Archive for April, 2012

Minibreaks: When Not Working Means Working

Earlier this week, we discussed the downside of having those monthly updates. The IT guys coming in, trying to find the right software, getting it installed, and having it work all in the first try is wishful thinking. Productivity end up taking a hit and your time management goes down the drain. But I had left you off with a cliff hanger: given these unproductive moments updates leave us with, how can we turn it to our advantage? The answer is simple: minibreaks.
Wrong kind of productivity minibreak
(Image owned by Kellogg’s)

Long Breaks v. Minibreaks

Minibreaks are exactly what they sound like. They’re short breaks throughout the day in which the body rejuvenates its energy, unburdens its stress, and recuperates its focus to resume work one the minibreak is over. Now the conventional workplace has the concept of “breaks” down, but they utilize it in a large sense, i.e. in your nine to five job, you get one large break, which is your lunch period. To employers, this seems enough to keep employee productivity and motivation up, as it is set in the middle of the day and it recharges your batteries. A study done in 2011, entitled Cognition by Atsunori Ariga and Alejandro Lleras of the University of Illinois (linked here), proved that this simply isn’t true.

Burn in Before You Burn Out

Time outs is time management
Minibreaks are just work time outs
Ariga and Lleras’ work led them to discover that short breaks throughout the day are drastically more beneficial to maintaining focus and employee motivation than a single large burst. The effect of a break quickly reaches a point of diminishing returns, in which the employees are no longer benefiting and are then simply wasting time. Instead, keeping these breaks small and plentiful throughout the day (such as 5 or 10 minutes every hour), is enough to give the brain a momentary rest for it to come back more productive than before. As well, these minibreaks provide time for the subconscious to work on any problem solutions that might be eluding the employee, further hindering their motivation. But that’s for another day.

Where do Updates Come In?

By now, I’m pretty sure you can see how updates can benefit instead of hinder. They are just another minibreak for the employee to take. Instead of stressing about the halt in their time management, it has become a moment for them to pause and recover before resuming their productivity.

April 27, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Updates Hurting Your Updates: The Unseen Bullet in Productivity’s Back

The Norm

Updates are a necessary part of corporate life. If software becomes outdated, it must be replaced. If the system manufacturer has released a new version, it must be updated. Updates are done for the sake of bettering the tools at the employee’s disposal. Otherwise, we would all still be sitting here using Windows ME while the rest of the world ran Windows 7. Ask your typical employee what they think of when they hear updates and you’ll hear things like “My computer will be faster” or “These glitches will stop appearing”. Yet is that all there is to updates? Is there something behind the scenes that we don’t know about? Something that is hurting us as opposed to helping us?

Untimely Updates: The Double-edged Sword

A recent study done by Embarcadero Technologies shows that 72% of Information Technology workers believe that the constant searches, installations, and waiting for processes to finish drastically hurts their productivity level.  
Unforeseen Productivity Consequences
Cited Here
Today’s workers spend too much time in the antiquated method of acquiring software and installing it on their PCs and maintaining licenses,” Michael Swindell, senior vice president of product management and product marketing at Embarcadero, said. “These methods have to change to keep up with today’s technologies. The growing trends of BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices) and the Consumerization of IT are pushing the need for “iTunes-like” app stores more than ever before.”
He’s not far from the truth and you know it. While everyone looks forward to the end result of their updates, they equally dread the take-away time that comes before. The IT people take over your computer and you are stuck twiddling your thumbs until they finish. They take time to find the right update, download it, install it, then realize it’s for the wrong version, and the process starts all over again. All the while, you’re anxiously waiting to finish that project with the impending deadline. By this, the productivity of the IT worker and the cubicle employee diminish; specifically, it diminishes their work time by 67.1 hours, equating to about $2,851 per year, per employee.

The Fork in the Road

So what’s there to do about it? Employers have one of two options: they can either organize these updates before or after hours, in which IT employees would have to remain longer than usual, or they can use this gap in work as a relaxation period for the employee. Now the former does not seem to solve the issue as you are still holding back employees to work overtime and costing the company money. Yet supervisors still choose it over the latter because they rationale that keeping the worker busy. Yet this is the wrong idea. How, you might ask?
Come back on Friday and find out.

April 24, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Telework: The Next Stage in Work-Home Lifestyle

What is Teleworking / Workshifting?

            Working shifting, or moving your work from the company office to the comforts of your home, isn’t a new concept. Numerous careers allow employees to work shift and complete their tasks from home. Yet it was never a largely accepted practice. Most of these were cases tied to specific fields, whereas others allowed it in only specific cases, such as illness or overtime. This is no longer the stance. According to Randstad Canada’s latest global Workmonitor survey, “Telework”, or the concept of working from home, has begun to take root as more efficient than its counterpart.

What will Teleworking Do For Me?

The effect of telework is in the numbers
Cited: Telework Research Network

            In the everyday world, the demands of life are often competing with the demands of work. This hurts productivity as people find themselves bouncing from one obligation to another. Employee motivation takes a hit when the stress becomes too great and the limited to non-existent leisure web access, such as social sites or online shopping, doesn’t help either. Employee productivity follows suit not long after. According to Stacy Parker, Executive Vice President of Marketing at Randstad Canada, this makes a good work life balance one of the premium qualities employees look for in their employers. Telework provides this solution and eliminates the problem by allowing them to easily manage both variants of tasks and maintain a healthier work-life balance. Beginning in Canada and rapidly moving to and from Southern California, telework is being utilized to give employees the ability to control their lives and stay motivated.

How Can I Make Sure It’s Working?

Not just the employees will benefit from work shifting
Cited: Telework Research Network

Some employers might wonder “Well if they are working from home, how can I make sure they’re being productive?” This is easily solved with SaaS (Software as a Service) tools such as WorkMeter that become cruxes in the telework community by allowing both the employer and the employee themselves to see their productivity levels. By workshifting and teleworking from the company’s computer, employees get the benefit of managing both lives in a healthy manner, employers get the benefit of a productivity increase, and both benefit by seeing an increase in company success.

There’s a reason teleworking is becoming a trend.
Relevant articles

April 19, 2012 at 6:34 pm 2 comments

Andre Angel, CBS with Doug McElvein

Improving Time Management On The Company Clock

A couple of weeks ago, our very own Andre Angel spoke on CBS regarding the productivity habits of employees and how the monitoring culture of employers is changing with the times. On the show, Total Information AM, he was interviewed by Doug McElvein in regards to the dangers conventional employee  productivity methods possess in todays day and age.

Join us in listening below.

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Angel lays out the groundwork, explaining how the existence of four generations in the work place makes banning and blocking sites downright harmful rather than helpful to the company, who instead should utilize cooperative means to increase productivity. With 56% of college graduates saying they would not work for a company that banned social sites, Angel gives light to a global software called “WorkMeter,” currently in use by over 1,000 companies worldwide, that solves the issue of time wasting through self-motivation and self-correction.

April 17, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Internet Freedom of the New Generation

Social Media: More Important Than You'd Think
Social Media
More important than you’d think.

The world is changing; specifically, working world. Steadily and no longer slowly, old mentalities are being replaced as new and fresh ideas and ideals are brought in through younger generations. From the world beyond the four-wall-cubicle, thoughts and expectations of freedom are being fought for. Now, that focus of freedom has seeped in from the cracks in the walls and has arrived at the working world with an entourage of young professionals and recent graduates.

 The Freedom Demands of the Employees
A report entitled Cisco Connected World Technology Report was published in 2011 by Cisco depicting the growing trend in the importance of internet freedom and social media. Done on 2,800 college students in the United Kingdom, all were asked on the importance of internet freedom and social media in comparison to salary.

933 believed having internet freedom and access to sites such as Facebook and Twitter was as “important as air, water, food, and shelter,” indicating a critical factor in employee motivation.

1,120 stated that they would accept lower-paying jobs that allowed them their freedom to social media and from internet blocks over a higher paying job that restricted them.

1,960 acknowledged to breaking IT policy on a regular basis by attempting (and even succeeding) at bypassing security measures meant to restrict their online access.

This new wave of future employees are emerging like a grass-root movement, refusing positions that don’t meet their freedom requirements and setting a new bar in employee-employer social media relations. This growing trend is something that old employers are having trouble adapting to.

The Productivity Fears of the Employers

If you’ve been keeping up with us, you know very well that maintaining and increasing productivity is always high on the employers list. So, naturally, when they see demands for increasing internet freedoms, they usually provoke thoughts of “Well why do you want more access” and “Are you going to be wasting time surfing the web as opposed to working?” But it doesn’t have to be that way.

This increased trend of internet freedom doesn’t come from the slackers; it comes from the motivators. They don’t see it as a sink hole to waste company time and money, but instead as a tool to pause and recharge their batteries. Job motivation is a large factor in productivity and if granting access to Twitter allows them to return to work refreshed, then so be it. In the end, the problem for the employers should be the websites themselves, but the time management of the employees.

The Middle Ground

Effective time management is where both the employers and employees must meet; granting access with the assurance that it won’t be abused. Here, conventional software and productivity monitoring programs don’t work since they focus on preventative measure, as opposed to motivational goals. They snoop and locate sites that employees spend a large amount of time on and place a website block, preventing future access.

New productivity software, such as WorkMeter, which has grown rapidly in Spain’s industry, take on a different approach. They work by monitoring application usage on productive and unproductive applications, then displaying the activity graphs to the employer AND the employee. This grants the future hires the internet freedom they wish all the while letting their employers unintrusively see the levels of their productivity. 

The college students are growing from pre-graduates to post-graduates and in no time, they will take over the workforce. The advancement of company productivity depends on who will gain them by deciding to take the first step in workplace freedom and embrace this new method of improving productivity.

April 9, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Break Time and the Website Block: Friend or Foe?

Look at yourself now. Sitting there, many of you in that cubicle with those dull grey-colored walls surrounding you. If you an employee, you’re wondering if you’ll be caught or how you should be getting some work done, as opposed to taking your unplanned break time on the web. You revel in the fact that you found a way to entertain yourself around the website block. If you’re a supervisor, you’re basically wondering the same thing, with the added thought of whether or not there should be a website block on this. 

Should you be taking your break time right now?

It’s the never-ending cycle of employee against employer. Through the stress, the employee finally caves, throws caution to the wind, and begins their break time on the spot. The employer, wishing to meet their deadlines and push productivity to the max, searches out these distracting sites and places a block on them. Yet what they fail to realize is that this cycle in and of itself is counter-productive and that these unplanned break times are, in fact, increasing work productivity.

It’s not time wasting; it’s employee productivity enhancing!

Most popular website to block.
Also the hardest.

A relatively recent study was done by Don J.Q. Chen and Vivien K.G Lim of the National University of Singapore in 2011 proving that allowing unplanned break times on the internet (in moderation of course) and not placing a website block on entertainment and social sites do boost productivity. You’ll find this much similar to the older study I mentioned in the past by Dr. Brent Coker of the Department of Management and Marketing at Melbourne University in 2009, which had garnered the same results. 

Both studies were approached similarly: a control group was set in a normal work environment, another was allowed to take their break time in anyway other than online, and the third was given complete online access without the website block on social, entertainment, and shopping sites. The results were the same: the third group was marginally more productive than the other two.

Don’t block. Manage.

This self-regulated break time, this power given to the employees, allows them to determine on their on factors if they need a break or not. This opportunity allows them to return to work, refreshed, rejuvenated, and even motivated, as opposed to feeling like they have to work around the website blocks or forced to resume their projects. Naturally, too much break time has the opposite effect which is why it’s critical to give the employees a non-intrusive monitoring system that would show them how productive they are being or how much time they are wasting.

See related articles here and here.

April 5, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Productivity tips

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