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    Entries in work (96)

    Monday
    Dec082014

    Permanent Availability

    Good Monday morning!

    Let me ask you something, and be honest - Did you check your work email over the weekend? Tap out any quick messages or replies from your smartphone while you were out shopping or at the football game or 'spending time with family?'

    I bet you did.

    Everyone does it seems these days.

    This is not a brand new story, but it popped up again over the weekend - Germany Examines Ban on Employees Checking Work Email at Home, a review of some potential legislation to effectively eliminate most 'off-hours' Emails in that country. The country's Labor Minister Andrea Nahles says that it is "indisputable that there is a connection between permanent availability and psychological diseases." 

    Love that line. 

    It sounds a little far-fetched, but even the idea that some combination of workaholism, unhealthy workplace culture and expectations, and enabled by technology that leads to this notion of 'permanent availability' could lead to psychological diseases is at least fascinating.

    And some German companies like Volkswagen, at least partially driven by work contracts and labor rules are adopting the 'no Email after hours' policies. So whether it becomes a government forced mandate or an employer-driven initiative (and possibly something that is collectively bargained), it seems there is at least some traction developing in Germany for a ban or at least a significant restriction on after-hours work communications.

    Let's jump back across the pond to the USA, where those two conditions, some kind of a ban on after-hours email via legislation, or individual company/labor contract agreements to effect the same, are very unlikely. 

    So then, why should we Americans care or even think about this?

    Well for two reasons I think.

    One, regardless of where you are from, if there is some validity to Labor Minister Nahles' claim that email addiction can lead to psychological diseases, then we 'always on' American worker types are even more in jeopardy of falling victim to burnout, stress, depression, and such.

    And two, as HR and business leaders, it probably is time to think about the workplace effects of this new 'permanent availability' with respect to productivity, engagement, retention, and overall performance. Are we really getting the best or most optimal performance, (and working towards being a great/super/amazing/classy place to work), if we have as an organization effectively expanded everyone's working hours to, essentially, all of the time?

    Some time back I postulated that you could discover everything about a company's culture by examining one weekend's worth of corporate email traffic.

    How much email volume is there on the weekend? Who is driving that? How are the response rates and times, particularly when upper management is sending emails out to subordinates? 

    That kind of thing.

    I think if you believe that doing great HR is really about helping organizations perform at their best, that you should be paying attention to what is going on with these 'banning after-hours email' issues. Because even if you know that these bans will never take effect in the US, the reasons that they are even being considered are pretty important, and universal.

    Have a great week! 

    Thursday
    Dec042014

    CHART OF THE DAY: How we spend our time

    Today's Chart of the Day comes from our friends at the Bureau of Labor Statistics from their recent American Time Use Survey, which collects information about the activities people do during the day and how much time they spend doing them.

    So what do most of us (employed people ages 25 - 54 who have kids under 18 at home) do all day, or at least all 'work' day? Here is the chart and some FREE comments (lamentations) from me after the data:

    A few things stand out really quickly from this data of the average 24-hour work day:

    1. While the average person sleeps just a shade under 8 hours a day, I don't know anyone that is likely to report that much sleep. It seems like most folks I know are maybe getting 6.5 or 7 hours a night. So the 7.7 seems really high, what do you think?

    2. The single largest slice of the average day, unsurprisingly, is work (and related activities including commuting from/to work), with 8.7 hours per day spent. That kind of seems in line to me although I bet if you ask around your circle of friends and colleagues most people will say they work more than that. I kind of think there could be some fudging in both the survey numbers and what folks talk about privately as well. We like to think we work more than we do, but come on, are you really grinding away 10 or 12 hours a day like you would like (certain) people to believe?

    3. The most interesting thing about the chart, and for many of us, also the most interesting thing about how we spend our time, is what we say we are doing when we are not at work or asleep. Taking out the 'responsible' stuff from the chart (taking care of others, household activities), and that still leaves something like 5 - 6 hours a day (remember, these are working days), of more or less 'free' time. No one I know will admit that they feel like they have that much free or leisure time each day. 

    I don't have any really prescient or even pithy conclusions to draw from this data except for just thinking about (and similar to what I blogged about earlier in the week), how I am spending my time and whether or not I am getting closer to the various goals I have.

    What do you think? How does your day stack up against this data?

    Have a great day.

    Monday
    Dec012014

    The best productivity app...

    ...is not some new system or process or technology or yet the umpteenth re-imagining of the 'To-do list' - ('This time it is better! We have gamified, mobile-enabled, and socially powered the 'To-do' beyond a simple list and into a cloud-based 'List-as-a-service' platform!)

    I think the best hack or approach to understanding why you are not getting enough (or anything) done (this can be at work, with personal stuff like fitness, or even hobbies), is to first understand just how you are spending your time and attention in the first place. And more importantly, whether that 'thing' you are doing RIGHT NOW is getting you closer to your goals for the day/week/lifetime or farther away.

    So despite all of the more sophisticated ways to try and monitor and track productivity, like apps that can sit in your browser and monitor which sites you visit and how long you spend on them and for keeping track of offline activities you can keep some kind of activity log or journal (Note: you will give up on this in about 2.3 days), and finally for fitness/exercise there are a slew of apps and gadgets that can help you keep track of the time spent exercising, we still (most of us anyway), hit the end of the day/week/month not having made enough progress on the really important items we need to get accomplished.

    We have the ability to monitor/track/analyze everything, yet we still feel like we are coming up short. And that is kind of a crap feeling at the end of the day or week or year. (Admittedly, I started thinking about this when I saw the date today was December 1, and time is growing really short to get completed some '2014' goals I had).

    So let's circle back to the title of this post, 'The best productivity app'. I imagine it will get at least a few clicks from people that see that headline and think 'Yes, I need that! What is the name of that App?'

    The terrible news is that I have no idea what the best productivity App might be, there is an entire cottage industry of productivity 'experts' to offer their thoughts on that question. Google them, I guess.

    But since I baited and switched you with that title, I will offer my take on what the best Productivity app would do.

    It will have one input box that asks you 'What is the most important thing you need to get done?' 

    It will also have a checkbox indicator type setting, (minutes, hours, days, etc.), where you would set up periodic 'push' notifications that will ask you the following question:

    Is what you are doing RIGHT NOW getting you closer to completing XYZ, (the 'important thing' you need to get done), and you would close the notification by saying 'Yes' or 'No'.

    And that is it. That is the entire app.

    No integration with Evernote or Slack or Trello.

    No fancy dashboards or social sharing capability.

    No API so you can share the data from the 'Stop doing stupid things' app, (that may or may not be the name, but it doesn't matter), with your favorite fitness watch.

    And you would not be able to shut off the notifications (short of deleting the app), until you mark that 'Important thing' done, (and you could set up a new one from there).

    Maybe there is an App out there already that does this, but failing that, anyone (me too), can set it up pretty easily with recurring calendar events/notifications. The technology doesn't really matter. What matters is the question and the answer.

    Is what you are doing RIGHT NOW getting you closer to completing XYZ, (the 'important thing' you need to get done?)

    Have a great week!

     

    Thursday
    Nov202014

    Facebook at Work and Google Wave

    Remember Google Wave?

    Sure you do. You probably even recall nagging your friends and contacts for a (at the time) coveted invitation to join the Google Wave beta.

    Google Wave was going to be the next big, big, transformative thing in workplace collaboration technology. It was the re-imagination of email, chat, file sharing, and 17 other things - packaged in a completely new way. It was, for a little while, exciting and cool. Most of the folks who get paid lots of money to prognosticate on such matters expected Google Wave to become, if not truly transformative, at least an important and eventual essential component in the enterprise software tool set.

    Fast forward about a year (give or take) from the launch of Wave and somehow, for some reason, those optimistic forecasts about the importance of Wave turned out to be wrong. Wave did not catch on, at least not enough, and not as a workplace essential tool, and Google pulled the plug on the adventurous project. (Still, mad about that, personally.)

    I have not thought about Google Wave all that much in the ensuing years, (man, it seems like just yesterday, but it has literally been YEARS since Wave was shuttered), until the recent announcement and reactions to the reports that Facebook is planning on releasing its own workplace collaboration technology, which most are simply calling 'Facebook at Work'.

    But unlike Google Wave, which was greeted with (generally) optimistic predictions about its importance and relevance to work and workplaces, the early reaction to the notion of 'Facebook at Work' has been almost universally pessimistic and negative.

    The arguments against the success of 'Facebook at Work' are numerous and expected:

    People don't want to mix personal online socializing and networking with work.

    Facebook can't be trusted to secure sensitive and proprietary corporate data.

    Enterprise social networking tools, ironically often referred to as 'Facebook for the Enterprise', have been around for years, and have never really, truly caught on in a substantial way.

    That kind of thing.

    I have no idea if Facebook at Work will even be released as a product (Facebook has not made any public comment on these reports), much less become a successful, popular, and essential workplace collaboration technology.

    Maybe it will. And maybe it will fail spectacularly like Google Wave. And maybe it will never even be a 'real' product.

    Who knows?

    But I would also suggest the litany of commenters and pundits who have already written off Facebook at Work as a potential important enterprise tech solution also have no real idea either.

    Google Wave was going to be the next big thing. Until is wasn't. Facebook at Work has no chance of infiltrating the workplace. Until it does. Or maybe it won't.

    I think you get what I am driving at by now. No one, not me, or any of the smart people at TechCrunch or Business Insider or CNet or anywhere else really knows.

    So stop worrying or thinking about Facebook at Work for the time being. If and when it ever is released, then make your own evaluation.

    And while you are waiting, maybe send an Email to Google to see if they will reconsider resurrecting Wave. I liked that thing.

    Monday
    Nov032014

    No one can find anything in a massive Home Center. Except this robot.

    Getting back to the 'Robots are going to take all of our jobs' beat that I feel like I have been neglecting for a while and I wanted to share with you a short video, (Email and RSS subscribers click through), and some quick thoughts about a recent, and pretty interesting 'Robots in the workplace' development.

    This one, perhaps surprisingly, comes to us from the folks at Lowes - the mega-chain of supersized home improvement centers. You know the ones I am talking about. Each one about the size of the town you grew up in, carrying tens of thousands of different items, and once within, it's usually impossible to find the specific item you are actually looking for (or a store employee to help you).

    Enter OSHbot. A fully independent, multi-lingual, and infinitely patient Home Center assistant. Need to find an item in the store? OSHbot knows exactly where everytihng is located. Do you have the actual item in your hands? Hold it in front of OSHbot's camera and the robot can recognize and identify the item. Don't speak English? No problem, OSHbot will engage with you in the language you prefer.

    Check the video below, (about 2.5 minutes), and then a couple of comments from me after that.

    Seems like such an obviously good idea, right? This (pretty simple, really), technology goes a long way towards addressing the most common customer complaints with massive, big box stores.

    Where is the item I want? Can you take me there? What is this part I know that I need to replace but I have never seen before? Can someone here speak to me in my language?

    But I bet even more interesting, (and challenging for HR/Talent pros and organizations), will not be whether or not customers will embrace/adopt these robot store associates (I think they will), but what this might mean for staffing, deployment, and management of the robot's human co-workers.

    Once technology like the OSHbot becomes more widely deployed, human employees will have to become accustomed to working with technology that at some level is 'better' than they can likely be. By 'better', I mean that the robot, with access to real-time store inventory, sales, and perfect recall, will have the 'better' answer (or at least just as good an answer as a human) to probably 90% of customer inquiries.

    Certainly in a home center environment there will be some level of customer support, for more complex or nuanced questions, that actual human experts in paint or lumber or plumbing will be best prepared to answer. But I wonder for how long? I mean, couldn't Lowes just deploy a few more OSHbots to 'shadow' the best human experts to record, classify, evaluate, and share with all the other OSHbots across the world the 'best' or 'right' answers to these complex questions? And once that process starts, won't the line or level where actual humans remain 'better' at serving retail home center customers recede even more?

    And finally, one last thought. Robots taking customer service jobs in a Lowes or similar might not be alarming to you yourself right now. But these applications are not going to stop at the Lowes or the Walmart. They are being developed everywhere.

    How long until we see the first HR robot?

    Have a great week!