exploring possibilities for an engaging and productive workplace

Food and Drink at Work

Friday, December 17, 2010

Typically I've kept an electric kettle at work, which I can use to quickly boil water for tea. I like to share the kettle with office-mates and guests. The tea seems to facilitate office chit-chat, smiles, and laughter. All great sources of office creativity and productivity.

BBC's Tom de Castella wrote about tea and productivity at work in his recent article, Is a Tea Break at Work Good for Productivity? He starts off saying the average British employee spends 24 minutes a day getting tea and coffee. Extrapolate this out to the whole British population and you have a serious loss in man hours worked. The article goes on to quote several researchers and academics who argue the benefits of breaks, caffeine, and more despite the lost work time.

Brits aren't the only ones eager to converse, take breaks, and enjoy a warm drink at work. Yesterday's Marketplace (NPR) featured a story, The Value of Being Happy at Work. Kye Ryssdal talks with Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal of Sony Pictures. He introduces them by saying he "...was intrigued by a successful company that has put 5,000 employees through a program that sounded a little touchy-feely."

The interview reveals that Pascal and Lynton have developed programs aimed at building community. One example, Sony used to have an executive dining hall and less appealing dining options for regular staff. They put a stop to this, built a commissary and started subsidizing healthy meals for everyone. 

They go on to talk more about what makes Sony employees happy at work. They even discuss paid TV breaks as a form of engagement. When it comes to results, Pascal says, "... we've seen are the different divisions of the company working together in a way that they never had before, us being able to get, wring more money out of all the things we do. Because people are working together, everybody works hard to do the same thing."

I wonder if Sony provides easy access to tea and coffee too?

As part of my MBA program at Bainbridge Graduate Institute I've began working with a team of classmates on a business idea. My team is focused on sharing, so sharing has been top of mind lately. Yesterday I was talking with one of these teammates, Darren Guyaz, about a commonly held assumption, the idea that you cannot get paid to do what you love.

Something I've heard before, is that work is just work while weekends and evenings are reserved for the things you love. What I don't understand is why you can't do what you love at work and on the weekends? My belief is that our greatest gifts stem from what we love and hold most closely. What if sharing those gifts is our life's work?

The more I read and write about work, I see that work can change our lives and the world. As I research sharing, I see the same possibility.

This video was a collaborative effort by Bainbridge Graduate Institute students with music by Darren Guyaz, drawings by Paul Taylor Hess, and voice-overs by Nina Carduner, Suzanne Pinckney, Darren Guyaz and myself.

The Boss

Saturday, December 4, 2010

This morning one of my favorite bloggers, Seth Godin, wrote a post titled: The World's Worst Boss. Followed by the first line, "That would be you."

As long as I can remember, I've heard people complain about their bosses. Family, friends, me- everyone's doing it. What if we re-frame the concept of boss, would we still complain so much?

Seth Godin is asking us to take responsibility for ourselves. We choose our perspectives, we set our schedules, we're in control of our own destiny. He has a point. This is simple.

We've all heard the phrase, "I'm my own worst critic." He calls us out on that too. Would you work for anyone that talked to you the way you talk to yourself? Whoa! I wouldn't work for me. Listening to my own self talk, I can be a real jerk. What if I held myself to the same standards I have for 'the perfect boss'?

Interuptions at Work

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thank you Christopher Allen of Life with Alacrity for connecting me to Imran Ali's  blogpost. The post discusses Jason Fried's TEDxMidwest talk, Why Work Doesn't Happen at Work. 

This is the first time I've watched a TED talk and thought to myself, oh-no!, this is all wrong. I'd love to hear what you think, here's Jason Fried:

In short, Jason Fried says people don't go to work to get things done. In fact, work is one of the worst places to get things done. Mostly because work is full of unnecessary distractions and interruptions like chit-chat, conversation, and meetings. He describes meetings as toxic, and explains that if there were no managers, employees would never have meetings. Jason compares a disruptive workplace to a disruptive night's sleep. He argues that work, especially creative work, requires long stretches of uninterrupted time. He concludes with three recomendations:

  1. No-talk Thursdays. A period of “quiet time” prohibiting coworkers from talking to each other thus limiting distraction.
  2. Replacing active communication, like conversation, with passive forms such as email, IM and collaboration tools.
  3. Cancel your meetings. Things will still get done!
While Jason's words make sense, I noticed myself disagreeing with most everything he says, especially the recommendations. For those who know me, you know this is unusual, I'm generally agreeable.

What's missing from his talk is balance.  As we're taught at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Yes, and... 

While distractions are distracting, they can be incredibly valuable too. I can think of several times when a distraction has resulted in an epiphany, jump starting my work. 

As I discussed in Take Lunch and Talk About Nothing it's important to converse and chit-chat with co-workers. While distracting, workplace conversation facilitates relationships and enhances teamwork. While meetings might be over kill at times, I believe they can be fun and productive. To me, meetings represent time and space for collaboration, which is key to success in the workplace.

What's interesting is every time Jason said, you (fill in the blank)... I found myself saying, no I don't. Maybe I'm the anomaly? When I think of work that requires long periods of uninterrupted time, I think of the work I enjoy least, the stuff that's easy to put off like responding to emails and voicemails in a timely manner. For me, my inbox and desire to respond quickly is more a distraction than any face to face interactions. I am most creative and tend to get the most done when others are around. Having people to share ideas with, challenge my thinking, and give other forms of input is a necessity. This sharing works both ways, listening to my colleagues, I learn what they're up to and often find opportunities for collaboration or support. 

What are your thoughts on distractions and interruptions at work? What enables you to do your best work?