Work Futures Daily | Nostalgia

| Stability Engages | More Qualified Than Your Boss? | Too Engaged | What Headphones Say | Sveltlana Boym | Player Piano | America The Mediocre | Ben Thompson on WeWork |

source: Atlas of Transformation

Beacon NY | 2019–08–22 | Today’s issue takes its name from the quote of the day by Svetlana Boym, particularly this:

The 20th century began with a futuristic utopia and ended with nostalgia.

I was first introduced to Boym in a review of Zygmunt Bauman’s Retrotopiaby Alastair Bonnett. He added an additional quote from Boym’s The Future of Nostalgia:

Survivors of the twentieth century, we are all nostalgic for a time when we were not nostalgic. But there seems no way back.

As Bonnett styles it, we are longing for a past that never was.

Bauman argues that nostalgia is the defining emotion of modernity, the era we are emerging from. My sense if that nostalgia is still operative for many, but the postnormal era will become dominated by weltschmerz: the kind of feeling experienced by someone who understands that physical reality can never satisfy the demands of the mind; the feeling of sadness when thinking about the evils of the world.


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If You Want Engaged Employees, Offer Them Stability | Marla Gottschalk unscrambles the mumbo-jumbo about employee engagement with an obvious conclusion:

Most organizations struggle to find the right balance between stability and change, which in turn affects individual contributors. But in the race for innovation and digital transformation, the idea of stability has been somewhat lost.


The psychological contract is an often unstated exchange agreement, or set of promises about what we bring to our work and what we expect to gain from our employers in return. Sadly, once stressed or broken, this contract is very difficult to repair. Reviewing the health of these contracts is a unique opportunity to increase stability, and in turn, to retain valuable employees, as the psychological contract has been shown to correlate with outcomes such as job satisfaction, commitment, performance, and trust. Managers can address psychological contracts more openly by having regular discussions about what is being exchanged in the employee/employer relationship. This can help clarify goals, drive performance, encourage developmental conversations, and help employees begin to explore career planning. Also, as things inevitably shift within the organization, there should be ongoing discussions about how the changes might affect the work and the individual. During times of major change, psychological contracts should be revisited often. For example, goals and performance metrics should be recalibrated from time to time, and certainly after any organizational changes take place.


Psychological safety. William Kahn, professor of Organizational Behavior at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, defined psychological safetyas “being able to show and employ one’s self without fear of negative consequences to self-image, status, or career.” While the concept has been studied for decades, we are only just now truly acknowledging the importance of its role in our work lives.

A must read.


About 22% of U.S. workers think they’re more qualified than their boss | Seems low to me. 61% say they can handle their manager’s day-to-day responsibilities.


Beware of Employees Who Are Very Engaged in Their Work | Alina Dizik on when work engagement goes too far [emphasis mine]:

New research shows that employees who are too engaged are likely to have difficulties in their personal lives and may take part in actions that negatively affect the company. In addition, such workers can become more difficult to manage over time and produce worse results.

Deeply engaged employees who become more difficult to manage can be overly demanding of superiors and become suspicious of their intentions, says Stuart Bunderson, professor of organizational ethics and governance at Washington University in St. Louis. When Prof. Bunderson first started looking at how zookeepers derived meaning from their work, for example, he learned that many tend to look at their job as a calling. That, in turn, made them tougher to manage than less-engaged employees. They also expected more from those above them. The zookeepers objected to placing a carousel at the zoo, for instance, because they saw it as trivializing the zoo’s mission, until it was repositioned to promote conservation, Prof. Bunderson found.

The professor also studied managers five years after receiving their M.B.A. degrees and found that the most engaged employees displayed similar qualities. A “higher sense of moral duty” makes it tougher for them to respect deadlines or work in a team, he says.

There’s no such thing as acceptable compromises or good enough when things are framed in moral terms,” says Prof. Bunderson, who in January published a review of research into work as a calling. “So, for example, if I see my calling as helping my consulting clients find the best possible solution for their problem,” he says, “I will become especially frustrated when management tells me that I need to push certain solutions or limit the amount of time I can spend in problem diagnosis…especially when compared to my colleague for whom a job is just a job.”

Some researchers have found that work engagement has a negative impact on a personal level. In a 2018 study, after a three-month period, workers who said they felt emotional ties to their work reported experiencing more stress in reaction to workplace demands than workers who said they didn’t feel emotional ties to their work, says Thomas Britt, a psychology professor at Clemson University who studies work engagement.


This Is What People Think of You When You Wear Headphones at Work | Scott Mautz informs us that we are sending a signal by wearing headphones at work:

For the most part, you’re probably sending the exact message that you want to: “Leave me the hell alone.” But there are also unintended perceptions being created. When employees in the study were asked what impression co-workers give off when wearing headphones, here were the responses:

º Want to be left alone: 27 percent

º Focused: 22 percent

º Busy: 17 percent

º Love music/music quality: 16 percent

º Rude/pretentious: 9 percent

Interestingly, the perception of being pretentious tripled when co-workers were wearing in-ear headphones (like AirPods).


Quote of the Day

The 20th century began with a futuristic utopia and ended with nostalgia. The optimistic belief in the future has become outmoded while nostalgia, for better or for worse, never went out of fashion, remaining uncannily contemporary.

| Svetlana Boym, Nostalgia (in the fascinating Atlas of Transformation)


How Kurt Vonnegut Predicted the Automation Crisis | Arvind Dilawar connects the dots from Vonnegut’s Player Piano to the present day:

Player Piano may have been written 67 years ago, but its prescience is uncanny — though not inexplicable. It is a product not only of Vonnegut’s extraordinary imagination, but his years of experience working directly with engineers, whose mentality the novel reflects in reaching its logical conclusion. If today we find ourselves becoming increasingly trapped within that conclusion — between automation-driven mass unemployment on one side and the supposed panacea of universal basic income on the other — Player Piano also offers us hope for how we might yet break free.

Except that the Luddite-like revolt in the book is squashed, and nothing changes.


America the Mediocre | Paul Musgrave skewers Americans’ image of the US as the best country on Earth.

A 2017 Pew Research Center poll found that most Americans disagree only whether the United States is the best country in the world (29 percent) or one of the best (56 percent). Only 14 percent of Americans agree instead that there are other, better countries.


By many measures, the United States looks like a decidedly middle-of-the pack country or even one at the bottom of the set of rich countries. Consider the classic three American goals: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” On measures indicating the quality of life, the United States often ranks poorly. The U.N. Human Development Index, which counts not just economic performance but life expectancy and schooling, ranks the United States at 13th, lagging other industrialized democracies like Australia, Germany, and Canada. The United States ranks 45th in infant mortality, 46th in maternal mortality, and 36th in life expectancy.

What about liberty? Reporters Without Borders places the United States at 48th for protecting press freedom. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranks the United States as only the 22nd least corrupt country in the world, behind Canada, Germany, and France. Freedom House’s experts score the United States 33rd for political freedom, while the Varieties of Democracy project puts the quality of U.S. democracy higher — at 27th.

As for happiness: The World Happiness Report places America at 19th, just below Belgium. Belgium!

Less formal impressions reinforce the conclusion that Americans’ view of their own exceptional accomplishments aren’t shared quite as widely as they believe. On Twitter, I asked people who have spent time in both the United States and other countries to tell me about everyday ways in which they found the United States to be less advanced than other countries.

I received more than 2,000 replies in a day.

The overwhelming tone of the responses was bemusement and surprise at just how poorly so many parts of American life worked. To be sure, some responses reflected preferences, not policy. Europeans think American bread is too sweet, I learned, and others think Americans dress too informally. But most users narrowed in on real failings of U.S. public policy.

One Twitter user, former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, summed upcommon complaints well: bad roads; maternity and paternity leave; K-12 education; most Americans’ stubborn monolingualism; and, unsurprisingly from the former president of a country sometimes nicknamed “E-stonia,” “digitization of virtually all public services.” And many of the commenters brought up the everyday failings of American life, such as its dismal transportation infrastructure (“seems on the verge of falling apart”), lack of sidewalksanemic public transportation systems, and lack of public toilets.


The WeWork IPO | Ben Thompson warns people the WeWork IPO is a risky bet.


Originally published on Work Futures.

Work Futures Daily | Ars Longa, Vita Brevis

| More Stakewashing | The Overqualified Trap | Work Stress | Go Ahead And Quit | Hippocrates | Charisma |

source: Patrick Tomasso

Beacon NY 2019–08–21 | The stakewashing in the press these days is wearing me down. I am feeling decidedly left of socialist, as a result.


Tom Wilson, in Save Capitalism by Paying People More, appears to be embracing an agenda of corporate generosity, saying that companies should create more high-paying jobs. But this is just more stakewashing, since he doesn’t actually commit to raising wages. If you don’t know Wilson is the chairman, chief executive, and president of the Allstate Corporation and chairman of the executive committee of the United States Chamber of Commerce, which makes him pretty much the archangel of capitalism in the US, today. But in this piece, he wags his finger at corporate boards who aren’t focused on paying workers more, sort of:

American businesses prosper by asking tough questions, creating specific goals and executing plans. This must now be applied to creating higher-paying jobs.

But the other end of that equation would be closing the gap in executive compensation, where CEOs are making 200X what the rank and file are paid. Wilson has nothing to say about that.

But I love the anecdote about automation he shares:

I heard a story about Walter Reuther, the legendary union leader, walking through a Ford Motor plant in Cleveland that was becoming mechanized. A Ford official pointed to some new machines and asked him, “How are you going to collect union dues from these guys?” Reuther thought for a moment and responded, “How are you going to get them to buy Fords?”

I doubt that Wilson realizes that he sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit about the cluelessness of corporate leaders, Consider this snippet:

According to a 2018 Gallup poll, less than half of young Americans today support capitalism. This reflects the fact that business is not fully meeting society’s expectations: serving customers, making a profit, creating jobs and improving communities. Businesses are serving customers well and making good profits. But there is not enough focus on creating jobs that provide a living wage.

D’uh. How about making a stronger statement? Half of young people have wised up to the fact that capitalism is a con game, rigged to create capital out of appropriating materials from the commons — oil, minerals, water, the highways, the education of workers — and siphoning off the value created by people’s underpaid work, all applied to creating more capital for the shareholders.

Capitalism ‘works’, since the capital amassed leads to power that can be applied to controlling political parties, social movements, and politicians, and getting your screed published on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. The threat of automation is just an additional wrinkle, another way for capitalism to extract value magically from the realm of our everyday lives into the machinery of extraction.

Yes, they will automate the factories so there will be zero workers, if they can, and only later will they ask ‘who will buy the cars?’.


The ‘Overqualified’ Trap Can Hit You at Any Time | Sue Shellenbarger looks into a strange status: being considered overqualified.

Few obstacles are more perplexing for job seekers than being told you’re overqualified. The problem can crop up anytime, even early in applicants’ careers, and often when they least expect it. Trying to overcome hirers’ misgivings can feel like shadowboxing with a ghost. New research lends insight into some of the quirky and often counterintuitive reasons managers decide somebody is just too good for the job — reasons applicants can sometimes overcome with forethought and skillful communication.


Dr. [Oliver] Hahl and several colleagues tested hiring managers’ willingness to make an offer to two candidates for a corporate finance job. Both had elite-college degrees and worked at comparable employers. One candidate had a stellar record, heading a 10-person team financing $1.5 billion transactions. The other led a much smaller team doing deals one-tenth the size.

The managers were more likely to make an offer to the candidate with the less impressive record, according to a study published in March and co-led by Dr. Hahl, Roman Galperin, an associate professor of management at Johns Hopkins University, and Adina Sterling, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University. The managers assumed the candidate with the stellar résumé wouldn’t be as committed to the company or stick with the job as long as the other applicant, the researchers found.

How to break the trap?

* Explain up front why you’re applying for a position that seems beneath you.

* Research the job in depth so you can describe how it matches your experience.

* Be consistent in explaining your reasons for applying throughout all interviews for the job.

* Show openness and flexibility by talking about things you want to learn.

* Line up references who will vouch for your commitment.

* Network with contacts who also know insiders at the target company.


This is how your bad boss is affecting your health | Stephanie Vozza looks into work stress:

If you haven’t had a vacation yet this year, get one on the books right now. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging found that skipping vacations is directly related to your health. “One of the most startling findings from the study was that participants who took less than three weeks of annual vacation had a 37% higher risk of dying than those who took more than three weeks,” says [Andrea] Goeglein [Author of Don’t Die With Vacation Time On The Books].


Only 23% of people who quit their jobs regret it.

Quote of the Day

Ars longa, vita brevis.

| Hippocrates (Art is long, life is short.)


What Makes People Charismatic, and How You Can Be, Too |Bryan Clark wants us to break through our social anxieties and connect. Basically, you need to learn how to be a good storyteller, and then a little more:

Charismatic people are well liked not just because they can tell a good story, but also because of how they make others feel. Aside from being humorous and engaging, charismatic people are able to block out distractions, leaving those who interact with them feeling as if time had stopped and they were all that mattered. They make people feel better about themselves, which leads them to return for future interactions, or to extend existing ones, if only to savor such moments.

Work Futures Daily | Without Handrails

| Matsutake As Parable | Stakewashing | Wellness Doesn’t | Likability Trap | Henry Mintzberg | Trumponomics | Ghost Kitchens | Airport Traffic |

Beacon NY — 2019–08–04 | Back in Beacon. It hasn’t changed much in a week, but I have (see below).


Reading The Mushroom At The End Of The World by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing. Perhaps the best work in ecology economics I’ve encountered. I will be writing about it in depth once I’ve finished… although ‘finished’ is probably the wrong word. Oh, and you’ll learn a lot about the matsutake mushroom.

Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

Tsing wrote:

This book is not a critique of the dreams of modernization and progress that offered a vision of stability in the twentieth century; many analysts before me have dissected those dreams. Instead, I address the imaginative challenges of living without those handrails, which once made us think we knew, collectively, where we were going.

Here’s what Ursula Le Guin said about the work:

Scientists and artists know that the way to handle an immense topic is often through close attention to a small aspect of it, revealing the whole through the part. In the shape of a finch’s beak we can see all of evolution. So through close, indeed loving, attention to a certain fascinating mushroom, the matsutake, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing discusses how the whole immense crisis of ecology came about and why it continues. Critical of simplistic reductionism, she offers clear analysis, and in place of panicked reaction considers possibilities of rational, humane, resourceful behavior. In a situation where urgency and enormity can overwhelm the mind, she gives us a real way to think about it. I’m very grateful to have this book as a guide through the coming years.


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Leading US bosses drop shareholder-first principle | Simon Goodley and Rupert Neate report on a new wrinkle in the business sector, indicated by the Business Roundtable adopting a new mantra for business:

The bosses of 181 of the US’s biggest companies have changed the official definition of “the purpose of a corporation” from making the most money possible for shareholders to “improving our society” by also looking out for employees, caring for the environment and dealing ethically.

The radical change to the mantra of corporate America comes after decades of following Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman’s philosophy, which dates from 1970, that “the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits”.

Big business bosses signing up to the change by the influential Business Roundtable (BRT) lobby group include Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon (and the world’s richest person), the Apple boss, Tim Cook, and Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of Wall Street bank JPMorgan.

The change follows mounting public and political anger at the yawning gap between rich and poor in the US and across the world. Many of the leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic party presidential nomination, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, have attacked the rocketing pay of business leaders and called for a rethink about the purpose of business together with better pay and protections for workers.

The piece takes a strange angle, noting the salary of every CEO quoted, as opposed to, say, their age. The authors are stressing that these CEOs are all massively overpayed as an aspect of the pay inequality baked into the world’s economy.

In Shareholder Value Is No Longer Everything, Top C.E.O.s Say, David Gelles and David Yaffe-Bellany get to the heart of things, focusing attention on what the CEOs did not get into:

There was no mention at the Roundtable of curbing executive compensation, a lightning-rod topic when the highest-paid 100 chief executives make 254 times the salary of an employee receiving the median pay at their company. And hardly a week goes by without a major company getting drawn into a contentious political debate. As consumers and employees hold companies to higher ethical standards, big brands increasingly have to defend their positions on worker pay, guns, immigration, President Trump and more.

“They’re responding to something in the zeitgeist,” said Nancy Koehn, a historian at Harvard Business School. “They perceive that business as usual is no longer acceptable. It’s an open question whether any of these companies will change the way they do business.”

The Business Roundtable did not provide specifics on how it would carry out its newly stated ideals, offering more of a mission statement than a plan of action. But the companies pledged to compensate employees fairly and provide “important benefits,” as well as training and education. They also vowed to “protect the environment by embracing sustainable practices across our businesses” and “foster diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.”

It’s a smokescreen, of a specific new sort. Let’s call it stakewashing: widening the list of stakeholders in business to include employees and the community, pledging to protect the environment, be more diverse, etc. etc., while actually not changing a thing, operationally. Let’s see if the stock buybacks end, or if they commit to higher salaries.


What Wellness Programs Don’t Do for Workers | Charlotte Lieberman debunks the conventional thinking about wellness programs:

A recent study examining over 30,000 employees at a U.S. warehouse found that those exposed to a workplace wellness program reported no significant differences in absenteeism, healthcare spending, or job performance than those who were not — though they did report greater rates of some positive health behaviors, like engaging in regular exercise.

In fact, another recent study suggests that corporate wellness offerings may resonate more with already-healthy employees, and even alienate those who are dealing with health issues in the first place, mental or physical. Consider that 97% of large American companies (5,000+) offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) to workers seeking support from a mental health professional. Given the climbing prevalence of mental health issues in the U.S., you might assume employees are putting EAP benefits to good use. However, a recent EAP industry trends report shows that only 6.9% of people actually use them.


How Women Can Escape the Likability Trap | Joan Williams summarizes how much harder it is for women in business:

In their study of female entrepreneurs, the social scientists Matthew Lee and Laura Huang found that venture capitalists were more likely to fund companies led by women if those companies were presented as having a social impact. This provides a “cover” that helps women overcome the perceived mismatch between the stereotypes of the good, community-focused woman and the hard-driving entrepreneur.

Other research finds that women make a similar finesse while negotiating. Women who negotiate as hard as men do tend to be disliked as overly demanding. So they use “softeners” in conversation. (“It wasn’t clear to me whether this salary offer represents the top of the pay range.”) When Sheryl Sandberg negotiated for what no doubt was an outlandishly high compensation package at Facebook, she told Mark Zuckerberg: “Of course you realize that you’re hiring me to run your deal teams, so you want me to be a good negotiator. This is the only time you and I will ever be on opposite sides of the table.” She turned a salary negotiation (competitive and ambitious) into a touching testimony of team loyalty.

Isn’t this all a bit revolting? Here’s what works for men negotiating for a higher salary: I have another offer, and I need you to match it. Why should women have to do something different?

They shouldn’t.

The kicker:

This is all a lot of hard work, and it’s work that men don’t have to do. Men, to be successful, just need to master and display masculine-coded traits; women, to be successful, need to master both those and some version of feminine-coded traits that do not undercut their perceived competence or authenticity. That’s a lot trickier.

Quote of the Day

An effective organization is a community of human beings, not a collection of human resources.

| Henry Mintzberg


U.S. Steel plans to lay off hundreds of workers in Michigan | Uh-oh. Trumponomics.


The Rise of the Virtual Restaurant | A lot of players in the biggest trend in food: ghost kitchens.


Ride Sharing Adds to the Crush of Traffic at Airports | Ride-hailing cars are forcing airports to rethink staging areas for picking up and dropping off passengers.


Originally published on Work Futures on Medium.

Work Futures Daily | A Sense of Place

| Women Running Food Businesses | Self-driving Scooters | Universal Child Care | Work From Anywhere | AI Grunt Work | Daniel Denning | David Sax | GigaOm |

source: James Lee

Beacon NY — 2019–08–19 | I’ve spent a week on Shelter Island visiting with family friends. It’s hard to leave, but by the time you read this, I will have packed, boarded the ferries (yes, two ferries), and turned northwest to home.


Today’s newsletter title is taken from the David Sax excerpt in the Elsewhere section, below, and also inspired by Shelter Island.


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Momofuku’s Secret Sauce: A 30-Year-Old C.E.O. | All about Marguerite Zabar Mariscal, who is CEO of Momofuku, by Elizabeth Dunn. A great tale that includes the secret trend of many restaurant businesses: women are running them.


China’s Ninebot unveils scooters that drive themselves to charging stations | Yingzhi Yang and Brenda Goh report:

Segway-Ninebot Group, a Beijing-based electric scooter maker, on Friday unveiled a scooter that can return itself to charging stations without a driver, a potential boon for the burgeoning scooter-sharing industry.

And the heavy costs of people collecting scooters and carting them back to charging stations will rapidly fall. Could be one of the first cases of autonomous vehicles putting people out of work.


Why the U.S. Has Long Resisted Universal Child Care | Claire Cain Miller examines the basic question: is childcare a public good? Because if it is, we should make it accessible to all.

Most Americans say it’s not ideal for a child to be raised by two working parents. Yet in two-thirds of American families, both parents work.

This disconnect between ideals and reality helps explain why the United States has been so resistant to universal public child care. Even as child care is setting up to be an issue in the presidential campaign, a more basic question has recently resurfaced: whether mothers should work in the first place.

In many ways, it has already been settled: 93 percent of fathers and 72 percent of mothers with children at home are in the labor force. It helps the economy when women work, research shows, and it’s often economically beneficial for their families, too — 40 percent of women are their families’ breadwinners. Significant evidence demonstrates that when there’s high-quality, affordable, easy-to-find child care, more women work.

Some form of early childhood care and learning is part of the campaign platform of most of the Democratic presidential candidates. President Trump has not supported universal child care, but has bolstered existing child care policies, including approving a record increase to the Child Care and Development Fund for low-income families and a child tax credit increase.

Perhaps going onto a war footing to combat climate change might lead to universal child care in the US.

The only time the United States had something close to universal public child care was during World War II, when in 1941 the Lanham Act directed federal funding to high-quality, government-run child care centers so women of all incomes could work as part of the war effort. But lawmakers were careful to say that it was an emergency measure, and that the centers would not become permanent. (The children who went to these centers, particularly from low-income families, performed better educationally and economically throughout their lives, compared with children who were too young to be eligible for the care, research found.)

Universal child care had strong bipartisan support when it was proposed in the Comprehensive Childhood Development Act of 1972, but President Richard Nixon vetoed it over its “family-weakening implications.”

Since then, the government has provided some child care assistance to low-income families. There is also a child care tax credit for working parents. But half of Americans live in places where there is no licensed child care provider or where there are three times as many children as child care slots. Child care costs a typical family about a third of its income. Just 10 percent of providers are considered to be high quality. At the same time, work for many Americans has become more inflexible and time intensive, and part-time or flexible jobs can be hard to find.

The result is a divided system, in which good child care is accessible only to affluent families, and many mothers in the United States can’t afford to work, said Taryn Morrissey, who teaches public policy at American University and was an adviser to the Obama administration on its early-learning initiative. “Instead of investing in a tool we know would help inequality,” she said, “we’re exacerbating it.”


Is It Time to Let Employees Work from Anywhere? | Prithwiraj (Raj) Choudhury, Barbara Z. Larson, and Cirrus Foroughi pose a question, and the answer is ‘yes’ [emphasis mine]:

In a working paper currently under review, we studied the effects of a work-from-anywhere program initiated in 2012 among patent examiners at the U.S. Patent & Trade Office (USPTO). We analyzed productivity data for patent examiners (highly educated and specialized professionals) who switched from work-from-home work conditions to the WFA program.

Our results indicate that examiners’ work output increased by 4.4% after transition to WFA, with no significant increase in rework (re-writing of patent decisions upon appeal from inventors). Supplemental analysis also showed that patent quality (as measured by examiner-added citations) did not deteriorate . The 4.4% productivity increase represents up to $1.3 billion of annual value added to the U.S. economy, based on the average economic activity generated per additional patent granted. (While not the focus of our study, we also found a correlation between working from home and increased productivity relative to working in the office, consistent with the findings of the earlier study.)

In supplementary analyses, we also found that examiners transitioning to WFA relocated, on average, to locations with significantly lower costs of living, representing an effective increase in real salary for these employees, with no increased cost to the organization.

Interestingly, examiners who had been on the job longer (that is, those closer to retirement) were more likely to move to the “retirement-friendly” coastal areas of Florida than their lower-tenured peers. While this correlational finding is not predictive, it suggests that granting employees the ability to work from anywhere could yield some career-extending benefits to both employees and the organization, by encouraging valued senior employees to remain in the productive workforce longer.


Employers who allow employees to work remotely should grant these employees true autonomy and flexibility, rather than trying to micromanage their remote work. Our results comparing WFH and WFA employees indicate that granting greater autonomy can actually enhance employee productivity.

My bet is that the great majority of companies will continue to ignore these findings and others like them, despite the win-win involved.


Before an A.I. system can learn, someone has to label the data supplied to it. | The human grunt work behind the rise of AI — interesting stuff by Cade Metz.

Quote of the Day

Not a single one of the cells that compose you knows who you are, or cares.

| Daniel Denning, Sweet Dreams: Philosophical Obstacles to a Science of Consciousness


The Pain of Losing a Local Record Store | David Sax expresses the pain of losing a favorite store or restaurant — in his case a used record shop — and how it is linked to ‘sense of place’:

My relationships with the staff at June Records were forged over their recommendations: Julia’s suggestion of Jennifer Castle’s dreamy “Pink City,” Raf’s assurance that even my children would dig William Onyeabor’s minimal Nigerian disco and Andrew’s recent pick of an obscure Brazilian acid psych record that’s become the instant soundtrack of my summer. Sure, you can get help and suggestions shopping for music at an Urban Outfitters, but it’s not the same, because what I built at June over the years of transactions was something deeper: a sense of place.

No place stays the same forever, and few of us want to live somewhere that is frozen in amber, where entrepreneurs cannot take a chance with their ideas and open a business. We seek the new, and the novel, and welcome improvements in our neighborhoods with open arms. But we also need places to anchor us. Novelty is wonderful, but only when balanced with the familiar. And when those familiar businesses close, for whatever reason, our reaction also occurs on a human scale. A sigh of resignation. A flood of memories. And sometimes, if you truly loved the place, a sadness so genuine it can trigger tears.


A few new posts at GigaOm’s open research publication on Medium:

Brief | Workona, A Chrome Workspace Manager | Stowe Boyd | Shouldn’t tab management be integrated with file sync-and-share? Yes. I want Workona-style tab management in Dropbox, please.

Brief | Taskade, a new ‘work processing’ app | Stowe Boyd | A promising start, but there’s a lot yet to implement in Taskade.


originally published on Work Futures on Medium.

Work Futures Weekly | For The Greatest Good Of Everyone

| Hard Work | Wellbeing? Ha! | US Treats Its Workers Worst | John Maynard Keynes | Bulletproof Backpacks | It’s Bosses, All The Way Down |

source: Chang Duong

Shelter Island NY — 2019–08–18| Perhaps weekly is the wrong word, but here are the highlights of the last few Work Futures Dailies I sent out.


The quote of the week is by John Maynard Keynes, and from which I’ve drawn the title of today’s weekly. I almost entitled this issue ‘Bulletproof Backpacks’ but that was a step too far, even for me.


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Poking in the Shadows: What about ‘Hard Work’? | We have to stop treating blue-collar work as an edge case

The great majority of the time, in the discourse about the future of work, we focus almost exclusively on the full-time managerial/professional/creative class, and exclude other groups from consideration, except as numbers in spreadsheets. So, freelance professionals and creatives — a growing population, perhaps 25% or more of the working population — are treated as an edge case, or as if they were indistinguishable from their full-time colleagues.

But the biggest edge case of all may be the working class, who are often involved in what I have called ‘hard work’ in the past: physical labor, like carpenters hammering nails, health care aides lifting patients from one bed to another, assembly line workers installing dashboards in a car factory, or waiters running meals from the kitchen to the front of house. Some of their jobs involve cognitive skills, similar to the ‘soft work’ of knowledge workers tapping their keyboards, but they may do their thinking standing up, with tools other than keyboards in their hands. They are the janitors cleaning the marble floors in the lobby when you come early to work, the security guards checking your badge at the elevators, and the folks wheeling in the sandwiches for a working lunch.

And much of their work is routine, which is a stark contrast to the trends for ‘soft workers’, where a premium is placed on creativity (at least conceptually), self-expression and innovation: the earmarks of ‘disruption’. This may put ‘hard workers’ at odds with the prevailing norms of today’s business culture.

[from Work Futures Daily | Radical Inclusivity]


The Economist turned me on to a new report, Employee Wellbeing, Productivity, and Firm Performance by Christian Krekel (London School of Economics), George Ward (MIT Sloan) and Jan-Emmanuel De Neve (Saïd Business School, University of Oxford). As the Economist noted, many American businesspeople consider ‘stakeholder capitalism’ a veiled form of socialist mumbo-jumbo:

The assumption is that firms which focus on stakeholders will struggle to survive in the Darwinian world of multinational business.

It is easy to be cynical about some of the language used by those who argue that employees should be treated better. One obvious example is a book called “Humane Capital” by Vlatka Hlupic, which includes a foreword by the Dalai Lama and is dedicated, portentously, “to humanity”.

But there is a serious point hidden amid its grandiose statements. Too many companies operate a top-down “command and control” system, Ms Hlupic argues, when they would be better served by giving employees more freedom to make their own decisions.

However, hard-headed executives will only be won round by hard facts. A convincing case can be found in a recent paper by Christian Krekel, George Ward and Jan-Emmanuel de Neve. The study, based on data compiled by Gallup, a polling organisation, covers nearly 1.9m employees across 230 separate organisations in 73 countries.

The authors studied four potential measures of corporate performance: customer loyalty, employee productivity, profitability and staff turnover. They found that employee satisfaction had a substantial positive correlation with customer loyalty and a negative link with staff turnover. Furthermore, worker satisfaction was correlated with higher productivity and profitability.

Of course, correlation does not prove causality. It could be that working for a successful firm makes employees more contented, rather than the other way round. However, the authors cite studies of changes within individual firms and organisations which seem to show that improvements in employee morale precede gains in productivity, rather than the other way round.

I wonder about business leaders that would have thought otherwise. But this lines up with other research I’ve reported on recently regarding the enormous benefits of psychological safety to the organization.

I think it’s amusing when the Economist suggests that a company that puts employee wellbeing first — ‘In short, staff will be treated as people, not as mere accounting units’ — will see great returns, but still goes on to refer to workers as ‘assets’.

[from Work Futures Daily | Not Mere Accounting Units]


Yes, America Is Rigged Against Workers | Steven Greenhouse says of all advanced industrialized nations, the US treats its workers worst:

The United States is the only advanced industrial nation that doesn’t have national laws guaranteeing paid maternity leave. It is also the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee workers any vacation, paid or unpaid, and the only highly developed country (other than South Korea) that doesn’t guarantee paid sick days. In contrast, the European Union’s 28 nations guarantee workers at least four weeks’ paid vacation.

Among the three dozen industrial countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States has the lowest minimum wage as a percentage of the median wage — just 34 percent of the typical wage, compared with 62 percent in France and 54 percent in Britain. It also has the second-highest percentage of low-wage workersamong that group, exceeded only by Latvia.

All this means the United States suffers from what I call “anti-worker exceptionalism.”

Academics debate why American workers are in many ways worse off than their counterparts elsewhere, but there is overriding agreement on one reason: Labor unions are weaker in the United States than in other industrial nations. Just one in 16 private-sector American workers is in a union, largely because corporations are so adept and aggressive at beating back unionization. In no other industrial nation do corporations fight so hard to keep out unions.

The consequences are enormous, not only for wages and income inequality, but also for our politics and policymaking and for the many Americans who are mistreated at work.

And unionization is rising for that reason.

Go read it.

Quote of the Week

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

| John Maynard Keynes


Bulletproof Backpacks in Demand for Back-to-School Shopping | A growing number of companies are marketing them to parents who are desperate to protect their children from gunmen. | A sad sign of the times.


It’s Bosses, All The Way Down | Conventional thinking about emergent leadership is all wrong. | Stowe Boyd


Originally posted on Work Futures on Medium.

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