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The changing role of the office
ALSO: How 3% bias led to an 87% male leadership team / remote work toolkits
“I’ve heard a lot of people in the last year saying I’ve found working from home more convenient. I’ve heard no one saying I’ve found working from home more fun”.
What can we learn about what is going to happen next with work by chatting to the leaders of commercial real estate? Very little, you might think. There’s certainly no shortage of people in the commercial property sector who have been intent on suggesting that we need to go back to the rat race of all office/all the time.
But in that space there are some visionaries who are helping us seeing what is staring us in the face. Last year we’ve spoken to Antony Slumbers, on the newsletter I’ve shared links to the Work Bold podcast by Caleb Parker.
Today I add Richard Pickering to that list. I was delighted to hear Richard, someone whose writing I’ve been following for a couple of years, speak at an event I was presenting at.
We had such a stimulating discussion on the sidelines that I was desperate to persuade Richard to come on here to talk. Richard is the Chief Strategy Officer at Cushman & Wakefield, one of the largest commercial real estate services companies in the world. His job is to make sense of the changes happening in the demand for property and to advise clients where we’re going.
He’s straight talking - both about what the office needs to adapt and how this is going to have ripple effects for companies and cities.
“The retail sector figured out a long time ago you need to provide a positive experience for people” - and it’s into this space that our focus on creating motivated workplace cultures needs to expand.
We talk about:
How we’ve only just started understanding different modalities of work
How firms might start including commuting time in the working day
How cities might start offering public transport for free
How cities will become younger
Covid Variant Confusion
As many firms had been moments away from an attempt to return to normality along comes Omicron. The UK government seems intent on repeating the patterns of the last 20 months and discouraging more remote working. Hopefully we’ll get a clearer idea of the impact of this new variant in the next 10 days but a January return looks to be on hold for now…
How almost invisibly small amounts of bias can transform a culture
This is a fascinating exploration of bias by Jessica Nordell. A few years ago she wrote about how many unconscious bias courses end up not working. (There is also a good deal of academic research that serves to back that up - more here)
In this Radio 4 programme she describes creating a simulation that baked in a small amount of organisational favouritism towards men. Just a few percent. She ran the model and she saw that it transformed organisations:
‘When we introduced a 3% difference, in the way men and women were evaluated, we ended up with an organisation that was 87% male at the highest tier’
★ Future Forum - a new future of work thinktank created by Slack has released a report detailing what is going wrong with future work planning. This Wired article summarises the findings:
bosses are twice as likely as employees to want a full-time return to the office, with two-thirds of bosses saying they want to work in the office most of the time or all of the time
work flexibility is now the 2nd biggest consideration about a job - just after pay
flexible working is a diversity & inclusion issue eg black workers have seen big increases in feeling treated fairly at work when working remotely
★ If you’re looking for resources to help solve issues at work this MIT Sloan article is fantastic - it includes toolkits to help improve connection with remote workers, to improve wellbeing (‘give workers more control’) and to plan a return to the office
★ Tech firms don’t have the answers part 221: Apple are trying again to get their return to the office right. The latest version has workers permitted to have four weeks a year fully remote. Just a reminder that the big, exciting companies are certainly not getting this more right than the rest of the companies out there.
★ ‘Wall St is in revolt’: on the subject of the return to the office previously compliant workers are resisting demands to be in the office every day. In the last month I’ve witnessed a firm who wanted me to go to talk to their workers ‘because they won’t come back to office’ ('I don’t think I’m your guy,’ was my answer)
★ PR piece of the week: small bank introduces four-day working week without cutting pay