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Creating the office of the future

In a remodeled world, it is vital for companies to reinvent ways of working.

The corporate office is on the brink of a major renovation. The lockdowns that began in the U.S. in mid-March in response to the novel coronavirus created an extraordinary migration as employees across the country began working at home. People patched together ways to keep going when the lights went off in office buildings, and, for the most part, it has worked: In the June 2020 PwC US Remote Work Survey, three out of four employers called work from home (WFH) a success.

It’s no surprise, then, to find widespread interest in maintaining some form of WFH once the pandemic recedes. Everybody benefits. Employees avoid lengthy commutes and spend more time with their family. Employers have access to talent regardless of location, improve resiliency through a distributed workforce, and reduce expenses by optimizing their real estate footprint. Even the environment gets a break thanks to fewer people commuting, less business travel, and less heating and cooling of office space. The Remote Work Survey shows that 73 percent of employees would like to work remotely at least two days a week, even once COVID-19 is no longer a concern. Similarly, 55 percent of executives are prepared to expand options for employees to work outside the office.

This turnabout in perspectives is striking. The prevailing view just a few months ago held up the office as a strategic asset to appeal to a new generation of workers located in urban areas, with open-space designs and room to play. Today, skeptical executives who believed employees could not be productive away from the office have come around, or at least have softened their views, and see that working from home can be effective. Now many large companies across industries have announced their intent to let employees work from home at least part of the time going forward.

As a flexible WFH model appears likely to become the norm, the role of the corporate office and its physical footprint are coming under scrutiny. Right now, almost all office workers are working remotely. Will we see the same level of collaboration and productivity when some are in the office and others at home? We’re all leveraging relationships that we have built in the office through the years; how do we build new networks when veteran employees leave and new employees are hired?

The pandemic has shown that the real prize in remote work is not reducing real estate costs — it’s fostering a stronger sense of resiliency. In the future, remote work will also allow greater access to a diverse pool of talent, regardless of where it is located. Our surveys show a small percentage of employees prefer to work remotely all the time, so it’s important to assess what flexibilitymeans for them. Meanwhile, other employees will want to socialize with team members and feel that they are part of the organization. How many people will need a place to collaborate with colleagues in person, and how often?

The answers to these questions will determine both the success of a business and the extent of the physical remodeling that companies will need to do. As leaders think about the role of their corporate offices and how and where their employees work once coronavirus concerns recede — whether it is this year or further in the future — they must clearly define the reasons for employees to return to the office.

Four actions to transition to the office of the future

No solution works for every company. Executives will need to figure out their own path, given the scale of potential changes. But these four steps will help.

1. Redefine the role of the office

Start by defining the purpose of the office in your organization. Go through a careful evaluation of what happens in your spaces. What is valuable enough to keep your people coming in? A significant number of companies outside the manufacturing sector have shown they can work from home effectively, so pinpoint the reasons people need to come back to the office. Indeed, the office may be evolving from a default location where employees go to get their work done to a destination employees visit for specific purposes.

Consider the work that people do. We call this exercise the Six Cs. Each C can be mapped to give employers an idea of physical and productivity space needs.

Creating work products: Analyzing data, doing research, processing orders, and writing documents. These “heads-down” tasks are often performed individually, and largely can be done independent of an office location as long as the employee does not require specific equipment or physical documents tied to the office.

Collaborating: Brainstorming ideas, developing plans, and solving problems with colleagues. Collaborating with colleagues was one of the top reasons many employees went to the office, according to PwC’s Remote Work Survey. Working from home during the pandemic has highlighted forms of collaboration that can still be effective when participants are not together in person. When does being “in person” make a measurable difference?

Communicating: Sharing information, giving status updates, asking for or providing feedback, and answering or following up with clients. Many communications can (and now do) take place over video, email, chat apps, or the phone. Again, when does communicating “in person” make a difference?

Coaching: Developing employees and providing feedback. Prior to the pandemic, coaching was often done face-to-face. However, because it’s largely a one-on-one exercise, most coaching could be virtual.

Committing: Making decisions and committing to actions. Commitments are often determined in formal settings, such as steering committee meetings, and sometimes in discussions among peers or between a manager and an employee. How and when do commitments happen in a given organization?

Community building, or corporate culture: Forming relationships through daily interactions. Some of these interactions purely involve work, but not all. Social activities help colleagues get to know one another as individuals and form relationships that benefit the work environment.

Although the last several months have shown that almost all of these activities can happen virtually at least some of the time, in the longer term, a portion of them will also take place in the office. So how will the split evolve? Once leaders have mapped what their workforces do, how much time they take to do it, and where being physically present adds value and boosts results, they can plan not only the size but the layout of their offices.

The creation of work products, as defined above, can largely move away from the office — and so can communicating, via virtual conference calls or team updates. Much of coaching can be handled virtually, too. Collaborating, committing, and community building, however, are team engagements at their core. Although much of that engagement can be virtual, in-person engagement is most valuable for these activities.

2. Define work-from-home guidelines

Our Remote Work Survey anticipates a flexible WFH model in which employees work in the office a few days per week once COVID-19 is no longer a concern. This generality, however, will apply to employees differently depending on their specific roles, with tailored approaches for greater workweek flexibility. When planning, it can help to create specific employee personas and map their activities, requirements, and propensities for home or office working based on the Six Cs.

Here we’ve divided these employees into four groups: collaborators, connectors, residents, and rovers, and have estimated the target time they would spend in an office.

Collaborators work in teams, but not necessarily in an office space. Think of research scientists, project managers, engineers, or designers. They may need powerful computers or access to specific equipment. And there are times when being together in person is more productive, such as a creative visioning session. Yet, as routine meetings and status checkups increasingly take place virtually, their need for time on premises could decrease significantly.

Connectors are typically the corporate support staff, including IT developers, marketing and public relations professionals, accountants, and human resource specialists. They have varying working patterns and can work in multiple areas within a company location. They work at their desks and in conference rooms. Target times on premises could decline by as much as two-thirds with enhanced remote working tools.

Residents are the traders, engineers, loan processors, and designers who need specific equipment, customized terminals, or powerful computers in the office to do their job. They work alone frequently but may require a specific space and specific tools. Mobility for this group will be more limited.

Rovers — the client-side consultants or sales executives — also work alone frequently, but they can work anywhere. Reducing expectations for their need for office time to as little as 10 percent is not unreasonable — that would mean two days a month in the office. This is likely to have been close to normal for some rovers even before COVID-19.

3. Remodel the office

According to the analysis above, the office of the future is primarily a space for collaboration and community building, though some tasks do require individual work spaces. Few floor plans are ready for this focus now, and given the pandemic hiatus, the remodeling that is currently going on is working in the other direction: Executives at many companies are retrofitting their offices with a “safety first” mind-set, putting up social-distancing barriers to shield people from one another and reducing the office capacity to half or even less of what it was before the pandemic.

For the office to serve its new and more specific future purpose of enabling collaboration and community building, a different kind of major remodeling is ahead. We anticipate that assigned offices and desks, that is, spaces reserved for individual work, will shrink significantly and be converted into unassigned, hotel-type seating arrangements with less square footage per seat than is the case today. In return, space for socializing and collaborating will increase. Huddle rooms will prompt ad hoc collaboration of two to four people; larger conference rooms will host decision-making meetings; hubs will enable project teams to work together. These collaboration spaces will be equipped with tools and technology to enhance the experience. For example, team hub rooms will be configured with “white walls” for brainstorming and powerful videoconferencing technology for seamlessly patching in remote team members.

Once a business maps its groups, it will have a better sense of what is needed in a physical office. Suppose your rovers need to be in the office 10 percent of their time or one day every two weeks: If you have 1,000 rovers, that translates into 100 seats. Now factor in density, or the total space needed for a group. Different groups will use the office space differently and thus will need different types of spaces. Many companies will need significant renovation and an investment in hoteling and basic space reservation systems, as well as phone routing systems.

One final consideration: As a result of the pandemic, some companies are questioning whether to diversify from a single, large office in a major urban center to a hub-and-spoke model, with one or two offices in urban locations and a handful of outposts in the suburbs. The outposts may shorten commutes for suburban workers while still enabling collaboration and enhancing business continuity. In addition to owning or leasing dedicated offices, companies may consider coworking spaces in order to increase flexibility and access for their much more mobile workers.

4. Update your ways of working

Companies that want to make an office-wide shift to flexible remote work will fail if they do not define how ways of working will change in this new model. Pre-pandemic, policies, processes, and the implicit and routine ways of working were defined with an assumption that most of the workers were in the office most of the time. Now that a large number of corporate employees are working from home, those assumptions have already gone out the window, and legacy ways of working have become insufficient or even obsolete.

Office-centric ways of working institutionalized how employees engaged with each other, and collaboration and innovation would often occur organically in hallways or over coffee. (Bell Labs figured that out in the 1950s and designed corridors specifically to let people bump into one another.) Only a third of U.S. workers in PwC’s June 2020 Workforce Pulse Survey rated the tools and resources for collaboration and communication in their organization as “very effective.”

Yet the flexible work arrangements everyone has been using to cope with the pandemic are redefining these norms. As a result, you will need to deliberately establish ways of working that allow for serendipity but don’t risk teams settling into recently improvised ways of working that can create confusion and frustration. These new ways of working benefit the employees not only in the short term but also in the longer term as they develop new skills and enhance their own employability. To define these new ways of working, the following elements are needed.

Standards and guidelines. Establish the parameters of work for regular activities. Set standards for when people are available and how key performance indicators are reported and measured. Outline what a successful meeting looks like and how action points are allocated and reported.

Routines. Remote working requires specific routines, depending on what people do. Some teams need daily huddles, others weekly catch-ups. Social events can also be programmed.

Tools and technology. The infrastructure of remote collaboration was cobbled together for the pandemic. Some companies had protocols in place and robust file-sharing capabilities. Others did not. These technologies will now have to be standard, secure, and straightforward to use.

Risk and controls. Data protection is always top of mind, but in a remote working environment, the cracks are all too evident. If the company email system fails or a file transfer system crashes, work-arounds using personal email accounts can severely compromise corporate data. And considering how many people are accessing systems and trying hard to do their jobs, keeping tabs on these activities is not easy. Companies are scrambling to keep up. Given that cybersecurity and data protection will remain a top priority, getting this right now should be an urgent concern.

For example, consider how a manager coaches an employee in a mobile world. The manager will need new standards and guidelines that outline what good coaching and feedback look like. He or she may define new routines that call for daily check-ins and feedback on the quality of the work product; monthly 30-minute one-on-ones to focus on the employee’s performance and career development; and a midyear check-in for a more comprehensive progress review.

The office and ways of working as we have known them are gone. In their place, we have a rare opportunity to redesign where and how we will work. The view will be worth the climb: On the other side, we can provide employees with better experiences and help them acquire skills they can take with them through their career. We can reconfigure our spaces to ensure collaboration, innovation, and productivity, and reduce operating expenses. We can build in more diversity and inclusion and increase environmental sustainability. The lead time is long — it could be two to three years — to plan for the new footprint, find new sites, remodel the offices for the company’s needs, and transition. So the time to start planning is now. Let the remodeling begin.

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Jane Daly's Worklife Podcast - Sara Davenport: Reboot your Health


In this Episode Jane talks to Sara Davenport about Reboot your Health

Sara Davenport is a health writer and blogger.  She is the founder of the health blog author of best-selling books ‘Reboot your Health’ and ‘Reboot your Brain’.  She is the founder of Breast Cancer Haven, one of the UK’s leading cancer charities.  She has been involved with holistic health and natural medicine for more than 30 years and is a passionate advocate of furthering the concept of complementary therapies working hand in hand with conventional medicine.

Sara recommends listeners explore the following topics if they would like to delve deeper into her insights: 

 ReBoot Health looks at all aspects of holistic health and healing, bringing you a regular dose of DIY get-well advice. From nutrition to detox, sleep to air pollution and the best health tests on the market, ReBoot Health covers a wide range of topics, delivering you the low-down on conventional medicine and complementary therapies. What works and what’s new.

​ Is the site link...  a free online library resource for all your health issues.

The Coronavirus collection - everything you need to get you and your loved ones safely through this winter  

Backed by extensive, evidence-based research, ‘Reboot your Brain’ explains how to boost your brain health and keep it in optimal condition long into your old age.  

An article discussing air pollution  

You can find out more about Sara, including how to connect here Enjoyed this episode? There's lots more to listen to, sign up here to find out more 
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Jane Daly's Worklife Podcast - Nancy Kline: The Promise that changes everything


In this episode Jane talks to Nancy Kline about her life, new book and the Thinking environment. 

Nancy Kline is the author of four books including the recently published bestseller, The Promise That Changes Everything (Penguin Random House) and the 20-year bestseller Time To Think (Cassell/Octopus).

She is also Founding Director of Time To Think, a global leadership development and coaching company. Her ongoing research through her lecturing and her work with colleagues, professionals, executives and teams around the world continues to build the body of thought known as ’The Thinking Environment’. 

Nancy is Visiting Faculty at Henley Centre for Coaching, Henley Business School, UK. 

 Born and raised in New Mexico, Nancy is a UK citizen and lives in Oxfordshire with her English husband, Christopher Spence. 

Nancy recommends the following 3 simple things listeners could do to delve deeper: 

- Decide to live for one week without interupting anyone ever, staying interested in where they will go next with their thinking.   - Read these two masterpieces:

Mathew Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux)

        James Williams’ Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy (Cambrigde University Press)

- Invite someone to be a Thinking Partner with you once a week for six weeks. Take Individual turns of five minutes each to think about any issue of your choice with the other’s full attention and with the promise of no interruption. Avoid comment of any kind unless invited. Appreciate each other at the end.      Links to find out more about Nancy and her work : Enjoyed this episode? There's lots more to listen to, sign up here to find out more 

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The Adaptive Worklife

The Adaptive Worklife

Adaptability is the new competitive advantage, but it's also where some people feel lost.

Evidence from multiple studies reveal that when people are faced with unprecedented change their life often feels like it’s gone from colour to black and white. Lost people often say the colour has drained from life and often describe these times as feeling imprisoned in their own body. It seems only a few know how to switch the colour back on.

One study conducted by the great psychologist and professor Salvatore Maddi, alongside his colleague Carl Horn, uncovered something extraordinary. Their study is still one of the most extensive research programs into human adaptability and what they found was fascinating. A great article in Psychology Today summarises it beautifully and calls it the Adaptive Third experiment. Why 1 in 3 People Adapt to Change More Successfully | Psychology Today 

The study revolutionised how people understood the natural human reaction to change and identified that one third of the population exhibited what Maddi calls “existential courage”. What separated the adaptive third from everyone else is surprisingly simple, while everyone else tried to bounce back, the adaptive third took a step forward. 

What people with existential courage seem to do naturally is ask themselves one simple question ‘what can good people do when bad things happen’?

In his own words Maddi said, ‘I have spent a lifetime studying the attitudes and strategies that best help you turn stressful circumstances from potential disasters into growth opportunities instead.  This is what my Hardiness approach is all about.’

A valuable extract from his research titled: Hardiness: ‘An Operationalization of Existential Courage' says

‘Existential psychologists emphasize the ongoing search for meaning in life that involves us in the ubiquitous decision-making process. Regardless of content, each decision involves choosing a future, unfamiliar path, or repeating a past, familiar path. Although choosing the future is most consistent with continuing to elaborate life’s meaning, it also brings ontological anxiety, as expressed in fear of uncertainty and possible failure. Consequently, existentialists believe that to choose the future regularly requires courage. Without courage, one may choose the past regularly, which stagnates the quest for meaning. Hardiness, comprised of the attitudes of commitment (vs. alienation), control (vs. powerlessness), and challenge (vs. security) is offered as an operationalization of existential courage. Hardiness has been shown in research to enhance performance and health, despite stressful changes, and to increase perceptions and actions consistent with choosing the future. Hardiness can now be assessed and trained to increase existential courage.’

All of our worklives have been significantly disrupted by covid-19 but the changes were already coming. The lines between our work and life have become blurred and this is likely to continue, this brings some positive things into our worklives and some that will require a different approach. What 2020 has done is accelerated and amplified the change to a digital-first world of work (and we haven’t even seen what advanced technologies have in store yet!).

The spectrum of change is diverse, small for some and unprecedented for others but we are all facing something that means we need to become more comfortable with adapting.

The team at People Who Know invite you to join a community who are on a mission to give a voice to worklives. We are driving better worklives and equity for everyone. These changes are too big for one person, one book, one government or even a world body because they do not know 'us' but by working together we can move mountains and shape worklives for ourselves, for each other and for future generations.

You can connect and join the conversation in so many ways. The People Who Know community is nudging people to take charge of their own Worklife by creating a Marketplace and Network so people can find a valuable place that supports them to adapt and balance their way. Our vibrant community is supporting people wherever they are in their Worklife journey.

We are also committed to offering digital space to providers of services who have dedicated their work to enable people to thrive in the workplace. We are also proud to offer free space in our marketplace to sponsor independant and smaller providers who need a boost as they are starting and trying to grow their presence. 

If you would like to become a member so you can network with passionate people and leading thinkers for free click here

If you would like to provide services to the world of work and feature in our Worklife Services marketplace for free click here 





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Out now - 20 questions LD should ask before talking about training

20 Questions L&D should ask before talking about training!

Yes! It’s finally October 20, 2020. I just could not resist all the 20's in this date. 😉

My book 20 Questions L&D should ask before talking about training! is now available as a free download for everyone.

I don’t know about you but I’m excited! I’ve been using my 20 questions for several years now and with great success. I’ve blogged about them, been interviewed in a podcast and have been invited to conferences to speak about them. Heck, I heard my 20 questions where called out by an audience member at Learning Technologies 2020 during the opening session (Wish I had been there). And now there's a book!

The feedback I have been getting is that these questions and how I use them are a super pragmatic way to have a professional conversation with business stakeholders and clients before jumping into learning objectives.

My many years in Learning and Development have taught me a lot. Looking back it’s easy to see where projects went off track because we didn’t have specific information or resources available. These 20 questions represent my collected wisdom 😁 and truly are my gateway to successful projects.

And they can be yours too! 

Since consistently using my 20 questions I can see 40% of requests don’t become actual projects. Can you imagine having that kind of time extra for projects that actually deliver on their promise?

Head over to and get your free digital copy today, including a convenient Word template with all questions you can use to get started immediately!

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Continuous Learning

What is continuous learning?

Continuous learning is the process of learning new skills and knowledge on an on-going basis. This can come in many forms, from formal course taking to casual social learning. It involves self-initiative and taking on challenges. Continuous learning can also be within an organization, or it can be personal, such as in lifelong learning.

Why is continuous learning important for organizations?

Staying competitive in today’s global marketplace means that organizations need to be innovative, adaptive, and ever-changing. Achieving this depends on the skill and knowledge of the workforce. But how do you get this kind of workforce to begin with?

To innovate, to try a new process, or to do something new all requires learning.

People need to learn new knowledge or skills in order to see things in a new light and take that next leap. When organizations do not support a continual process of learning, innovation does not happen, processes remain unchanged, and nothing new is ever accomplished.

Employees need to be able to challenge themselves in order to obtain new knowledge, ideas, and skills. Learning needs to be on a flexible, on-demand and continual basis in order to contribute this kind of cutting-edge performance.

Benefits of continuous learning What are the benefits of continuous learning for the organization?

Creating a learning culture within the organization is an effective way to improve performance and innovation, as mentioned earlier, but also employee satisfaction and retention. Here’s why:

Knowledge is power - The more employees know and the more they can do, the more they can contribute to the organization. More cost effective - Investing in the development of employees is less expensive than rehiring and retraining new employees. Show that employees are valued - Support of continuous learning indicates that employees are worth the investment and that the organization is genuine about employee career development. What are the benefits of continuous learning for the individual?

Continuously updating knowledge or skills can help an employee in both their professional life and personal life for a number of reasons. Here’s why:

Top Performer - Developing new skills and knowledge can increase personal performance or competence on the job. Career development - Additional training, education, or skill development can help achieve goals for those pursuing a career path or wanting to rotate into a new position. Licenses or Certifications - Pursuing additional learning is also important for those employees who need to obtain or update professional licenses or certifications. Promotions or incentives - Spending time to learn a new skill or obtain new knowledge can benefit work performance and influence future promotion or financial incentives. Personal enrichment - Often a person’s interests extend beyond the job they do on a daily basis. Pursuing extracurricular interests can lead to insight and developments that open the door to new, future opportunities. Stay marketable - Staying current in the trends and advances of one’s profession can help an employee stay marketable in their profession should anything change. Continuous learning examples

Let’s take a look at the different ways an employee can engage in continuous learning:

Formal learning

Formal learning includes the ways a learner can gain new knowledge and skills via learning initiatives that have already been pre-determined, organized and implemented for a specific learning purpose or goal. This can include:

a university or college course training programs from within the organization external workshops or conferences e-Learning courses Mobile learning courses MOOC’s Social learning

Social learning includes all the ways a learner interacts, discusses, collaborates and learns from others to increase knowledge or learn new skills. This can be both formal and informal, including:

Discussion and collaboration on social media Finding blogs or other resources to gain deeper insight Working with other co-workers Coaching and mentoring On-the-job training Self-directed learning

Obtaining a new skill or improving your knowledge and understanding of something does not have to be restricted to formal training or working with others. Self-directed learning can include:

Researching and reading to gain a deep understanding of a topic. Listening to topic relevant podcasts or watching instructional videos Experimentation and exploration What is the difference between lifelong learning and continuous learning?

Lifelong learning and continuous learning are often terms used interchangeably. They can sometimes have a slightly different meaning depending on the context. Let’s compare the differences below:

Lifelong learning

The term lifelong learning is geared more towards the individual level. It refers to someone who makes a long-term, voluntary commitment to learning new skills or acquiring new knowledge. A lifelong learner is someone who incorporates continuous learning as part of their lifestyle.

An example of lifelong learning could be someone who chooses to read about something new for one hour every day. This is a personal commitment for self-betterment or long-term improvement.

Continuous learning

The term continuous learning can also refer to someone who is committed to learning new skills or knowledge but is often used in a more temporary context or formal context.

An example of continuous learning could be someone who is taking an extra training course for their job. This is a formal commitment, sometimes temporary, that is taken on to achieve new skills.

How to build a continuous learning environment within the organization

Creating a supportive environment that encourages employees to engage in continuous learning takes commitment, resources, and coaching. Some employees will be self-motivated and will take up continuous learning on their own time, but the majority will not have the time or resources to do so.

Employees are typically focused on the job or tasks at hand and do not want to be seen as wasting time.

It is unrealistic to expect all employees to engage in continuous learning either during the work day or in their free time. This is a good starting point when figuring out how to start building a learning environment. Let’s take a look at some ideas on how to navigate this situation:

1. Continuous learning begins with leaders

When employees see that their Manager or Supervisor is fully engaged and supportive of learning and development initiatives, it creates an atmosphere that promotes continuous learning.

Sometimes it is difficult for employees to take time away from daily work tasks because there is an impression that management may not approve.

Show employees that it is important and valued by becoming a role model.

2. Create a learning plan

When continuous learning becomes part of the way a business runs, employees are more apt to engage in it. This means defining the business goals of what is hoped to be achieved and creating an actionable plan around how to support it.

Engaging in dialogue about continuous learning means that employees will not only see that the organization is genuine about supporting learning initiatives, but that efforts are being offered to make it a reality.

The plan can include what resources or support individuals maybe need or the types of learning that can be offered, such as mobile learning or mentoring.

3. Provide the resources and time for continuous learning

The main component of creating a learning environment is time and resources. These need to be available to employees.

This can come in all shapes and forms, depending on the needs of the organization, department, or individual employees.

Some ideas include:

Establish a personal development plan with each employee to identify what they may want to learn in order to foster encouragement and initiative Hold Lunch & Learns during the lunch break to encourage employees to present and apply what they’ve learned Devote dedicated time to employees to engage in training or learning Attend team workshops or events Provide access to professional resources via subscriptions or memberships Provide access to online learning for self-paced courses Organize mentorship or coaching opportunities Create a learning “task-force” that enables employees to investigate and collaborate on a topic