Friday, December 16, 2016

Sharing work-space, co-working etc

Headline news in a couple of the morning papers in France today - a huge development of the former offices of Areva into a series of short-term rented offices and workspaces.

Nothing new here though, if I look back at least 30 when I lived and worked as a freelance writer and PR consultant (from home) in Central London. The Barley Mow Workspace in Chiswich was well establised and I remember going to visit it, as well as a shared open space in the heart of Covent Garden where a PR colleague had set up his office renting just two or three desk spaces.

All this was well before the invention of co-working, crowd-funding - although felixible working hours,  part-time and shared working, and of course freelancing were well established in the UK, well ahead of France who are now discovering all these alternatives as something new.....

As early as the 1980s experts like Charles Handy were already talking of portfolio working - which he described as a work life based on changing employer or jobs, even one's profession at least six times in our lifetime, interspersed with unemployment, time off for a sabbatical or studying.

My modest contribution* to the debate was written in 1991 and picked up a lot of these themes. I earned my two degrees by part-time study while in my fifties.

PS Since I wrote this entry, new research from America (where else?) indicates that after all, open plan offices do not contribute to better working and increased output! Most are disliked by users, who find that any 'collaboration' generally means a distraction and is not helpful, destroying concentration for an average 20 minutes. Some firms are now reverting to old fashioned smaller offices - 'with a window and a door' according to one boss - and find that productivity has improved significantly. When a discussion is required, moving to a special conference room helps prepare the brain for the business in hand, according to one psychologist.

* 'Europe's New Business Culture' Peter-Danton de Rouffignac, Pitman, London.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Homeless in France.....

An two-hour documentrary in the Channel M6 series 'Zone Interdete' managed to throw some light on the problems facing homeless families in France - the figre of 4 million was quoted but no further explanation offered.

The choice of people whose experiences were featured was intresting - two of the subjects featured had strong family connections, another was coming out of a separation, and a fourth - described as 'bourgeois', a young man in his early twenties with a university degree and sleeping outdoors in a remote forest under a flimsy canvas an a friends of number three, but whose history was briefly covered. The fifth personality was a youngish country dweller who had experienced problems when his business collapsed, but owned some farm land which he converted - possibly illegally - as a campsite for homeless people. Using a charitable trust as the mechanism, he had single handedly created a tight-knight community that was accepted by the neighbours.

The situation of the first two was fairly similar. The first couple (and their school-age daughter) spent their time travelling round France in a (fairly) luxurious camper-van, made available to them by the husband's parents whom they appeared to visit fairly regularly. Clearly the parents were reasonably well off, their home seemed large and well equipped, but there was no talk of the trio being accomadated there fulltime/ they drove aff after one visit to continue their tour of France, picking up low-paid temporary farm work where they could.  

The second case was a solo father struggling to bring up two young children in an 'apartment' created out of a basement utility area, that was clearly illegal and subject to flooding, and owned by a couple of unsympathetic landlords. Towards the end of the documentary it was slowly revealed that the father had a (large) family abroad - I think it was Morocco - to where he finally sent the children whome he joined later on. The final pictures were of the three of them on a sunny beach 'back home'.

What intrigued me most was the relationship between the son/daughter in difficulties and the parents/family, and how far the latter were prepared to go to help. There appeared to be an element of 'thus far but no further' (loan of the camper van) and not a lot of sympathy as the son's business had collapsed with six-figure debts, which probably caused distress to a number of other small businesses owed money by the collapsed business. In the second case, one wondered whe the single father had waited so long, dreaming of better housing which realisically was never going to be available, before appealing to what he admitted was his well-off foreign family.

Clearly the worst case situation if you are homeless is to be abandonned by your family and these cases presented a sort off half acceptance of the son or daughter (temporarily) in difficulties. Strange attitudes I feel when in later life the parents may well be calling on their sons and daughters to help them when they get older and are in need of care.....

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