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    Entries in work life (13)

    Wednesday
    Jul052017

    Who we spend our time with

    Quick one for a first day back after a long weekend Wednesday.

    Wanted to share a really interesting chart I saw over the weekend from The Atlas who took a look at data from the American Time Use Survey to see how who we spend our time with, (co-workers, family, no one), changes over time. Or more clearly, how who we spend our time with changes as we get older.

    Take a look at the chart, then one or two comments from me.

    Nothing too surprising here, I guess. As we get older we spend less time each day with co-workers, (we may not even have any), children, (on to their own lives), and siblings, (the same). We tend to spend relatively more time with a partner, (if we have one), and most troubling, more and more time alone.

    I guess that is the natural way of things, but it still feels a little sad. We look forward to the time when we don't have to go to the office to deal with our annoying co-workers. To the time when the kids finally move out of the house so we can have our space. To the day when we don't have anyone really chasing our time and attention. 

    But pretty quickly that can turn into something else, something not so fun, something we probably don't think about too much right now when our lives are so full, so busy, so crowded.

    Look at the charts above again. Look at the 'Alone' chart. Up and to the right. Up and to the right. 

    It's the only chart wth that trend line. Until the line ends of course.

    Wednesday
    Jan042017

    UPDATE: New Year, Less After Hours Email?

    Last March I posted about a proposed French law that would make after-hours email and other forms of work-related communication more or less 'ignoreable' for employees. After 6PM on work days, (and on holidays and weekends), French workers could not be compelled to be 'on' and responsive to the bosses 10PM emails or expected to be 'available' via their phones on weekends or on their vacations.

    In March I offered these comments on the proposed email regulations:

    At least here in the USA, the vast majority of advice and strategery around helping folks with trying to achieve a better level of work/life balance seems to recommend moving much more fluidly between work and not-work. Most of the writing on this seems to advocate for allowing workers much more flexibility over their time and schedules so that they can take care of personal things on 'work' time, with the understanding that they are actually 'working' lots of the time they are not technically 'at work'. Since we all have smartphones that connect us to work 24/7, the thinking goes that we would all have better balance and harmony between work and life by trying to blend the two together more seamlessly.

    And I guess that is reasonably decent advice and probably, (by necessity as much as choice), that is what most of us try and do to make sure work and life are both given their due.

    But the proposal from the French labor minister is advocating the exact opposite of what conventional (and US-centric), experts mostly are pushing. The proposed French law would (at least in terms of email), attempt to re-build the traditional and clear divide and separation between work and not-work. If this regulation to pass, and if it is outside of your 'work' time, then feel free to ignore that email. No questions asked. No repercussions. At least in theory.

    But here is the question I want to leave with you: What if the French are right about this and the commonly accepted wisdom and advice about blending work and life is wrong?

    What if we'd all be happier, and better engaged, and more able to focus on our work if we were not, you know, working all the time?

    What if you truly shut it down at 5PM every day?

    That is some of what I had to say about that regulation back in March. Now to the 'Update' part of the post - it turns out that proposed 'No email after 6PM' law actually did pass, and went into effect in France at the New Year.

    From January 1 onwards, employers having 50 or more employees in France will have to offer their staffs a 'right to disconnect'. From coverage of the new regulation in the Guardian, "Under the new law, companies will be obliged to negotiate with employees to agree on their rights to switch off and ways they can reduce the intrusion of work into their private lives."

    If the organization and the employees can't come to an agreement, then the employer must publish a charter or set of rules that explicitly state the demands on, and rights of, employees during non-work hours.

    It is going to be interesting to follow this story to see how it plays out in France, if employers really do follow the edicts of the new regulations, (there are not yet punitive measures in place for employers who do not comply), and if these regulations prove to impact organizational productivity and employee well-being.

    For my part, thinking about this story for the first time since last March when the new law was initially proposed, I don't think my reaction is any different now than it was then.

    What if we'd all be happier, and better engaged, and more able to focus on our work if we were not, you know, expected to be working all the time?

    Have a great Wednesday. Have fun poring through the 19 emails that came for you last night. Unless you were up at 11PM replying to them already.

    Monday
    Nov072016

    Working too much is (possibly) bad for your brain

    Quick question, if you had to guess, what do you think would be 'better' (for folks 40 and older), in terms of maintaining or even enhancing your overall cognitive abilities - I will give you two options, pick the one you think would be 'better'.

    1. Working at a full-time job that is a real grind, and putting in 60+ hours/week

    2. Doing more or less nothing in terms of paid employment, i.e., spending a lot of time playing video games, watching Netflix - that kind of thing

    Well, according to a recent research study published at the University of Melbourne, the guy sitting on the sofa binge watching The Walking Dead is probably better off, at least in terms of cognitive functioning, than the 60 hours/week work hero.Three Flags (1958), Jasper Johns

    So what might be the true, 'best' option to keep cognitive function from deteriorating as we get older?

    Unsurprisingly, the answer lies somewhere in between the two extremes of 'doing nothing' and 'probably working too much.'

    From the University of Melbourne's findings:

    Our findings show that there is a non-linearity in the effect of working hours on cognitive functioning. For working hours up to around 25 hours a week, an increase in working hours has a positive impact on cognitive functioning. However, when working hours exceed 25 hours per week, an increase in working hours has a negative impact on cognition. Interestingly, there is no statistical difference in the effects of working hours on cognitive functioning between men and women.

    This could be the greatest argument yet for the three day work week, at least for folks in the 40+ crowd, (is anyone actually arguing for a three day work week? Maybe I can start the groundswell here).

    But what is interesting about the research and the conclusions is how it more or less aligns with what most of us would intuitively feel to be the case - that being engaged in work helps keep the brain sharp, and the mental faculties in shape. It would be hard to argue, based on a personal and informal review of the losers in our lives, (I am looking at you, Mr. no-good brother in law), that sitting on the sofa all day is good for cognitive functioning.

    What might be surprising however is the pretty low weekly working hours threshold where cognitive function starts to decline. Twenty five hours per week is squarely in the 'part-time' category, and likely not the one in which most of us find ourselves in during the prime, (or what we think is the prime), of our working careers.

    So in sum the two things to at least think about are both pretty clear, and kind of obvious too.

    Lots of us are working too much, and all of this work might be having a negative impact on cognitive function, (not to mention family life, stress, physical health, etc.).

    But as we get older, working at least some, (up to 25 hours or so), is actually positive on a number of fronts, and should be a part of our planning as we age.

    Everything in moderation. Shocking, I know.

    And probably a good reminder as we hit Election Day tomorrow.

    Have a great week!

    Monday
    Aug012016

    Vacation wrap-up: What I did wrong, did right, and what I'd do differently next time

    I am just back from a super week of vacation/holiday spent in the wonderful state of South Carolina (Note to self: If I ever get my feet back in South Carolina I am going to nail them to the ground), and wanted to take a few minutes before diving in to my hopelessly full email inbox to reflect on the break with respect to how I did or didn't handle 'work' and 'work/life' issues during the week.  I had not taken this many consecutive days off (outside of the end of year holidays), in some time, so it was an interesting and revealing week for me as well. And also kind of sad in a way, that simply taking one business week off, (and the weekends on each side of that week), creates such a challenge for me, and I would expect, many of the folks who read this blog. It just shouldn't be that hard, if you know what I mean.

    But in the interest of 'I need to get back to watching Sharknado 4', let's get on with the idea for the post.  Here's what I did wrong, did right, and the next time I take a week or more offline, what I would definitely do differently.

    What I did wrong:

    By the time I had left for the trip I had one pretty important work item that needed to be completed, and sadly, was not. So I rationalized that I would work on said item on the plane ride down, and then it would be all set. But alas, said project took longer than I had anticipated, and I had to revisit it two other times during the trip before it was completed. What I did wrong was not finishing this project, no matter what it took, before the trip. There's no way to leave on a vacation with everything completed, but I should have realized the importance of this one thing and made sure it was done. It was completed by mid-week or so, but it did bug me for the first half of the trip. But that was on me, I needed to do a better job at prioritizing projects before I left.

    What I did right:

    Today is Monday, the first day I am back 'in the office', and I smartly have zero 'official' meetings or calls today. I knew that attempting to wade through the Inbox would pretty much be the only thing I would be able to attack today, and I made sure there were no other conflicts to allow me to attempt to catch up.  The other thing I did right, and I was not sure about this at the time, was actually haul the laptop with me on the trip. It wasn't because I felt compelled to 'work' on the trip, but if I really had to, (see above), I would be able to, and would not get stuck in a hotel business center or having to find a FedEx office location at the beach.

    What I would do differently next time:

    I will probably set up my 'Out of the office' email auto-response at least one full day before I am actually out of the office. This would create a little more airspace to complete anything that needs to be done before leaving on a vacation, and better set expectations for response time. I would also, similar to what I did today, make sure on the last day in the office that I have no meetings or calls set up.  It's kind of like setting up a DMZ situation one day before and one day after a vacation. The other thing I would do differently is perhaps pick one personal  'work' project, (for me it is this blog, the HR Happy Hour Show), to spend at least some time thinking about or working on. Those personal projects are extremely fun, and often don't really seem like work. I would have loved to come back from vacation with a dozen great blog post ideas or two or three podcasts booked. Alas...

    That's it from me. If you have not yet taken some time off this summer, I really hope you do and have a fantastic break. And if you are one of the approximately 489 people waiting to hear back from me, I promise I will get caught up soon. I mean that. Truly....

    Have a great week!

    Friday
    May062016

    n = 1

    1.  We love to talk about 'hiring for cultural fit' but have no idea if we really know how to do that, and if it really matters.

    2. You don't really have to be glued to your email 24/7. People who are emailing at all hours are mostly competing on responsiveness instead of on talent/skill/ideas. You can try to do compete on responsiveness for a while, but eventually, maybe soon, you''ll burn out and won't have enough talent/skill/ideas to fall back on.

    3. The number of people you can trust, who you can count on, and who really do have your best interests top of mind is fewer than you think. Maybe a lot fewer. But that is ok. One true ally is worth more than twenty impostors.

    4. Not everyone in the 'gig' economy is all that thrilled to be chasing gigs all of the time. You might be able to lock up some of your most talented and productive contractors or temp workers for much less than you think.

    5. It's probably too late to panic. Just get on with it.

    6. Incomplete or incongruous information about prices and salaries make so many of us leave money on the table. Whatever you are thinking of asking for, ask for 20% more.

    7. Stop working for free. Truly. You are devaluing your own skills and you are killing the market for everyone else. And to those big, giant companies that continue to want to compensate labor with 'exposure?'. Shame on you too.

    8. The single greatest disruption in the 'robots are going to take all the jobs' dynamic might be when self-driving trucks put a million drivers (in the USA only) out of work.

    9. Listen to the input of the (few) people you can trust, but always make your own decisions

    10. Once your network hits 150 or people, you can't really know them all that well, or meaningfully engage with any more. But you can let them think they know you by sharing just enough information,  in the right places at the right times. It isn't about being fake, it's about recognizing the limits of our capacity to engage. And also about making sure you give yourself the time and space to work on your own ideas, and not be too influenced by what everyone else seems to be fascinated with at the moment.

    11. I had a weird dream where I directed a movie. It was like a 'Planet of the Apes' except instead of apes, they were dinosaurs that walked on two legs. Million dollar idea!

     

    To be continued...

     

    Have a great weekend!