Despite Remote Work, Rush Hour Returned – Bloomberg

Source: Despite Remote Work, Rush Hour Returned – Bloomberg

The upshot of this piece is the potential bifurcation of knowledge organizations. One group staffed by those who live close in to urban centers where commutes are relatively short and can be done by foot powered transportation and public transit. These organizations have established “downtown” urban identities and convening cultures based on face to face interaction among staff, clients and vendors. They’re deeply invested in gleaming steel and glass office towers by virtue of ownership or long term leases.

Staff who commuted from the outer suburbs and distant reaches of metro areas who worked at home during pandemic public health measures are not going to be inclined to give up the equivalent of another workday as commuting time. That could lead to a sorting of personnel, with only those who fit into the organization’s let’s meet downtown culture remaining and the rest departing.

For suburban office parks, it’s a different story. A Houston transportation planner quoted in the article notes they serve merely as workplaces and lack the cultural vibe of the downtown office-based organization. For staff and consultants of these organizations, daily work activity of “sitting 8 hours a day drafting something or tapping a keyboard and interacting minimally with people,” can easily be performed in a home office.

A great post pandemic sorting among knowledge workers and organizations at hand.

More than a year into America’s great work-from-home experiment, many companies have hailed it largely as a success. So why do some bosses think remote workers aren’t as committed as office dwellers? Recent remarks of numerous chief executives suggest the culture of workplace face time remains alive and well. At The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit this month, JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said remote work doesn’t work well “for those who want to hustle.” Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon has called it “an aberration that we are going to correct as soon as possible.”

Source: Bosses Still Aren’t Sure Remote Workers Have ‘Hustle’ – WSJ

These comments demonstrate that for some organizations, gathering daily at a centralized, commute-in office (CCO) is an integral part of their cultures that cannot be easily erased in a single year. But it should be borne in mind that while CEOs have a large degree of influence on their organizational culture, it’s not absolute. Cultures are defined by all their members.

Now that their staff members have been freed of the personal time burden of daily commuting, many are understandably reluctant to reassume it. Knowledge organizations are now having to redefine their cultures for the post pandemic world going forward. They’ll undergo a sorting process as some staff depart for more virtual organizations while others who prefer working in a CCO align with CCO-based organizations — most likely those who live close by.

Certainly working in a CCO has its advantages, such as the social contact and in person communication with colleagues. But as commutes grow longer as metro areas sprawl and housing costs rise, the daily trip to and from a distant CCO becomes impractical where it might not be in small towns and less congested areas where knowledge workers can commute to the office by foot and/or bicycle. These less populated locales have also proven popular as CCOs closed down over the past year and knowledge workers sought more affordable and less congested settings, some in other states and countries.

Some knowledge CCO-based organizations may become the office equivalent of teaching hospitals where senior staff and managers closely interact with and supervise more junior staff and inculcate them in the cultural ways of their organizations. Others such as boutique consulting shops won’t have CCOs and attract as they have in recent years experienced people who can work as location independent team members and don’t require close supervision.

Coronavirus: Sorry, but Working From Home is Overrated – The New York Times

Home-cooked lunches and no commuting while we deal with coronavirus can’t compensate for what’s lost in creativity.

Source: Coronavirus: Sorry, but Working From Home is Overrated – The New York Times

The author of this New York Times column argues working from home has more downsides than working in an office. As social creatures we need contact with others and work colleagues. (This is why the current social isolation measures are difficult for many.) In the 20th century, knowledge workers lived relatively close to their offices. But in the latter half of the century, the automobile and cheap fuel and a desire for suburban living resulted in their living in communities separated from their offices.

By the 21st century, metro transportation systems became overwhelmed by all the automobile commuting – the preferred way of getting to the office. Pushed beyond their design specs, commutes got more congested and longer — and sucked more and more time out of the lives of commuters. Adding more traffic lanes only kicked the proverbial can. The commutes are growing even longer as housing costs close to offices put them out of reach and send workers to the outlying metro areas in search of more affordable housing. And another thing humans need as well as socialization: contact with nature. The “rush hour?” Three hour daily round-trip commutes are not unheard of anymore.

The 20th century daily commute to office model is headed for obsolescence. We won’t be able to achieve a balance – and reduce the environmental impact of daily commute trips – by adhering to the 20th century model and the tyranny of time and distance that comes with it. A new model of performing knowledge work is needed that leverages information and communications technology instead of transportation to allow knowledge workers to exchange ideas as easily as they might by bumping into each other at the office. While at the same time providing opportunity for socializing with colleagues in person from time to time.

Knowledge economy should evolve beyond Industrial Age Ver. 2.0

As much of the economy becomes more knowledge-based it continues to retain a key feature of the Industrial Age: geographic concentration in urban centers. That’s according to this piece recently appearing in Governing. Instead of a post-industrial economy, the economy is being rebooted as Industrial Age 2.0. As in ver. 1.0, work is centralized. Or clustered or agglomerated as it’s termed in the article. Less so in manufacturing plants but in office towers and sprawling info tech industry campuses requiring knowledge workers to show up there every workday just as in the industrial economy.

But that has distorted housing markets, driving up home prices and making nearby housing unaffordable for many. That in turn is expanding the geography of metro areas as knowledge workers seek more affordable housing in communities distant from the office towers and tech campuses in their centers. That drives a level of commuting to work metro areas’ 20th century transportation systems were not designed to handle, creating congested and unbearable “super commutes” that suck hours from each work day. Clustering and the agglomeration run up against fundamental limits. There is only so much residential real estate for knowledge workers to live on adjacent to the office towers and campuses. The law of supply and demand dictates only a limited amount will be affordable.

Analysts such as those cited in the Governing article contend the holy grail of the knowledge economy is the same as that of the offices and assembly lines of industrial economy: proximity. “You wouldn’t actually get the innovation if you took the people working on those things and spread them around the country,” Salim Furth, director of the Urbanity project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, told the publication. “We rely on face-to-face contact to come up with great innovation and changes.” Buy does that hold true most the time for most knowledge workers? Likely not. Knowledge work is both an individual and collaborative effort. And not all collaboration nor even the most productive must occur in same physical location. Lots of it can be done virtually using today’s information and communications technology.

The knowledge economy should evolve beyond Industrial Age Ver. 2.0 amid rising concern over the environmental impact of commute transportation demand, housing affordability and declining population health status (long commutes have a deleterious impact).

Bay Area commuters back taxes to pay to improve road, transit – SFGate

Bay Area residents have grown so exasperated by worsening traffic and the paucity of government money to make things better that they’re willing to tax themselves to pay for a regional program of improvements.That’s according to a poll released Friday, just two days after Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic state legislators announced a transportation funding plan that would boost fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees for $52 billion in road and public-transportation improvements. Two years in the works, the plan would deliver much-needed funding for transportation but still leave many needs unfunded.

Source: Bay Area commuters back taxes to pay to improve road, transit – SFGate

Those long suffering commuters have a much lower cost solution thanks to the ingenuity of the Bay Area’s information technology companies. And it’s already available to them without the need for new taxes. Knowledge workers can utilize ICT to work at home and in their communities instead of getting into their cars and onto crowded freeways to drive to an office.

As management guru Peter Drucker sagely asked, “What is the point of spending such huge sums to bring a 200-pound body downtown when all you want of it is its eight-and-a-half-pound brain?”

Is your economic development opportunity commuting out of town EVERYDAY? | Michael Shear | LinkedIn

We know there is a huge cost to getting people to work everyday: to the individual, the community and, to some extent, the employer. The costs are vehicles, gas, roads, pollution and time.

Is there a way to provide local job access to these commuters? Is there a model that would appeal to employers to have networked facilities in these communities. The costs of sending bits of information is minuscule relative to moving bodies. If you knew what companies/government agencies where hiring people from your community, might they work to examine how securely networked offices could create wins for communities, employees and employers alike.

Source: Is your economic development opportunity commuting out of town EVERYDAY? | Michael Shear | LinkedIn

Much of the push back directed at the decentralization of knowledge work out of centralized commuter offices (CCOs) due to the proliferation and maturation of information and communications technology is that CCOs provide an essential venue for daily collaboration. However, Shear — as do I in my recent book Last Rush Hour: The Decentralization of Knowledge Work in the Twenty-First Century point out that daily, face to face collaboration comes at great cost. That cost isn’t adequately taken into account by the “CCOs are necessary to enable collaboration” adherents. In other words, the argument goes, we must endure the time suck and personal costs of daily commuting in order to collaborate.

I don’t buy that argument and I imagine neither does Shear. As he notes, with today’s level of ICT that allows thought work to be conducted most anywhere with decent Internet service, it’s far less costly to use ICT to collaborate by moving ideas and not the bodies attached to the brains that generate them. Shear proposes in order to facilitate that, communities can create shared office distributed work facilities that would allow knowledge workers to work in their own communities rather than trekking daily — often in congested rush hour traffic — to a CCO in another.

What Your CEO Should Know about Productivity, Profits, Work, and Family | Anne-Marie Slaughter | LinkedIn

But we actually have a growing body of data in support of the proposition that working less means working better. This relationship between working better and working less holds particularly true in any job requiring creativity, the well­spring of innovation. Experts on creativity emphasize the value of nonlinear thinking and cultivated randomness, from long walks to looking at your environment in ways you never have before. Making time for play, as well as designated downtime, has also been found to boost creativity. Experts suggest we should change the rhythm of our workdays to include periods in which we are simply letting our minds run wherever they want to go. Without play, we might never be able to make the unexpected connections that are the essence of insight.

Source: What Your CEO Should Know about Productivity, Profits, Work, and Family | Anne-Marie Slaughter | LinkedIn

Anne-Marie Slaughter bores down to the essence of where value is added in knowledge work: freeing the mind to operate creatively — and not as an Industrial Age machine putting in set hours in an office or cubicle in a centralized commuter office.

As I wrote in my book Last Rush Hour, a lot of this creative thought is stimulated by something sedentary and often obese and out of shape  knowledge workers desperately need: prolonged exercise that gets blood flowing to the brain — the knowledge worker’s essential tool — and releases beneficial hormones. Stimulating that creativity thus offers the added bonus of potential enhanced health and lower health care utilization.