The Agile Workplace Blog

Welcome to the blog! The blog is a great way for you to hear different perspectives, or hear a new perspective for the first time.  It is where we have the opportunity to express our thoughts about many of the issues facing workplace professionals and our CEO is a regular contributor.  Keep up to date by checking back here on our website, or sign up for our monthly newsletter to have the articles delivered to your inbox.

Much has been written in response to the edict declared by the CEO of one company (Yahoo's Marissa Mayer) to ban home-based work (sometimes called telecommuting). But telecommuting is just a small component of the broader trend to work from anywhere (sometimes referred to as mobility, telework, virtual work, etc.).

"What does it take to roll out a new workplace strategy and get broad acceptance... quickly?" This is the question nearly every organization asks when they reach out to experienced practitioners and advanced organizations. We've heard businesses, global enterprises and federal agencies all ask the same question. This first article in a series will tackle the first of what we call the "Key Factors" in new workplace strategy.

So it has come to this: Mutual Assured Destruction. The latest madness comes in the form of the Budget Control Act of 2011, conceived by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama on August 2, 2011.

The US has about 12.5 Billion sq ft of office space. Half of that is not actually occupied (actual people in it) on any given day. We have boxes of air, everywhere, that we call office buildings. 6 Billion sq ft is a lot to "absorb".

The Atlanta market alone has 40 million sq ft of unrented space, not to mention that which is empty due to mobility as described above. Nobody I know is getting any less mobile, and I don't see many sectors taking down lots of new office space: Pharma - no, Banks and other Financial institutions - no, Manufacturing - no, large Law Firms - no, Consulting - no, Audit - no, Health Care - yes, Government - no... Lots more no's than yes's as far as I can tell...

-John Vivadelli

Response to article: Commercial real estate market may make gains next year by Zoliath

Known as "Iron Matt" around the office, AgilQuest's CFO, Matt Fahy, is an avid runner, having participated in many marathons and even a few Iron Mans. So the NY Marathon was set to be another great weekend of running, until Hurricane Sandy blew through New York and New Jersey. Since the Marathon was cancelled at the last minute, Matt was already in New York. Rather than come home, Matt and his wife decided to stay and help the Red Cross by helping feed people across Coney Island. We are proud of our "Iron Matt" and his selfless contributions.

Building more office space only adds to the sustainability problem, no matter how efficiently or "Smart” that building is constructed.  As the old truism goes, “The greenest building is one that is not built and the greenest BTU is one that is not burnt.”

Every business has to manage two competing priorities - revenue and expense. Measuring and managing one and not the other can lead to unfavorable consequences. As Andy Grove once quipped when asked, "What is more important, strategy or execution?", he politely pointed out you must do both well. Activities might be a proxy for productivity and revenue (lots of argument about that), but occupancy measurement is a necessary component to expense containment.

Hoteling and Telework business processes are two sides of the same coin. They should be considered together when planning a new workplace strategy to gain the productivity benefits for the workforce and the infrastructure benefits associated with a more efficient workplace.

You know, it wasn't so long ago that Big was Better; big cars, big hair, big planes, big offices, big mainframes, big...well, you get the idea.

But now, Small is the new Better! Less is More. My, my, how things have changed – everything is upside down and inside out.

Memo from CEO to Middle Management:

I know this is going to come as a shock, but the company can no longer afford to allocate a private jet to each employee. It was nice while it lasted. You will now share seating on our jets with your colleagues.

Now I know that there will be those of you who do not agree with this decision. You believe that you and your people's productivity will take a hit because of all the time you will have to spend making reservations for air travel, instead of just jumping in your jet. You've lamented, "How will I know where my people are if they don't have an assigned jet?" You won't be able to keep all of your belongings in the jet, so you will have to put of the pictures of your loved ones, and your documents onto the network, your laptop and your iPhone instead of storing them in your jet. It will be uncomfortable, you've explained, that you may have to sit in a different jet from day to day to complete your work. You may even have to sit near people you don't know, and that could be uncomfortable as well.

We have heard these objections, yet have decided to stay at the head of the pack; we've got to cut unnecessary expenses. Please let me explain how we came to our decision. While we knew over the years that the utilization of our ever growing fleet of jets was fairly low – we could see the jets all lined up in the hanger unused – we just brushed it off as a cost of doing business. We just continued to assign a jet to each person as they joined the company. And hey, just about every one of our competition's hanger was full of empty jets as well. After all, our budget included the cost of ten year leases on all these jets, and we own some of them as well, so they were viewed by most as "free". To whom were we going to sell or sublet them? This economy is not a great market for used jets. There is also the matter of attracting and retaining top talent. We have to compete against companies that are still offering personal jets to their employees.

But I've commissioned some research by AgilQuest Corporation that have installed systems that reliably and unobtrusively measure that which we have never measured before: the actual use of our entire jet fleet. We're using a technique that provides this data continuously, consistently and systematically over time, making it reliable and believable. This is in significant contrast to our old one-off surveys of jet usage, which you would contest as too short in duration, done manually, done at the wrong time of the year, done in the wrong hanger or for the wrong department and, in short, not believable. Now, there can be no denying the results: the utilization of our jet fleet is under 40%. That means that on any given day, our jets, your jets, are sitting on the tarmac unused while burning money and fuel and producing CO2 at unsustainable rates.

During our study, we came to the following realization: We spend our money in one of three ways - people, jets, and technology, in that order. For our 50,000 person company, we spend about $750 million on jets annually. With our current utilization of 40%, we waste $450,000,000 annually in cash, produce 120,000 metric TONS of C02 and burn 240 million KwH of energy unnecessarily! Once we saw these numbers, we realized that no amount of perceived productivity enhancement can justify this waste and environmental impact. In addition, you all know the pressure we're under in this tough economy to reduce costs and the terrible unemployment rate in our country. As we looked for ways to cut costs, we decided to cut jets not jobs. Don't you agree this is the right way to go?

Some have said, "It is not our culture here to share jets!" Let me inform you now, "It is not our culture here to waste money, degrade our planet, and add to our reliance on foreign energy!"

Signed,

The CEO

PS: The above memo can be transformed from fanciful to factual by changing just one word: Jets to Workspaces. All arguments presented are actually traditional views against new workplace strategies designed to improve utilization and reduce costs and increase workplace flexibility and mobility (hoteling, alternative officing, telework, etc.). All numbers and value propositions are actually for real estate, not jets!

PPS: Preferences vs. Effectiveness:

New workplace strategies may not be the first choice for your employees as it usually involves change. We humans tend to resist change, even if it is (eventually) good for us. In the words of Franklin Becker of Cornell's IWSP, "...it is worth distinguishing between preferences and effectiveness. They are not always synonymous." What people WANT and what the organization as a whole NEEDS to be effective are not always the same thing.

John Vivadelli, CEO, AgilQuest Corporation

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