Working Diversely

Cool Women


International Women’s Day today. A day to celebrate the distinctive gifts and challenges women around the world share across all facets of life including the workplace. One of my favourite pieces marking the day is the video posted on my other blog, Maldives Complete. So inspired were we that my wife Lori and I bought the art piece Dhaalu Girl featured in the video from the artist Aishath Aima Mustafa (her first art sale).

The BNET piece ‘Why Men and Women Work Differently’ highlights a few of the differences women present and face. The kind of differences that a Dynamic Working organisation can accommodate so readily. Unfortunately, I find that well-meaning pieces like this simply reinforce cultural and sexist stereotypes. I endorse the article for raising insights as to how people can differ in approaches, but I disapprove of the gender pigeonholing. It is not about respecting “women’s” multi-taking and nurturing. It is about respecting anyone’s multi-tasking and nurturing (I’m actually a pretty accomplished multi-tasker, eg. I exercise, listen to podcasts and organise the garage simultaneously each Saturday).

Respect for ‘diversity’ (and Dynamic Work) is less about ‘men and women’ working differently, and more about how *everybody* works differently. Gender is just one prominent and conventional variable. Diversity programmes which slap on a few female-specific accommodations do a disservice to women in the end as well as to the rest of the staff and the business itself.

I recommend Cash Justin Miller’s “The Advantages of Cultural Diversity in Business” (thank Eileen). ‘Cultural diversity’, as well is not merely ethnic nor geographical differences, but any difference in upbringing, experience, tradition or background. When this level of diversity is respected, the consideration of gender will be a non-issue..


Asset Heavy Mary Meeker KPCB 1


Tis the season for year end reviews. And one of the more intriguing collections I have seen is the “Top 10 Trends Presentations for 2013”. A good chance to see how the pundits view the progress of the Dynamic Work trend.

One of my favourite trend-ologists, Mary Meeker, of KPCB, added an entire section to her annual trend review titled “Asset-Light Generation” (slide 59). It is essentially ‘Dynamic Work’ expanded from the professional and corporate environment to a full lifestyle perspective. ‘Dynamic Life’ if you will.

She starts off noting “Asset-Heavy lifestyle consumes space, time and money.” It is a vision of the virtualisation of nearly everything including Music, Video, Housing, Transport, Services, Textbooks, Wallets, and (of course) Employment (see below).


Asset Heavy Mary Meeker KPCB 2

Dynamic Employment

USA map of home working concentrations


What is Obama’s Achilles Heel in the current election? What is the one issue and statistic that Romney keeps returning to with the most effectiveness? Employment. It’s an equally big issue weighing over just about every world leader from Greece to Egypt. People want jobs. And young people – with energy, vigour and dreams – are disproportionately anxious for them.

Dynamic Work holds great promise as a tool for increasing employment. By allowing companies to make more productive use of workers, their ROI and business case justification becomes easier. By introducing greater flexibility in commercial terms, companies can take o more workers at less longer term risk.

These assertions were underscored by a recent statistics released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics. Kevin Green, CEO of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation commented

“More people in work than ever before and the lowest unemployment in over a year is another significant step on the road to recovery. The truly amazing thing is that during the past year of a technical recession, and in spite of austerity and public sector cuts, the UK has created half a million jobs. The job numbers are being driven by flexible working – the number of full time posts has grown but the increase in temps and part-time workers has been even greater. Too many people talk down the value of part-time work, but it’s here in black and white – over 80 per cent of part-time employees chose to work that way.

The counter claim to these promising numbers is that such ‘part time’ work is really offers less pay and less security. But, the higher pay and higher quality may come in the total ‘portfolio’ of employment rather than in a specific job. The bartending actor whose glass washing enables his dream pursuing.

A US Census Bureau report “Higher-income workers have more work-at-home flexibility” provided further evidence of standard of living quality for flexible workers in both monetary and non-monetary terms…

’Mixed’ workers who work both at home and in an office are generally affluent, with median household income of $96,300, according to census data. That compares with median household income of $74,000 for people who always work at home and $65,600 for people who always work onsite, the researchers reported. Nearly half of the people who worked at home exclusively were self-employed, but experts say there are other explanations for why those who work from home make less. Some employers are finding that especially among younger workers, the ability to work at home and forgo a gruelling commute is such a beneficial perk that they are willing to accept a lower starting salary in exchange for it.”

The morale of the story is that countries need ‘Dynamic’ leadership now more than ever before.

Hybrid Organisation

Hybrid Organisation Microsoft

The bigger they are, the harder they toil.

That’s the finding of a recent study into workplace practices by Microsoft UK’s ‘Hybrid Organisation’ initiative.

“The study revealed that even though the majority of office workers want to work more flexibly, the larger the organisation, the less likely its employees are enabled to do so. Half of the people participating in the study said they lacked access to the most basic technology tools that would enable them to work away from the office.”

I found in my year working on Dynamic Work Ltd that the sweet-spot was organisations around 1,000 staff. Upper middle market. As the Vanson Bourne study highlights, the smaller companies do a pretty good job themselves of incorporating new and flexible ways of working. On the other hand, I found that large enterprises (ie. thousands of staff) simply had too much bureaucracy, legacy, complexity and inertia to get substantive innovations in the workplace moving.

Ironically, at the same time that Microsoft announced the advantages to changing business practices, especially when enabled by IT, it also announced that it was retiring the ‘Business Value Productivity’ service. When I left Microsoft to start ‘Dynamic Work Limited’, my biggest impetus was the opportunity that these BVPS services (provided by partners such as I was setting Dynamic Work Ltd to be) presented. Not only did I feel strongly about the ‘New World of Work’ principles, but I felt that the Business Value coupons would really motivate and help companies to make bold steps in these directions. Conversely, one of the big reasons I chose to discontinue with Dynamic Work Limited commercially (though I continue to do writing and activism like I am doing right here and now), was the eventual realisation that Microsoft was neither supporting the New World of Work initiative nor the Business Value services. These initiatives were brochureware to adorn their websites and and keynotes.

The report has some valid research that provides helpful data points for people trying to make a business case for more dynamic working. Some fine case studies of the likes of Macquarie Bank, Nuffield Health and GlaxoSmithKline. It also features some useful models such as the ‘Follow Me Organisation’ and the ‘Bump Organisation’. Unfortunately, given Microsoft’s erratic track record in this area, the piece itself smacks of being little more than a PR exercise for Microsoft rather than heartfelt or inspired innovation.

Burning Pine

Burning Pine

Yesterday, I met with fellow Microsoft alum Andrew Munro with whom I had endured extensive trench warfare on the frontlines at Microsoft. He has set up a consultancy, Burning Pine, which helps organisations to “navigate the future; exploring the unmapped” which parallels much of the mission and vision of Dynamic Work. I especially applaud his white paper ‘All Gone Home’ which highlights a number of central Dynamic Work themes.

“The prospect of creating a firm which is unfettered by the boundaries of geography, time or organisation is now a practical reality. Imagine people working together but in different parts of the world; covering different time-zones and also different working patterns (your best work is done as the sun rises, mine gets done somewhere around midnight); employees, partner firms and freelance professionals sharing information securely across time and space. Why bother with a physical office at all?”

From my ‘Leadership and Management’ perspective, I also enjoy his ‘Burning Pine’ name and logo which represents the ‘burning’ flash of upside (literally from the sky) of Leadership coupled with the (again, literally) grounded wisdom (limiting downside) of Management. Sweet metaphor.

What do laundromat’s, funerals and camp sites have in common?

Where People Work Remotely

…They’re all great place to work.  A least according to a recent study by Microsoft on the productivity impacts of telecommuting (as I happen to be recently speaking of Microsoft and ‘Great Places to Work)’

Sixty percent of respondents to the Microsoft Telework survey — conducted among 3,600 employees in 36 cities nationwide — say they are actually more productive and efficient when working remotely. With less time spent commuting and fewer cubicle “drive bys” causing distractions, respondents say, more time can be spent on the task in front of them. The catch? By and large, employers aren’t catching on. Only 41 percent of those surveyed work for companies with established remote-working policies, and just 15 percent believe their company supports flexible work arrangements. Despite a wealth of new technologies that can facilitate collaboration among workers no matter where they are, employers are still concerned about whether they’re getting the most from employees. “

The study also included a list of the Top Ten USA cities for Telecommuting (Boston, Raleigh-Durham, Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Richmond, Austin, New York, Sacramento, Portland). But the ‘places’ best suited for telecommuting that intrigued me the most were the types of locales people chose to work in. First, the number one selection was ‘Other’ (43%) which combined with the variety of the other 16 top mentions (eg. laundromat, camping, doctor’s office, salon, movie theatre) underscored just how diverse the possibilities are. Secondly, the next highest selection was ‘Family Vacation’. Especially when combined with so many of the other mentions (eg. funeral, amusement park) undermines the fear of so many employers and bosses (specifically called out in the report…see quote above) that staff working remotely will shirk work. Conversely, it seems like it introduces work into whole new parts of the staffer’s life. Now that might eventually create its own problem, but that problem is ‘too much’ working not ‘too little’. If the employers want to get concerned about ‘too much’ working and focus attentions on addressing that issue, then that is an entirely different matter.

(thanks Chris)

The Future of Offices

Paul Warner

Fellow UK work innovation evangelist Katie Ledger forwarded me another gem, this time a piece on ‘The Future of Offices’ by Paul Warner, Chair of the British Council for Offices Urban Affairs Committee and Research Director at 3D Reid. A well composed and authoritative piece supporting pretty much all of the tenets and principles of Dynamic Work. Here are a few choice excerpts…

“The future workplace will be the opposite [of] the ‘city as office’. Companies will downsize their property footprints and make use of city-centre facilities that are publicly available – coffee shops, restaurants, pubs, city parks, library reading rooms. Why add millions to the cost of your office scheme to build a boardroom used once a month when you can simply book a private room in a grand hotel every month two years in advance? Why worry about the limits of technology when the city is itself covered by a wireless network? The most amenable, attractive and convenient place for people to meet is usually the centre of the city, so we can look forward to an urban consolidation of office property after decades of out-of-town developments and suburban hubs.”

“Flexibility is the key to future office development and a move away from the tailor-made shell to a more robust and generous building type that can sit within a ‘spatial plan’ (that includes transport, density and mix parameters). As people work in patterns that are more flexible and fluid, serendipity within the city and the chance encounter seem hopeful and exciting.”

Balance Simply #1

Simply Hired

A recent poll in the UK by SimplyHired showed that more staff wanted ‘work/life balance’ (36%) over a ‘competitive salary’ (31%). Also, the #1 vote getter was a ‘a job they love’ at 81% while a ‘pay raise or promotion’ only garnered 10%. The findings reinforce the business benefits of Dynamic Working in containing payroll costs while keeping staff productive and happy by introducing new ways of working that make their jobs more satisfying and flexible.

Healthier and Happier

Cochrane Collaboration 

One of the major areas of benefit from Dynamic Working, along with saving money and helping the environment, is boosting staff welfare. The most direct benefits involve increased satisfaction, work/life balance, and reduced time lost to commuting. All of these benefits should lead to healthier, happier workforce. As it turns out, the UK non-profit research organisation The Cochrane Collaboration recently concluded a study which validated the ‘healthier’ hypothesis with their study titled “Flexible working conditions and their effects on employee health and wellbeing” which was released last month.

“Overall, the findings tentatively suggest that giving workers more choice or control over their working patterns is likely to have positive effects. The researchers found evidence that self-scheduling of shift interventions and employee-controlled partial/early retirement improved health outcomes, including systolic blood pressure and heart rate, tiredness, mental health, sleep duration, sleep quality and alertness and self-rated health status. Improvements were also noted in well-being, such as co-workers' social support and sense of community.”

The rising costs of health care is probably the most prominent issue in American politics at the moment and concerns about the NHS here in the UK are also quite high, especially as both countries face aging populations with increasing incidence of lifestyle health problems. Dynamic Work can be a part of the solution to this intractable and costly problem.


Accenture Vodafone Carbon Connections 1

Accenture and Vodafone collaborated on a report titled ‘Carbon Connections’ which looked at a range of business strategies for carbon reduction. Given Vodafone’s mobility focus, the report naturally centred on a number of distributed and remote working scenarios…

  • Dematerialisation – replacing physical goods, processes or travel with ‘virtual’ alternatives, such as video-conferencing or e-commerce (online shopping):
  • Mobile telepresence – connecting ‘virtual meeting rooms’ to mobile devices would allow workers to join conferences from anywhere
  • Virtual office – using wireless telecommunications products means people can work remotely or from home
  • Mobile delivery notifications for e-commerce – businesses can use mobile communications to contact customers for more efficient order placement and delivery.

The last three are pretty conventional and the report has lots of good material on these topics. But what really caught my fancy was the concept dubbed ‘dematerialisation’. What a great poly-syllabic buzzword for the ‘anti-neutron bomb’ approach to downsizing.

Accenture Vodafone Carbon Connections 2