They need to see you there to know that you are working… Not!

Any knowledge workers here ever pretend to work? Perhaps you’ve squinted your eyes to feign concentration as you gaze at that document you’re working on and, all the while, thought about what you’re going to have for dinner. People around you just tended to assume you’re working right? If pretending to work is new to you, head on over to Google and search “how to pretend to work” or “how to look busy at work” and you will find that some people have it down to a science. How did we ever get here? You can gain an understanding about the problem of measuring knowledge work productivity by reading GSA Enterprise Transformation’s Knowledge Worker Productivity: Challenges, Issues, Solutions (click to download).  As of the year 2011, the author explains (pp. 2-3): Continue reading

The Happy Workplace: Reflection on a Presentation about Zappos’ Company Culture

A couple of days ago I attended a presentation by Zappos’ CEO, James Key Lim, in Sacramento, California. Lim spent an hour talking about the decision to turn things around at Zappos several years ago by developing and prioritizing a strong work culture of happiness that values transparency, trust, social connections, and fun (e.g., they have toys and games at work). Company culture is the #1 concern there as Lim emphasized over and over again. Unfortunately I didn’t hear or even find anything later about their take on job design and person-job fit as I hoped, however the Zappos philosophy on hiring as well as information on the hiring process itself can be found on YouTube. Continue reading

International and Cultural Trends in Telework Receptivity

Upon first receiving Future Work: How Businesses Can Adapt and Thrive in the New World of Work, by Alison Maitland and Peter Thomson, I was a bit disappointed to see how skinny it was. After diving into it however, I realized that the information here is more about quality rather than quantity. In this book, Maitland and Thomson answered some lingering questions I had that I couldn’t seem to find answers to elsewhere. Are there any attempts to measure employee sentiment about telework internationally? Which countries and/or cultures are more receptive to a work anywhere-anytime system? Which aren’t? Continue reading

Office Robot Avatars for Telecommuters

Which do you think is likely to occur first? Sophisticated, remote-controlled, look-alike robots becoming affordable to the average person or full-time telework (for jobs that can be done remotely) gaining widespread acceptance? I’ve often wondered this. If it’s the former, and since I’m petite in stature, I imagine I would stash my stand-in double in the workstation’s coat closet so it would be ready to warm that office chair bright and early! I’d command it to work, and I’d collect the paychecks from afar. I’ve often shared this fantasy in jest without knowing, until recently, that this idea has manifested into reality in the past several years. It’s called telepresence.

The following are video clips of such a robot developed by Willow Garage, and it seems to run smoothly. Continue reading

Tips for Employees Requesting an Alternative Work Arrangement

During a conversation about employee engagement consulting and promoting alternative work arrangements someone once asked me, “How does any of this help people? How can any employee use this information or call in consultants to help improve their working conditions?” My conversation partner asserted that a consulting business didn’t seem very helpful overall as employees have to wait around for leaders to decide to change everything around of their own accord. Back then, I was also under the impression that this kind of change tends not to happen from the bottom up.

Contrary to our beliefs, The Custom-Fit Workplace: Choose When, Where, and How to Work and Boost Your Bottom Line, states that more employees than managers or leaders initiate new flexible work arrangement programs. Although, as depicted in these accounts of employee-initiated programs, the arrangement tends to be for the individual employee concerned rather than an organization-wide makeover. Continue reading

A Less Mentioned Benefit of Telework: Why Pet Owners & Animal Lovers Should Be All Over This

There are a number of benefits to teleworking that may already be familiar to you because they are reiterated time and time again. However, I will quickly summarize them for those who are new to this subject matter:

For employees who can telework and work well this way:

  • Can save thousands of dollars annually that would otherwise go towards gas and office clothes
  • Improves work-life balance by freeing up 1-2 hours (or more for those who commute even further) so that employees have the option to get right to work instead of wasting time in rush hour traffic as well as being able to get necessary errands done without a hassle (e.g., picking up kids from daycare/school)
  • Under a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) where work can be done anywhere, anytime as long as the work is done on time, employees can lead a healthier lifestyle by not having to stay sedentary for 8-10 hour time blocks (includes commute time).

For employers:

  • Reduces real estate costs (for the physical space itself as well as additional costs of maintenance and utilities)
  • A more decentralized workforce allows business to continue during emergencies such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, etc.
  • Employees who are well-suited to telework are more engaged and productive working from wherever they want, instead of at the office, which adds to the bottom line
  • When recruiting, employers can hire the best people for the job regardless of their geographic location
  • Having this option for employees enjoy more freedom and flexibility at work improves recruitment and retention, reducing the cost of turnover

For environmental conditions:

  • Less congestion for those who must travel to work as well as reduces wear and tear on deteriorating freeway infrastructure from having so many people utlizing it during rush hour
  • Although there’s some debate over whether or not teleworking employees make up for not having to commute to an office by driving elsewhere, a reduced need to build additional office building space and expand freeways does mean a decreased carbon footprint
  • The more we can curtail the growth of our freeways and buildings as our population grows, the more space we leave for wildlife Continue reading

The “Can’t You See I’m Busy!” Game

Simply wow… I’ve often tossed around the idea that, at some point in the future, a game development company would come in and make big bucks by “gamifying” routine office computer work. However, here’s a clever spin. This site provides games designed to look like work and even has a counter to keep track of how much money players have collectively costed the world economy (assuming an average yearly salary of €31,500): http://cantyouseeimbusy.com/. Continue reading

When Email is Better than Skype and Face-to-Face Communication

As mentioned in a previous post, I’m going to share my own personal experience with a cross-cultural communication problem that only reared its ugly head when visual cues were available. Thus, this post may substantially depart from my usual writing style. Continue reading

Mass Career Customization: Aligning The Workplace With Today’s Nontraditional Workforce

Before delving into Mass Career Customization, I’d like to address a paper titled The Hidden Work In Virtual Work (click to download). It describes the high personal costs some remote workers have borne while trying to achieve work-life balance and maintain professional connections. I imagine that this paper can scare many away from the prospect of telework. However, note the limitations of this study. Like any good researcher, Heimrich Schwartz describes the methodology for collecting data. This study was based on information gathered from twenty-three informants who were recruited from the researchers’ social network. Therefore, like most qualitative studies, this study has a low sample size. Furthermore, participants were not randomly selected. Having drawn from their own personal network, participants are more likely to share similarities than if drawn from a pool that represents all remote workers. It is quite possible that their recruitment method did not capture the experiences of successful remote workers who thrive under this working condition. Continue reading