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Challenges for Remote Working – Leadership, Customers and Home Workplaces

European Smart Work Network virtual meeting, 28 January 2021

January’s European Smart Work Network open meeting focused on 3 areas central to the new world of work: leadership, virtual customer interactions, and the design of homes suitable for work.

First up was Mark Dekan (left, above), CEO Ringier Axel Springer, the leading media company in central and eastern Europe, interviewed by Philip Vanhoutte on the topic of Leadership as a Service. This approach is seen as being crucial to Smart Working, involving a decisive break with “command and control” models of leadership.

“Everything has changed,” said Mark. “We’re no longer connected in the way we were connected.”

This means time together has to be planned more carefully, but we need to avoid meetingitis, for which there is no vaccine! The leader has to be more an animator to bring the best out of people.

Trust is essential for this new kind of leadership. There are two ways of looking at trust – as something you give first, or something you reserve until it is earned. The first is preferable, though it makes one more vulnerable to being disappointed. And trust operates at three levels – trusting people to tell the truth, trusting their capability, and trusting someone with your emotions and developing a degree of intimacy. Each of these involves increasing levels of potential vulnerability.

For Mark, this is the only way leadership can work in a remote-working environment. It’s not possible to micromanage successfully the complexities of a remote working set-up. It’s all about empowering reliable, free and independent decisions.

Watch a recording of the interview.

There are more of Marks’ views on leadership in this Forbes article

Make meetings great again!

Detlev Artelt, CEO of AIXVOX, Founder of Neuwork & Einfach ONLINE Arbeiten, and one of our European Network’s Country Leads, provided insights and reflections on ways to interact virtually with customers and prospective customers, looking at the types of events – Expos, Webinars, Conventions and more – and the technologies that facilitate the kinds of encounters needed for success.

For customer interactions, Detlev feels that the traditional webinar has had its day. What people want more of is interactivity – not just Q&A with a presenter, but opportunities for flexible many-to-many interactions. Breakout rooms are becoming more a part of meeting events, but these are not always well handled.

There are new WebRTC tools which enable browser-based real-time communications with customers (such s Jitsi, BigBlueButton and Whereby), then the commonly used tools such as Microsoft teams, Zoom and GotoWebinar. Over the past year or so event management solutions like hopin, ubivent and others have emerged. But they all have their strengths and weaknesses, and so far there isn’t one all-encompassing solution. It’s best, says, Detlev to use a mix of existing tools for events.

The future lies more around being able to facilitate within larger virtual events one-to-one video interactions as needed for networking and matchmaking, and getting that all-round business and social value people look for when they go to real-life conferences, launches and exhibitions.

Events need to also to encompass more in the way of entertainment to be engaging. “It’s time to make meetings great again,” says Detlev.

Click here for Detlev’s presentation (Members only)

Taking work home – lessons from the rich tradition of purpose-built Workhomes

Next up was a thought-provoking presentation from Frances Holliss, Emeritus Reader in Architecture, London Metropolitan University, and author of Beyond Live/Work: The Architecture of Home-Based Work, on the architecture of workhomes and what we can learn for good design for the future of home-based working.

It’s often forgotten that before the height of the industrial era, working at home for all kinds of occupations was commonplace. However, 20th century approaches to housing enforced an ideologically-driven separation between home and work for most people.

Often workhomes were designed with specific occupations in mind, such as the early 19th century weavers’ cottages pictured here in Crossland Square, Tower Hamlets, London. The upstairs rooms had extra large windows to provide more of the natural light that was needed for the work. Can we once again design for economic activity in the home?

The image on the right is of a 2010 development in Rotterdam of social co-housing for musicians. Here acoustic design is taken very seriously, with innovative spatial separation of the work spaces. They are under the central grass-covered mound with lightwells to provide daylight into the work rooms.

Frances provided many examples through the 20th century and into the 21st, relating to different kinds of work occupation. Amongst the key design considerations are the desirability to be able to separate the work activity functionally, acoustically and visually from purely domestic activities. These are things which are often forgotten, or perhaps not even thought about, in the design of today’s homes. Sometimes this is within the home, sometimes adjoining the home, and other times can be shared work spaces within a neighbourhood setting.

Frances’ presentation can be found here. (Members only)

Article by Frances in The Guardian: To solve the housing crisis we need new ideas, not garden cities

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