David Brooks, The Battle Of The Regimes
Stowe Boyd, Pew Internet’s Digital Life In 2025
Lee Hutchinson, Microsoft layoff e-mail typifies inhuman corporate insensitivity
Lee Hutchinson didn’t think much of Nadella’s layoff announcement email from a few weeks ago, because if concealed as much as it shared, and shows a deep lack of sympathy for those being sacked.
Canon Australia worked with Puzzle Partners to observe how workers actually used their old workplace, ethnographically. What they discovered led them to reject a pure Activity-Based Working (ABW) arrangement, where no employee ‘owns’ or has an assigned workstation.
Instead, the ABW workscape has a pallette of different work areas oriented toward different work modes and tempos: collaborating, focusing, socializing, and learning, for example.
Canon Australia adopted a hybrid model, based on three very different styles of working:
Employees fell roughly into three categories. ‘Focused workers’ who spent most of their time desk-bound working on their individual tasks; ‘balanced’ workers who spent equal amounts of time performing individual tasks and collaborating with others; and ‘mobile’ workers who spent only a minimal amount of time at their desk.
The upshot, Flemington said, was that Canon realised that one size wouldn’t fit all, which ruled out an ‘all in’ activity-based working approach. “We learned a lot of lessons from going to visit other organisations,” the HR head said.
At other organisations Canon visited, full ABW wasn’t working for every employee: “For some employees, where they spend most of their time at their desk, it’s pointless saying to them you need to have a locker, an unassigned desk, and go and find that desk every day, because they spend all their time at that desk.
"We took the approach that because a focused worker spends 80 per cent of their time working on individual tasks, we’ve given them assigned seats. For mobile and balanced workers, we work in a more flexible way."
'Focus' areas are located around the periphery of Canon's two floors in the building (a third floor is allocated to its R&D organisation, Cisra), while in the centre are more 'active' spaces for collaboration.
In addition to providing lockers for workers who tend to move around more, Canon designed spaces to match the meeting styles that had been observed, ranging from smaller areas for ad hoc catch-ups through to areas for brainstorming and formal meeting rooms.
Personally, I would be in the library for 5 hours a day, and the rest floating around.
The real takeaways:
- Find out what sorts of work modes are present in your company before committing to any stem-to-stern remake of the office workscape.
- The researchers determined that what they discovered ethnographically by direct observation of users correlated strongly with what worker surveys showed. So, a small company can probably rely on a simple survey that provides a range of working styles — maybe more than the three at Canon Australia — and then proceed to a hybrid of traditional and ABW workspace, if that is called for.
California is now experiencing its most severe drought ever recorded.
And no change in sight.
- Is innovative - The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.
- Makes a product useful - A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.
- Is aesthetic - The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.
- Makes a product understandable - It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.
- Is unobtrusive - Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.
- Is honest - It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.
- Is long-lasting - It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.
- Is thorough down to the last detail - Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.
- Is environmentally friendly - Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.
- Is as little design as possible - Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.