May 2019 – On open-plan offices, mentoring, Agile, the Maslow pyramid, and bullshit jobs

To prevent burnout do meaningful work… some

– Spend 20 percent of your time doing “work you find most meaningful” and you will reduce your risk for burnout.

Here’s what’s fascinating: spend more than 20 percent and the risk for burnout will not change by much. In other words: You don’t need to change everything about your job to see benefits. A few changes here and there can be all you need. (Mayo Clinic)

Staying healthy at work

– Feeling drowsy at work? Walk up and down stairs for 10 minutes at a regular pace. It is as energizing as ingesting 50 milligrams of caffeine (UGA)

– A study shows that taking a lunchtime walk provides employees with a much-needed afternoon mood boost. On days that people took a walk, they felt considerably more enthusiastic and relaxed at work during the afternoon even compared to their mood on the same day in the morning before the walk.

Also, taking a lunchtime walk provides a mood boost. Lunchtime walkers also perceive that their work performance improved after their walk… and beyond: they report gains in work performance and mood up to four months thereafter. (APS)

– Men who don’t take vacations are 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack (NIH). And women who rarely vacation are 50 percent more likely to have a heart attack. They are also more likely to suffer from depression (NIH)

– Posture affects our behavior. Sitting became the new smoking and there followed new ways to work, from standing desks to treadmill desks. Enter squatting.

– For over 75 years, a Harvard study has tracked the physical and emotional health of two groups: 456 poor people in Boston and 268 graduates from Harvard University. Their conclusion? Good relationships keep us both happier and healthier.

Bullshit jobs

– “Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.” The author calls them “bullshit jobs.”

A bullshit job is one that even the person doing it believes need not, or should not, exist. That if the job, or even the whole industry, were to vanish, either it would make no difference to anyone or the world might even be a better place. 37-40% of workers according to surveys say their jobs make no difference.

Open-plan offices

– The idea was simple: If we break down office walls, people will interact more. This will spark new ideas and boost collaboration.

Researchers studied two different corporate headquarters transitioning to more open office spaces by monitoring the effect of the new architecture on employees’ face-to-face, email and instant messaging (IM) interaction patterns.

Contrary to expectations, the volume of face-to-face interaction decreased (approx. 70%) in both cases, with an associated increase in electronic interaction. And to the emergence of wireless headphones as the new cubicles. (The Royal Society)

– By the way, some think that Slack is the “open-plan office” of technology. (vox)

A few on managing

– There’s Agile, the method used in software development that challenged the traditional “waterfall” development model (Manifesto for Agile Software Development). And then there’s Agile at scale. (MIT).

– Having a mentor can be a great help to your career. The question is: Are you “mentorable”? (ssrn)

– Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation promotes the idea that human needs exist in a hierarchy that people strive to satisfy progressively. Often illustrated as a pyramid, it is one of the first and most remembered models encountered by students of management. Problem is: Maslow never created a pyramid to represent the hierarchy of needs. (Academy of Management)

– We tend to blame managers when they fail to create speak-up cultures. But this study shows that it is unreasonable to ask managers to solicit and encourage ideas and input from employees when they are not empowered themselves and are asked to focus on short-term outcomes. (Organization Science)



Work: One week home (sorta) after three weeks on the road.

Music: I just discovered Scary Pockets. They do covers in their own funky way. The arrangements are tight, they can play, and they seem to be having a lot of fun. Here is their version of Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet child o’ mine.

Reading: Just finished re-reading Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. I will be posting reading notes on my blog.

Started Breakthrough: What Cabin Crew Can Teach You About Leadership, Teamwork and Customer Contact by my colleague Thomas Gelmi.

Podcasts: I’m enjoying Krista Tippett’s On Being. Full disclosure: I find myself skipping the audio and reading the transcripts instead.

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