A greener workplace future?

For sure we all agree that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a large impact on the world. Nothing will be exactly the same as before, but how big the changes will be, remains to be seen.

Most also support the idea that the workplace will change and not go back to the “old normal”. So let us assume for a minute that 30% of the workforce able to work from home will continue to do so in some shape or form.

Surely this will have an impact… less daily commute alone will probably be the largest contribution to reduce CO2 emissions and thus have an immediate positiv effect on climate changes. But will it be the only one? Electricity, heating/cooling, wear and tear on the office equipment will probably be the same, maybe slightly higher as the commercial office will still be operating and the home office will also need to “run” in the daytime, where the home before was empty perhaps.

But apart from the daily commute to and from the office, the trend has shown that when forced to, online meetings to a large extend can work fairly well. This will, by all likelihood, reduce face-to-face meetings for a large part and reduce travel a lot. Even when the world re-opens the wish and need to travel will be less and this may have a even larger positive effect towards a greener world. Not good news for the airlines, hotels and travel industry in general, but good news for mother nature.

So let us embrace the changes coming – it is for the good of the world and everyone in it. The side effects of partial working from home will also be significant – benefits increased productivity, better work-life balance (if done right), less disturbances etc. So it will all be for the better is my take!

Will working from home become the new ”normal”?

The Corona pandemic has forced many companies to send their employees home. The reason for this was not because they believed working from home would be an advantage, get them better results or increase profits. It was out of mere force, a necessity.

But even before the pandemic a lot of research was done on working remote, fully or partially, and for sure this way of working is not without benefits!

–      Increases efficiency due to less disturbance and increased ability to focus

–      Environmental benefits, less traffic and saved time and cost from less commute

–      Better work-life balance for employees, being home the minute they get off work or even taking breaks to help the kids with homework and working a bit in the evening instead

–      Increased flexibility for both employer and employee, hours can be unevenly distributed, clients and colleagues may work in other timezones, take a break when needed etc.

–      Radius for seeking new employees increases dramatically, now you can search much further away from the office, even worldwide if need be

But let’s all agree, not all work under optimal conditions at home. Kids are home too, place is crowded and noisy, you do not have a choice but is forced and it all happened quite suddenly without much time to plan and organize.

According to a 2 year long study of China’s largest travel agency, performance increased by 13% and resignations dropped by 50%! The company stated it had made a 2.000 USD increased profit per employee working from home*.

Of course the conditions were different, so if we are to continue the ”working from home” for an extended period to keep social distance and reduce spread of the Covid-19 virus some conditions should be in place:

–      Working from home should be on a volunteer basis. Some like it, some don’t. I works best if not forced on people.

–      ”Home workers” should come to the office too. Working from home should be only 3-4 days per week. Going to the office, meeting people face-to-face og interacting is important too, so it should be a regular part of the plan.

–      ”Home workers” should have a dedicated place for their work. To separate work and free time. Over-working is a known downside to working from home! This does not increase performance, but may lead to stress… So a physical work space helps separate work from life and tell the employee when they are off.

–      Following a schedule (but with flexibility) and regular check-ins by the manager, can increase performance further.

–      Finally to increase social interaction make sure to turn on the video in calls and not just the sound. Seeing faces, smiles and body language is very important to reduce the risk of feeling lonely and secluded.

If these guidelines are met, research shows that it will actually be a benefit for the company to continue with a part of the workforce working from home. Added benefit is also that the office will be less crowded and thus reduce disturbance and increase productivity with the people working in the office as well.

* https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/why-working-home-future-looking-technology


How to measure employee productivity when they are working at home…

I was fairly provoked the other day, when I saw an ad on linked-in from a software company. They offered a product to monitor employee productivity. I did not look further into it, but I imagined they would “record” and analyze every move the employee did on their PC while at home and send a report to the manager. Number of hours in this and this program, number of emails sent, amount of time online, visit to these and these websites etc. My first thought was that this way of thinking was so “last century” and the lack of trust would certainly not do anything good for productivity!

Maybe PC monitoring was not what they were offering at all, but I am sure we can all agree, that especially here in the Middle East it is very new for many companies to have their workforce work remotely and many managers will struggle with not being able to monitor their employees closely like they are used to, however there are other ways to monitor than keeping track of the employee’s computer. But it takes trust, and trust is difficult if you are not used to it, but to monitor the results is the best way to go when people are working from home. Set goals and deadlines together with the employee and monitor the progress…. If results are great – who cares if it took 2 or 4 hours or even how and when they did the work?

If the actual work process is important along with the end-result, set targets for the process or ask for certain process documentations along with the results… but trust the employee to do their best to get the job done. Also, new methods may be needed during this time of social isolation. Why not let the employees be creative and innovative, let them share ideas of how to get the job done? Who knows, maybe new ways of doing things will arise!

I am sure some of these methods and tools will be useful after the crisis and improve the overall performance of the company. Turn working at home into an advantage and a chance to improve the way of working before the crisis. Make sure to share the knowledge within the organization and carry the new learnings into the furture. And remember to praise and award the employees for their creativity and hard work – as always.

5 tips to create a happy (home) workplace #CAHHOW!

Some are used to working from home, others have not done it (a lot) before. For 4 years I have been representing a Danish company in the UAE, meaning that all my colleagues have been in Denmark or around the world. Working from home and not having people around you is VERY HARD, and it, for sure, suits some people more than others. I hope this, and upcoming articles, will inspire you on how to cope with your new workplace setting.

In this first article, I will offer 5 general tips which will help make working from home a little easier, more comfortable, and more efficient.

1) Get up and get dressed.

In the beginning it is nice and fun and comfortable to stay in your pyjamas all day, but eventually it will drag you down and make you lazy. So get up and get dressed for work every morning. Dress for the occasion – online meetings, task to be solved etc. This will also help you to focus on what the day has in store for you.

2) Structure

Make sure to structure your day. Plan the tasks at hand, insert breaks and set a time for when the work day ENDS. For some people it is hard to pull themselves together to get things done. For others it is hard to stop and they just keep working. In this time, where movement and going out is restricted for many people, it is important to still have time off, exercise, have dinner, watch a movie, talk to friends and family online etc. There is a large difference for people living alone, households with only adults, or a family restricted to #stayathome. Therefore, there is no easy answer to the schedule. It must work for you!

3) Eat healthy

Plan for meals and snacks. It is easy to become completely sedentary, eat snacks constantly and comfort yourself with soda and candy. First of all, it doesn’t help with your concentration and focus. The brain still works best on the same kind of food as before Covid-19. Secondly, your body and fitness can quickly deteriorate. To prevent this; plan your food. Shop healthy snacks and prepare what you will have for lunch, so even if lunch break is short you will get a nutritious meal.

4) Change your workposition and workplace

Even if you live in a small apartment, you have options. If you are on a skype call or online meeting you may be able to stand and walk while listening. In the kitchen you may have a high counter, where you can stand up and work for a while. If you don´t have a height adjustable desk, have a box or bookcase at hand, so you can stand up for about 10 minutes every hour. When you get coffee, tea, water or go to the toilet, walk an extra round in the house, around the house, up and down the stairs in the building, or circle the dinner table. Get the extra steps in there any way you can and as often as you can. If you live in a large house, go work at a different location from time to time. Change of scenery is good for the brain and the body. You may even chose to have set locations for different type of tasks (for writing, for talking, for thinking, for reading).

5) Have at least one online meeting or call every day

If not work related, then have a coffee break with a colleague or friend. It is EXTREMELY important to socialize and keep in touch with others. Use this opportunity to network. A lot of people are at home and have more time on their hands. Catch up and help others stay sane. Most people are social beings and these times of isolation can be very challenging. Make sure you do what you can to keep social contact, use colleagues for sparring (even if it may not be needed), and also try to be aware of colleagues and friends who may not be good at this and help them along by inviting them for online coffee.

Hope this has inspired you to making your home workplace a little better and a happier place for you to stay and work!

Stay positive, stay connected, stay busy!

How to work best in an open plan environment

Open plan has been under attack for a while now. While it saves space and fits a lot of people into less space, the wanted benefits of “cross communication” and informationsharing has turned out to be more a source of disturbance and not allowing people to get into a state of concentration and focus (The entrepreneur among others).

Hugo Gernsback “invented” this device in 1925 as an aid to concentration.   He reasoned as follows :  When working, the main problem is distraction, so if you can isolate the individual 100% from all possible surrounding influences, then he or she will be able to give their full attention to the task on hand. (source).

According to Atlassian it takes 16 minutes to refocus. This could be after checking mails or pop-up messages, but also after being disturbed directly or indirectly by colleagues.

Picture from www.holmrisb8.com

But open plan will probably not disappear anytime soon, so what can be done to deal with the downsides of this type of layout? Gensler has 10 tips to improve your workday in an open plan environment. Listet in short below (read the full blog post here):

  1. Plan out your day (move around depending on the task at hand)
  2. Reduce your storage (clean and tidy desk liberates)
  3. Balance accessibility and distractions
  4. Take phone calls in the open (if they are not confidential). I must add here that if you talk loud (like I do) moving away from others may lessen the disturbance of you getting or making a call – confidential or not. Might be better for you to stay, but not necessarily for others.
  5. Having confidential conversations (many may be able to ears drop, just remember that).
  6. Using space to manage availability (do focused work away from the desk if space is available).
  7. Encourage informal meetings when it makes sense (often meeting rooms are scarce, so use open collaborative areas in stead when possible and appropriate.
  8. Coach each other (share what works for you and try to have open dialogue about “rules”).
  9. Use the opportunity to strengthen the culture of your team.
  10. Lead by example

All people are different and some thrive better in open plan environments than others. One size does NOT fit all. Remember to respect you co-workers, what works for you, may not work for them. Also an open dialogue and “permission” to speak up if change is needed is imperative to make open plan work.

Like the Gensler blog implies, things can be done to the office to make the open plan work better. Providing rooms for skype meetings and phone calls, having areas for informal meetings, having areas for focused work. This would mean people should move to a location suiting the task before them (Activity Based Working) and this may take a while to get used to, but the alternative is maybe lower productivity and happiness in the whole workforce.

Alternative work and meeting places in the center of the building – for all to use. Picture from www.holmrisb8.com

What can be done to improve your workplace?

Bring ”Hygge” into the workplace

This will be a recurring topic for this blog. How to bring Hygge into the workplace and why. Feeling comfortable and in a good mood increases workplace performance and may even reduce tensions and conflict. Thus bringing  this Nordic concept into the workplace will help create a happier workplace and all the benefits that comes with it. What is Hygge. A couple of definitions of Hygge are found below, but it is hard to describe as it is a feeling and a somehow also a state of mind.

How to bring Hygge into the workplace? You can start with one or two smaller areas in the office where informal meetings or re-charging can take place. A corner, break-out area, small meeting room or similar. You could even try it in the reception to make guests feel welcome and comfortable. Signe Johansen wrote a book (How to Hygge: Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life) and according to her one way to bring Hygge in is to use soft furnishings and textiles — cozy throws, sheepskins and cushions in unusual or graphic prints and add plants to bring nature’s hygge indoors… Keep colors subtle and go for a simplistic Scandinavian look.

Rebel Workspace in Copenhagen, created by HOLMRISB8 is an excellent example of a cozy and homey work environment. Get inspired here: https://www.holmrisb8.com/single-work/rebel-work-space/

“Rooms in themselves do not create innovation, but they can help to inspire engagement and changed behaviour, which is the starting point for innovation.” Finn Laustsen – Partner, REBEL Work Space

Would you like to try, but don’t know how? Contact me on rth@1gate.dk.

Standing meetings… the new black?


If it is true that employees spend 31 hours per month being unproductive in meetings, well that should tell us something. Of course questions like: are the right people attending a given  meeting, is the meeting lead responsibly and effectively, is the purpose of the meeting clear etc. Let us assume the meeting is called for and needed, there is a proper agenda and the right people are present. The article  ”The Effects of Stand-Up and Sit-Down Meeting Formats on Meeting outcome” (published in 1999 by American Psychological Association, Inc.) not only concludes that standing meetings are 34% shorter than sitting meetings, but also sitting meetings did not produce better results despite the extra time.

The Atlassian summarizes some very interesting facts in their Time Wasting at Work infographic, and these findings indicate that large savings are potentially found here. Back to the 31 hours spent in unproductive meetings, if meeting duration is reduced by 34%, standing meetings alone could save 10 hours per month per employee…  you do the math…


Who Moved My Cheese?

Millions know the story, but for those of you who don’t – you should 🙂 A perfect description of reactions to change and how to improve your dealings with it. In a workplace there is always change – or at least there should be! As the world and the markets change, so should the company and the people in it. Change can be difficult and meet a lot of resistance. Thus change needs to be anticipated, addressed and dealt with to ensure or at least increase the chance of a positive outcome.

Read the book and be better prepared for change!

The classic book “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson is a great story about change and how to deal with it. It is easy and quickly read and i highly recommend everyone to do so. A few teasers from the book:

“When one person says the change is a bad idea, others say the same”… “That’s the sort of peer pressure that fights change in any organization”.

“He knew that when you change what you believe, you change what you do.”

“He decided that if he ever got the chance again, he would get out of his comfort zone and adapt to change sooner. It would make things easier”

Company registration

So, the registration papers for 1GATE LLC have been signed and I now await the formel trade license. An exciting time ahead. There are many options, so I think the main task will be to keep the focus – especially the book is a high priority! Soon we are hopefully completely up and running – can’t wait to work for better workplaces for all! 🙂

A book in the making

Welcome to the 1gate blog. This blog will focus on the book I have decided to write. It will follow the process, the ups and downs, it will share findings and discuss topics covered. It may even share parts of the book as it takes form. I am very excited, because the topic is very dear to me: How to create a great place to work. In Denmark a Travel Agency has the slogan “Holidays, from which you never want to go home” showing people hiding in funny places from the guides to avoid being “sent home”. My book shall inspire people and companies to do their utmost to create workplaces you look forward to go to and hate to leave. Inspired by Alexander Kjerulf, among others, and his mission to create “arbejdsglæde” (to be happy with your work) with books like “Happy hour from 9 to 5” and a company like Woohoo Inc. I love it!! Inspired by my collaboration with Mads and the creation of the CAHAW (Create a happy workplace) network. My focus however will equally be on the physical workspace and how facilities and surroundings effect people and their performance… based on my experience working for a Danish furniture manufacturer, doing commercial office export projects. Actually the physical elements will be at the backbone of the book, and create the topics.

In short the book will be 1gate to a better workplace.