Agile future – but what if they need a workplace?

Almost immediately after it was suggested that during this pandemic those who can should work from home, people were talking about the benefits. All those lovely things that make working in an agile manner the best thing in the world: less commuting, flexible working hours, less synchronous conversations, etc. A recent Donald Clark Plan B blog covers several of the potential benefits that this new world may hold. And in general, I agree.

Some organisations across the world are talking about closing office-blocks, moving everyone to remote working on a permanent basis. From the perspective of the employer this makes great sense. Why have an entire building open with all the associated costs, when you can still deliver the same service by leveraging technology.

Discussions about post-pandemic return obviously recognise the need for staff wellbeing and focus on implementing social distancing thereby only allowing space for reduced staffing numbers or operating shift patterns to allow rush hour avoidance and over population of locations. With some employers considering whether all this disruption is adding to employee stress thus having an effect on their output.

If we are entering a brave new world where home-based working is becoming the norm this in itself raises wellbeing concerns. However, many of the conversations revolve around the easily known: working environment being ergonomic, climate controlled and safe; still feeling part of a team; maintaining separation between work and home life; setting availability expectations.

As known things, an employer can see them and considers identifying solutions as achievable. Therefore, they struggle to recognise that there would be other reasons for a person wanting to attend a physical office:

a break from the solitude – a few short video/phone conversations does not replace that feeling of being surrounded by other people and knowing you can stop at any moment and just have a chat

a break from the fear – sometimes the hours at work are a daily refuge for those trapped in a destructive or abusive relationship/family dynamic

a break from the pressure – for some having a relationship and/or family, whilst fulfilling, can sometimes feel ‘too much’ and they need the opportunity to surround themselves with others, whilst focusing on non-personal objectives

a break from the chaos – not everyone lives in a property with multiple rooms, lots of storage space or private (uninterrupted) workspace

a break for the health – some live in poorly maintained buildings that whilst structurally safe still affect their health both physically and psychologically

I am sure there are more reasons given that these are based purely on my own experience and an admittedly small sample of friends and colleagues. Yes these may be the extreme and not apply to the majority, but they are a reality for some and I would be surprised if that did not include at least one person you work with.

Is there a danger of sacrificing social health for economic performance? Is there a workable solution? Should it be the employer’s concern anyway?

Image: wallpaperflare

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Agile future – but what if they need the workplace by David Wallace was written in London, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Last week saw me publish the first blog I’ve written in nearly three years and I thought I would continue with the momentum and get another out asap. So, what to write about? The obvious choice seemed to be looking at what caused me to stop in the first place and what was the catalyst for my return.

First a bit of scene setting. I set this page up several years ago, when I had this wonderful idea about being able to post up my meandering thoughts on learning and development at least once per month. All the cool kids were doing it, and being a bit of a sheep at the time I decided it was my turn to have a go. In total, I ended up publishing three (less than impressive) blogs with little in the way of a coherent pattern and a penchant for contrived comical asides (some things don’t change).

2011 was a cornerstone year for me; many changes took place and as a result blogging fell to the very bottom of my priority list. The disruption in my personal life continued until very recently, resulting in my disappearance from Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and several other social media tools/discussion forums that I had been regularly contributing to[1]. There was an attempt to return to blogging when I published a short piece about my tweet break, but basically I retreated from my wider social presence.

Throughout the last three years I started new blogs, but they never made it past the draft stage (several being deleted entirely – wish I could remember what they were about). Therefore, as at today I have four published blogs and several in draft format (started at different points over the three years). Not an impressive back catalogue, by anyone’s measure.

However, here I am at 7.55am on a Wednesday morning and already I’ve thought of another two subjects to write about whilst making changes to this post and have tweeted and re-tweeted several times. But why now? What drove this sudden desire to share? Why do little things I see and hear now trigger blog titles to form?

There are numerous differences between my life in 2011 and now: new partner, new employer, new location, new friend group, new smartphone and new personal/professional priorities. And I’m sure that these have all played their small part in reinvigorating my passion for learning and development, and desire to share that with others. But, the majority of these have been in place for at least twelve months, so why has my muse only just decided to return?

I believe that whilst the above changes set the ground work for my new output, it was something else that acted as the catalyst.

My new employer not only talks about development, they put their money where their mouth is and actively encourage employees to seek out learning and development opportunities, providing time/financial support if they feel it is going to be of benefit to them (now or in the future). As a result of this attitude to development I was able to attend the 2015 #CIPDLDShow at the Olympia in London.

My first new blog spoke a little about some of my experience at the show, and I intend writing another couple soon, but the thing that really drove me to return to posting my thoughts on social media was being re-enveloped in a community of supportive professionals. I talked with old contacts and made new ones; held interesting conversations and played silly games; shared information and saw mine shared. The majority of these interactions took place via the twitterverse, which reminded me that one of the reasons I used to tweet so much in the past, was as much for the community as for the learning.

Whilst taking part in a twitter exchange with several people, something I posted garnered a lot of responses, retweets, favouriting and questioning. Despite my best efforts there was no way I could respond to all the questions in the short amount of time I had available and realised that if I just collated all my thoughts in a blog, people could see everything I had to say in one go and post questions/comments that I could respond to at my leisure. This realisation, along with kind words from someone whose opinion I respect (themselves, a prolific blogger and tweeter) seemed to set a fire, and here we are.

So there you have it. Not exactly an earth shattering insight. But what I think it may show, is that engagement can be fleeting and we have to be quick to seize it, both from our personal perspective and as professionals trying to bring learners along with us. Also, we have to remember that sometimes a supportive community of learning can encourage (and hopefully maintain) that engagement.

This is me making the most of my returning interest in all things social. I feel engaged and reinvigorated. What engages you?

[1] It is worth noting that I continued to use Facebook during this period however, that had more to do with maintaining family/friend contacts as I dealt with change and relocation.

The Buttie Barrier

It’s strange what it takes to break down barriers between strangers. For some it’s cultural and social similarities, for others it’s common interests or an engaging personality. For me, it’s a Buttie thing.

Now I’m not being elitist and honing in just slices of bread; I’m more than happy to include Baps, Baguettes and Rolls in this barrier breaking roll (no pun intended – but it still made me snigger). However, for the purpose of this post, I’ll just refer to them all as a Buttie (although there is, of course, the pre-requisite of having some manner of filling).

It’s worth noting that the contents of the Buttie can be almost anything, but there are some exceptions (the reason for this will become clear). I’m sure that you will have your own favourites: Cheese and Onion, Salmon and Cucumber, Cold Beef and Horseradish, etc..

This humble bread based snack can not accomplish the destruction of these well constructed social barriers on it’s own. It takes the addition of another lunchbox favourite to grant it the power for conquest of the human inhibitions.

The crisp!

The walls of insecurity will tumble by the mere act of opening the crisp packet, opening the Buttie and the placing of a few crisps in the middle of the contents.

As soon as one does it, the realisation dawns on others that this is now acceptable with the group and very soon crisps are flowing freely and Butties are having their contents exposed to the world. The sound of crunching as these transformed bread delights are consumed with gusto seems to herald the realisation that your companion is the same as you.

So I say, pop that packet, slide a few inside and crunch your way to a friendly world.

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