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The Future of Work / The Future of the Workplace May 27, 2009

Posted by Bob Cook in Alternative Workplace Strategies.
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office_cubicles_01 latest issue talks about “The Future of Work”.  Time points to ten trends that will change the way we work.   Here they are – along with questions  prompted in my mind about how “the future of work” will affect “the future of the workplace“.Time’s

1. “High Tech, High Touch, High Growth” means that high tech industries are likely to continue to be where the growth is and where corporate real estate investments will be made.  But what and where will be the high tech areas of tomorrow?

2. “Training Managers to Behave” is gaining ground a legitimate corporate sensibility and forcing a “rethinking of the balance between doing well and doing good”.  As “doing good” becomes an accepted corporate goal,  how will this affect corporate real estate decisions that  impact things like the environment or workers’ (physical and mental) health?

3. “The Search for the Next Perk” talks about diminishing benefits, e.g. employer contribution to health insurance.  How does one reconcile this decline of one type of benefit in at least some places with the increase in some types of benefits elsewhere, e.g. free lunch at Google?   (Interestingly, both health benefits and free food emerged as a way to recruit during worker shortages — Kaiser Shipyard giving health benefits during WWII and Google giving free food during dot.com boom.  Is there a  lesson to be learned there?)

4. “We’re Getting Off the Ladder” and onto the “lattice”, Deloitte’s metaphor for how one’s career and life should be planned in conjuction with each other.  The concept: you can go sideways sometimes, like when you have small kids, then go up the corporate hierarchy later.  Implications? More teleworking?  More satellite offices?

5. “Why Boomers Can’t Quit” is that they don’t have enough retirement savings, but what kind of workplaces are going to be needed for seniors and where do they need to be?

6. ” Women Will Rule Business” and that means a lot more for our workplaces than just pink walls.  Women are consensus builders; what sort of collaborative teaming spaces might they demand?

7. “It Will Pay to Save the Planet” and the jobs thus created could alter the geography of corporations.  Will sun power make Nevada boom?

8. “When GenX Runs the Show”, owing to the baby bust of 1965 to 1978,  there’re not going to be a lot of them to go around.  Companies are going to compete fiercely for capable GenX’ers once the Boomers start retiring.  How can workplace geography and character help attract and retain them.?

9. “Yes, We’ll Still Make Stuff” and America will still need places to make it, but what kind of stuff will it be, where will it be made, and what kind of buildings will we need?

10. “The Last Days of Cubicle Life” It could have been entitled “The Last Days of Going to the Office” — or at least the office as we’ve known it.  Will the cube really die?  How about any type of “office”?  Or is that just wishful thinking?

Pictured above is one of 3,000 submittals to The Office.

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Chief Real Estate Officer ??? May 27, 2009

Posted by Bob Cook in Alternative Workplace Strategies, Profession of Corporate Real Estate.
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I think one of the best ways to kick off this new blog is to repost something from my previous Sun Microsystems blog. The post lays out the conceptual framework from which I start:  that real estate strategy really matters.

The CRO??

Date: March 7, 2005

I don’t know if the top corporate real estate executive of any company has taken on the title of “CRO” — Chief Real Estate Officer — but I wouldn’t be surprised if this job title isn’t eventually adopted by many. An article in the February 24th issue of the Economist entitled “A Rise in the C-level” talks about the trend towards establishing new C-level positions in corporations. It used to be that corporations had only CEO’s and CFO’s and the occasional COO. Now there are posts for all manner of CXO’s: Chief Information Officers, Chief Technology Officers, Chief Talent Officers, Chief Purchasing Officers, Chief Privacy Officers, Chief Growth Officers.  Why not CRO?

According to the Economist, “the rising number of C-level appointments indicates a significant change in corporate structure” reflecting the fact that “heads of specialist functional ‘silos’ (finance, human resources, IT, etc) are becoming more and more involved in talking corporate strategy with the chief executive and the board”.

This certainly rings true to me, particularly for the tech world. In a fast-changing world where product lines often do not last more than a few years, the functions that define the corporation’s character – its culture, organization, business practices, geography, and financial structure — seem to me to be the ones that are really strategic. Products will come and go, becoming almost tactical responses to how best to use the corporation’s resources at any particular time; the corporate character is what endures and determines long-term success.

No function defines a corporation’s character more than corporate real estate. Over the last decade, real estate groups in many companies have come to be respected strategic functions. I would like to think the Workplace Resources function at Sun is one of these. We’ve been involved in many strategic issues that go far beyond our traditional “facilities management” role. We’ve played active, sometimes lead, roles in addressing issues such as the company’s geographic configuration, recruitment and retention of employees, and cost structure.

Probably no CEO has gone so far to think that long-term strategy isn’t about products – my admittedly unconventional assertion, above – but many, if not most, now realize that the functions are no longer just services for the business units; they now play important strategic roles. The rise of the CXO’s evidences this. I’ll be watching to see if anyone is annointed “CRO”.

If you are a subscriber to the Economist, you can check out “A Rise in the C-level” at http://www.economist.com. Search “C-level” in the February 24, 2005 issue.

Starting again… May 27, 2009

Posted by Bob Cook in Financial Planning & Analysis.
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I began a corporate real estate blog when I was with Sun Microsystems a few years ago. This was back in the dark ages of blogging. At the time, Sun Microsystems was one of the few companies that encouraged employees to blog, and I took advantage of the blogging infrastructure that the company provided. When I left Sun, though, back in 2006, I stopped blogging.

It’s time, however, to start-up again. Like many bloggers, writing helps me organize my thoughts and come to new insights. And if I’m writing anyway, why not share my thoughts?

So here it is. Starting again….

BTW, if you’re interested in my old blog, you can find it here:   http://blogs.sun.com/bobcook/