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November has seen a surge of activity in support of agile working practices from governments in the UK, Netherlands and the US. The momentum is clearly building. The technology to do it is available and the cost is not prohibitive.

But mindsets still seem to be stuck in old ways of working.

This was the message from Norman Baker MP at last week’s Worktech conference in London where he unveiled the UK governments “Anywhere Working” programme. He made the case for agile working practices clearly and unequivocally, citing mounting pressures on transport systems, environmental concerns and business efficiencies as key factors.

The Netherlands recently ran with a “New Ways of Working week” which caught people’s attention with it’s slogan “Start your workday in your bathrobe, not in a traffic jam”. The week featured activities such as workshops, masterclasses, trials of flex work locations, and visits to model organisations. Traffic congestion in the Netherlands was one of the factors driving the campaign, as well as the desire for a better work-life balance.

There has also been a recent executive order from the US government on “Promoting Efficient Spending” which points to digital and agile working practices as central to realising efficiencies. According to an article in the Environmental Leader, limiting travel and using alternatives such as video conferencing, and the efficient use of online instead of printed information were both cited by the government as important. Although not a direct agile working campaign, again this adds weight to the argument.

So with all this support and action, why is the mindset not changing? Fear and inertia were both flagged up at Worktech as prime culprits for the lack of change. As one of the #worktech tweets commented:

@LisanneSchloss: Caroline Waters BT might be the quote of the day ‘Never underestimate the power of inertia.’ #worktech

In the room, Caroline also commented on the need for management practioners to get on board in terms of agile working practices – it often seems to be concerns about trusting people and managing remotely that hold back new ways of working. Again from the twittersphere:

Pathological collaboration is what is needed to replace management by supervision #worktech

That and results oriented management of work.

In the room at Worktech there were a mixture of managers in large and small organisations, workplace consultants, architects, digital specialists. During the day we heard from a number of speakers about the future of work in terms of the technology and spaces, the practices and the potentialities – sometimes the vision they painted was too sleek and perfect. For example, the interesting but rather perfect Microsoft Productivity Future Vision (not the version with the blue screen at the end). In reality the future will be more complex, more human and more messy; with new technology and legacy tools and devices mixed in as Brian David Johnson, Intel’s Futurist pointed out.

The challenge that Norman Baker laid down at the start of the day was that it is the responsibility of all these people – the managers, workplace practioners, architects, digital specialists and so on – to bring about this change in the workplace. So that’s you and me then – as intranet practioners we play such a key role in the future of the workplace, the intranet after all is a critical component or “building block” of the digital workplace. So, what did you do today to change mindsets (yours or someone else’s) about ways of working?

About the author

Elizabeth Marsh - DWG's Director of ResearchElizabeth Marsh leads the Digital Workplace Group’s member research and events. She is passionate about connecting members to peers or resources and exploring new research opportunities.

Elizabeth is co-author, with Paul Miller, of the new book “The Digital Renaissance of Work—Delivering digital workplaces fit for the future”.

Prior to joining DWG, Elizabeth held intranet management roles at T-Mobile and Reuters, with broad-ranging responsibilities including community management, internal communications and research.

When not busy in the digital workplace, Elizabeth is a keen writer and musician, playing flute in an amateur orchestra and performing with various local groups.

Connect with Elizabeth on Twitter at @digitalsanity or on Google +.


  1. There is no doubt that inertia is building but government incentives and training subsidies will help build awareness and adoption of such services.

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