Nathan Berman has completed 18 office-to-residential conversions. The transformation, he admits, is far from easy but may be necessary if owners expect to survive the reality that the pandemic has permanently changed the need for offices.
Why are we willing to share some of our most intimate details with your local grocer, but fervently against sharing data with our employers? I’m not lobbying for sharing more employee data here; I’m suggesting we think long and hard about the data we collect about our workers.
Based on data about where and when you shop and what you buy, grocery stores and others can infer a great deal about your age, life stage, family, ethnicity, income, gender, health, and much more. Combined with information from your loyalty card, credit card, and data from other aggregators, it’s likely your grocer knows more about you than even your closest friends.
Of course, they promise individual information is de-identified and aggregated before it’s shared with their “partners and others” but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. An MIT study found that 90% of shopper data could be re-identied using as few as four purchases, the purchase date, and store location.
Now imagine if the data from workplace trackers that follow your keystrokes, watch what you’re working on, follow where you go, and listen in on meetings was combined your buying behavior, app usage, and more?
Let’s take a lesson here before it’s too late. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Archives, (NARA) in collaboration with their unions agreed on liberal telework policies.
At NSF, all full-time workers can telework up to five days a week and can flex their hours around the core hours (10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST) Separate negotiations determined that NARA full-time employees can work remotely up to eight days per pay period (two weeks).
“What we found was that by taking care of our people, they took care of us; our data has shown this flexibility has led to increased productivity,” says the agency CHRO.
According to Gartner, the three pillars of human-centric work models are flexible work, intentional collaboration, and empathy-based management. Their research shows people who operate in these environments are:
3.8 times more likely to be high-performing
3.2 times more likely to stay
3.1 times more likely to report lower fatigue
Among the five approaches organizations have taken toward flexibility—fully remote, fully on-site, mandated office attendance, rigid hybrid, and flexible hybrid—Gartner found the only one that achieved significant talent outcomes was flexible hybrid.
The study also found that employees are:
2.3 times higher performance when they were allowed to decide when they work.
2.5 times more likely to be high performing and 4 times more likely to report lower fatigue when they had strong input into their organization’s work design.
“To gain competitive advantage, organizations must go beyond location flexibility and place human beings at the center of work, rather than treating them as secondary components of their work environment,” said Graham Waller, vice president in the Gartner Executive Leadership practice.
Based on a global study by The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), when employees don’t commute to the office, they save an average of 70 minutes a day. They spend about 28 of those minutes (40%) actually working, 24 minutes (34%) enjoying leisure activities, and 8 minutes (11%) caregiving. China and Japan have the longest average commute (over 100 minutes a day). Serbia has the lowest (51 minutes) and the U.S. has the second lowest (55 minutes).
The data comes from two NBER surveys with 19k and 25k respondents.
Based on data from Inrix, vehicle miles travelled (VMT) and gas usage are still below pre-pandemic levels. According to their forecast, the combined impact of fuel efficiency, electric vehicle sales, and hybrid working, suggests it never will!
I was recently on a call where a colleague was demonstrating a prototype Metaverse. As his avatar flew around the beautiful landscape, he pointed out where the roads would go. It was at that point that another colleague on the call went ballistic. “Are you kidding me? Roads? Cars? Why the [expletive deleted] are we putting cars and roads in the Metaverse? Haven’t we learned anything?”
A few days later I saw the movie Avatar 2. The women did the cooking while the men went to war. The “colored” kid, in this case white, was bullied and tormented at school. The tall good looking guys ruled. The women giggled. They exploited animals. A female friend and I walked out 2 hours into the 3 hour saga. Our male partners stayed until the end.
Is this really the vision we want for our future? I think we can do better. But unless the designers of the Metaverse represent a diverse thought pool, we will surely drag the mistakes of our past into our virtual future.
I have to be honest. Cushman & Wakefield’s metaverse-based journey to the future of cities weirded me out at first, but I found I spent far more time exploring the site and actually watching the videos than usual. The link here will take you to one of my favorites. I particularly appreciated that it wasn’t all optimistic and cheery about the future of cities in general and real estate in particular. It acknowledged that the journey between where we are and some better state won’t be without its bumps in the road addressing issues like the threat of greater inequality.
It’s called the “Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems,” or The Show Up Act. I kid you not. They want to drag federal employees back to 2019. As the name implies, the supporters of the bill claim that productivity has suffered because of people working from home. Under the “Show Up” bill, any agency wanting to allow telework would have to address:
• “Any adverse effects” of increased offsite work on customer service—I don’t even know what that means
• “The cost of paying locality pay to employees receiving higher city-based rates even though they were no longer working there”—Sounds like a policy problem to me
• “The costs of maintaining under-used office space”—Instead we should needlessly force people to come in so our bloated real estate portfolio doesn’t draw attention to the opportunity to cut costs?
• “Any technology-related issues that prevented employees from being fully productive”—They’re just addressing this now?
Forgive my rant but this whole line of argument needs to be turned on its head. Instead of having to prove telework is causing problems, the government ought to require agencies to:
• Prove there is a problem before they call people back
• Prove how they are going to make up for the extra costs of having them on-site
• Justify why they need to hold on to under-occupied office space.
No doubt the Show Up Act is a reaction to Congressmen Sarbanes and Connolly’s proposed Telework Metrics & Cost Savings Act that was proposed last July. Among other things, it would require agencies to measure and report to Congress the results of they telework programs. What a concept! Measuring rather than guessing!
“Federal employee telework has been tested and proven during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “The flexibility of this program heightened work productivity, improved employee retention and delivered high-quality government service for the American people.”
Fortunately, the bill is not likely to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Way back in 2010, I wrote an article titled, “Greedy states have nothing to lose but their remote work.” The warning fell on deaf ears at the time because less than 3% of the workforce was working at home regularly. Now, the myriad of state and even local tax (and labor) laws are a big deal for both employers and employees.
The National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTU) has captured the tax impact of remote and hybrid work in its new report, The Remote Obligations and Mobility Index. In it, they rank U.S. states by how difficult their tax laws make it to have remote employees working there. The greediest among them:
• Subject employees working in their state, for even just a day, to income tax obligations
• Obligate employees who work in a state other than that of their employer, to pay taxes to their employer’s state regardless of where the employee works, even if this causes them to suffer double taxation.
Only 10 states scored above 30 (out of 35) on NTU’s index (see image). The very worst state, Delaware, managed to earn a negative total score.
If your business is located in one of those low-scoring states or if your employees work there, it might be time to make your voice heard by your elected officials.