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Jul 1, 2014

Beyond the Workplace – some context


Something big is brewing in how we work today and it is time to really get to grips with what it means for all of us.  To this end, I’m involved in Beyond the Workplace an initiative to build a better understanding of work, the workforce and the workplace.  Rather than approaching this from just my own narrow perspective (that of the physical aspects of the workplace) this has a much wider and all-embracing scope.  This fledgling proposal has aroused a lot of interest and a lot of questions, for example, what do we really mean when we talk about ‘beyond the workplace’? Let’s see if this and subsequent blogs can throw some light on what we are all about.


This discussion was prompted by the needs of Facilities Management (FM), and its professional body BIFM, to investigate the fundamental changes taking place in the nature of work and its impact on the workplace.  However, we soon realised that it would be far better to have some help from those with a different perspective on the issue, and that there would be none better than the world of HR (or People) to provide this alternative angle.  With this in mind, we resolved to join forces with CIPD and anyone interested in the ‘people’ agenda.


There are, of course, many other potentially interested voices that could join the conversation, such as those from the  technology, finance, procurement or sustainability perspective. I have no doubt that there are others who will also be able to provide valuable input as the project continues. .  However, rather than biting off more that we could chew, we decided to start off with building a bridge of understanding between ‘people’ and ‘place’. Ultimately though, anyone who wishes to contribute is welcome as one of the key aspects of this initiative is openness.


Moving on, to put some meat on the bone of what Beyond the Workplace is all about, let’s start with defining some of the key notions involved.  Before we can go anywhere, we must talk about the phrase ‘workplace’ itself: to what are we referring, what does it comprise and what are its key characteristics?  In thinking about this and following some chats with my fellow travellers, we had our first revelation.  As a member of the place tribe, I think of the workplace as bricks and mortar: physical places, mainly offices. Conversely, for my fellow travellers who claim allegiance to the ‘people’ tribe, their default definition of workplace is very different!  Barry Flack sees the workplace as comprising the characteristics associated with organising employees at work – organisational structures, management hierarchies, reward systems, performance management, compliance-centric HR policies and recently a focus on the link between engagement and productivity in getting the best out of those people.


So that’s why we have been having a bit of trouble getting our heads around the issues facing workplace! How could two groups of professionals have totally different views? How did it come to pass and does it even matter? When all is said and done, the central lesson is for all of us is to recognise that we are using the same terminology but with different meanings and appreciate the potential repercussions of this


Beyond the Workplace is therefore all about building understanding between the tribes of people and place using the common denominator that draws us together – that of enabling work in the 21st Century.  Although our respective sectors have yet to fully appreciate how to respond to the enormous challenges and trends in the future of work pertinent to all of us, together we are committed to providing sufficient insights to ultimately achieve this goal.  Stay tuned over the next few days as I add some more definition to this initiative…

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