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    Here’s How to Solve the Productivity Puzzle

    All of us are born with a desire to contribute; we are hard-wired to be useful to each other and to society as a whole. If you think about it, there are few things more satisfying than a job well done. Having a sense of purpose, mastering a task, and having others approve of, or even admire what we achieve is highly motivating. It feels good.
    Problem is, as we grow older and our experiences build over time, many of us become disillusioned, disappointed, or just plain bored by the work we do – we get in a rut. The joy diminishes from the day-to-day piling up of things to do that do not align with personal values, personal motivations, aspirations, and/or the types of skills we wish to master. There are few things more demotivating than this.
    Of course, this happens to everyone at some point; however, when dissatisfaction lasts months, and months turn into years, something has gone wrong. Why continue doing something that does not align to one’s personal motivations and desires?

    There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?

    — WARREN BUFFETT, INVESTMENT GURU, CHAIRMAN AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY
    There is a certain truth to what Warren Buffet says here; however, when one must worry about a mortgage, school fees, a car payment, or a student loan to pay back, the mind becomes focused on this at the expense of aspiration and desire. The real reason that so many of today’s workforce end up in a rut is far more complex than just pulling up your bootstraps and going out to find that perfect job. In fact, many of the reasons people fall into uninspiring work are outside of their control.
    If you think about the economic realities the vast majority of people face on a day-to-day basis it’s no wonder that we sometimes fall into a trap of taking what is on offer at any given point. Often the dilemma starts from a young age: Do we go to university? Can we afford it? Can we make the grade? Or do we skip further education and go for an entry-level position and work our way up? This is a profound decision for a 17- to 18-year-old. However, this is where most of us start our quest for that perfect job, the ultimate career. To add to the daunting task, perfect jobs do not grow on trees, so even if a teenager has a clear view about what they want to do, how do they find that job? And what do they do to support themselves until that job is discovered? After all, it can take years to get where we want to be.
    Additionally, if you think about the current state of the world of work, the method by which people find careers and careers find people is largely unchanged since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. True, today we have LinkedIn and some digital job posting boards, but largely the process is the same as it has always been: employer posts job, prospective employee finds posting (mainly online, these days) and applies. From there, the process of interview and assessment, selecting candidates, and getting them onboarded is also largely unchanged. It’s a very two-dimensional world controlled by supply and demand, navigated with a bit of luck (for both employee and employer). It’s highly inefficient, time-consuming, and rarely gets the right person, with the right skills and the right motivations in the right job at the right time. Throw in the whims of the normal business cycle – growing economy followed by a shrinking economy (supply and demand) – and the complexities multiply. This traditional way of finding and deploying the workforce is constantly changing market conditions, I would argue, is the fundamental reason why so many people find themselves doing uninspiring work and feeling trapped in it. Pull up your bootstraps and go find that job! Good luck with that.

    Everyone has been made for some particular work and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.

    — RUMI, ANCIENT PERSIAN POET PHILOSOPHER
    What would the world of work be like if we could turn technology and technological change to our advantage and use it to match the perfect person to the perfect job; a job that gives purpose, the opportunity to master new things, and the opportunity to be left to get on with that work without too much interference by others? What if we change the mindset (and processes) to think differently about bringing in new talent and deploying it at the right time and right place with the right skills and right motivations. Most would say this is impossible in today’s workplace – the tools we have are very one-dimensional and do not help us to think and do differently. And you can add to this today’s economic realities, where there is a complete focus on quarterly results, profits, cutting costs, growing the top line, and saving the taxpayer money (in the public sector) that override many people’s desires and motivations: just get on with the work! Produce more with less, meet objectives, meet the deadline, and at all costs, deliver! Most of us get caught up in these whirlwinds and we put our heads down and plod through, quarter after quarter – a treadmill.
    But does the world of work have to be this way? Is there a different way to do things, a different way to look at things? Maybe the simple ‘equation’ given in Figure 0.1 can illustrate a way forward.
    Figure 0.1 People engagement, innovation, and performance (PEIP)

    An illustration shows an equation for working smarter. The equation is ‘the sum of right people, right skills, right place, right time, and right motivation yields PEIP’.
    What if we created a workforce ‘marketplace’ that not only balances supply and demand of resources, but also maps people’s skills, motivations, and aspirations to the right job at the right time (PEIP)? If we can achieve this, then (as postulated by Rumi) the chances that people ‘made for some particular work and the desire for that work’ find and succeed in that work go up dramatically. The benefits for individuals, and society at large, would be tremendous – even miraculous.
    Imagine, then, if we ‘turbo-charged’ this equation with emerging ‘intelligent’ technology, as pictured in Figure 0.2, using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to further maximize the efficiencies of PEIP – a new way of working where individuals and organizations use smart technology to find each other, to get the right people in the right role. People doing jobs they love for organizations they love will be highly engaged and create great places to work. Imagine that, once PEIP is in place, people could leverage smart technology to help them be even more productive than they are today; robots working for us, and with us, to make work more fun and fulfilling. Let the robots do the mundane work and free up humans to do higher-order work. Sounds like science fiction, but it’s not – the technology to make this happen is available today, and the time for this to happen is here and now. Demographic and other trends in the work environment are rapidly emerging alongside the latest technology trends and are creating a ‘perfect storm’ of challenge, but also opportunity.
    Figure 0.2 Turbo-charge PEIP

    Consider trends such as the elongation of human life-span, the realization that people on the autistic spectrum bring incredibly innovative ideas, there are more senior and experienced women in work, and the fact that we have a much better scientific understanding of the workings of the human brain and what truly motivates people. These trends, combined with PEIP, demonstrate that we may be on the cusp of a truly transformative time in the world of work. One where ‘everyone has been made for some particular work and the desire for that work’ can be realized.
    Tim Ringo is an author, speaker, board advisor and senior executive. His new book “Solving the Productivity Puzzle” is out now. Find out more about Tim on www.timringo.com

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    WFH: How to Keep Your Team On Track

    Working from home is great, but it also comes with many unique struggles that can impact productivity and hinder growth. According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work survey, 17 percent of respondents reported that communication and collaboration as their greatest struggle working remotely while 8 percent of workers said that motivation was their biggest adversity.
    Tuning into your team’s struggles and integrating preventative strategies like these will help you promote wellness and productivity for everyone. Before you get started, make sure that you have some time to set aside and ask for feedback. Although these tips are a great way to combat many of the common remote work challenges, it’s best to personalize your approach so you can address the most pressing barriers to productivity in your company.
    Use Public Task Lists
    Every employee will have their own itemized agenda for the day, but a team-wide task list will help coworkers stay connected and more conscious of how they spend their time. Collaborative software can drastically enhance productivity for a remote team by eliminating the need for cross-platform communication; instant messaging, progress tracking, goals, and project deadlines can all share a common space.
    Working from home removes the pressure to perform that a physical office provides; this pressure is not negative, and it’s a fundamental aspect of a strong workflow for many people. Recreating that environment on a computer is a challenge, but remote team software like Basecamp, Asana, and Fellow make it easier.
    Hold Midday Meetings
    Halfway through the day, motivation starts to wane. People think more about dinner plans and Netflix than their current tasks, which results in many simple and easy duties being pushed to the next day. To prevent this from creating a decline during your work hours, hold a meeting shortly after lunch to talk about what’s been accomplished so far and set goals for the last half of the day.
    Acknowledging accomplishments first, however small, has two immediate benefits. First, it shows employees that you are aware of what they do each day and not only see but appreciate their effort. Second, hearing about what others have done can reinvigorate employees and inspire them to refocus and try their best for the last few hours of their shift.
    Setting goals and connecting them across various divisions or individual workers creates a sense of unity. Teamwork boosts remote team morale and inspires everyone to take pride in what they do. Rather than slogging through tasks, they are able to see the bigger picture and know that even the mundane items on their to-do list have greater significance.
    Check-in With Everyone Regularly
    Only hosting virtual meetings or sending out reports won’t keep a team close together. As the leader, you need to model engagement and hard work by routinely reaching out to your employees. Every hour, send a message to your remote team. It doesn’t have to be a major ordeal to be significant. Something as simple as, “Hey, team. How are we doing so far?” can go a long way.
    Employees who struggle to motivate themselves at home will be more likely to prioritize work when they know you are actually paying attention. It’s easy for people to slip into the mindset that their contributions don’t matter; give some extra one-on-one attention to any members of your team who are falling behind or appear distant.
    Focus on Your Own Routine
    Make sure that you are practicing good remote work habits while helping your team stay on track. Wake up on time each morning, get dressed and eat a nutritious breakfast away from the computer. Stress the importance of a healthy work-life balance by sharing personal tips and tricks with your team.
    Self-care is difficult for many leaders because they always focus on solving everyone else’s problems; you may get so involved in monitoring and managing your team that your own productivity falls to the wayside. By optimizing your own schedule, you’ll put yourself in the best possible mindset and mood to guide your team with the level of patience and compassion they need.
    Work Together
    Live editing in G Suite can make many projects happen ten times faster. Rather than waiting for individual team members to review, edit, or offer feedback, let everyone connect at the same time and achieve goals together. Working as a group not only gets things done faster but also promotes a strong collaborative culture. Teams are built through shared experience, which means you must emphasize the importance of real-time communication when working remotely.
    If your work can’t be done in G Suite or another collaborative platform, consider hosting daily scrum meetings. This project management philosophy is primarily used in software development, but it can be adopted by any team and help streamline the work process.
    Use Incentives
    As you build a remote team, it’s important to consider ways you can connect their virtual professional life into the real world. Small incentive programs can do just that. Monetary rewards for a job well done can make people feel more connected to their work; other incentives are social and include short shoutouts during meetings or mentions in team emails.
    Personalize incentives to match your business’s line of work and your team’s personal style. Vary your rewards but make sure everyone is always aware that they’re on the table and available to anyone; the point is to make everyone feel like a part of a team, not cause tension or competition.
    Final Thoughts
    Be patient with your team and know that change takes time. Reach out to the workers who are performing the best and ask for their secrets, and speak with those who struggle the most. Rather than immediately trying to correct them, seek to learn about their challenge so you can support and guide them to greater achievement. And don’t forget to prioritize your own well-being along the way.
    Brandyn Morelli is the co-founder of HelloCecil, a SaaS platform helping small businesses make smarter hires through video interviewing.

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    Why the Time Has Come for a Four-Day Week

    The coronavirus pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives, and it’s had a particularly marked effect on the way we work. The largest flexible working experiment ever conducted has taken place out of necessity, and the early signs are that it will leave a lasting change in work culture. More workers than ever before have been able to fit their work-life around their home life by working at different hours – increasingly necessary due to childcare commitments during the closure of schools. With 44% of UK workers set to request permanent flexible working policies (according to research from Direct Line), there are no signs that it’s going away anytime soon.
    The four-day week has always been a popular topic in the flexible working discourse, and although it has been adopted by some employers, it hasn’t yet gone mainstream. Here’s why its time has come.
    Employee wellbeing
    A secondary effect of the coronavirus pandemic has been its effect on our mental health. Months of anxiety, coupled with increasingly difficult economic conditions and less contact with friends and family, have unsurprisingly taken their toll.
    As countries seek to kickstart their economies again, any steps that will safeguard the mental health of workers need to be seriously considered. Figures from the ONS show that 17.5 million workdays were lost due to mental health problems in the UK in 2018, for example, underlining the drastic impact mental health problems can have on the economy as well as the workers themselves.
    Mental health and employee wellbeing, in general, have always been one of the principal driving forces behind the four-day week. It’s seen as an important step towards a greater work-life balance, allowing for effectively a three-day weekend each and every week. Workers would have more time to recover from a stressful work week, freeing up that time and energy to pursue other hobbies and interests that can be beneficial for their mental health. With work-related mental health problems increasingly widespread, measures such as this are more important than ever.
    Increased productivity
    The four-day week not only makes sense in terms of mental health – but it also benefits the company’s bottom line. Although, as fewer hours are worked overall, the expectation might be that production (and therefore profits) suffer as a result, the opposite is actually true.
    What the four-day week experiments reveal is the importance of the quality of the hours worked, rather than necessarily the sheer quantity of those hours. Happy workers are productive workers. What’s better: an engaged, rested, happy employee working for 30 hours a week, or a burned-out employee working for 40 (or even more)? You can probably guess the answer.
    The human brain is not a machine, churning out hours of equally productive work hours, but a sensitive organ with complicated needs of its own. To run at its maximum, most productive capacity, it needs rest. The same principle can be seen in a normal working day. Working for eight hours straight, with no break, will produce worse quality work than a smaller number of hours that have been split up with breaks. Such is the power of a break for the brain.
    Now is the time
    The coronavirus pandemic has only strengthened the case for a four-day working week. With unprecedented public health and mental health challenges, a struggling jobs market, and an ailing economy, it’s time has truly come. Workers will be happier and more productive, and the wider economy will also benefit. With an extra day of leisure, domestic tourism will also benefit – workers would have three days to recharge their batteries instead of two, giving them the time and energy to go further afield at the weekend and contribute to the wider economy.
    It may seem like a radical step, but so did the move away from a six-day week of 12 hour working days. Rigid, traditional ideas around work culture can be difficult to break down, but these should not stand in the way of positive progress – both for employee wellbeing and the productivity of the company as a whole.

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    What Is Time Blocking and Why You Should Be Doing it?

    As a full-time college student who also works part-time, I can find it hard to schedule and organize my day. I have found it even harder to prioritize now that all my classes have gone online. After trying various methods of trying to organize my different tasks and responsibilities, I have found time blocking to […] More

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    Running Effective Meetings: An Engineer’s Guide

    If you’re the leader of a software development team, chances are good that your engineers spend more time than they’d prefer on things other than developing software. Much of this time is probably taken up by meetings; Harvard Business review reports that time spent attending meetings in the workplace has more than doubled since the […] More

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    How to Plan a Company Retreat?

    With 80% of employees reporting that they’re too stressed in their office jobs, it’s more important than ever to facilitate employee happiness in the workplace. From snacks and a casual work environment to flexible work hours and office retreats, there are plenty of ways to show employees you appreciate them without breaking the bank. Although […] More

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    The Importance of Training and Development in the Medical Field

    Many employers try to get employees out onto the floor as quickly as possible. While running a medical facility can seem like a difficult task, not training your employees can result in much worse. When you don’t train employees, you run the risk of hiring people that aren’t aware of what they’re doing. This will […] More