In May 2020 I wrote a blog about the potential impacts of the coronavirus and telework on urban downtowns. At that time the idea was tentative that telework might force major redesign of city centers. Now comes another article from Matthew Haag of The New York Times about city center conditions to date. Titled “Midtown is Reeling. Should Its Offices Become Apartments?” Haag essentially verifies my conjectures. City centers need a redesign, even in the past-covid era.
Here are some of the events that have occurred in Manhattan since May.
Continue reading Redesigning CITY CENTERs
Now that matters have settled down a bit from the first panic days of the Covid-19 onslaught it is time to think about getting back to some sort of normal. Specifically, how do we get from total lockdown, everybody working at home, to a new normal version of teleworking? Here are some fundamentals of the decision process.
Continue reading Moving from panic to new-normal teleworking
Now that the Covid-induced panicky rush to working from home has died down somewhat, more organizations are thinking about naming a Chief TeleWork Officer, or Chief Remote Work Officer. The reason? Someone needs to organize and monitor the whole telework process to make it more coherent, secure and effective for the entire organization. Most large organizations have a CEO, a CFO, a CTO and a CIO to cover Executive, Financial, Technology and Information/marketing issues, respectively. Why not a CTWO?
Here are some of the areas where the CTWO should have responsibilities and authority.
Continue reading The Rise of the Chief Telework Officer?
- Telework rules and regulations.
- Facilities management
- Technology acquisition and development
- Personnel training and evaluation
Our first test of telecommuting in 1973 was based on the idea of setting up offices near the homes of a company’s employees. The idea was to reduce or, better, eliminate the need for the employees to commute to their company’s headquarters. The information technology available in the mid-1970s was too primitive to allow employees to work from home so we called these new workplaces satellite offices. As the technology improved in capability the name morphed into neighborhood offices to give a more intuitive feel for their purpose.
Since then there have been several attempts to recreate satellite/neighborhood offices in various places around the world. Possibly the most recent of these ventures is the WeWork series. WeWork’s offices are generally located in or near city centers while the prospective users of the space are typically scattered fairly randomly around the region. So while the need for ad hoc office space may be satisfied by these central workspaces, the need for significantly reduced commuting is not. Home-based telework clearly wins the commute-reduction battle.
Continue reading The return of the neighborhood office?
Now that you’ve been thrust by the Covid virus into working from home for months you may have experienced some difficulties. Or many difficulties. After all, one of the promises of teleworking is that your productivity will increase and your tension will decrease. If those aren’t happening it could be because your ad hoc home office isn’t properly organized. If that’s the case here are some tips for improving matters. It’s time to get your home office together. This may involve some negotiation.
As in all real estate issues the first three items of importance are: location, location and location. Your home office should be located in a place that is relatively isolated from the rest of your home’s activities — at least while you’re working. Ideally that’s in a space or spaces, in the case of multiple home workers, that can be sealed off, at least acoustically, from the rest of your home during working hours. Not your bedroom, not the kitchen or dining room tables. Not the fire escape, especially in bad weather. Maybe the basement or attic, if you have one. The key rule here is isolation. One of the primary reasons for your improved productivity is a new freedom from interruptions. So you can do your work effectively.
Continue reading Getting Your Home Office together
Almost from the beginning of our research on telework we had the alleged problem of loss of serendipity — that chance encounter by people in the hallway or lunchroom where the conditions were just right to lead to major positive changes in . . . whatever. Almost from the beginning we have been in search of that elusive serendipity during telework. That Aha! moment that transforms where you collectively are going. In my experience those prized chance hallway encounters among co-workers rarely are serendipitous because one factor is usually missing.
I had a truly serendipitous experience in Santa Barbara, California, in the Spring of 1971 when I asked Sam Clawson, a regional planner in that city, about how the aerospace industry could help him. His answer: “Why can’t you techies do something about traffic?” Bingo! My Aha! light went on and soon changed the direction of my career. Then, two years later, what I started to call The Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff became Telecommuting. Now the question is: could that happen today or are the chances diminished when most information workers are teleworking, spread across the countryside?
Continue reading In search of that elusive serendipity
There’s a physics/engineering term called stiction. Stiction is defined as the force required to get a stationary object to move; the force needed to overcome the friction that make the object stick to where it is. In my experience organizations, even individuals, have stiction. It takes some force to get them to leave their comfortable places. For years, even decades, I have battled to get organizations to move out of their familiar positions and adopt telework. The process often takes years of urging and cajolery. The response has been slow to move from interesting but too risky to OK, lets do it. Now an unlikely force has made it happen, almost overnight. Coronavirus has defeated organizational stiction. Worldwide. It’s disaster time once again.
Continue reading Coronavirus defeats organizational stiction
In my last blog I wrote about possible impacts of the coronavirus and teleworking on cities, particularly downtowns. Specifically, I wrote about patterns of evolution of the urban structure; what will we do with all those downtown office buildings when they are mostly empty? Recently Matthew Haag in The New York Times wrote about some possibilities in his article Manhattan Faces a Reckoning if Working From Home Becomes the Norm. Here are some thoughts about how this may work.
Continue reading Telework and evolving urban structure
Millions of information workers have been suddenly forced into working from home, teleworking, because of coronavirus-induced lockdowns. I suspect that a large number of these workers — and their supervisors — have never experienced this before. So, in case you have missed my years of writing about telework as a means of disaster survival, here are some of the basics for surviving those lockdowns.
Foremost, it’s time to rethink the traditional methods of management if you haven’t already done so. Your job is to lead, not to be the work cop. When you think: “How do I know they’re working if I can’t see them?” you’re falling for the tried-and-false management myth: observation of process means knowledge of progress. It doesn’t. Here’s how to do it right.
Continue reading Coronavirus survival and telework basics
One of the continuing dangers to society in the digital age is that of binary thinking. Things, ideas, events and people are labeled as either true or false, this or that, positive or negative, no in-between. One of the most pervasive such attitudes, other than in politics, has to do with offices. The common assumption is that offices have been the way they are today “forever”, never mind that they are largely industrial revolution artifacts. Millions of workers have “always” been commuting to their offices every day. Now here comes Covid-19 and pervasive lockdowns; suddenly we are facing the prospect of no operational offices at all, at least until Covid-19 has been extinguished or at least suppressed. Then all will be back to “normal,” right?
But that is not the way things will turn out. As I hinted last time we won’t all go back to offices in the Covid-altered future. Here’s why.
Continue reading Covid-19 and the end of offices?