Last rush hour may be drawing near as Southern California transit agencies report shrinking ridership

“I don’t know if this is long-term, but it doesn’t feel like it’s temporary when we’ve been dealing with 36 straight months of declining ridership,” said Darrell Johnson, chief executive of the Orange County Transportation Authority.The decline suggests that Southern California policymakers are falling short of one of their longtime goals: drawing drivers out of their cars and onto public transportation to reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gases and the region’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Source: Southland transit agencies report shrinking ridership as investments continue to grow – LA Times

The last rush hour may be drawing near in a region infamous for some of the worst rush hour traffic in the United States. Once a region becomes so geographically large and heavily populated as Southern California (and other metro areas including Atlanta, Washington DC and the San Francisco Bay Area), the transportation system becomes saturated and can no longer move people efficiently within reasonable transit times.

Public transit cannot remedy that inefficiency once a tipping point of traffic congestion is reached, often taking longer to reach a destination than driving and reducing incentive to use it. Neither can adding more freeway lanes, which drives up automobile commuting and only buys time until congestion once again snarls traffic a decade or so later.

The good news is information and communications technology (ICT) has matured to the point that office workers no longer need to commute to an office distant from their communities — a pattern enabled by freeways. They can now work in their communities in home offices and co-working spaces. In that regard, ICT can succeed in achieving the long held goal of transportation and regional planners to reduce automobile use for daily commute trips as well as support environmental objectives such as reducing carbon emissions. ICT could already be a factor in reduced public transit ridership as office workers remain in their home communities at least part of the work week.

Conversation with Nicola Millard, head of Customer Insight & Futures, BT Global

Information and communications technology is advancing and proliferating so rapidly that one ICT player, the UK’s BT, has a futurologist on staff with a background in computers and psychology to help it and its large customers gain insight into how ICT will affect organizations and the way we work. In this podcast, BT’s Nicola Millard speaks with Last Rush Hour author Fred Pilot on how ICT makes it possible to work anywhere, anytime, making working more of a state of mind than a being present at a set time and place. However, it’s is also a disruptive force that can conflict with human social needs as well as Industrial Age management practices comfortably ensconced in centralized, commute-in offices. Looking out over the next five years, Millard sees both undergoing continuing redefinition. The office will become more of a “hive” where staff buzz in and out to collaborate as needed with co-workers rather than where work is done 9-5, Monday through Friday. Knowledge workers will work at home and in drop in co-working spaces. This will force management practices to evolve from command and control to leading with purpose and facilitating effective use of ICT-based collaboration tools by dispersed team members.

The post-Industrial Age live-work future

Over the next couple of decades, expect a post-Industrial Age live-work residential settlement paradigm to establish itself. A hallmark will be the diminishment of daily commuting to work by knowledge and information workers. Instead, they will live in close proximity to their work.

Those with cosmopolitan tastes and able to afford downtown living are looking to live in urban centers and will continue to do so, sparking demand for central city housing. They will live within walking distance or a short bus ride from their offices.

Others will prefer small town living closer to nature and outdoor activities, residing on the fringes or outside of major metropolitan areas in smaller communities of 50,000 or fewer residents. Rather than the transportation infrastructure and automobiles that brought people to work in distant communities, they will rely on telecommunications infrastructure to bring their work to the communities where they live.

The trend will also affect suburbs that were built up in the drive-to-work post-World War II period. Suburbanites will increasingly work in their residential communities some or all of the workweek in home offices and shared co-working centers. That will significantly reduce rush hour transportation demand, taking cars off overburdened highways that cannot efficiently move large numbers of workers to centralized, commute in offices. And not a moment too soon since they are reaching a major maintenance interval, decades after they were first built.

Changing nature of work, flexible work ranked as #1 disruptive force in World Economic Forum employer survey

As physical and organizational boundaries are becoming increasingly blurred, organizations are going to have to become significantly more agile in the way they think about managing people’s work and about the workforce as a whole. Businesses will increasingly connect and collaborate remotely with freelancers and independent professionals through digital talent platforms. Modern forms of association such as digital freelancers’ unions and updated labour market regulations will increasingly begin to emerge to complement these new organizational models.

Source: The Future of Jobs | World Economic Forum

Conversation with Mika Cross, federal workplace policy strategist

During a civil service career that has spanned a decade and a half with multiple federal government agencies, Mika Cross has advocated and supported the adoption of remote work outside of a centralized office settings as a means of promoting work/life balance, diversity, inclusion and employee engagement. Cross reports about a third of federal employees deemed eligible to work remotely at least some of the work week are doing so, six years after the enactment of federal legislation designed to increase the adoption of telework by federal agencies.

While telework leverages information and communications technology to bring federal employees’ work to them instead of requiring them to commute daily, Cross notes it’s primarily an organizational and management strategy that emphasizes getting the government’s work done with accountability, clear expectations and timeliness and quality standards. Cross discusses telework as a means of addressing one of the most pressing issues in contemporary American life: a perceived time famine among working professionals and employee engagement and wellness.

Conversation with Jack Nilles, father of “telecommuting”

This episode features Jack Nilles, who coined the term “telecommuting” in the early 1970s –before the personal computer and well in advance of today’s Internet-enabled information and telecommunications technologies. Back then as today, environmental concerns over fossil fuel emissions and their impact on climate and health were prominent. In Los Angeles where Nilles lived at the time and still does today, Angelenos complained of bad traffic and bad air. So Nilles performed a thought experiment while stuck in a traffic jam on the way to work. He asked himself, why are all these people driving to an office to use a telephone when they could just as easily do so at home?

Nilles subsequently made a career shift from rocket scientist to change agent and consultant and later formed JALA International, working with companies interested in the concept of distributing knowledge work to the communities where their employees live, working in home or in satellite offices connected to their downtown offices.

Looking back over the past 40 plus years, Nilles says he is surprised the migration out of centralized, commute-in offices has been so slow. He points to an entrenched Industrial Age mindset equating work with physical presence. However, Nilles adds it’s slowly but surely breaking down, predicting between one fourth and one third of knowledge workers will be working outside of the traditional office space by 2020. Among the major benefits, according to Nilles, are higher productivity, reduced office space costs, happier and healthier staff and enhanced employee attraction and retention.

(NOTE: Audio quality is degraded in portions due to Internet connection quality problems but the dialogue can be heard OK).

25 years later, traffic paradox continues to bedevil SF Bay Area

A quarter of a century ago, I witnessed firsthand the emergence of a robust information and communications technology (ICT) industry in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of these companies were spawned by the then relatively young personal computer revolution that was making ICT portable and far more accessible.

Companies in the bustling region developed software that enabled tasks that were traditionally done on paper in centralized office settings to be performed on these microcomputers at a time when computer automated design and desktop publishing were the hot apps of the day. Other companies made fascinating devices called modems that made it possible to send work done on these innovative small computers to other computers, regardless of where they were located.

I saw the potential of the emerging ICT to alleviate one of the regions worst problems: suffocating, time sucking traffic congestion. I wrote an opinion piece published in March of 1991 in the San Jose Mercury News advocating widespread adoption of telecommuting using the new ICT tools as a solution.

Here it is 2016 and the situation that existed in 1991 is virtually unchanged. The region continues to paradoxically choke on traffic even though its leading companies innovated a way out of it many years ago.

First ever use of control group to measure effectiveness of workplace flexibility… — CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — New research released today shows that workers at a Fortune 500 company who participated in a pilot work flexibility program voiced higher levels of job satisfaction and reduced levels of burnout and psychological stress than employees within the same company who did not participate.This is the first time a randomized controlled trial has been used to measure the effects of workplace flexibility in a U.S. firm.

The results were definitive, say Moen and Kelly: employees who participated in the organizational initiative said they felt more control over their schedules, support from their bosses, and were more likely to say they had enough time to spend with their families. Moreover, these employees reported greater job satisfaction and were less burned out and less stressed. They also reported decreases in psychological distress, which captures depressive symptoms that do not amount to clinical depression. The study adds to a growing body of research showing that flexible work arrangements result in happier, healthier and more productive employees.

Source: First ever use of control group to measure effectiveness of workplace flexibility… — CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Jan. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —

This research upends the Industrial Age management mindset that staff won’t get any work done unless they are corralled into centralized commuter offices 8-5 Monday through Friday. Kudos to the authors for providing evidence that’s not the case and unlocking a much needed and low cost key to enhanced employee engagement and well being.

Suburban office parks are dying because young people don’t want to drive there | MNN – Mother Nature Network

At a New Year’s Eve party, I was talking to a business exec running a tech company located in a suburban office building. He was complaining about the number of times he would interview a person who would say he wasn’t crazy about taking the subway and then a bus all the way out to the ‘burbs every day. The exec got increasingly frustrated and at one point responded “So get a car! That’s what grown-ups do when they get jobs!” The candidate responded that he didn’t know how to drive, didn’t have a license, and would keep looking for a job that allowed him to use a bike or transit. This scenario has played out more than once, so the company is now looking for new office space downtown. The suburban office building in his business sector is functionally obsolete. It may well become what we used to call a “see-through” — a glass box with nothing inside.

Source: Suburban office parks are dying because young people don’t want to drive there | MNN – Mother Nature Network

There’s actually a bigger story here. Centralized commuter offices are also falling out of favor because they come with substantial geographical access challenges in sprawling metro areas. Plus as the story notes, millennials aren’t keen on bearing the non tax deductible expense of getting to and from them by car in congested daily commute trips.

The solution here isn’t moving the office — a 20th century approach — but rather moving the work by leveraging today’s 21st century information and communications technology to make work more accessible without the time and money suck of the daily commute. That way, people can work in their residential communities rather than having two communities: one in which they live and another where they work, located in a distant suburb or downtown.

Conversation with Kate Lister, President, Global Workplace Analytics

Global Workplace Analytics conducts independent research and consults on emerging workplace issues and opportunities, specializing in making the management case for workplace flexibility, well-being programs, mobile work, activity-based work settings, and other agile workplace strategies.

In this podcast, Kate Lister shares her observations on how the world of knowledge work is has evolved and continues to change under the growing influence of information and communications technology that’s dispersing it out of traditional 8-5, Monday through Friday centralized commuter office (CCO) settings. Lister also discusses how this trend lowers real estate and human resource costs for employer organizations.

While UK organizations are in the lead, a tipping point has not yet been reached and won’t until more knowledge workers demand change, according to Lister, and employers realize it is far easier to recruit and retain engaged employees by adopting agile work policies. Lister predicts that by 2020, 25 to 33 percent of knowledge workers will be working outside of CCOs as offices function more as meeting and collaboration spaces rather than full time workplaces.