The one-sentence summary
We need to think radically about work now and in the future to address problems such as endemic stagnant productivity and high stress levels – both of which were present before the pandemic.
Can’t be bothered to read it? Listen to the 5-minute podcast in two parts.
- This book aims to be a strategic and practical guide to this pivotal moment in the history of work. We need to address the challenges of remote working, repurposing offices for more creative interaction, managing WFH (working from home) teams, and satisfying the demand for more powerful work with greater work/life balance. Now is the time for something better, more meaningful and, crucially, workable.
- Work as the professional class knew it stopped in early 2022 and the Nowhere Office officially came into existence. We don’t know how long this new phase will last but we do know that in the here and now (now-here?) it just relocated, largely because of the internet.
- Since the war, there have been 4 phases of work:
- The Optimism years (1945-1977): faith in institutions and government high
- The Mezzanine years (1978-2006): office work feels less glamorous and technology arrives pretty much everywhere
- The Co-working years (2007-2019): the great acceleration continues and no one has time to stop and think
- The Nowhere office years (2020-): in which 6 shifts are happening:
Shift 1: Placeless, timeless: large amounts of work can be done anywhere, anytime
Shift 2: Worker beings: flexibility everywhere, with people not being defined by what they do
Shift 3: The productivity puzzle: there is a tension between those who believe that being physically present aids productivity and those who don’t
Shift 4: New networks: diversity works, elitism doesn’t
Shift 5: Marzipan management: there is no need for multiple layers of management anymore, if ever there was
Shift 6: Social health and well-being: both are critical to the modern business
- Three groups matter most in this:
- Learners: at the start of their career, want the freedom to visit the office at times of their choosing. Such is the anxiety about recruiting and retaining them that they are likely to receive a lot of ‘organisational sunlight’.
- Leavers: those mid or late on in working life, unlikely to be retiring but more likely reframing and reorganising what they do
- Leaders: those influencing the decisions and daily direction of those who work with or for them, they set the rules and the good ones know that excessive busyness is something to address – often starting with themselves.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
- The term bureaucracy was coined by the 18th century economist Jacques Claude Marie Vincent de Gournay.
- Offices have built-in birdsong – the exchange of knowledge, opinion, information, intelligence and emotion which is impossible to fully capture or replicate digitally.
- “We still need offices – we just don’t need them for work.” Ben Page, Global CEO, Ipsos
- Offices will become critical places for learning, training and development in a far more original and constant way than before.
- It takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain concentration when coming off the internet.
- Hybrid haves and hybrid have-nots should replace the white/blue collar classification.
- Zero drag hiring sums up the worst vulgarity of unchecked capitalism: workers with no lives outside work were regarded as more desirable than those with any home-based responsibilities.
- Purpose-driven companies outperform the stock market by 42%.
- Time to collaborate, brainstorm, and exchange in a loose way can be described as random collision.
- Highly peripheral people are the hidden assets of knowledge and insight tucked away inside organisations (and often largely unused).
- We need to break people out of non-diverse mirrortocracy networks to improve diversity and inclusion and spread social capital.
- Large teams excel at solving problems, but small ones are more likely to come up with new problems to solve.
- Leadership should be reorganised around SOUL: Skills, Organisation, Understanding and Like.
- The pandemic shook the snow globe of working life more dramatically and decisively than any previous effort.
- The author makes a range of recommendations including healthy hybrid working, an end to presenteeism, seeing offices more as social clubs, blending virtual reality with IRL (in real life), working less but better, and building a measure of welfare into a system of accounts so that it is properly valued.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
- Not much. This is well-informed and well-argued.