room44 innovates

Look through your LinkedIn feed any day of any week and you’ll find a discussion about homeworking. An enlightened manager will be lauded as a visionary for letting a team work from home for some of the week, and somewhere in the thread there’ll be a comment and the word ‘trust’ will come up.


Managers love discussing how much they can trust people who need to work even when they aren’t being watched. To me, this creates a picture in my head of a workhouse or a typing-pool: rows of people, head down and beavering away in silence. Throw an unused ping-pong table into the picture and you’ve got a modern-era open plan office.

Ask any field sales person what it feels like to be trusted to work from home and they’ll look you in the eye to see if your pupils are dilated. No-one doubts these guys do the work.

Companies know that people are motivated to work, to have purpose, to feel useful and to contribute value. But they still struggle to let them work from flexible locations, at flexible times.

They say, ‘Oh, we need to know when you’re available so you can interact.’ But staff know that too and if they need to be at a meeting or exchange ideas some other way, they’ll do it. There’s a strong body of evidence to support this theory: it’s called self-employment.

Companies today send representatives to networking meetings across the globe. At every gathering, the same complaints ring out: ‘there’s a chronic skills shortage,’ ‘we just can’t get qualified staff.’

No shit – really?


What – after decades of squeezing people into organisational structures that glorify the top end of the hierarchy, they’ve decided they’d rather work from home. Why do we wonder why they’d rather work with each other and without the need for an HR policy to manage corporate discrimination of various kinds?

And now they won’t come and work for a company? Go figure!

Let’s not blame it all on companies though. Governments have played their part. Layer in tax on benefits and take away vocational skills training from schools and it’s no surprise that kids aren’t flocking to be engineers, joiners or have an interest in manual skills. Television has done more to attract young people into cooking and the catering trade than high school learning options.

Fail to train kids in coding and digital skills, and they’ll go and learn ‘clean’ skills themselves from YouTube. Institutions like the Open University are struggling to find a new way forward when the whole world can learn to expert level without ever signing up to a course. Ironically, bricks and mortar universities have stolen a share of the market the OU used to dominate, simply by seeing that ‘digital’ and ‘distance’ are easy ways of encouraging people to join their course instead.


But I can hear you ask, isn’t that homeworking? Yup. Young and old working away to achieve a degree from a position of self-motivation. I wonder where that’ll fit into the workplace?

Written while working from home, 06.44, 23rd April, 2019.

Future thinking. Future-proofing. It’s what we do.

To learn about room44’s trends tracking service called outside insight let’s talk.

We’re used to business models that drop people into positions that value them for their specialities: buyers, marketers, finance managers, HR, supply chain, technical services. The less glamorous but essential services like janitorial, landscaping and maintenance are also occupied by people that tended not to move around the organisation.

After Lean Manufacturing showed us how kanbans and kaizen could help reduce operational costs, we needed to get more creative. So companies began to outsource. Outsourced HR, outsourced facilities management, outsourced finance departments. The investment that employers had made in the resource – their people – was largely lost, but they were lean.

‘Efficient’ is now standard and cost gains are harder to make. Creativity, differentiation and consumer value are under the spotlight, but the people needed to deliver something new don’t need the safety net of an organisation anymore. We became self-sufficient and decided that we’d work on our terms, not the companies’.

Millennials were born into this environment as it developed and Gen Z is native to it. We won’t be going back, so how should you recruit for creative change?

Design your vision of the future, create your roadmap and plan your resource according to your need.

Look around you. This is the first time in history when you can see five (yes, five) generations in the same workplace. It’s extraordinary. Lives are longer, stress levels are differently managed and employers’ expectations must adapt. People entering the workplace now could be looking at an 80-year career. Most Baby Boomers are in their 60s now, and they may be working for another 20 years. Why would we give that value to a single employer? Security? Employers already shot that foot clean off.

Ask a millennial if they can see themselves working for a single company for their whole career and you’ll get a short answer.

Time in salaried/waged employment is hurtling downwards from two years. This isn’t even long enough for a graduate to complete their three-year fast track development programme. Contractors, freelancers, part-timers, people working in the gig economy – this is the new norm. But we hear of SMEs sending jobs off to fivrr and thinking they’ve scored a win over the old ways of sourcing. Do this too often and you’ll find you really do get what you pay for.

If you can adapt your mind-set to see the benefits of a working practice that takes advantage of more skill flexibility than you’ve ever seen before, and can develop core relationships to be exploited as you need to, things look good. Needless to say, this will include working on your strategy.

Design thinkers are, by their nature, keen to get into new ideas. We are used to talking about future trends and making connections where none are obvious. We do this because we want to contribute to serious and significant change, and to achieve this, we need to stay ahead of the market too. We know that strategy needs constant updating and we know that, ironically, there’s nothing unique about trying to be unique.

Your business needs a new idea. Maybe not now, but it will. When it does, give us a call.

Future thinking. Future proofing. It’s what we do.

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