"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.