Big Tech Employees Are TikToking On The Job — and Their Bosses Don’t Always Like It

An illustration of a woman holding her phone up, selfie-style in a conference room while a meeting appears to be happening. Several co-workers are seated at a long table, watching her record a video.Jarett Sitter / The Verge

A day in the life of a 20-something on TikTok who works in tech might look something like this: start the day with free breakfast and a latte. Immediately go out for a multihour lunch break. Return to the office and wander around the spacious, light-filled space, visiting the nap room or the Harry Potter-themed meeting space. “Finish up work.” Then head out at 5PM.

A LinkedIn employee’s workday includes making face masks for “a little self-care moment,” followed by eucalyptus hand towels and kombucha in the office. A Google employee’s day involves scooters, rooftop views, hanging out with a dog, and meeting up with co-workers.

This is the “tech girlie” side of TikTok, where lifestyle vlogging has given rise to a cottage industry of creators who’ve made working in tech — and showing followers the ins and outs of their workday — a key part of their personal brand. The videos often follow a standard format: cheery, upbeat background music plays over quick shots of meeting slides, themed workrooms, and snack drawers.

Viewer comments oscillate between contempt and yearning, with many mockingly pointing out how little work is shown in the videos. But invariably, dozens ask: are you hiring?

Tech employees have racked up millions of views on these glossy aspirational videos. But messy boundaries around filming at work have led to HR warnings and even firings from tech firms that creators say are ill-prepared to navigate the influencer-slash-corporate employee. Corporations, meanwhile, essentially get free promotion — they just have to risk their influencers showing too much or revealing things they may not want the whole world to see.

“Me and my tech creators friends, we all have been flagged before at [our] company to be like, ‘Hey, don’t do that,’” says Chloe Shih. Shih, a YouTuber with over 51,000 followers, says creators must balance crafting their own brand and free expression with demands from their employers that limit what can be shared, either through explicit policies or implicit fears.

What’s allowed and what isn’t isn’t always clear for either side, and companies are “trying to be as stringent as possible” while building out policies and expectations for influencers, according to Shih.

Some companies are more strict than others, forbidding the filming of lobbies, entrances, and security measures like badges. Others bar filming at desks even if the computer screen is blurred — revealing even hints of what you’re working on is off-limits. But creators regularly toe the line in their content, resulting in conversations with HR, co-workers, or managers. Some creators, for example, have shared videos giving tours of offices and workspaces after seeing other creators post similar content, angering security and safety teams.

As Shih has cultivated her own brand of tech industry vlogging, she’s developed tactics to deliver content to followers and keep her employers at least mostly happy. She avoids talking about her compensation, and if she’s currently having trouble at work, she opts instead to discuss it after the fact — as she did in her most viral video, a 14-minute breakdown of all the reasons she quit her job at TikTok.

Shih, who has also worked at Meta, Google, and is now a product manager at Discord, has made videos like “What’s the Discord HQ like? // office tour + meet the team!” and “First Week at Discord as a Product Manager” (the latter sponsored by HelloFresh).

Discord employees who are also creators and influencers are expected to “uphold their responsibilities as shareholders and to each other,” says Lucy Anthony, senior counsel for employment at the company.

“Our policies support personal expression while also protecting the company’s confidential information and our employees,” Anthony says. “If employees speak about or on behalf of Discord externally, it must be in accordance with these policies.”

Anthony didn’t expand on what specific policies Discord has for creators. I think all tech creators do their best to respect their company, because that’s number one, they can’t get fired,” Shih says. For many, that means content ends up not actually reflecting a real workday; one creator who occasionally makes videos about their work at Google says they mostly film the food at their job because showing their actual work isn’t permitted.

“I’ve gotten backlash for filming too much food content and people questioning how much I work,” the employee, who requested anonymity to speak freely about their company, told The Verge in an email. “But in actuality, I just can’t show much of my real work!”

But tech workers who aren’t hypervigilant — even at smaller companies — have found themselves out of a job.

Michelle Serna, who goes by @brokeasshorsegirl on TikTok, makes off-the-cuff, unedited videos including documenting her life running a horse ranch and holding down a full-time job. Serna, who worked at health tech company Visionable, was careful to never disclose the name of her employer on TikTok, instead speaking about her unconventional path in the industry and her experience being a remote employee making a good salary.

In August, Serna uploaded a short video to TikTok showing coffee she had spilled early on a Monday morning. Serna says she didn’t realize until later that a company meeting can be faintly heard happening on her computer in the other room (the video has since been deleted). The video didn’t catch on like her others — Serna says it had only a few thousand views — but the next day, she was fired for negligence.

“When I tell you that I was truly shocked that I was fired, I was so shocked because I never was reprimanded for anything,” Serna says. “I was never spoken to about my content creation. I was never spoken to about my performance at work.” Visionable did not respond to The Verge’s request for comment.

Unlike other creators, Serna says she was never warned about her TikTok presence, which can be profanity-laden and straightforward and is part of her appeal. Visionable had even featured Serna in a marketing video sharing her post-work routine on her ranch, and Serna said the company had celebrated her TikTok presence internally, which grew rapidly this year to over 150,000.

While creators build followings from their tech jobs, the companies that employ them also benefit. When Serna shared the news of her firing on TikTok in September, followers were largely supportive. And though she admitted recording the video was a mistake, Serna says companies like her past employer aren’t equipped to navigate having employees with substantial internet followings. Serna says a few other creators working in tech contacted her after she went public about her firing, saying they were scared about how their companies might react to their content.

While creators build followings from their tech jobs, the companies that employ them also benefit from the viral videos showing happy, well-paid employees extolling the benefits of their jobs. An account strategist at Google praises the company for bringing rescue dogs, saying it gave them “an instant boost of serotonin.” A TikTok sponsored by LinkedIn follows a different Google employee from the office to an influencer event, with the creator expressing her gratitude for having “two dream jobs.”

Though Serna didn’t directly say the name of her former employer in TikToks, the information was easily searchable, she says, and followers regularly asked if her company was hiring.

“I’m like, ‘You wanted me for your good press.’ Because if you think about it, I am good press,” Serna says. “I come from a nontraditional background, I don’t have a college degree, I’m a young woman, I have a disability, I’m a remote employee making a lot of money.”

The proliferation of content that exclusively highlights luxurious perks and apparent light workloads can also obscure the reality of working a 9 to 5. Some people will purposely choose to film days when something interesting is happening, Shih says. Other creators are so busy during their actual workday that they’ll put on the same outfit on the weekend to record themselves pretending to work. The highly curated fluff content also doesn’t show that the seemingly generous office offerings can in fact have the opposite effect.

“Look at the Google campus, look at the Facebook campus, look at the LinkedIn campus — they don’t make their campuses that way because they love their employees,” Serna says. “They make it that way so that they can keep you there.”

Google didn’t respond to a request for comment. LinkedIn, meanwhile, has “clear internal policies that apply to all employees,” according to spokesperson Leonna Spilman, though Spilman didn’t outline what those policies are. “We make them available so everyone at LinkedIn can follow them, including when they choose to share their experiences in communities they care about,” Spilman says.

Still, the “tech girlie” genre of content can serve a purpose, especially for women, people of color, and other traditionally underrepresented groups in the industry who hope to land a job.

Nylah Boone, a TikTok creator who considers herself a micro-influencer, sprinkles in workday content with other unrelated vlogs, like travel videos, Trader Joe’s hauls, and follower Q&As. In April, while working as a contractor at Apple, Boone posted a video of her first day working from the Apple office, showing her morning routine and commute along with snippets of the building, an in-office pastry bar, and lunch with co-workers. The video, titled “Day in the life of a Black girl working in tech,” has amassed nearly 400,000 views, with hundreds of comments asking Boone for career advice and questions about her job and daily routine.

“My followers or people that would reach out to me or comment were like 80 percent Black women,” Boone says. “That was important to me to be able to connect with other Black women as well to encourage them, ‘You can work in this industry or work in this role.’”

Shih, too, says she’s motivated to make content about her job to give others like her free career resources. After receiving an influx of pleas for advice, Shih set up a Discord server for tech professionals and hopefuls to meet and connect. Making videos like the one outlining why she quit TikTok is her way of being honest and transparent with followers, she says.

“I kind of did everything by trial by fire,” Shih says of getting her start in tech. “And if I could go back and tell myself to do stuff, it would have changed my outcome so dramatically.”

In May, Boone unexpectedly lost her job at Apple when her contract wasn’t renewed. She made videos about that, too — a trio of clips documenting her job loss has so far gotten around 150,000 views.

Boone has since moved on to a job at a marketing agency, where she’s able to continue making videos for TikTok while working. But she says tech influencers are an important way that companies are able to get in front of potential applicants, especially people who might not otherwise look for a job in the sector.

“Imagine if there were no POC creators or Black women creating the content about their jobs in tech. There are so many people on [TikTok]… like middle school, high school [girls],” Boone says. “If they have no exposure to it, they’re not going to know that there are other options out there for them.”

By Mia Sato

Source: Big Tech employees are TikToking on the job — and their bosses don’t always like it – The Verge

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Bosses Are Winning The Battle To Get Workers Back To The Office

In the ongoing battle between bosses and workers over returning to the office, recent data shows ... [+] getty

In the ongoing battle between bosses and workers over returning to the office, recent data shows more people are trudging back to the workplace. In the first week following Labor Day, office usage in 10 major metro areas neared 50% of 2020’s pre-pandemic attendance, reports Kastle Systems, a key-card property management company that tracks entries into office buildings.

There were more workers in the office last week than there have been since the pandemic started. However, in-office attendance is still lower than what it was before the virus outbreak. The in-office numbers may be low since Kastle’s data doesn’t include many of the city’s biggest real estate owners, including large law firms, banks, financial services and Wall Street firms.

Separately, the Partnership for New York City, a business industry trade group, surveyed more than 160 major Manhattan office employers between August 29 and September 12 to take the pulse of how many employees returned to the office or are still working remotely. Results indicate that 49% of Manhattan office workers are currently at the workplace on an average weekday—up from 38% in April.

Under 10% of employees are in the office five days a week. The number of fully remote workers fell from 28% in April to 16% as of mid-September. Train ridership is another indicator reflecting a return-to-office pickup after Labor Day. Many companies used the long weekend as the last gasp of freedom before ordering their employees back to headquarters.

After the long holiday weekend, 200,000 passengers rode the Long Island Rail Road into Manhattan. The number of riders was the highest level since March 2020. Commuters from Westchester and surrounding suburbs riding the Metro-North Railroad in the City hit a high point compared to the pandemic period with 174,900 riders. Additionally, New York City public transit data showed an increase in returning workers with subway ridership, having 3.7 million riders for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.

The Partnership for New York City predicts that there will ultimately be a tipping point when the majority return to office. According to the Partnership’s analysis, 54% of workers will ultimately return to an office setting by January 2023. Even the tech industry, which has been the most resistant to going back to an office, is nearing the tipping point. Currently, average daily office attendance by tech professionals is at 47%, and that number is expected to increase to 50% by January.

Shifting Power Dynamics

There is a power dynamic shift taking place between the employee and employer. Throughout 2021 and early this year, workers were in high demand. Desperately needing staff as the economy reopened, companies catered to the workers. Seemingly overnight, the mood dramatically changed. As inflation raged, wreaking havoc on the economy, along with other geopolitical and macro events, thousands of people were downsized, hiring freezes put in place and job offers rescinded.

Americans now find themselves in a period of austerity. As this plays out, the dynamics between employees and employers will dramatically change. Companies will start clamping down and wielding their power, and the first order of business will be the return to office. A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that supervisors have “negative perceptions” of the work-from-home trend and said they’d prefer their staff to operate from an office setting.rity

The managers who responded to the survey were brutally honest. Nearly 70% replied that remote workers are “more easily replaceable than onsite workers.” About 62% contend that “full-time remote work is detrimental to employees’ career objectives and 72% say they would prefer all of their subordinates to be working in the office.”

The Hybrid Model

The dominant style of work is the hybrid model, promoted by tech companies, which calls for people to work from the office two or three days out of the week and the rest of the time from home—or wherever they so choose. However, while tech leadership offered fully remote and hybrid options, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google scooped up commercial real estate after prices plummeted, due to the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The companies are making a bold contrarian bet that Manhattan will bounce back and there will still be a need for people to work in offices. Facebook leased enough space in New York City to triple the amount of people that can work in the city. Apple, which has been in New York for at least a decade, plans to expand its footprint there. Google and Amazon are snatching up space in the city more than any other place in the United States.

Amazon recently paid about $1 billion to acquire the Lord & Taylor flagship building in Midtown Manhattan from WeWork. Collectively, the tech behemoths can accommodate over 20,000 workers. In hindsight, it looks like the tech giants were hedging their bets by offering flexible options, while scooping up real estate in case they needed to change their work style.

The Showdown: Workers Will Continue To Push For Remote Work Options

You will likely soon see a showdown. Many surveys over the last year or so show that employees adamantly responded that they would rather quit than commute back to an office. People have grown accustomed to a better work-life balance by being at home. They appreciate the autonomy and freedom that comes with the flexibility of choice. Their productivity and hours spent working are above reproach.

Runaway inflation has driven the costs of commuting into big cities. The prices of fuel, automobile maintenance, food, business clothing and other necessities will eat into their paycheck, which is already depressed, due to inflation, making the money worth less than it was only six months ago. The long, exhausting, soul-sucking and expensive commute, along with random acts of terrifying violence, is keeping workers from returning to their offices.

In the ongoing tug-of-war battle over companies pushing people to come back into major cities, such as Manhattan, business executives conveniently gloss over these real issues and pretend they don’t exist. If you are commuting into the Big Apple from one of the boroughs, Westchester, Long Island, the suburbs of Connecticut or New Jersey, your commute can easily take two-plus hours door-to-door roundtrip.

The timing is generous, as it doesn’t include the daily frustrations of train delays, constant work being done on the tracks and mechanical issues with the bus where everyone needs to get off and is left stranded on the side of the road until another bus can pick them up. When you come home, you’re tired and burned out.

You also have to worry about your physical safety. New York City can be a dangerous place. According to data from the New York City Police Department, “crime increased by 34.2% in April 2022,” compared to the same period last year. There has been a “43.5% increase in grand larceny” and “burglaries also increased by 39.4%,” compared to last year, which was high to begin with. In April alone, there were 1,261 robberies, 2,044 felony assaults, 3,867 instances of grand larceny and 105 shootings. These represent the reported acts, and the number of unreported incidents is likely much higher.

The most recent data from the New York City Police Department showed an overall increase in crime during August 2022 by 26% compared with August 2021, 38% increase in robbery, 34.7% increase in grand larceny and a 31.1% rise in burglary.

Rationale For Businesses To Promote In-Office Work

David Solomon, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, epitomized Wall Street’s view of not being in the office, saying remote work is an “aberration.” Wall Street banks are the most ardent proponents of getting people into the office. It’s reasonable that the leadership feels this way. The securities industry is highly regulated. They need to consider money laundering, insider trading, ponzi schemes, churning client accounts for higher commissions and other inappropriate activities. If all the bankers, brokers and traders are under one roof, it’s easier for the compliance, legal, risk, audit and regulatory personnel to keep tabs on them.

There is another rationale at play too. In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams has been a strong proponent of businesses getting their employees back into the office. As crime and violence escalated in the Big Apple, as there were fewer people around, Adams contends that with commuters coming back, there will be safety in numbers.

There is also an economic reason. If commuters from New Jersey, Long Island and Connecticut suburbs won’t return, the ecosystem of restaurants, mom-and-pop shops, retail stores, nail salons, gyms and other small businesses will likely fail. This would cause job losses, empty streets, invite more crime and deter both workers and potential tourists from coming into New York City.

The Benefits Of Returning To An Office

Starting a new job is stressful. It’s even harder when you’re doing it remotely. If you’re just beginning to build a career, working remotely may serve as a roadblock to your future success. After over two years of being at home, you most likely lost touch with some or all of your social contacts. If you remain remote, you run the risk of feeling isolated and it will be difficult to cultivate a group of like-minded people.

For young adults, going to the office has positive social benefits. You will meet new people, make friends and build a network of alliances that could help you throughout your career. There are a host of benefits to being at the office. You can find mentors to help navigate your career. There will be serendipitous meetings in the hallways, cafeteria, elevator and bathrooms. These impromptu interactions add up over time. It makes your work life better—or at least more tolerable—by having cohorts that share the same experiences.

Source: Bosses Are Winning The Battle To Get Workers Back To The Office

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What Does a Hybrid Office Look Like? This Company Has 5 Ideas

Like many companies, manufacturing technology firm Augury ditched its New York City office during the pandemic. With few people coming in, and most work able to be done remotely, paying rent on an empty office was a waste. But the need for an office didn’t go away completely, and now the company is fitting out a new space in the city. As it does, it’s fundamentally rethinking how the space will work by looking at who will actually be using it.

To help guide the new design, the company surveyed its teams to understand how different departments expected to use the space, especially in a more hybrid work mode. “When we were talking about that, we started asking what kind of people will be there?” says Tiffany Millar, Augury’s workplace experience director.

The people who’d be using the office, the company realized, fit into a few distinct categories—locals coming in semi-regularly, for example, or foreign-based workers visiting only rarely. Head counts might range from 20 people to 80, depending on the day, with different types of workers needing different spaces. “At a high level, we broke it down into five personas,” says Millar.

Home Away From Home

The first persona is what Augury calls Home Away From Home, or people who live in the tristate area who may come into the office once or more per week, even if most of their work can still be done remotely. “These were the people that essentially wanted to get out of their tiny New York apartments, or maybe it’s really loud because the kids are home,” says Millar. “It’s about getting away and going into the office,” Millar says.

The spaces designed for the Home Away From persona focus on the social side of work—a nice kitchen area, coffee machines, high-top tables where employees can work but also chat with people they may only see in person every few weeks. “It had a lot to more do with hospitality,” says Millar.

Time Traveler

There’s also the Time Traveler persona, or employees who are based in Europe and fly in for meetings but need a bit of a time-zone adjustment. The office includes space to store luggage, and even rooms where the jet-lagged can take a nap after landing early in the morning. “While they might not need a conference room at 5 in the morning, they definitely need a place to store their luggage or take a nap,” Millar says.

Hero Visitor

Another persona is the Hero Visitor, which Millar envisions as investors, board members, and potential clients who may visit quarterly. Spaces designed with this person in mind focus on creating a comfortable and fun environment while also showcasing some of Augury’s technology, which is used to monitor and perform diagnostics on industrial devices. The HVAC system in Augury’s new office will have its technology on display for Hero Visitors to see.

On-Site and Fresh Blood

More work-focused personas are On-Site and Fresh Blood—remote workers and new recruits who may be coming to the office for annual meetings or for the first time since being onboarded. The innovation economy—a reason to be optimistic. Creating global solutions that beget great economic opportunities requires a higher purpose

For remote workers in the On-Site category, conference rooms and breakout spaces are being designed into the office to enable easier in-person collaboration after months of working on projects only remotely.

For the Fresh Blood persona—mostly new hires and people being recruited—the design prioritizes way-finding and clear signage. “That space has everything to do with making sure things are easy to find,” says Millar. “It’s very overwhelming when you’re hired remotely and you go to the office for the first time.”

5 Personas, 1 Space

Each persona has influenced different parts of the office, which will have two floors. Millar says there’s no space that’s dedicated to one persona only, but rather that each will tend to use some sections of the office more than others. Instead of designing the space with one main user in mind, like Augury’s old office, the new office will include these persona-focused design elements to make it adaptable to whomever happens to be in the office on any given day.

While the end result may not look all that different from other pandemic-era office redesigns, it does suggest a new way of rethinking these spaces to better reflect how office work has so thoroughly changed. It’s an evolving concept, and one that the company is creating as it prepares to move into the space early next year.

“There used to be a very clear blueprint of how to build out an office. Post-COVID in a hybrid model, I would say that’s failing,” she says, noting that the 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday office is no longer relevant to the way companies like Augury work. “Knowing who exists in your space, and understanding the gaps and the holes will help you create a solution before the friction starts to happen.”

The personas that Augury is using to guide its design may ultimately change, Millar acknowledges. She says it will be important to track how the spaces are being used, and by whom, to determine whether the design is meeting the changing needs of the different types of people using the office. The five personas Augury has designed around in 2022 may be completely different a year from now.

“I think we’re at the foundation of using personas,” Millar says. “Next comes issues of human behavior, and we’ll see whether we were right.”

By Nate Berg

Source: What does a hybrid office look like? This company has 5 ideas

Enter the Hybrid Workplace

Evidence is starting to emerge that workplaces that adopt a hybrid model early are most likely to thrive. In fact, a recent ONS Survey showed that 85% of UK working individuals favoured a hybrid approach of both home and office working. Similarly in the USA, 52% of US workers preferred a mix of both. And it’s not just a passive sentiment.

The number of searches for jobs offering remote working has increased threefold in 2021 in comparison to the year before. On a more local level, London tube passenger numbers are regularly around 60% of pre-pandemic levels. That includes the 25% boost since the lifting of restrictions on the 19th of January 2022.

What has changed for employees following the unprecedented disruption of the global pandemic is the way the working population consider work-life balance, well-being, and flexible working. Business owners and directors consequently need to address these concerns and make the appropriate changes to their office design and layout to accommodate hybrid working. This is one trend that’s likely to stay.

While the hybrid office is by no means a new concept, the Covid-19 pandemic has given fuel to it. It has changed the dynamic to one where employees move seamlessly between home and office work environments. But it also requires a different set of solutions and ideas, some of which include:

  • Wi-fi enabled spaces for connecting with staff working from home
  • Technology to book meeting rooms and private spaces
  • Configurable office furniture that is easy to move around
  • A combination of team-working collaborative spaces alongside private spaces

Hybrid design typically involves the reconfiguration of existing office space and furniture to create more collaborative and flexible workspaces. The key principle of hybrid design is to create spaces that transcend physical and social barriers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean less space. A communications agency we worked with in London reduced their number of desks from 200 to 100 while retaining their existing space. What they achieved was creative desk layouts and breakout areas for increased flexibility and dynamic working that allowed for collaborative engagement.

The space also included a new booking system that provided the client with a feature-rich cloud-based booking of workspaces and meeting areas. Similarly, Adtrak, a digital marketing agency in Nottingham, reduced its number of desks from 120 to 70 while retaining around 100 staff. The space was essentially reconfigured to include hot-desking areas, social areas, and meeting rooms designed for videoconferencing with remote working staff.

By: k2space

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To Speed Up Your Productivity, Slow Down

Imagine this: you step into the elevator and instinctively reach for your smart phone, only to discover that you’ve mistakenly left it at your desk. A sense of panic sets in as you wonder what to do. What will you think about when you can’t have your “thoughts” fed to you?

We live in an age of information, when there is always a new browser window to open, pop-up to click, post to like, and headline to react to. According to Pew Research, 31% of adults are online nearly constantly. This has led to as many as 75% of adults feeling better informed about national news and 65% perceiving themselves more knowledgeable about health and fitness.

More people being more informed sounds like a positive development. With the benefit of receiving more input than ever, we might expect our output to be greater, too. A higher volume of information readily at our disposal should better equip us to make decisions, connect the dots, and share knowledge with one another.

Yet, the power of information comes with an asterisk. We are facing a moment in time when people are feeling more disconnected than ever. Mental health problems are more pervasive among young people who frequently use social media. Not only are Americans generally feeling more isolated, anxious and depressed; they are also becoming less creative. Torrance creativity scores have been steadily declining since the ’90s (University of William and Mary), which many scientists attribute to the increased time we spend staring at our screens, presumably consuming information.

As someone who credits my track record of launching unlikely social ventures like KIND (at least in part) to my penchant for daydreaming and “talking to myself,” I suspect that the gap between information and creativity lies in our distracted movement away from self-reflection. I have no doubt that those moments I spent whistling and singing on the walk to school; the countless times boredom forced me to use my imagination; and the brainstorms I still conduct unofficially in the shower, have helped me uncover what gives me meaning, and have led to some my most creative ideas.  

Self-reflection is the transformative process of converting information into something far more valuable: ideas. It is an exercise through which we make sense of inputs, critically evaluate them, and consider what we might have done wrong so that we can do better next time. It can help us sort fact from fiction. It can help us relate information to our own life experiences to inform our own purpose. By combining information in unexpected ways, we practice creativity. If material simply goes in, but doesn’t get analyzed, it’s not only worthless; it’s an impediment to productive thought.

One of the reasons children are considered more creative than adults is that they know less. They have less information about how the world works, which leaves more space for them to imagine what it could be. This does not mean that we should all go ahead and succumb to ignorance, but it does mean that we should be wary of information overload drowning out self-reflection.

Digesting thoughts requires more energy than does simply consuming information. It follows that self-reflection requires commitment from our part. Especially in the age of information, we are fighting against addictive properties of dopamine-triggering constant reward-systems. It is easy to get distracted. It is easy to be entertained. It is easy, but also damaging, to slowly let our own creativity slip away.

Anyone who has decided to be an entrepreneur is not looking for easy. Entrepreneurs depend on their creativity, and that creativity relies on spending concerted time and space away from your devices to let your mind wander, think critically, and create. The next time you are stepping out of the office, consider leaving your phone behind and see what happens.

By : Daniel Lubetzky

Source: To Speed Up Your Productivity, Slow Down | Inc.com

How Distractions and Delays affect Speed and Productivity

What is the impact of these distractions? Of course, it makes employees lose focus on their work, and also slows down their work speed and productivity. The Udemy survey also revealed that once an employee is distracted, it takes 23 minutes to refocus on a task. So powerful are these distractions that they sometimes side-track the regular project work.

The reality about distractions caused by social media or surfing the Internet is that they become ongoing tasks, one news item prompts the employee to browse through other related articles. It is like a bottomless pit – the employee gets sucked into it and loses track of time. In the beginning, employees are able to snap away from these distractions and refocus on their work, but once they get addicted to these distractions, their work speed and productivity go for a toss.

In addition to distractions, delays in business processes also affect the speed and productivity at work. The most common delays are approval delays. Delay in the approval of invoices or requisitions causes bottlenecks in the business process.

Here are few tips to bring back the focus and speed up your work:

1. Sharpen your focus:

Narrowing down your focus on work-related stuff helps in increasing productivity. Steering clear from distractions and focusing on your work helps get work done faster. This doesn’t mean you cannot take breaks; all you need to do is the time your breaks so that you don’t lose focus from your work.

2. Set deadlines:

Self-imposed deadlines motivate employees to speed up their work. You can set everyday deadlines or weekly targets to complete your work. Still better, you can reward yourself once the targets are achieved. You can treat yourself to a movie or a meal at your favorite restaurant, or as simple as a candy bar when you achieve targets.

3. Set work schedules:

being organized in your work is a great way of increasing your productivity. Sketch a work schedule that times your work, breaks, and meetings. If you set a schedule for a week, then you can review and make changes whenever required.

4. Leverage technology:

Adopting the latest technology like automation can speed up business processes. Redundancies are eliminated and business processes are streamlined by automating the repetitive, mundane steps in a process. Approval delays can be avoided by automated approvals.

By: cflowapps

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Why The Return To The Office Isn’t Working

Andres is back to the office three days a week, and like many knowledge workers, he’s not happy about it. He says that while he and the other executive assistants at his Boston law firm have been forced back, the attorneys haven’t been following the rules. That’s partly because the rules don’t quite make sense, and people in all types of jobs are only coming in because they have to, not because there’s a good reason to go in.

“People have adapted to remote work, and truthfully, the firm has done a tremendous job at adapting in the pandemic,” said Andres, who would prefer going in two days, as long as others were actually there. “But I think it’s more the returning to work that they’re struggling on.” He, like a number of other office workers, spoke with Recode anonymously to avoid getting in trouble with his employer.

Andres enjoys working from home and thinks he does a good job of it — and it allows him to escape a long commute that has only gotten 45 minutes longer thanks to construction projects on his route.

The majority of Americans don’t work from home, but among those who do, there’s a battle going on about where they’ll work in the future. And it’s not just people who enjoy remote work who are upset about the return to the office.

Those who want to be remote are upset because they enjoyed working from home and don’t understand why, after two years of doing good work there, they have to return to the office. People who couldn’t wait to go back are not finding the same situation they enjoyed before the pandemic, with empty offices and fewer amenities. Those who said they prefer hybrid — 60 percent of office workers — are not always getting the interactions with colleagues they’d hoped for.

The reasons the return to the office isn’t working out are numerous. Bosses and employees have different understandings of what the office is for, and after more than two years of working remotely, everyone has developed their own varied expectations about how best to spend their time. As more and more knowledge workers return to the office, their experience at work — their ability to focus, their stress levels, their level of satisfaction at work — has deteriorated. That’s a liability for their employers, as the rates of job openings and quits are near record highs for professional and business services, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

There are, however, ways to make the return to the office better, but those will require some deep soul-searching about why employers want employees in the office and when they should let it go.

The current situation

For now, many employees are just noticing the hassle of the office, even if they’re going in way less than they did pre-pandemic. This is what’s known as the hybrid model, and even though people like the remote work aspect of it, for many it’s still unclear what the office part of it is for.

“If I go into the office and there are people but none of them are on my team, I don’t gain anything besides a commute,” Mathew, who works at a large payroll company in New Jersey, said. “Instead of sitting at my own desk, I’m sitting at a desk in Roseland.”

Mathew’s company is asking people to come in three days a week, but he says people are mostly showing up two.

Further complicating things is that, while the main reason hybrid workers cite for wanting to go into the office is to see colleagues, they also don’t want to be told when to go in, according to Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford professor who, along with other academics, has been conducting a large, ongoing study of remote workers called WFH Research.

Employees say that management has yet to really penalize people for failing to follow office guidance, likely out of fear of alienating a workforce in a climate where it’s so hard to hire and retain employees. Many others moved farther from the office during the pandemic, making the commute harder. The result is circular: People go into the office to see other people but then don’t actually see those people so they stop going into the office as much.

With 70 percent of office workers globally now back in the office at least one day a week, the excitement many people felt a few months ago is wearing off. For many, that novelty is turning into an existential question: Why are we ever here?

“It was sort of like the first day of school when you’re back from summer vacation and it’s nice to see people and catch up with them,” Brian Lomax, who works at the Department of Transportation in Washington, DC and who is expected to come in two days a week, said. “But now it’s, ‘Oh, hey, good to see you,’ and then you go on about your day,” an experience he says is the same as working from home and reaching out to people via Microsoft Teams.

Most of the people we spoke to use software like Teams, Slack, and Zoom to communicate even while they’re in the office, making the experience similar to home. If one person in a meeting is on a video call from home — say, because they’re immunocompromised, or they have child care duties, or it just happens to be the day they work from home that week — everyone is. There’s actually been an uptick in virtual meetings, despite the return to the office, according to Calendly. In April, 64 percent of meetings set up through the appointment scheduling software included videoconferencing or phone details, compared with 48 percent a year earlier.

One issue is that hybrid means different things from company to company and even team to team. Typically, it seems employers are asking workers to come in a set number of days per week, usually two or three. Some employers are specifying which days; some are doing it by teams; some are leaving it up to individual workers. Almost half of office visits are just once a week — and over a third of these visits are for less than six hours, according to data from workplace occupancy analytics company Basking.io as reported by Bloomberg. The middle of the week tends to be much busier than Mondays and Fridays, when there are empty cubicles as far as the eye can see.

There’s also a disconnect between why employees think they’re being called in. Employees cite their company’s sunk real estate investments, their bosses’ need for control, and their middle managers’ raison d’etre. Employers, meanwhile, think going into the office is good for creativity, innovation, and culture building. Nearly 80 percent of employees think they’ve been just as or more productive than they were before the pandemic, while less than half of leaders think so, according to Microsoft’s Work Trends Index.

Employers and employees generally tend to agree that a good reason to go into the office is to see colleagues face to face and onboard new employees. Data from Time Is Ltd. found that employees that started during the pandemic are collaborating with less than 70 percent of colleagues and clients as their tenured peers would have been at this point. Slack’s Future Forum survey found that while executives were more likely to say people should come into the office full time, they are less likely to do so themselves.

The nature of individuals’ jobs also determines how much, if at all, they think they should be in the office. Melissa, a government policy analyst in DC, is supposed to go in twice a week but has only been going in once because she says her work involves collaborating with others but not usually at the same time. She might write a draft, send it to others to read, and then they’ll make comments and perhaps, at some point, they all get together to talk about it.

“I see a lot of these ads for these teamwork apps — they always show these pictures of people sitting at a conference table and they have paper and all sorts of things on the wall and they’re really collaborating on product development or something,” Melissa said. “And I’m like, that’s not what we’re doing.” Still, she thinks that from managers’ perspectives, in-person is the gold standard, regardless of the actualities of the job.

“It feels like they just want people in the office,” she said.

It also depends on the pace of work. A financing services employee at Wells Fargo in Iowa said he works more efficiently at the office but that since his job consists of working on deals that come in sporadically throughout the day, that efficiency means he ends up wasting a lot of time playing on his phone or pacing around the office in between.

“What makes this so frustrating is that my wife will send me a photo of her and my 10-month-old son going out for a walk,” he said. “If I had a break at home, I’d go on a walk with them.”

Employers are certainly feeling the frustration from their employees and have been walking back how much they’re asking employees to be in the office. Last summer, office workers reported that their employers would allow them to work from home 1.6 days a week; now that’s gone up to 2.3 days, according to WFH Research.

Companies are rolling back return-to-office, or RTO, plans at law firms, insurance agencies, and everywhere in between. Even finance companies like JPMorgan Chase, whose CEO has been especially vocal about asking people to return to their offices, have loosened up.

Tech companies have long been at the forefront when it comes to allowing hybrid or remote work, and now even more tech companies, including Airbnb, Cisco, and Twitter, are joining the club. Even Apple, which has been much stricter than its peers in coaxing employees back to the office, has paused its plan to increase days in the office to three a week, after employee pushback and the resignation of a prominent machine learning engineer.

It seems like, for now, office workers have the upper hand. Many don’t expect to be penalized by management for not working from the office when they’re supposed to, partly because they don’t think management believes in the rules themselves.

“Our retention is better than expected and our employee engagement is better than expected, so I don’t think [our executives are] seeing any downside,” said Rob Carr, who works at an insurance company in Columbus, Ohio, where people are expected to be in three days a week but, as far as he’s seen, rarely go. “Honestly, if they were, I think they’d be cracking down, and they’re not.”

Carr himself goes into the office every day, but only because he and his wife downsized houses and moved a short bike ride from his office. Otherwise Carr, who is on the autism spectrum and says he doesn’t do well with in-person interactions, would be completely happy working from home as he is from his empty office.

“Hats off to Apple for innovation,” Carr said, “but they are, certainly from a Silicon Valley perspective, an old company.”

What to do about the broken return to the office

Solving the office conundrum is not easy, and in all likelihood it will be impossible to make everyone happy. But it’s important to remember that going to the office never really worked for everyone, it was just what everyone did. Now, two years after the pandemic sent office workers to their living rooms, their employers may have a chance to make more people happy than before.

“The problem right now is you’ve set something that’s unrealistic and doesn’t work, and when employees try it out and it doesn’t work, they give up,” Bloom, the Stanford professor, said. “If employees refuse to come in, it means the system isn’t working.”

To fix that, employers should explore not only why they want people in the office, but whether bringing people into the office is achieving those goals. If the main reason to bring people back is to collaborate with colleagues, for example, they need to set terms that ensure that happens. That could mean making people who should be working together come in on the same days — a problem around which a whole cottage industry of remote scheduling software has cropped up.

That said, Bloom believes there’s no golden rule on how often it’s necessary to go in to get the benefits of the office. Importantly, when workers do come in, they shouldn’t be bogged down with anything they could be doing at home.

“First, figure out how many days a week or a month constructively would it be good to have people face to face, and that depends on how much time you spend on activities that are best in person,” he said, referring to things like onboarding, training, and socializing.

Employers need to be realistic about how much in-person work really needs to happen. Rather than making people come in a few times a week at random, where colleagues pass like ships in the night, they could all come in on the same day of the week or even once a month or quarter. And on those days, the perks of coming in have to be more than tacos and T-shirts, too. While fun, free food and swag aren’t actually good reasons to go to the office.

How much someone needs to come into the office might also vary by team or job type.

“For me, coming in to do teaching and to go to research seminars, that might be twice a week,” Bloom said. “But for other people, like coders, it may just be a big coding meeting and a few trainings once a month. For people in marketing and advertising, mad men, that’s very much around meetings, discussions, problem-solving — that may be two or three days.”

Another thing to consider, especially for those who truly like the office, is how they can get that experience with fewer of the downsides.

Currently, even employees who still like their offices a lot aren’t necessarily using them. Real estate services company JLL found that a third of office workers are using so-called “third places” like cafes and coworking spaces to work, even when they have offices they can go to.

Matt Burkhard, who leads a team of 30 at Flatiron Health, is one of those workers. He says he works better at an office than at home, where he has two young children. And while Burkhard enjoys going into his office and goes there once or twice per week, though he won’t be required to do so until later this summer, the trip to Manhattan isn’t always feasible, especially if he has to do child care for part of the day. So he’s been going to Daybase, a coworking space near his home in Hoboken, NJ, three or four times per week.

“I’m just a lot more focused when everyone is in the same place working,” Burkhard said, noting that he hasn’t asked his company to pay for the $50 a month membership fee.

For many office workers, the current state of affairs just isn’t working out. So they’re doing what they can to make their experience of work better, whether that means renting coworking space or not showing up for arbitrary in-office days. They don’t necessarily hate the office. What they hate is not having a good reason to be there.

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