office push AND pull:
coMMoN eMployee
Addressing dysfunction in 2...
About the
Author                                                                                                          ...
About this
    report                                                As a participant in and close observer of
the Myth
    of iNfiNite                                                   of their careers. A decline in child-bearing
Expanded opportunity: increased                  anywhere – in a coffee shop, library,           the fulcrum on which this...
     to Work?
     office push AND pull:
     coMMoN eMployee         1.   Home-work not an option: spouse’s home-ba...
     Not AN optioN:
     spouse’s hoMe-bAseD
     busiNess iN full sWiNg

                Maurice – Management
high stress

     Liza – Corporate                                          I...
it seeMs like
     but Work’s the loser

                Joe – New market                                  ...
     fights biologicAl clock

                Martine – Conveyancing                              ...
DreAD of
     ‘hoMe AloNe’:
     Worse thAN bAD coMMute

               Flora – Company reporting,                       ...
     iMpAct oN hoMe-life

     Fred – IT sales, age 42                             In ...
     MAgNifies DistANce
     froM hoMe

     Charlotte – Insurance,                 ...
     office buZZ
     AND AiliNg spouse

                Richard – Manager of a                       ...
Livable Lives | Office Push and Pull: Common Employee Predicaments | Addressing dysfunction in 21st century work
Livable Lives | Office Push and Pull: Common Employee Predicaments | Addressing dysfunction in 21st century work
Livable Lives | Office Push and Pull: Common Employee Predicaments | Addressing dysfunction in 21st century work
Livable Lives | Office Push and Pull: Common Employee Predicaments | Addressing dysfunction in 21st century work
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Livable Lives | Office Push and Pull: Common Employee Predicaments | Addressing dysfunction in 21st century work


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Over the course of many years’ research on people’s interests, needs and responses to the built environment, I have interviewed hundreds of individuals, learning how they negotiate the interfaces we all have to manage between work, family and our other commitments. This relates to the settings that we use, our scope to move between them, and the changing scenarios we face as we progress through the life cycle ....

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Livable Lives | Office Push and Pull: Common Employee Predicaments | Addressing dysfunction in 21st century work

  1. 1. Liveable lives office push AND pull: coMMoN eMployee preDicAMeNts Addressing dysfunction in 21st century work ZZA Responsive User Environments March 2010
  2. 2. About the Author coNteNts Ziona Strelitz harmony and sustainable development. in 1990 Ziona founded ZZA responsive 1. About this report page 2 educated in social anthropology, town planning and interior architecture, Ziona user environments, to mediate spatial strelitz has a distinctive vantage point and cultural issues in the scoping, design 2. the myth of infinite page 4 connecting people, organisations, space and use of the built environment. Ziona and place. her particular research focus also lectures, judges awards and presents bandwidth: facing up to is on people’s experience of buildings and internationally. employees’ realities and limits settings. Ziona’s authority derives from her systematic research; over many years ZZA Responsive User Environments she has interviewed hundreds of people, ZZA responsive user environments is a 3. international context: page 8 generating relevant knowledge to inform specialist research and advisory practice living and working policy, strategy and project concepts – from based on social science and built the building to the urban scale. throughout environment disciplines. it works with she has pursued her interest in work-life leading developers, occupiers, designers, 4. Where to work? page 10 alignment – from her collaboration and government and public interest groups office push and pull: co-authorship of definitive works like to shape efficient, effective and appealing Fathers, Mothers and Others, through her settings. ZZA works at a range of spatial common employee predicaments many interviews to shape briefs for new scales, from individual buildings to master- projects and test completed developments from the perspective of those who planned developments. All ZZA projects embody a strong commitment to 5. More liveable lives: page 28 use them, to her numerous papers and sustainable development, living and working. more productive operations presentations on the topic of work-life 6. Data sources page 32 published by regus Management limited. © Ziona strelitz, 2010. the right of Ziona strelitz to be identified as the Author of this Work has been asserted in accordance with the copyright, Design and patents Act 1988 sections 77 and 78. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the copyright owner.
  3. 3. About this report As a participant in and close observer of the development process, i recognise the benefits that office consolidation offers to corporate occupiers, with its significant Liveable Lives reports typical strains that employees have shared with me as an independent researcher and attuned listener. Drawing on experiences and economies of scale, the critical mass to sentiments that people are uncomfortable over the course of many years’ offer a wide range of support facilities, to share inside their own organisations, research on people’s interests, needs and associated scope to confer a strong it distils issues and admissions that need and responses to the built environment, corporate image. the pull of large recognition to promote sustainable, i have interviewed hundreds of individuals, well-resourced offices can indeed appear productive performance. As research data learning how they negotiate the interfaces magnetic, but for the employees who of this nature is always confidential and we all have to manage between work, need to reach these facilities across large non-attributable, the case-studies in Liveable family and our other commitments. metropolitan areas, the journey to work can Lives are necessarily forged from multiple this relates to the settings that we use, be extremely onerous. the negative impact voices and constructed as composites, our scope to move between them, and is accentuated when family life commitments with none representing the identity of the changing scenarios we face as we require people to be close to home to any specific interviewee. progress through the life cycle. dovetail with the schedules of nurseries, schools, ill or elderly relatives, and so on, the aim of the report is to alert human Much of this research has been with people frequently generating stress and conflict. resources and corporate real estate whose workplace has been relocated, often this reality doubtless plays some part in the professionals to the tensions employees as part of property consolidation strategies, low employee attendance or level of usage face in managing their commitments to or other corporate real estate initiatives to that audits of workspace commonly show. work and the rest of life – challenges that move offices to lower rent locations away indeed, workplace utilisation rates in the are magnified when long travel time is from urban centres. region of 40% are not atypical. involved. on the face of it, centralised workplace ‘palaces’ might seem to cater for the time span has involved significant the advent of information and employees’ every conceivable need, but the changes in conditions of work life, home communications technology, enabling many critical requirement that they often frustrate life and the nature of offices. there are work tasks to be undertaken remotely, has is easy travel between work and home. now more women at work, increased been hailed as a saving grace; and many importantly, the significant negatives of requirements for eldercare, ubiquitous people do welcome working at home, for having all your workspace in one big building technology and scope to work remotely, some of the time at least. but for many this or campus, no matter how gleaming, also and a substantially redeveloped office stock is not a viable alternative to working in the represent costs to employers, through their – involving significant closure of ‘branch office, and home-working is not effective impacts on staff recruitment, retention and offices’ in favour of large new buildings, as a wholesale strategy to resolve the motivation – and hence on wellbeing business parks and campuses, typically in conflicting commitments of work and family and productivity. one location. these trends are ongoing. – either for companies or their staff. 2 3
  4. 4. the Myth of iNfiNite of their careers. A decline in child-bearing reduces the pool of candidates available for economically productive roles, as well Pressures fall on the working population: the ‘sandwich generation’ bANDWiDth: as enhancing children’s value – for whom occupying the middle layer of the parents want the absolute best. generation stack, the economically active are responsible for their children beneath them, and, increasingly, for their parents In parallel, we have seen a significant above. they also have to produce value extension of lifespan for their companies, maintain their families unprecedented longevity is generating two at the standard to which they aspire, large population bands beyond retirement fAciNg up to eMployees’ age: the ‘young-old’ – healthy, active silver- surfers who are past traditional retirement and generate the gDp to support the wider society. age, and the vastly expanded ‘old-old’ population – frail, with increasing symptoms A distinct characteristic of the of physical and mental decline, and unable contemporary workforce is its to manage alone. both categories represent gender composition Work and personal lives: a major challenge to the established social the fabric of corporate life is more equal key social transformations and economic frameworks for eldercare. than ever before, generating far-reaching The last two decades have seen an effects. With the skills of both men and industrial revolution Seniors – young-old and old-old – women now embedded in economic core changes to the fundamental are affected by the fiscal crisis activity, the care needs of young and old, structure of society and the economy have the young-old are victims of the imploded and workers’ own needs to nurture and completely reshaped the way we live and pension pot. the survival of the old-olds, play, are bearing the brunt. work. the causes are many and interact in both numbers and years, strains society’s with one another. capacity to care for them. The inevitable juggling and stress involved are only partially recognised There is a powerful cluster of The challenge is heightened by but there is plenty evidence of dysfunction. demographic changes concurrent cultural changes Men and women ‘unload’ to their friends in developed and emerging economies, there are strong foci on individualism and spouses, a steady stream of newspaper trends in demography and household and consumerism. our contemporary confessionals showcases individuals who formation accentuate peoples’ roles as expectations look to a high standard are willing to write about the struggle to individuals. extended periods of education of living and having ‘what we want’. ‘have it all’, and government and companies result in an older working population, and this collides with the trend to longer life acknowledge the need for ‘work-life later entry to parenthood means that spans – we all want to live longer and to balance’. still, much of this skims the surface. many people are in the throes of active live well, but society can’t easily support childcare responsibilities whilst in the prime these ambitions. 4 5
  5. 5. Expanded opportunity: increased anywhere – in a coffee shop, library, the fulcrum on which this hinges is shared households, interruptions from strain business centre, airport or train. this gives technology, with its scope for remote partners and children often detract from We are all confined by existing structures, rise to the new mantra: ‘work is where data access and communication. productive work, whilst restrictions on our employers’ requirements and our own you are’. And based on this view, the office normal activity in the home can cause expectations. the constraints and limits becomes redefined, primarily as a place tension and resentment. Where home is are still largely influenced by old realities, for meeting and collaboration. shared with a family or household member Promoting remote and virtual when men were responsible for the world whose main workplace is the residence, working has many potential benefits of work, and women for the domestic to both companies and workers The promise of an easy additional pressure on this space may be realm, their children and elderly relatives. unsustainable. And for anyone, working at of course, some women have long been if people can work from anywhere, the ‘fix’ versus peoples’ home may simply feel unprofessional, cost of providing workspace to in the paid labour force, often with little complex needs un-business like and unconducive. accommodate them can be avoided. if choice. today’s realities offer unforeseen The theory is neat and simple, employees don’t have to travel to work, the opportunities for personal advancement, but productive, liveable lives are time they would have spent commuting can Working at home is not a panacea but there are also downsides. employees about people! be spent more productively, and additional for employees or their companies feel torn between commitments to their research and employee engagement have benefits can be obtained – savings in travel Many people value the opportunity to children, their parents and themselves identified numerous reasons why people cost and reduced environmental impact. work at home occasionally or for some on the one hand, and the demands and value ‘going in to work’ – even when of the time. but it is not a wholesale requirements of work on the other. they are free to work at home. there solution to demanding journeys to work, the tensions challenge people’s capacity, When work is ‘where you are’, are strong reasons for workplace ‘pull’. or employees’ needs to meet childcare productivity and morale. home too can be a place to work people like the sociability of an office, its and other commitments. Whilst working if employees can work from home, the contrast to home, the access to mentoring, close to home can help people in meeting challenging conflicts between work and the scope to bounce off ideas, the Housing costs: added pressure these agenda, mixing care and work is family can be overcome – or so it might opportunities that flow from being seen, employees are locked in by financial problematic for both, leaving employees seem. technology to the rescue – a the resources on hand, the sense pressues. With the high cost of housing feeling frustrated that they are doing justice solution, as we expect from modernity. of belonging, the stimulus of a business in particular, many people allocate more to neither set of commitments. time to work than would be optimal from milieu and the spark it gives to creativity a work-life balance perspective. in this Scope to work at home dovetails and productivity. respect, both couples and single parents with contemporary notions of the feel they have little real choice. office as a place for interaction Other reasons why people like and exchange going in to work relate to the ‘push’ if the work done on a solo or individual of home Technology as saviour basis can be done at home – reading, these include a sense of isolation and Modernity seeks solutions to analysis, report writing, and so on, the loneliness when working at home, and all predicaments, and digital need to accommodate these tasks at the over-reliance on one’s own company and technology has been heralded as employers’ premises can be dropped, and judgement. As a work setting, home can the saving grace the overhead removed from the corporate feel monotonous and lacking in energy. for much economic activity, especially budget. home-working offers financial the absence of structure and protocol in the knowledge industries, technology benefits to employers, alongside its can feel too informal and unmotivating. has broken the link with fixed time and promise of lifestyle benefits to employees. And for employees with families or place. indeed, much work can be done 6 7
  6. 6. iNterNAtioNAl Caught in the sandwich: increasing dependency from both ends of the age spectrum Workers who want the best for their Manchester Belgium Luxembourg coNtext: children and their parents have multiple 100 100 100 Percentage (%) of population 14.89% 17.60% 14.80% pulls on their time and responsibilities. 80 80 80 being physically located close to work 60 60 60 and family minimises conflicts between 40 40 40 20 20 20 these realms, reducing strain in 19.86% 16.10% 18.50% 0 0 0 employees’ respective roles. (2001) 8 (2009) 9 (2009) 10 65+ years 15 - 64 years 0 - 14 years liviNg AND WorkiNg Challenge to work and family alignment: the physical distance between zones ‘Travel to work’ time London 11 Family demographics New York 12 Paris 13 employees’ average travel time clearly varies across Youth-dependency: proportion of young people reliant on adults Chicago 14 global cities. city size, metropolitan spread, and extent Manchester 15 and quality of mass transit infrastructure are integral in Belgium 16 High youth population: 100 Mexico City 100 Istanbul 100 Los Angeles every situation. travel conditions will change in response Berlin 17 Los Angeles 18 Percentage (%) of population increased responsibility 80 80 80 to significant public transport investment. these are Mumbai 19 especially prone to improvement in emerging markets, Frankfurt 20 and pressure on parents 60 60 60 as well as in cities poising themselves to host major Luxembourg 21 40 40 40 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 20 20 20 international events. Average journey to work time in minutes (one-way) (1991-2008) 26.09% 24.38% 20.61% Low youth population: 0 0 0 (2000) 1 (2008) 2 (2008) 3 children are very precious ‘Extreme commuting’ London the reality is even more demanding London: 16.2km Beijing Shanghai Tokyo Average commuting time data eclipses the very long than the data suggests. young people 100 100 100 Percentage (%) of population journeys that some workers make routinely. for example, in urban educated populations are 80 80 80 City worker: 25km one in five city of london workers has a journey to educated well beyond the 14 to 60 60 60 work of 40km+, and almost half (47.0%) of New york 17-band shown, placing additional 40 40 40 workers spend 40+ minutes travelling to work, with 1 in 5 City workers: 40km+ loads and requirements for care 20 20 20 0 10.20% 0 11.46% 0 11.80% 25.5% travelling for 60+ minutes. and attention on their parents, often (2005) 4 (2006) 5 (2007) 6 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 well into the children’s 20s. 0 - 14 years 15+ years Average journey to work distance in km (one-way) (2007) (Shanghai: 0 - 17 years) New York Chicago Manchester Global ageing population: increased responsibilities for eldercare Journey to work time (minutes) the dramatic increase in longevity and Shanghai Tokyo Berlin 40 - 59 100 100 100 Percentage (%) of population 19.40% 18.90% 18.40% the scale of pension and social services 80 80 80 requirements puts significant pressure 60 60 60 60+ on economically active adults to 40 40 40 provide quality care for their elders. 20 20 20 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 0 0 0 (2006-08) 23 (2006-08) 24 (2007) 15 (2006) 5 (2007) 6 (2009) 7 percentage (of total) workers with challenging travel times 65+ years 0 - 64 years (Shanghai: 60+ years) 8 9
  7. 7. Where to Work? office push AND pull: coMMoN eMployee 1. Home-work not an option: spouse’s home-based business in full swing preDicAMeNts Maurice – Management consultant, age 29 2. High stress interface: nursery-office-nursery liza – corporate communications copywriter, age 31 3. It seems like win-win: but work’s the loser Joe – New market applications, global logistics, age 36 4. Commuting strain: fights biological clock Martine – conveyancing lawyer, age 33 5. Dread of ‘home alone’: worse than bad commute flora – company reporting, age 35 6. Company property savings: impact on home-life fred – it sales, age 42 7. Large, consolidated office: magnifies distance from home charlotte – insurance, age 46 8. Torn between: office buzz and ailing spouse richard – Manager of a consumables company, age 53 10 11
  8. 8. hoMe-Work Not AN optioN: spouse’s hoMe-bAseD busiNess iN full sWiNg Maurice – Management consultant, age 29 A star at school and university, Maurice’s career In his own words: involve risks to confidentiality and restrictions on phone conversations. the office is impossible – has moved from one red carpet to the next. Work’s great! you deal with deeply it’s dense, very distracting – more like a railway After training in accountancy, he was recruited important client issues, you have your station! you couldn’t do thoughtful work in to an international consultancy firm. some of his antennae out to make relevant observations that environment. work involves international travel, but most of it is and ask the right questions. And the variety is fascinating – no job is the same as any other. ‘in-country’. he spends, on average, two or three And home’s out of the question. since my frankly, it’s thrilling – the level of stimulation nights a week in a different town or city, working at is very high, but so is the responsibility. i feel partner ginny began her internet sales business client sites and in a local hotel. for the rest, he is the weight of this for myself and the company. from our place, she’s taken it over. phones back at base. Maurice’s challenge, however, is what everyone’s heard of the management consultant ringing, products spread out everywhere, who comes in and impresses, then leaves the couriers coming and going. she’s got off to a ‘base’ means – to his employer and to him. before client with recommendations that don’t work. brilliant start – i’m proud of her and it’s great he joined, his company had instituted a policy of for us both. but it’s like i’m living in her office – that’s not who i am or want to be. ‘agile working’ – people whose work is not tied to the i eat and sleep there, but quality thinking and office don’t have a desk. instead, when they aren’t high-level report-writing just aren’t feasible. so it’s not just when i’m face-to-face with clients i’m struggling to meet my standards. away ‘on the job’, they’re meant to work anywhere that my performance matters – the analysis and – at a coffee shop, library, home or wherever. reporting are vital. this is where the real value- they can come into the office to ‘hotdesk’, but this add lies. When i’m working out of town, the but i’m beginning to think that i care more than hotel room is perfect for these tasks, but when the company does. if quality matters, they is crowded and too noisy to concentrate. on those i’m not travelling, finding suitable workspace is should provide the framework and resources days, Maurice would rather work at home, but he to deliver it. i’m starting to feel that they a real issue. to be honest, i’ve got nowhere and his partner have a tiny apartment, and she’s where i can do this work. coffee shops and don’t really value us or what recently started a business there. libraries are out – they’re too noisy, plus they we do – a bit disconnected. 12 13
  9. 9. high stress iNterfAce: Nursery-office-Nursery Liza – Corporate In her own words: that i could get there quickly if he were ill or i just can’t handle this. if timmy were at a nursery fretting. ok, i accept that i may get more used to near the office it would make a big difference, communications copywriter, i love my job and do it very well. this isn’t just leaving him as time goes by, but in the five months but who would choose to take a tiny child on a self-praise; every evaluation i’ve had has been age 31 positive. the aspect that i especially like is copywriting since i returned to work from maternity leave, crowded train for two hours a day? And though the daily wrench and the anxiety i feel haven’t my manager wouldn’t mind me working at home a With her language degree and skills in verbal – i have a knack for getting the message right. diminished. couple of days a week, home’s just not conducive communication, liza has developed a strong to work. that’s where i zone out. that’s my i also love the company. Working at the hQ all the time, family space. i need a professional arena to capability in corporate communication. following in any event, the other issues won’t go away. i really understand our corporate DNA. it’s so important. function as a pro! two positions in advertising agencies after university, both relate to the length of my journey to work there are sensitive reputational challenges that our she has worked for a utility company for the past – an hour-plus door-to-door from timmy’s sector faces these days, with the spotlight on every nursery to the office. this has two awful impacts. six years. the increased profile of the green move that a utility company makes. by this stage i can first is the morning panic – getting him ready agenda has generated particular pressures and anticipate a pr flurry before it hits the fan, and i am able and at nursery so i can get to work on time. opportunities for utility operators, and liza’s to head off potential negative publicity as well as capture sometimes he’s niggly or messes after he’s already opportunities for positive press cover. professional ability has grown with this added dressed, and the delay is just so stressful. but scope. she has thoroughly absorbed the worse is getting back in time to fetch him. you’re but now there’s timmy! he’s 11 months old meant to be there by 6pm, and if you come after company’s culture, promoted by the fact that and i love him more than i could have imagined. i don’t 6.30pm they make you leave the nursery – three for the first five years – whenever she wasn’t at strikes and you’re out. i accept that the nursery like work any less, but getting the two in synch is proving conferences, press briefings or industry events very stressful. workers need a life too, but leaving the office is a – she worked at the hQ. the big change came nightmare – being organised about stopping what when liza had a baby. Now she gets highly you’re doing in time is one thing, it’s the colleagues there are three issues. one is leaving tim the whole day. who approach you on your way out, and those stressed about getting to work on time, and if the office weren’t so far, i could pop into the nursery who have an attitude about you leaving earlier reaching the nursery in time to collect her at lunchtime like some other parents do. even if i didn’t than they do. child in the evening. actually do this, it would be a psychological relief to know 14 15
  10. 10. it seeMs like WiN-WiN: but Work’s the loser Joe – New market In his own words: same with her employer. My company supports the arrangement because it demonstrates applications, global logistics, As a logistics company, our organisation what we’re about and promotes our corporate promotes home-working as an option. message that intelligent organisation reduces age 36 Not everyone can qualify, but there’s a business environmental waste. her company supports Working for a blue chip company through its bias in favour of it to show our customers that it to ‘walk the talk’ that it enables remote effective organisation and deployment of it can working. the upshot is that we only have to pay highs and lows, Joe has evolved his responsibilities bring benefits. for childcare on one day a week, which makes from internal resourcing to developing external a huge difference to our family balance sheet. applications for the company’s products and face-to-face contact is useful – when i’m with services. During the boom periods, he took all the my colleagues, we pick up much more on who’s but anyone who’s had small children and is training opportunities he could get, and by now he connected with various possibilities, and we’re realistic about it would recognise that mixing is fully conversant with ‘organisational speak’ and often able to give and get the missing nugget childcare with work is wishful thinking. to be nimble in presenting a case. his partner also works of information to advance a prospect, but you truthful, our son’s not yet at infant school, and can get similar results from posting questions now that our daughter’s on the way, it will be for a blue chip – in it. the couple have recently or news on leads on our electronic bulletin years before i do as much work as i could and started a family, and both of them are using the board. so i don’t need to be on site to should. home’s just not a business environment, scope their employers offer to be home-based develop business. and small children need attention. of course, workers on two days a week. While they fulfil the my manager and colleagues know that i’m a dad, reporting requirements defined by this remote but no one has asked what that means when though, there’s a twist – things changed when work-style, Joe privately acknowledges that his i work at home. fortunately, the indices we became parents. the truth is that childcare to measure my output are so vague and baby-minding impacts on his work. is so expensive, tina and i would have to open-ended, that both our kids will be at school downscale our standard of living to pay for it. before the company has cracked it. but my manager has agreed for me to be home- based two days a week, and tina’s agreed the 16 17
  11. 11. coMMutiNg strAiN: fights biologicAl clock Martine – Conveyancing In her own words: if i didn’t have this commute every day – more than two debilitating hours on the train – lawyer, age 33 i’ve known what i wanted and where there’d be far less stress, but i’m not someone i was heading ever since i started who can work at home. i need a business on a successful career path – Martine has geared work, but recently i’ve been losing this sense environment to perform well, and i can’t think her input to successive promotions. she is now of purpose. it’s the baby issue. i’ve always of giving up my promotion prospects now. facing the next big push towards director status, but wanted to be a mum, but you keep saying ‘not i’ve invested too much in my career to yet’. the pace and excitement and rewards squander it. if i lost the edge at this stage, it starting a family has moved onto her agenda and of successful work make you delay, and you would make no sense of all my effort to date. her focus is floundering. she knows her biological push motherhood into the future. then the Anyway, what with our house and mortgage clock is ticking and the daily hour-plus commute permanent postponement creeps up on you, payments, we’re heavily committed financially. i on crowded trains exhausts her, but she feels that and you can’t escape the fact that time is wish there were a solution – it shouldn’t have to her career will lose its edge if she works at home. ticking away. be so hard. Martine needs a business milieu as a framework to be effective and achieve. but to be honest, i don’t know how i could even hope to get pregnant – i often arrive back home at 8pm or later, grab something from the freezer, stick it in the microwave, and crash out in front of the tv. i’m even beyond having a pleasant dinner and conversation with my husband. And by the time the weekend comes, i’m just a wreck! 18 19
  12. 12. DreAD of ‘hoMe AloNe’: Worse thAN bAD coMMute Flora – Company reporting, In her own words: but now we’ve had to move – rob’s become a partner in this new clinic. it’s a great opportunity age 35 this is so embarrassing – i feel really silly for him, but it’s so far away! it’s really too and deficient. My company is a great demanding on me going back and forth to work employed by a large listed consumables company, employer and absolutely appreciates me and each day. the company recognises the problem and following her initial role as an auditor, flora has what i do. While my work’s critical from an and couldn’t be nicer or more supportive in developed specialist technical expertise in corporate organisational point of view, it’s surprising how suggesting that i work at home most days. much of it i undertake on my own – for a lot it’s completely feasible in terms of what i do reporting. With the current strong emphasis on of the time i work like a one-man-band, going and it makes perfect sense. compliance, her contribution is highly valued. While over sensitive company information with a her role is essentially an hQ function, flora does fine toothcomb. her work largely on her own. After a thorough except that i’m such a loser – i can’t cope being alone all day. i’ve tried it a couple of times review of drafts and checking data on the company i like working like that – more engaged with and got very distressed, phoning rob all the server, she makes follow-up queries to colleagues by inanimate text and numbers than with people. time, in tears. so i’m still doing this ridiculous email or phone. recently flora has moved home except there’s a big ‘but’ – i don’t like being on journey, and it’s costing a fortune in fares, let to an outlying town to be near her partner’s new my own. i need people and activity around alone the personal wear and tear. but i don’t me. even though i’m not sociable, i get very see an alternative, apart from maybe quitting medical practice, and she now faces a long, arduous downbeat and anxious when i’m by myself. and finding a job locally. i’m just someone who commute to the office. she hates the journey, so work’s an important channel for me – it’s can’t function on her own – i need a setting with and given the nature of her job, her company has somewhere to go and to be in company five other people. suggested that she does most of her work at home, days a week when rob, my husband, is working. dispensing with the trip except on days when the tasks require her to be in the office. but flora gets lonely and phobic working at home, and she feels exposed by having to reveal this. 20 21
  13. 13. coMpANy property sAviNgs: iMpAct oN hoMe-life Fred – IT sales, age 42 In his own words: from home. from the company’s perspective it makes perfect sense – at least in theory. they think that employees with young families are that different wherever they live, whether their hard-working fred pulls his weight in it sales, i’m pretty pleased with how things have evolved. save on real estate, they give sales people the homes are bigger or smaller. As far as i’m i’ve worked hard and been lucky – good job, strongest possible message that our job is out concerned, expecting me to work at home with a performance record that has stood him supportive wife, and a comfortable apartment. but there to sell, and they tell us how supportive is an unreasonable imposition. in good stead through boom and downturn. number one is Johnny, our son. his presence makes our they’re being by enabling us to avoid the travel Marrying in his mid-thirties, he and his wife yen family complete and endorses everything i’ve worked into and out of the office. but who’re they bought an apartment, despite the high cost of for. it’s such a fulfilment knowing that we’ve produced the irony is that my brother is envious of my kidding and who’s paying for what? the next generation. We’re like a model family, with a situation. With his son being 16 years old, he housing in the congested city in which they live. harmonious home life and success in my job – at least we would welcome it if he had to work at home, so Now they are gratified and continually delighted My apartment is as good as i could hope to he could use it as an opportunity to oversee my were until recently. by their five year old son. have, given my position and the expensive city nephew’s school-work and help ensure that he we live in. but it’s hardly spacious. so while it’s gets the best grades to secure a university place. My employer is a global company, and with the depressed been the perfect haven for my family up till now, recently, with the overall decline in market market that everyone’s facing, they’ve started to look this new work regime is changing everything. at ways to cut costs. that’s normal – we shouldn’t be but that’s just another angle to prove my point. conditions, fred’s company has been looking to it intrudes on our home world. We have to wasteful, and i respect their position. but there are family life is so important and we want the best save on real estate. As his team’s function is to tell our son he can’t play or do puzzles or draw reasonable savings and things that should be off limits, for our children – at every stage. right now at the table when i’m working at home. he has be out and about selling – the more the better, yen and i want our child to continue to live in a and in my view they’ve gone way too far. to be quiet. And my wife can’t invite her friends they have all been declared ‘home-workers’, and to tea or other children to play. it’s just not happy home, with the freedom to talk and play no longer given workspace in the office. instead, when he wants to. right or fair, and it’s not what i’ve worked for. the new company line is this: as the sales people are with they’re expected to do all their desk-work from customers a lot, they say that our space in the office isn’t home. but this impacts on fred and yen’s home used enough, so they’ve removed desks from everyone in i understand that this sort of policy started in norms, and they see the basis on which their our team except the secretary. We’re meant to do all our europe and the us. but from conversations family life is structured as under threat. order documentation and processing, as well as calling, i’ve had with colleagues over the years, i don’t 22 23
  14. 14. lArge, coNsoliDAteD office: MAgNifies DistANce froM hoMe Charlotte – Insurance, In her own words: it up, to have a fresh hot drink, and a little chat to punctuate the long stretch between morning if only i could go to work closer to where we live, but of course the business doesn’t revolve age 46 My situation is so ironic, you couldn’t make it up and evening. And i think i should do this; in my round me. before the company consolidated all if you tried. there i am spending my weekdays family, there’s still a strong ethos that the senior its operations on one big site, there used to be charlotte works for an insurance company with trying to help companies ensure that their people manage generation is important, that elders should local or branch offices, and you could work in a a strong sales focus on employee wellbeing. the respective demands of work and family, while in my be cherished. different one if the main office was problematic it encourages its corporate clients to take own life i’m shovelling water out of the boat almost as fast for you. as it’s sinking. proactive steps in reducing workplace stress. so what’s the problem? everyone has a her role is to identify management measures lunch hour and my company is good about there are big disadvantages from the staff point for clients to offer their staff in order to optimise At the heart of it is my dad. he’s been a great father and that – it doesn’t just pay lip service to people’s of view that they don’t consider when they we’ve always got on really well. he was very active till his employment contracts. it’s considered fine to create these mega-offices. it makes for long work performance. Most of charlotte’s late 70s, doing volunteer work in our local hospital, but take a break and do your errands or whatever. journeys to work for so many people – i know work involves reviewing company hr data, things started unravelling a few years ago. Now that but the office is just too far from where we live. that i’m not the only person with issues at home. recommending appropriate strategies and he’s frail, weak and essentially housebound, he’s also like many ‘back offices’ of insurance companies, At the same time, being at work is so important sourcing potential programmes. ironically, since isolated socially. it’s based out of town, and though we live at to me – the contrast that the work environment her own father has become ill and frail, charlotte roughly equal distance between the office and offers me from home and my dad. it gives me finds herself in the precise position she aims to the city, it’s in another direction from where we the energy and support i need to meet my other but he’s feisty at heart, and still very independent-minded live – the wrong spoke of the wheel! so my responsibilities well, let alone the self-esteem and avoid for her clients’ employees – a sense of – the very last thing he wants is to enter a care home. journey between home and work is orbital. money. i can’t face the thought of having to quit, impossible conflict between her professional Nor should he. As long as the day is broken up, he can i drive, and even though there are fewer but it may be forced on me if i have to choose get by acceptably until the evening. i live close by, so role and her role as a daughter. hold-ups at midday than in the morning or between my work and putting my dad into a popping in after work isn’t a problem, and the weekends evening peaks, it would take me more than home. he’ll come first. i owe it to him. are easy – i’m very available then. i’m not suggesting that my lunch hour to drive there and back, without he’s demanding. he just needs some contact during the counting time with dad. day – to see that he has his medication without muddling 24 25
  15. 15. torN betWeeN: office buZZ AND AiliNg spouse Richard – Manager of a In his own words: buzz buoys me up when i am there, another part of me feels guilty that i am out of range consumables company, age 53 Work’s a major part of my life – the for her. it all worked better before, when she stimulus and the sense i get that knew i could pop back home if she needed richard has talent and valuable experience in colleagues value me. the satisfaction is huge. me, without full scale disruption to my work. product positioning. his colleagues respect his My background has given me a different way of but now we’ve moved, this isn’t feasible. the skill and frequently use him as a sounding board looking at things, and this often sparks a useful situation drags us both down. When i go into angle for our team, suggesting a point of entry the office, she puts on a brave face, but i know and mentor. richard’s company supports remote into a market situation or a way of developing that she suffers, and my own mood and focus working, mostly for its people in sales, although it. i guess it’s also my experience that counts – become clouded by guilt and concern. experienced employees in other functions can also something the younger people in the company work at home if they’re trusted to be productive. just don’t have. so i have this guru-like role – and i make a positive difference to lots of so i stay home some days, on the understanding richard blossoms in the workplace environment, business pitches. that i’m working. but working at home just but his wife has a degenerative condition, and they isn’t the same. i see the things she struggles to have moved to a village because it offers a gentler do, and so i do them for her. in the end, what environment than the inner city setting where they but that’s just part of the picture: there’s also i’m really doing is keeping my blackberry on so my wife. she’s got this cruel illness, which is people can find me if they get in touch, but i’m lived before. travel to the office is manageable, but why we moved from the bustle of the city. not really engaging proactively or developing it’s far, and since his wife lost her local friends when she’s wonderful and tries to cope, but there’s ideas. in fact, i’m hardly working, and i feel they moved, she copes better when richard is in no question that she flags when i leave for the like a fraud. if only the office easy reach. office. the difficulty is that while the team’s weren’t so far from home! 26 27