Tag Archive for: workforce

Listen to Your Mother

Mother Nature, that is.

No, this is not a rant about climate change (although I hope you know how important that is).

Rather, I think it is imperative for us to learn from living systems as we design organizations and determine how to manage them.

I spent most of this past holiday weekend outdoors (it was Memorial Day here in the United States, a time when we honor our military veterans, remember their sacrifices, and give thanks for their service).

We enjoyed wonderful weather, and the inherent beauty of the mountains, streams, forests, and fresh air reminded me of how much we can learn from thinking about the world we are so fortunate to inhabit.

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The workplace IS strategic: take it from a CEO

Picture this: On the first day that a Chicago-based financial services company moved into a new – and dramatically redesigned – workplace, two employees bumped into each other in the hallway. One said to the other, “Who are you? Why are you walking around our office?” The other replied, “I work here – I’ve worked here for several years.”

They had never seen each other before, even though the company’s headquarters office is home to only about 115 employees.

Today that company – National Equity Fund (NEF), a nonprofit financial services organization that constructs deals to fund affordable housing projects across the United States – is an industry leader that enjoys low staff turnover, high productivity, and a reputation as a high-energy, compelling place to work. It’s characterized by open collaboration and a free-flowing, can-do culture.

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Three Special Events

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. [continue reading...]

Stop Managing Me!

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). Read more

Rehearsing Tomorrow – It’s No Joke

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. Read more

Is the Future of Work Hidden in Germany?

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? Read more

Wellness and Wellbeing – Part Three

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? Read more

Wellness and Wellbeing in the Workplace – Part Two

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. Read more

Wellness and Wellbeing in the Workplace

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). Read more

Choosing to Commit

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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