter more tightly with the blog).

What follows here is the first post of a three-part series on Wellness and Wellbeing in the Workplace. Look for Part Two a week from now.


As some of you know, I host a monthly “Talking About Tomorrow” conversation with about twenty very smart thought leaders and practitioners. We have common interests in the changing nature of work, the workforce, and the workplace – and how to manage the future of work. We exchange ideas, concerns, and visions of the future as a way of keeping all of us sharp and well-informed.

Recently we spent an hour together (virtually, of course) exploring wellness and well-being in the workplace. It’s a topic that is getting a lot of well-deserved attention in many places these days. There’s no way I can adequately summarize the totality of that conversation, but I’d like to share some of the highlights here.

Thus, this is the first of several “chapters” in that particular conversation. What follows is an edited synopsis of what I found to be the most interesting comments and questions raised by several of the group members (all of those quoted here have granted me permission to share their contributions to the conversation). [click to continue…]


People Matter!

November 8, 2013

Thanks to Sue Bingham of HPWP Consulting for this short video - a wonderful example of a company, Southeastern Mills, where culture and the engagement of the workforce have created an amazingly successful food products business.

I just received a note from Sue with this incredible story about Southeastern Mills:

...their annual turnover is less than 4% (310 employees), they pay for all reasonable and necessary absence with attendance metrics varying between 98.5% - 99.5%, and, as long as 5+ years without a recordable incident.

When they lost a major customer, they involved everyone in identifying how to take $1.2 million out of the business in 60 days with the only restriction that no one could lose their job. They successfully identified more than that amount.

As their president at the time stated: "The good news is we did it. The bad news is it was there." They attributed a 60% decrease in waste (significant dollars in the food business) almost entirely to employee engagement.

In my humble opinion, this is a perfect example of the kind of company culture and leadership mindset that is essential for any organization to thrive in the future. We are transitioning from an industrial economy to an era in which information, ideas, and networked intelligence determine strategic success. The industrial-age management approaches that got us where are we are today just won't work in a world of information abundance, an educated workforce, and a global economy that changes the rules for success almost daily.

I am convinced it is time for most organizations to put "Command and Control" management out to pasture and replace it with "Empower and Respect."

Who knows where the next Big Idea will come from? Create a work environment in which your people are actively engaged, respected, and able to converse with each other at all levels and in all parts of the company, and you will almost be guaranteed long-term success.

What companies do you know of (or belong to) that are as people-centric as Southeastern Mills?


That's what a business colleague said a few weeks ago in a conversation we were having about setting up our home offices - and finding the right desk and chair. We were both concerned about the health aspects of sitting all day; he very rightly advised me to be sure to get up and walk around on a regular basis.

I've had some back and neck pain in the past, and have even had some physical therapy sessions that have helped me work on my posture. More recently I've worked with a trainer and am lifting weights (light ones!) to strengthen my back, neck, shoulders. I'm doing much better - and am much more aware of the need for both good posture and frequent getting up and moving around.

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Note: I am just back from a very full week at IFMA's World Workplace 2013, in Philadelphia., where I reconnected with lots of long-time friends and made many new ones. Look for a series of reports and reflections over the next several days/weeks.

We were particularly pleased to spend time at World Workplace with Steven Sonsino, the co-author (with Jacqueline Moore) of Leadership FM, a new book calling for completely rethinking the role of facilities and facilities management (FM) in organizations (by the way, Steven's view is very similar to my own, as reported in 2012 in the RICS white paper, "Raising the Bar: Enhancing the Strategic Role of FM" - free registration required to download the report).

Steven interviewed several of us during the conference and produced this short video compilation featuring yours truly, Kate Lister of Global Workplace Analytics, Chris Hood of CBRE, Ross Liebowitz of Manhattan Software, Erik Jaspers of Planon Software, and Gaylene Domer of National Equity Fund:

By the way, those red berets signify the wearers as proud member of the Workplace Evolutionaries community, launched this year out of the Corporate Real Estate Council of IFMA (full disclosure: I am the current President of CREC, and the owner of a red beret - I just took mine off for the interview).

So - what do you think of the comments from these workplace gurus? Do you agree with them? Have your employees left your buildings? Does your C-Suite understand just how strategic your workplace is?

Any and all comments welcome.


Choosing to Commit

September 3, 2013

Every September I find it hard to believe that summer is over. I know, I know; it's not technically over until September 22, but in North America it's already back-to-school time, Labor Day is behind us, and most of us are back from summer vacation. Psychologically we're all ramping up for Fall. And the on-ramp is always shorter and moves faster than I expect it to.

Anyway, the general rush back to work this week has gotten me thinking about my personal calendar and wondering why I always seem so overcommitted and so unable to spend time on what I consider meaningful work. I suspect many of you feel the same way.

In reflecting on that perpetual overcommitment, I was reminded recently of a powerful story I heard some years ago about being overwhelmed at work.

Picture this:  The year is 1967, and the United States is mired in the middle of that horrible war in Vietnam. Imagine (if you can) that you are the United States Secretary of State. It's your responsibility to develop and oversee U.S. Foreign Policy – you are right at the center of the most intense public debate about foreign policy and the Far East that this country has ever known. Every day you read reports about U.S. successes and failures – and about how many young people died the day before.

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I'm back.

Actually, I haven’t really gone anywhere, except that a few months ago my wife and I did move our residence , which includes my home office; the move was just 15 miles but it might as well have been 1500. As many of you corporate folks know, a physical move (especially after 17 years in the same place) is traumatic and time-consuming at best.

But the fact is that, like many of you, I’ve been completely overwhelmed just keeping up with everyday emails, contacts, presentations, client projects, new technologies, future-scanning, meetings, and personal development efforts. I worry that the future of work is going to keep on being like this - forevermore.

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