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Something Beyond Work
Esau McCaulley | Four-Day Workweek | What Does Your Office Smell Like? | It’s Hard Out Here For A Futurist
Quote of the Moment
A living wage should be one in which there is space for something beyond work.
| Esau McCaulley
The OECD has found that diesel buses produce fewer emissions per passenger mile than even electric cars. “Getting someone on the bus is already green,” said Randy Clarke of WMATA, the transit system of the DC region.
The median American rides transportation zero times each year. | Brian Taylor cited by David Zipper.
Taylor Swift concertgoers are spending about $1,300 per show, a recent study shows. If the current spending pace continues through the end of the tour, The Eras tour will have generated an estimated $5 billion in economic impact, more than the gross domestic product of 50 countries.
76% of people at Board level say that resilience is essential to career success, but only 10% of people at any level say that their organisation places a lot of emphasis on building and maintaining resilience as a factor in career success. | Sarah Bond, Gillian Shapiro
The post-pandemic search for work/life balance is bursting out all over, including a domain of traditional work/life imbalance: restaurants.
In Can the Four-Day Workweek Start With Restaurants?, Regan Stephens uncovers a few places where this is being played out, like Hearthside in Collingswood NJ:
“Restaurants are notoriously difficult to run and, up until spring 2020, an operator would usually base their business plan on being open seven days a week,” said Hudson Riehle, the senior vice president of research at the National Restaurant Association. “So, for an operator to willingly close a few days a week, they’ve put very specific thought into the need to do that and how to create a business plan so it works.”
The change at Hearthside had an immediate impact on Kelly Bradley, a pastry chef, who had felt the job left her “no time to be a mom.” Now she is able to spend more time with her 12-year-old daughter, Makenzie. “The biggest blessing of all of this has just been a better work-life balance,” Ms. Bradley said.
The long-term benefits of a four-day workweek — an idea that has circulated for decades but has never been adopted fully in the United States — go beyond having more down time. Lighter schedules are helping to attract and retain employees at a time when the pool of restaurant workers has diminished. According to the National Restaurant Association, a majority of restaurants remain understaffed. In a survey the organization conducted in November, 62 percent of restaurant operators said they didn’t have enough employees to meet customer demand.
“We don’t want people to be upset with us,” said Mr. Piperno, who also adopted a prix-fixe menu at Hearthside to cut down on food waste and to get more turns, or table changeovers, out of every dinner service. “But unfortunately, for so long, I only cared about the guests. If the person working the wood-fire oven has a better work-life balance, is happy in his job and is not worried about his finances, then it’s something I’m not going to lose sleep over.”
A cultural change is underway, and it seems to be heading for a more humane state of affairs for those lucky enough to be working in such a place.
What Does Your Office Smell Like?
I read a strangely detailed McKinsey piece about the new JPMorgan Chase headquarters by John Means (in conversation with David Arena JPMC’s head of global real estate) because I like to try to see familiar things through others’ eyes.
My topline summary: Doesn't seem like there're enormous breakthroughs from what I think of as the conventional office. Might be a good characterization of 'best practices' around HQs for global businesses, but I’d have to read other research to know.
Buildings need a purpose, for example, to impress clients, or inspire employees. Arena: ‘We believe that when we are together in a place and that place is purpose-built and we’re there together for the moments that matter, we can’t be beat. This office has lots of reasons for being. The first and foremost is it’s a house for employees. It’s a house for people, it’s a house to bring clients to, to bring guests in, it’s a place to do business. It’s the manifestation of the brand in the physical environment. Everything you look at, everything you hear, smell, taste, touch, is part of JPMorgan Chase and part of that experience. You could say it’s a place to have an experience.’
This ‘taste, smell, touch’ came up a few times. Aromas are big in Arena’s thinking. But the experiential patter here sounds like empty aesthetics to the economist in me.
Marrying strategy to building design: Arena: 'Marrying strategy to real estate requires a deep analysis of a company’s needs, as well as data to inform decisions. These decisions are best managed by top strategic thinkers guided by the CEO—a departure from the way companies have traditionally made real-estate choices’.
Personalization of building experience. Arena: ‘I think one of the things we’ve missed in office buildings is that people want to be known. They want to be recognized, they want to be welcomed in the morning, quite frankly, by name. They want to have a personal experience when they come to work, and I think there’s a great opportunity to do that.’
Personalizing arrival? Employee experience or surveillance? Maybe that’s only extroverts who want that?
Aroma Therapy? Arena: ‘It’s not much different from when you go into a great restaurant or a great hotel and somebody meets you and they know your name. They’ve been expecting you. So, technology is really important for knowing when people come in. The way a place smells, quite frankly, is really important to me, and I think it’s important to people. We’ve done lots of due diligence on aromatherapy.’
Very informed by the aesthetics of hotel chains, I think. Aromas are big for him, but I wonder if it’s just window dressing. He never cites any research. Might be interesting to go deeper into the hotelier mindset: what are the characteristics of the world’s great hotels?
The case for proximity. Arena: ‘One of the great reasons to come to the workplace is to be in physical proximity to folks that you can learn from. This is particularly true for younger people who want to learn their craft. Think back on your own career to a great manager or a great coach you had. Those learnings are key.
We think they happen best in person, and so we’ve dedicated almost 200 percent more space in our new headquarters to those kinds of interactions—for example, the interactions where a senior executive gets the opportunity to transfer knowledge to an emerging executive. We have those spaces connected throughout the building.’
I can't visualize how that space is different from a conventional office. And it sounds like the CEO wants to spend time imparting knowledge to young people, and they should be eager to commute to the office to get in on that.
Settling on hybrid, as second tier modality. Arena: ‘How do you really do that well on video calls, or how do you do that well remotely?
It can be part of it, so we have solutions for hybrid working, we have solutions for people who are at home. We even have parts of the company that work at home full-time. Another portion works at home one or two days a week.
But there’s probably 50 percent of our company that’s in the office every day; our traders, our retail bankers, our support staff—they’re in the office. That’s where the game is.’
Seems like they've settled on hybrid, but 'where the game is' are people coming in every day.
An interesting phrase: 'distance officing'. Arena: ‘I am really excited about virtual reality and augmented reality and their use in distance officing.’
‘The intuitive building'. Arena: ‘We haven’t thought about all the ways that a building can be smarter. But the idea of a smart building is kind of passé. Even an intelligent building—those are table stakes. Today, it’s about the intuitive building, and that’s what we’re working on.’
JPMC’s global offices are all standardized, and they offer an app, just like a hotel chain.
I came away thinking about the hotel chain angle more than anything else. Personally. I follow the thinking of Borges, ‘I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library’. So, in my imaginings I’d rather that offices were modeled on libraries. But it might be helpful to consider offices as modeled after hotels, Hospitals, airlines, cruise ships, or expeditions to climb a mountain.
Not very much of current discussions about employee experience, burnout, problems with too many apps to use, communication overload, or the downsides of open offices. A very strange article.
And too fixated on aromas.
It’s Hard Out Here For A Futurist
Adam Curry went to hear a talk by fellow futurist David Bent, and offers up some understated commentary [emphasis mine]:
It’s possible to be gloomy about the progress of ‘sustainability’ as a business idea, but it’s also clear that as the climate emergency has become more imminent attention has been increasing. David’s characterised his engagement, over the last 20 years, as corresponding to three ages of awareness. The dates here may be approximate.
The first, from 2003–when he started doing this work—to 2006, was about stopping your negative impacts, and taking responsibility for your externalities. The second, from 2006 from 2013, was about ‘the issues will come and get you’. The third, from 2013 to now, and I’d say still continuing, is about ‘system change not climate change’. Knowledge has deepened and activity has become more urgent and more political, even inside businesses.
He also characterised this with a couple of quotes: the first era was marked by a partner at the accounting practice where he worked in the early 2000s asking ‘what is this climate change?’. The third is that ‘Net Zero is everywhere’, and that ‘our commercial success relies on this’.
In the middle, somewhere, he told a story about a Pepsico executive upbraiding him when he was at Forum for the Future for what they regarded as sloppy scenarios construction. Scenarios were supposed to be different, he complained, but “You have climate change in all of your scenarios.” (It’s easy to miss the idea of ‘predetermined elements*’ if you think that scenarios are all about uncertainty).
Where we are now is that governments that understand the risks of climate change are just starting to create policy frameworks—if imperfect ones—that enable progressive businesses to act. This is the idea behind ‘mission-driven’ policy. This then unlocks investment and growth that reinforces the policies.
I was mulling that over after doing some research on wildfires and in the context of the Maui wildfires still burning.
It’s clear that the policy frameworks we need have not filtered down to concrete responses like ‘more firetrucks on Maui’. But remember that futurists have been bleating about climate change for a generation, and businesses and countries have not come close to sustainability yet.