Workplace Collaboration Advice for Introverts (Revisited)

I wrote most of these words in 2017 and I’m revisiting them now, given the significant change in the workplace in that time.

You walk into a restaurant on your own and see that there are two choices for where to sit.

To your left there’s a bar with a few people sitting around talking, the barman looks chatty and you recognize one of the group as an acquaintance.

To your right there’s an alcove with a table and a couple of chairs.

Which do you choose? 

If you thought that going left sounded great it’s likely that you are an extrovert. The opportunity to go and chat with a group of people sounds interesting, exciting even. You get your energy from interacting with other people. 

If you thought that going right sounded wonderful, it’s likely that you are an introvert. The opportunity to spend some time on your own, and perhaps get that book out of your bag, sounds like just what you need. You can make your own energy. 

Given the choice above, I would choose to sit on my own in the restaurant and I’d probably have a book with me. I’m a bit of an introvert but nowhere near the extremes. In fact, 70% of people are somewhere in the middle. I might choose to join the group at the bar depending on whom the person I recognized was. 

You’ll notice that I haven’t correlated being an introvert with being shy, because they aren’t always the same thing. 

Many of us spend our days in a work context that prefers the extrovert.

Meetings, for example, generally favor the extroverts. They are dominated by the loud and the interactive, even if the loud and the interactive don’t always deliver the most. 

Open-plan offices favor the extroverts as well. Being thrust into a group of people with limited barriers to interaction is an extrovert’s view of heaven, but an introvert’s view of hell. One of the stated benefits for open-plan offices is the ability to interact fluidly, which is only helpful if you are an extrovert. 

Our collaboration tools tend to favor the extrovert. The constant interruptions and interactions give them energy to feed off, but draining the introvert.

In a world of complex problems and complex solutions we need to interact and we need to collaborate, all of us, introverts and extroverts alike. 

How do we build a world where the introvert brings their best value in collaboration with a team?

Here are some techniques and tools that I have observed. I also asked several colleagues – via a couple of social collaboration tools – how they collaborated as introverts which provided some really helpful insights.

Understand the Difference Between Synchronous and Asynchronous

If you have a few hours and want to start an interesting conversation, ask a group of people what their favorite collaboration tool is. People can be quite passionate about which collaboration tools work and which don’t. There are many reasons why people like one tool over another. Some of that has to do with their view on how collaboration happens and some of that is influenced by whether they are an introverted or an extroverted themselves. Extroverts, in general, aren’t fans of collaboration tools because they “just want to speak to someone.” When they do use a tool, though, they prefer ones that provide feedback immediately – synchronous tools. A phone is a synchronous collaboration tool, as is a web conferencing system. Zoom is a dream for extroverts. 

Introverts are different, as they prefer to consider before they respond. Therefore, they are likely to prefer collaboration tools that allow them to respond in their own time – asynchronous tools. Enterprise social networks like Microsoft Yammer and Facebook Workplace are asynchronous collaboration tools. Chat based tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams are asynchronous tools as well but they blur the line between synchronous and asynchronous. These messaging apps are really asynchronous tools, but we expect people to respond synchronously. The grandparent of asynchronous collaboration is, of course, email but even here some cultures expect an immediate response.

Maximize the Asynchronous Mechanisms and Tools

As an introvert, asynchronous collaboration tools are your friend. They allow you to respond in a considered way, as you don’t need to respond immediately.

Try not to get sucked into cultures that expect you to respond immediately. Remember that your power is in your ability to consider and then respond. You still need to respond, just not immediately. Unfortunately, you can’t assume that the extroverts have considered your response in the asynchronous tool, they’re too busy on conference calls to read anything.

Minimize or Ignore the Synchronous Mechanisms and Tools

Meetings are inevitable, and they’re not going away any time soon. I live in the hope that the world will move beyond the current teleconference-dominated work cultures.

As an introvert, you probably view meetings as things that get in the way of doing work. If you are working with a team of extroverts they probably have a different viewpoint.  You’re only real option is to try and minimize your involvement in meetings. The ways of doing that will depend on the team that you are a part of and your place in that team.  You should also turn down all of the notifications on the tools so that you aren’t being constantly interrupted.

Work in the Open

Sometimes as introverts we want to go off into our little corner to formulate our response and only return when we’ve got the full answer. We don’t really want to show people our work, and we definitely don’t want people asking how we are getting on.

Modern document collaboration platforms like GitHub, Google Docs and Office 365 allow us to work on our thing in the open so that others can see in without having to interrupt. We may not like people rummaging around in our workings, but it’s better than sending regular email updates, or responding to endless instant message requests. 

Stay Visible Working from Home

Having said all of the above, in our working from home world, there is a danger that you might become invisible to the extraverts. You do need to have some visibility, even if it’s detracting you from being productive. This is a balancing act, I tend to keep myself signed in to one of the collaboration tools and also choose to attend certain meetings partially because it means I remain visible. There are also certain people, extraverts, who I choose to take a call from, again because it’s important to be visible to them.

Collaboration isn’t a tool, or even a process, it’s a culture. Part of what makes up that culture are our various personality types. Use the tools and techniques that enhance your contributions whilst recognizing that others need to use different tools and techniques to draw out their contribution. The magic happens in the meeting of these different facets. 

Header Image: This is the view from Tongue Pot, a great place for a swim.

Do meeting cancellations make you grumpy? A not so scientific study.

I work in a role where it’s possible that a meeting can happen anywhere in the 24 hour of a day. In general people work together to respect people’s working day, but there are times when a meeting at an anti-social time is unavoidable, that’s accepted. What makes me grumpy, though, is when these meetings are cancelled or postponed, particularly at short notice.

Yesterday evening I finished my normal working day with the expectation of joining a teleconference at 8:00pm. When I had started my break at 6:00pm I had already attended a preparation meeting with the full expectation that the later meeting would go ahead. Still expecting that the meeting would go ahead I retreated into my small study at 7:55pm ready to connect, but in the 1 hour 55 minutes I had been offline the meeting had been reschedule to a later date. I was a bit grumpy, I wasn’t a lot grumpy, because I had some expectation that this would happen. Why was I grumpy?

This experience got me thinking; if the notice of this postponement had come to 6:00pm I would have been delighted. The timing of the cancellation/reschedule made all the difference to my response.

I wondered whether I could create a model, or an equation, to understand this phenomenon, something that would help us to empathise with others in different time zones attending a meeting.

First step, create a chart of grumpiness/delight for a typical meeting cancellation based on time of the meeting and notice period given:


How grumpy/delighted am I if a meeting is cancelled, based on how much notice I was given?

The first observation is that most of the points on this chart are actually ranges that depend upon the type of meeting and the importance of the meeting that is being cancelled or postponed. If a meeting is at an anti-social time, but I don’t think it’s important, I’m not likely to attend anyway. If the meeting at an anti-social time is critically important to progress another activity and is postponed I’m likely to still be a bit grumpy even if I get good notice of the move. Imagine that this charge represents a moderately important meeting that doesn’t represent anything that is time critical.

There are some interesting aspects to this chart:

Good notice can bring delight

If you give me good notice of a cancellation for a meeting at an anti-social time I will be delighted that it’s been cancelled. The reverse is also true, give me poor notice and I’ll be especially glum. If I know before the end of my normal working day that I don’t need to interrupt my evening with a work commitment I’ll be very happy, thank you. If I interrupt my evening, or even my sleep, to attend something that I then find out that I didn’t need to attend will make me sad.

The later it gets the more notice you need to give

There are degrees of anti-socialness, evenings are different to very early mornings but for each of them you need to consider how much notice you might need to give. The danger here is that the more anti-social it is the more notice you need to give; giving 2 hours of notice for a 2:00am meeting isn’t helping anyone.

12-hours notice may not even be enough

Even with a 12 hour notice there is still a window for grumpiness. Assuming that I finish my working day at 6:00pm and don’t check in the evening, the postponement of a meeting scheduled for 7:00am the next day will still make me a but grumpy. I’m normally awake about that time, but attending a meeting at this time will be outside my normal routine, which I’m happy to do as long as there is some value in doing it. Interrupting the normal routine and having nothing to show for it it frustrating.

Zero notice is nearly always going to make me grumpy.

While it’s not always possible to give people notice of a cancellation giving zero notice is always likely to lead to a level of umbrage. If you have some notice you have a chance of re-planning your day, zero notice takes away that possibility.

Lunch is a special condition

Cancellations for meetings that happen around lunchtime are a special condition in the model. Meetings at mealtimes are themselves anti-social, there’s a less marked impact, for me anyway, for breakfast and dinner, but messing about with lunchtime makes me grumpy. Treat that meeting at 12:00pm to 12:30pm with special care.

The end of the normal day boost.

The end of the normal working day is another special case. This is the one time I’m likely to a little peak of delight that a meeting is cancelled with zero notice. Strangely I feel more delighted about a meeting cancelled at the end of the working day than one postponed in the evening.

Having looked at the chart I concluded that there probably wasn’t a formula for this. I also concluded that there were several other factors that influence my response to a meeting postponement or cancellation:

  • Day of the week – a Monday looks different to a Friday.
  • Time sensitivity – how do I feel if the results of a meeting are needed for a time critical activity.
  • Social impact – what I am doing outside of the normal working day makes a huge difference, especially if I have chosen to forego a personal commitment in favour of a work commitment that then doesn’t happen.
  • Reasons for meeting timing – there are very good reasons for some meetings happening at anti-social times, the reasons are not as clear for other meetings.
  • Expectation of postponement – there are some meetings that give me, for various reasons, I have a high expectation of change. My response to these meetings differs.
  • Overall meeting-load – there are regularly situations where I need to choose one meeting over another. Getting short notice of cancellation of the chosen meeting can lead to high levels of frustration.
  • Family and cultural routines – some people’s chart for the anti-social hours would be very different to mine and that signifies their family and cultural routines. I tend to regard early evenings as easier than late evenings, people with younger children probably see this the other way around.

In short, there isn’t a simple formula to work out what my, or someone else’s, response to a reschedule will be, but giving people as much notice as possible is an excellent working practice. Avoiding zero-notice cancellations should be very high on meeting organisers objectives, especially at anti-social times.

Stop the Self Inflicted Pain | How Much Better Could Your Life Be?

I have a physio friend and people regularly go up to him and say: “It hurts when I do this!”

His response is to say: “Well, don’t do that then.”

Pain is often our body’s way of telling us to do things differently, yet we all do things every day that cause us pain, or am I the only one? Many of the practices we regard as sacrosanct in modern business have no basis in science, yet a global peer pressure enforces them into the life of millions. Some of these practices are just a bit unhelpful, but some are dangerous to health and well-being. Many of the things that we do outside of work are likewise unhelpful and dangerous and yet we continue to do them, and I’m not talking about rock climbing. When questioned we would struggle to articulate why we do them, we just do.

Although I quoted my physio friend, I’m not primarily talking about physical health things, though that can can often play a significant part. My principal focus are those practices that impact upon our productivity and ultimately our well-being.

Perhaps you are living in splendid ignorance, so I’m sorry if this post opens your eyes to things that will now frustrate you when you see them, as all good 12 Step programmes know the first step is to move out of denial.

The first thing to note is that I’ve constrained the length of this post to keep it readable, but the list of self inflicted pain is very long indeed, and I may return to it at some point in the future, it may even become a series, I’ll see.

Are your wasting your productive time?

Many people plan their day around a focus on important work and urgent work with little attention to the timing of the work during the day.

If your diary is anything like mine it is littered with meetings. There is no pattern to the types of meetings and when they happen, they are scheduled at the time when the person arranging it decided it should happen.

We each have different times in the day when we are better, or worse, at different types of work – we have a chronotype. For most, our chronotype is somewhere between extreme morningness or extreme eveniningness, as such for most of us we are more alert in the morning, have a slump in the afternoon and then have another peak in the evening. Yet, how many of us waste our alert productive time in the morning on the trivial tasks that would be better suited to our afternoon slump? We are making our lives significantly harder by expecting our performance to be the same across the day and our schedule of meetings isn’t helping.

This is a particularly difficult challenge for international teams where people are in different time-zones with some in the middle of their most productive time and others in the middle of a slump.

Are you getting outside?

If you are going to recover from a slump one of the best ways of doing it is to get outside into the nature that’s probably around you. Even if you work in a city there is likely to be parkland or some other form of green space available.

Remaining inside and expecting your body to recover from a slump is likely to just extend the slump.

You don’t have to be outside for long, a few minutes is enough to make a huge difference to your focus and ability to get work done.

Are you wearing the right footwear?

Do you work in an environment where you are expected to wear shoes? Perhaps you are expected to wear “smart” (uncomfortable) shoes?

Research in schools has shown that shoeless learning spaces perform better. Is it too much of a stretch to think that work environments, particularly for knowledge workers may also perform better if people ditch their shoes?

I’ve often pondered whether it’s one of the reasons why people prefer home working. Work always feels different at home in my slippers.

How much of a culture change would your organisation need to allow slippers to become the normal footwear in the office? Would the productivity increase be worth it?

Are you wasting time with long meetings?

Back to you diary. How many 1 hour meetings will you be attending today or this week? How many 2 hour meetings? Of the 1 hour and 2 hour meetings how many of them include break times? Not many? None? That’s my experience also.

What is the ideal length of a meeting for maximum concentration? Well, there doesn’t appear to be an absolute definitive answer on that, some say 15 minutes, some say 45 minutes, there’s some evidence for a sweet-spot of 18 minutes, whichever option you choose they are all less than an hour and way less than 2 hours. There are different ways to engineer longer meetings with mini-breaks, perhaps getting everyone to change position, or change subject, another way is to do something interactive but these mini-breaks are only partially successful.

There’s a good reason why the daily stand-up meeting in Scrum is only 15 minutes. Extending the meeting beyond that time can, quite quickly, suck all of the energy out of the meeting.

If you routinely schedule meetings for an hour then you are almost certainly wasting people’s time. Remember the project management adage:

Work expands to the time you schedule for it.

One other thing to be aware of. People are more productive at the beginning and end of a meeting, but only if they know it’s the end. This is where sticking to a timer is really important. People’s productivity will lift as they see the finish line coming into view.

Two 30 minute meetings will be more productive than a single one hour long meeting.

Are you frustrating everyone with a blended remote and face-to-face meeting?

The worst type of meeting is the blended remote and face-to-face meeting. The people who are face-to-face are frustrated by the slowness caused by the people who are remote. This frustration is particularly acute for people who have travelled and are sitting there thinking that they wished they had decided to join remotely. The people who are remote are frustrated by their inability to understand everything that is going on in the meeting room and often get distracted.

  1. All face-to-face meetings = best
  2. All remote meetings = OK
  3. Blended remote and face-to-face = worst

I speak as someone with significant experience of each.

Oh dear, I’ve run out of room…

I think that will do for now, if each of us manged to make these few changes we would all be in a better place, but I suspect that for many of us even these are beyond our grasp, we clearly prefer the pain. There’s definitely more examples to come, so I suspect that there will be another round.

What do the “Millennials” think about the future? | WEF Global Shapers Survey

Each year the World Economic Forum surveys young people, targeting those aged 18 to 34, for their views on five areas:

  • Economy and global outlook
  • Governance and civic engagement
  • Technology and innovation
  • Values and society
  • Business and the workplace

This year over 31,000 people took part globally.

50% of the world’s population is under the age of 30. While they have a powerful voice, they are not being listened to by decision-makers. Here is what they have to say.

As with previous years, this year’s survey shows some interesting results:

I’m primarily interested in the technology and innovation and the business and the workplace answers, but before I dive into them I need to point out:

For the third year in a row, “climate change/destruction of nature” is ranked as the most serious global issue with 48.8% of votes.

I’ll leave that hanging there, it doesn’t need any more comment.

Moving on to technology and innovation:

An overwhelming number of young people think technology is “creating jobs” (78.6%) as opposed to “destroying jobs” (21.4%). This is consistent with the results of the 2016 survey for the same question.

I hope they are right, time will tell. My personal leaning is also towards that view, but I am concerned that those jobs will primarily benefit the rich and educated leaving behind whole sections of society.

The survey also shows that young people have a sophisticated approach to information sharing and also the quality of information that is being shared:

Although for young people the internet and free media are essential to feeling empowered, they value it to the extent that the content and information they are exposed to is factual and trustworthy. In times when fake news lends itself to being shared on social media, it is reassuring that youths feel responsible for changing such practices and ensuring factual information is circulated.

It’s not surprising that an age group that has grown up with the internet have built up a healthy caution about the content that is being pushed at them.

The rapid changes in technical capability are having a massive impact on business and the workplace:

I personally don’t like the term millennial, even though I used it in the title of this post, it carries too much baggage and stereotyping to be of much use (I’m not sure that I would class someone who is 34 as a young person either, as this report does). One of the stereotypes that the millennial term has propagated is tackled in the survey:

Young people feel that they are perceived as lazy, impatient and entitled and, as they are known as the “job-hopping generation”, are perceived as caring little for work. Our data, however, has so far drawn quite a different picture of who this young generation is.

The report goes on to explain that young people regard work as a key part of life, that they care about corporate responsibility and that they want to work on something that has a purpose amongst other insights. All attributes that are not too different to previous generations.

When I see surveys like this one I have a lot of hope for the future.

The survey report is below:

"Tech is the new perk" according to Adobe Future of Work Survey 2016

Eighty-one percent of U.S. office workers say state of the art technology is important at work, outranking food and beverages (72%), a beautiful office design (61%) and on-site amenities (56).

Only one in four (26%) of U.S. office workers believes that their company’s technology is “ahead of the curve.” Indians are slightly more bullish (30%) while the U.K. is especially pessimistic (15%).

In the U.S., those who said their company’s technology is “ahead of the curve” love their work about twice as much and feel about twice as creative, motivated and valued compared to those at “behind the times” companies.

These are some of the findings from Adobe’s Future of Work Survey for 2016. The survey results were published in May 2016 under the title: Work in Progress encapsulating contributions from over 2000 workers from U.S., U.K. and India who use a computer daily for work.

One of the significant conclusions of this report, in Adobe’s words, is that “Tech is the new perk”. People would rather have good technology than access to food and beverage, lounge and relaxation areas, personalised workstations, beautiful office design and access to on-site amenities. This isn’t quite true across the three nations surveyed – in the U.K. we regard access to food and beverage as highly as we do technology.

These figures aren’t surprising in a world were we increasingly rely on technology to do our work. Personally I wouldn’t rank tech alongside perks at all, for many jobs that would be like classifying a van as a perk for a delivery person. Having the right level of technology is essential to doing a good job and doing a good job is a significant factor in most people’s job satisfaction. The problem is, we often expect people to do a good job without the right technology which is a bit like expecting a delivery person to carry a 3 tonne load in a 1 tonne truck. It’s not surprising that people in organisations with “ahead of the curve” technology feel more creative, motivated and valued – they probably are.

Handle it once! Getting back to Inbox Zero.

Like many people I get a significant amount of junk-mail through the letterbox every week. Most of the time the junk-mail goes straight from the floor below the letterbox into a dedicated rubbish box near the door where it rests temporarily before going outside into the recycling bin. There is minimum effort expended on these pieces of brightly coloured paper.

The useful items of post will get filtered out and go onto a desk in a room near to the letterbox. Quite often these pieces of post will get opened and quickly looked at during the filtering process, sometimes they’ll even get taken out of the envelope before they get put onto the desk. At some point someone will sit down with the various items of correspondence and make a decision on the next step they should take.

Nearly all the post that isn’t junk-mail will get handled twice, some of it will get handled multiple times. Sometimes it’s inevitable that things get handled more than once, but the reality is, most of it only needed to be handled once and then dealt with.

Last week I looked at my email inbox and realised that it was a mess, but I couldn’t understand why, so I watched what I was doing. Once I became aware of it I realised what was causing the mess – I was opening emails, skim reading them and then closing them, leaving them in my inbox.  My normal method of processing information (I need to update that post because it’s changed) had lapsed and my inbox-zero routine had fallen by the wayside.

My inbox-zero approach goes as follows:

  • On a periodic basis (avoiding continuous sorting)
  • Start at the top of the inbox
  • Open the first email start to read through it and spend 10 to 15 seconds understanding it.
  • If the email can be responded to in less than a couple of minutes, respond and file under done.
  • If the email is going to take longer file under to-do.
  • Open the next email.
  • Repeat until mailbox is empty.

I have a set of keyboard short-cuts set up to do the filing. In this way most email is only handled once and it’s only the items that need a longer activity that are handled multiple times. The items that need to be worked on are visible and the clutter is reduced.

This week I will be re-instigating my inbox-zero approach to handle things as few times as possible.

Attention Management – 'Being “always on” hurts results'

Early in my career I was sent on a time management course. In it I was shown how to draw up to-do lists and how to priorities them against two criteria – importance and urgency. Further coaching was given on how to review the to-do list at the end of every day in order to set the correct activities for the following day.

At that time the constraint was perceived to be time, you started work at a set time in the morning (8:00am for me) and you finished at a set time (17:00 for me), your job was to get the important (and urgent) things done in that time. Time was the constraint, so it was time that needed managing.

Then along came the internet, email and the blackberry. Time was no longer the constraint, but we failed to recognise it and we still work as if it was.

Attention became the new constraint and we completely missed it. We thought we had been liberated from time and that we could now work in the Martini advert (any-time, any-place, anywhere), but we were kidding ourselves.

As we spread our attention across the 24 hours of each day we failed to notice that we were laying it down in ever thinning layers. The speed increased, but the quality decreased.

The late-night email culture is the primary example of this. In a recent HBR article Maura Thomas highlights the risks of the phenomena – Your Late-Night Emails Are Hurting Your Team.

Around 11 p.m. one night, you realize there’s a key step your team needs to take on a current project. So, you dash off an email to the team members while you’re thinking about it.

No time like the present, right?

Wrong. As a productivity trainer specializing in attention management, I’ve seen over the past decade how after-hours emails speed up corporate cultures — and that, in turn, chips away at creativity, innovation, and true productivity.

If this is a common behavior for you, you’re missing the opportunity to get some distance from work — distance that’s critical to the fresh perspective you need as the leader. And, when the boss is working, the team feels like they should be working.

Now that time is not the primary constraint, and attention is, we need to start developing a new set of working protocols to manage this precious resource.

Do you have any techniques you use to manage your attention?

"the average office chair is 7.2 years old…

On average, employees spend 5.3 hours per day sitting, which means the chair is the foundation of a healthy office environment. Because the average office chair is 7.2 years old, the integrity of the chair’s support and functionality might be jeopardized due to its age.

From Everything You Need to Know About Ergonomics

What's your "productivity style"?

Carson Tate thinks that there are 4 Types of Productivity Style:

The Prioritizer – A Prioritizer is that guy or gal who will always defer to logical, analytical, fact-based, critical, and realistic thinking…

The Planner – The Planner is the team member who thrives on organized, sequential, planned, and detailed thinking…

The Arranger – An Arranger prefers supportive, expressive, and emotional thinking…

The Visualizer – A Visualizer prefers holistic, intuitive, integrating, and synthesizing thinking…

For each of these styles Tate gives a more detail explanation including a definition of their contribution to a team and set of tools that support their productivity style. A Prioritizer might like 42Goals or Wunderlist whereas a Visualizer might like Lifetick or iThoughts HD.

The main focus of Tate’s post, I think, is to highlight that different people are productive in different way, which is something I would wholly agree with. Four styles of productivity feels a bit too restrictive though. Personally, I think I can be all four of the above and sometimes all of them at the same time. I don’t think that I fit any of them as a primary style (perhaps those of you who know me a bit better can let me know which one they think I am?)

The thought that different productivity styles mean that people prefer different tools to support their style is logical, but demonstrates a problem for teams. Teams are best when they are made up of different personality (and productivity) types. Creating the appropriate tooling for a team is, therefore, a challenge. How do you coordinate when one person is using Wunderlist, another 42Goals and yet another Lifetick? I’ve seen many teams where they have tried to mandate a particular tool for collaboration, this has generally resulted in low levels of engagement with the tool. People prefer different things and if you want the best out of them then perhaps you should let them use those tools.

On a different topic, four seems to be a popular number of this kind of assessment and aligns quite closely with many of the personality type assessments. How many of you know your Myers-Briggs personality type, which is also a set of four characteristics? Do we use four because we like quadrants because that’s how we think?

Is my job going to be computerised? Another view: The 'Jobless Future' Is A Myth

I’ve written a few post now on the impact of computerisation and automation on the jobs market:

Both of these posts highlight the jobs that are likely to be replaced by computers and/or robots.

Steve Denning adds another viewpoint: The ‘Jobless Future’ Is A Myth.

This article is primarily a response to the book The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment (May 2015) by Martin Ford.

As you may have guessed Martin Ford’s view is that the robots will take over and that Steve Denning is taking issue with this viewpoint. I’ve not read the book so can’t comment on it, but I was intrigued by Steve’s viewpoint as a counter-point to the other articles the I have read.

Denning outlines what he regards as a number of flaws in Ford’s reasoning (extracts):

One flaw is the underlying assumption that whatever is feasible will occur…

A second flaw in the reasoning is the implicit assumption that computers with miraculous performance capabilities can be developed, built, marketed, sold, operated and replicated at practically zero cost and that they will have zero secondary employment effects…

A third flaw is the failure to consider how the marketplace will react to the computer as a new market entrant…

A fourth flaw in the reasoning is to assume that when machines replace human capabilities, as they have been doing for thousands of years, nothing else changes…

As a technologist myself it’s great to hear a viewpoint from someone who isn’t. Denning’s perspective is that many of the symptoms that are being assigned to computerisation are also effects that would result from other challenges in the employment marketplace.  He list seven different issues including shareholder value theory on which he has written extensively.

Denning concludes like this:

We need to stop agonizing about an apocryphal vision of a “jobless future” and to focus on the pressing real issues that we can actually fix.

There have been many technologists commenting recently:

My gut feeling is that we are going through a significant shift in employment and what it means to be in a job, but I’ve never felt comfortable with a dystopian view that the machines are going to completely take over. History and experience tells me that we humans will muddle our way through and use our incredible adaptability to find something else to do.

Standing Target: Four Hours a Day! How am I doing?

The Guardian:

Office workers should spend a minimum of two hours on their feet at work – building up to an ideal four hours – in order to avoid the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle, according to a study co-commissioned by Public Health England.

The Telegraph:

Office workers should be on their feet for a minimum of two hours a day during working hours, according to the first official health guidelines.

The guidance, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, warns that UK sedentary behaviour now accounts for 60 per cent of people’s waking hours and for 70 per cent of those at high risk of a long term condition.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine:

The derived guidance is as follows: for those occupations which are predominantly desk based, workers should aim to initially progress towards accumulating 2 h/day of standing and light activity (light walking) during working hours, eventually progressing to a total accumulation of 4 h/day (prorated to part-time hours). To achieve this, seated-based work should be regularly broken up with standing-based work, the use of sit–stand desks, or the taking of short active standing breaks.

I’ve written before about sitting killing us, so was interested to hear that an official organisation like Public Health England are undertaking research into how long we should be standing to be healthy and starting to form guidelines.

The key points are that we should be starting from a base of 2 hours of standing a day, during the working day, building to 4 hours a day.

It’s worth clarifying that the studies weren’t just about standing, they were looking into “getting workers to stand and/or move more frequently”. It’s not just about going from sitting still to standing still; the point is to become more active generally.

I don’t, personally, have any great metrics on how much I stand, or sit, or move around during the working day. I can make some good approximations though.

My iPhone runs Moves which tracks my activities when I move with the phone. So I know how much time I spend walking, with my iPhone, but that’s not very accurate at work because I tend to leave my iPhone on my desk when I do all of those small movements in the day – get a drink, go to the loo, etc. Assuming that those activities account for less than 30 mins a day I’m still left with about three and a half hours of standing or movement left to do. With that in mind I went back through my activity log in Moves and realised that I have a long way to go – the amount of movement recorded during the working day is tiny. An example of a week’s movement during the working day: Monday – 11 mins; Tuesday – 12 mins; Wednesday – 39 mins (I went for a walk at lunchtime); Thursday – 4 mins; Friday – 10 mins. Oh dear.

I sometimes stand next to my desk while on a call, but it’s not three hours a day!

Most mornings I go for a 40 minute walk before going to work. I could cheat a bit and include that in my target. Then I would be down to needing an extra three hours and a few minutes of standing or moving to get to a total of four hours.

However you look at it, I have a lot of work to do to get close to the two hours, so building to four hours is going to take some effort.

Apart from getting my employer to invest in a stand-sit desk do you have any great activity ideas for me?

One thing I had thought of was taking more calls on my mobile and then walking.