Work is an activity, not a place - Technical.ly

Company Culture

Mar. 1, 2021 7:09 am

Work is an activity, not a place

Still, this philosophy ought not dissuade you from investing in place when it helps your employees. Check out Technical.ly’s latest Culture Builder newsletter.
Office space.

Office space.

(Photo by Flickr user Johny)

Written by Technically Media CEO Chris Wink, Technical.ly’s new Culture Builder newsletter features tips on growing powerful teams and dynamic workplaces. Below is the latest edition we published. Sign up here to get the next one this Friday.


One mantra most underpins the religion of organizational dynamics that has dominated the knowledge economy this last generation: Work is an activity, not a place.

This mantra is a very real transformation over the last half-century. For most of human history, what we would have called “work” was almost always done at what we would have called “home.” The Industrial Revolution changed that with the efficiency of centralized production. Both phases of human work have fused “work” and “place” together.

This change has real implications. For one, managing compensation for a workforce across geographies has always been tricky for global companies. Imagine how much more difficult that is for smaller and new companies who are confronting the challenge immediately. (We’re reporting on this so let me know how you handle that!)

Other themes of culture building we’ve engaged this year — like asynchronous work, remote collaboration and virtual hiring — all spiral from the “activity not place” philosophy. It’s a major theme of your work.

This ought not dissuade you from investing in place, though. The point isn’t that place doesn’t matter; the point is that you should only play the “place” card when it helps you. Offices are tools, not jails. Shared geographic identity, cultural norms and even time-zone similarities are very real factors for determining how much “place” should matter with your “work.”

Yes, let’s break apart work from place as a first principle. It’s no longer a given. Expect, though, in the last half of this year that companies will increasingly use place as a strategy for attraction and retention. Many will flaunt their remote cultures when they feel that is a strength; others will boast of the best of both worlds, remote flexibility and an office with amenities with people you care about.

There isn’t one right answer, just the right answer for your team. Consider the implications now.

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P.S. One advocate of the activity-not-place perspective is Amy Leschke-Kahle. She’s the VP of performance acceleration at The Marcus Buckingham Company, an ADP Company. We were first introduced for an interview last year, and we went long in comparing what we heard from companies and clients.

We brought her back this week for our first BuildingUp webinar, in which we discussed Technical.ly’s inaugural Hiring and Workplace Culture Trends Report. Download it here; the full webinar recording is available here for direct, immediate viewing.

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