Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Service of Telecommuting [II] & Teams, Old as the Hills

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Photo: michiganemploymentlawadvisor.com

In spring 2013 I wrote “Service of Telecommuting” after Yahoo’s HR director, Jackie Reses, had sent a memo to all staff telling them that if they worked at home they had until June of that year to report, fulltime, to a desk at a Yahoo office. According to a recent article on bloomberg.com, “The Rise and Fall of Working from Home–The permanent telecommuter is going extinct,” the approach continues to unravel.

In the article, brought to my attention by CG who has contributed to this blog, Rebecca Greenfield reported that earlier this year IBM “told 2,000 U.S. workers they could no longer work from home and about the same number of employees that they had to commute into offices more often. Facing 20 consecutive quarters of falling revenue, IBM hopes that bringing people back together will lead to faster, more productive, and more creative workers.”

The last straw

Small companies have also tried the concept and have rejected it. Greenfield described a PR agency whose staff didn’t act like the grownups the boss had expected them to be. Too many took advantage of the situation so he cancelled the option after less than a year. In addition to not answering the phone when home and being incommunicado for full days, “The last straw…was when someone refused to come in for a meeting because she had plans to go to the Hamptons,” the owner told Greenfield.

She wrote: “More than 60 percent of organizations surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Management this year said they allow some type of telecommuting, up from 20 percent in 1996. But telecommuting comes in many flavors, and 77 percent of organizations don’t let people work from home on a full-time basis. Most employers allow ad-hoc remote work for the person who needs to stay home for the plumber or wait for a package.”

Photo: 123rf.com

You might not remember who French journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr is [1808-1890], but you’ll remember the saying he penned: “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” I am thinking of the big deal made these days about teams when in my experience they have existed all along.

Regardless, I’m not convinced that the increase of teams in the workplace that Greenfield noted has accelerated the demise of telecommuting. “At the same time, work has also become more team-based. Only 38 percent of companies are ‘functionally’ organized today with workers grouped together by job type, a 2016 Deloitte survey found. Most comprise collaborative groups that shift depending on the work.”

In my opinion, collaboration and face-to-face communication help any enterprise that consists of more than one person. People who prefer to work alone, at home, shouldn’t get jobs in a company. Obviously there are exceptions for temporary periods—sick family members and anticipated nasty travel glitches for example—but as a routine option, I think what telecommuting saves in real estate—space to house an employee–is lost in lackluster productivity. Do you agree? Do you think that IBM will find that its policy change will help turn around its period of sluggish performance and creativity?

Photo: zultys.com

Service of Difficult Jobs

Monday, December 19th, 2016

Hard jobs old people turned

Two years ago about this time of year I wrote “Service of Challenging jobs.” Walking around town I see plenty of people who perform uncomplicated jobs that don’t require a lot of training but boy: Are they hard to do!

I thought I was finished drafting the post when I saw this ancient couple inching along First Avenue after Saturday’s snowstorm [photo above]. They were under scaffolding on a clean sidewalk but it was early and most—crosswalks too–were still slushy, icy nightmares. For them simple everyday activities and chores are difficult.

What this photo doesn’t show is what happened next. A kid on his bicycle came up to the old man and holding his bike with one hand he steadied the elderly fellow’s arm with the other to help him over slush and across the street. Such unexpected kindness by someone so young brought tears to my eyes.

Hard jobs up high with poster turnedLook at the top of the building facing 45th Street just off Third Avenue [photo right]. You’ll see a crane with two men putting the finishing touches on a poster. Pedestrians pay no attention: Employers expect these men to be sure-of-hand so as not to drop any tools on the folks below.

Hard jobs heavy lifting of grocery carts turnedThose palettes get plenty heavy when full of cartons holding cans, bottles and boxes of detergent. The man in the forefront isn’t wearing a jacket and the temperature was in the 30s the day I shot this in front of a D’Agostino grocery store.

Hard jobs up high at Javits turnedThe brightest of the lights–third from the left–is on the cart of some men working high up in the Javits Center late at night in a largely empty building. I wasn’t able to tell precisely what they were up to but it looked like they were replacing light bulbs. Acrophobia is not in their DNA.

Look at the tree branch reaching out over Third Avenue and you’ll see a pair of arms tying lights on it to dress the avenue for the holidays [photo below]. What you don’t see is the wall-to-wall traffic behind the van. If the branch decorator falls on to the avenue from the cherry picker he’s in trouble.

Have you noticed any people with precarious jobs in and around where you live and work?

 hard jobs placing lights on trees turned

Service of Seeds: What You Admired As a Kid May Be What You Do For a Living

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

seeds

I envied students, when I was one myself, who knew they wanted to be a teacher, nurse, doctor, journalist, artist, dentist or dancer—to name a few careers. In college, I still had no clue, but with the benefit of hindsight, the seeds were there long before.

A casual conversation with strangers on a railroad platform underscored how this might work for people lucky enough to be choosy in how they make a living. In Dover Plains, NY the other evening a crew of electricians was upgrading the lights at the railroad station. David, the team leader, was enthusiastically describing to another passenger and me what to expect when the project was done. He said we’d be getting “circus lights.”

We looked puzzled and he explained, “You remember when you were a kid and wentDover Plains RR Station to the circus? Those lights.” I said I remember piles of clowns squeezing into a small car, the lions and trapeze artists and cotton candy but don’t remember the lights and he laughed and said, “I guess that’s why I became an electrician!” [Once I Googled “circus lights,” I knew what to expect, but the image didn’t immediately come to mind.]

Circus lights

Circus lights

David got me thinking about what caught my attention as a child: attractively decorated apartments and homes, well dressed women and fashion in magazines and stores, hair styles, the way my aunt and a friend’s mother set a table and entertained and how great some stores looked and what fun it was to visit them and finding treasures in less appealing stores, to name a few things. In lower school, with friends during rest period, I put together a “magazine” [currently misplaced or tossed]. With the exception of fashion and beauty industries, I’ve been professionally involved in some or another way with the others and worked for two magazines.

Thinking back, do you see seeds and clues from your youth that translated into the work you do–or did–or did you know all along what you wanted your future to be?

 Student thinking

 

Service of Retail: A Bellwether of the Economy’s Health, Impact of Shifts in Purchasing Habits or What?

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

empty store in manhattan

On a recent weekday we walked down First Avenue from 70th to 53rd Street in Manhattan and were alarmed by the number of empty spaces where stores, restaurants, nail salons and other business once thrived in a neighborhood swarming with people.  The worst was an entire block with rental signs in all the street level windows.

The Mt. Kisco Daily Voice reported last week that the Poughkeepsie Kmart branch is one of 78 to close around the country in May. I’ve driven by it a few times a month for years. The times I dropped in I found that the supposed value priced store offered cheap fashion and home fashion with no flair and commodities at far from discount prices which, in part, may account for this news.

On to another retail scene. “Upscale Shopping Centers Nudge Out Down-Market Malls: Some retailers are closing stores in weaker-performing locations to focus on Web sales and more luxury spots,” was a Wall Street Journal headline for Suzanne Kapner’s article. She wrote “Once-solid regional ‘B’ malls that thrived for years are losing shoppers and tenants to the ‘A’ malls—those with sales per square foot in excess of $500, according to Green Street Advisors.

“The research firm estimates that about 44% of total U.S. mall value, which is based on sales, size empty store 2 ave 1and quality among other measures, resides with the top 100 properties, out of about 1,000 malls.” Kapner continued: “Mall owners disagree about whether the Internet is their main problem. They point to demographic changes that redirected population and income growth away from malls built years ago, along with a real estate glut that has left the U.S. with 24 square feet of retail space per person, compared with 15 for Canada, 10 for Australia and 5 for the U.K., according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.”

A few days later, also in The Wall Street Journal, Kapner wrote “Glut Plagues Department Stores,” where she reported that hundreds will close “to regain the productivity they had a decade ago.” Green Street Advisors was again her source. Some 800 are expected to close representing “a fifth of all anchor space in U.S. malls.”

The developers will figure out what to do with these properties and customers will find other places to buy what they need but what about all the employees–how will they make a living?

I wonder if these retail signals representing mom and pop enterprises to major brands reflect shifts in purchasing habits or a canary in the economic coalmine–or both? Politicians and their followers looking for easy answers and quick fixes will blame increased minimum wage laws and the greater cost of health insurance for employees under Obamacare. Others will fault the closings on the massive shift of disposable income from the middle class to the extremely rich, which has occurred over the last 35 years. What do you think?

empty store 2 ave 2

Service of It Matters

Monday, July 13th, 2015

It matters

Photo: mycutegraphics.com

Photo: mycutegraphics.com

 

You can be the most sensitive person in the universe and still be innocently and inadvertently indifferent to something that’s significant to another person.

A friend teaches a reading class to six first graders. Each has a book and there’s one for her. When the class was over one day, the smallest child in the class asked if she could please carry the books back to the homeroom. My friend, who reminded me that children this age love to be helpful, said thanks but that it didn’t matter as another child was doing it. The diminutive child looked her in the eye and said, “It matters to me.” So my friend asked the other child if she’d share the “load.” The child handed three of the books to her classmate, keeping the rest for herself. The little one beamed all the way back to homeroom.

In a vastly different scenario, Jim Brownell said to me: “This is a dump but it doesn’t have to look like one.” I’d just admired the transformation of the Millbrook, N.Y. transfer station [photo below]. As you approach it now there are three flags–American, Army and Marine–posted in a generous bed of mulch they’d installed. Brownell and Joseph Magnarella, who is in the photo, are the transfer attendants responsible for the makeover. Brownell is a Marine [on NCIS I learned once a Marine, always a Marine]; Magnarella is former Army.

When I first noticed the makeover, only the American flag and two poles were in place. Brownell expected the other two flags shortly. I left work early July 3—the dump is only open three days a week—to grab a photo for this post and only two flags flew. I asked Brownell for permission to take a photo and explained the nature of my post. He suggested I wait for the missing Marine flag, especially in light of the title. “It matters,” he said. [He was on vacation the day I returned for the photo.]

Can you share examples of something insignificant that nevertheless mattered a lot to you or to someone else? How about employees who go above and beyond because where they work–and how it looks–matters to them?

Joseph Magnarella a transfer attendant at the Millbrook, NY transfer station he transformed with Jim Brownell.

Joseph Magnarella a transfer attendant at the Millbrook, NY transfer station he transformed with Jim Brownell.

Service of Secrets to Success

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Secrets to success

I read an article in which women were asked to share their secrets to success in a particular industry. Here are just a few tips to illustrate the point:

  • “The key to success is to determine exactly what success means to you—set your own goals and accomplish these by working hard, dedicating your time and energy, while maintaining pride and confidence in what you do—even when it may not always go the way you planned.”
  • “Patience and tenacity are essential to attaining any goal in life. It’s also important to put yourself in situations where opportunities will present themselves.”A little bird told me
  • “Find what you are truly passionate about and then pursue it wholeheartedly, because a life’s work that brings you joy will strengthen you throughout a long career.”
  • “It’s no secret that women have to work hard and smart every day if they want to be successful!”
  • “Intuition cannot be overrated.”

Do you agree these quotes apply equally to men and women and to most industries? Do you think this approach is passé?Can you guess the industry?  For the answer keep an eye on the comments. When someone guesses right, I’ll confirm. If nobody does, I’ll disclose it there.

What's your answer

 

Service of Challenging Jobs

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Photo: Yahoo

Photo: Yahoo

electrician

The story of the window washers dangling from a collapsed scaffolding on the 69th floor of the World Trade Center recently reinforced my admiration for those who do these jobs. Too bad there are no self-wash windows or windows that you could swing inside safely in skyscrapers and not be sucked out by the draft.

I couldn’t do this job nor would I want to learn how. Heights are scary.

Next my thoughts jumped to a list of so many other essential jobs that I’d not do well but wish I could such as statistician; hospice care staffer; electrician; plumber; surgeon; clinician; artist; computer/tech guru; carpenter; furniture maker; handyman; dentist and pharmacist–for starters. I can’t look when I get a shot and if I had to give one as pharmacists do these days, my eyes would have to be open.

Are there jobs you admire, could never do but wish you could and others you wouldn’t want to try?

carpenter

 

Service of ASAP

Monday, October 27th, 2014

do it now

I’m careful not to rush a person if my deadline isn’t imminent so that when I say I need something urgently, I hope that they take my request seriously. Some people say they need everything “right away.”  So I was drawn to Rob Walker’s “The Workologist” New York Times column, “What ‘ASAP’ Really Means.”

Walker responded to Eugene who complained that he stayed late to finish a project that came with an ASAP request “only to learn later that the project sat on someone else’s desk, ignored for days or weeks afterwards.”

hurryWalker wrote: “You get a request to fill out a report — or whatever — ‘as soon as possible.’ You consider how soon you might actually be able to do it, given everything else you’re dealing with. Then you add some extra time.

“And so you respond: ‘Sure, no problem. I’m finishing some other deadline work at the moment, but I can have that for you by the end of Friday.’ (Obviously, you shouldn’t get greedy. Saying you can do it by the end of the decade is a nonstarter.) In the age of email, it’s a good idea to close with something that concretely pushes responsibility back to the request-maker: ‘I’ll shoot for that unless I hear otherwise from you today.’”

working lateThe first time I said to my boss’s boss that I couldn’t meet an “I need it now” deadline was a shock to me which is why I remember it so clearly. It was 4 pm when he sauntered into my office [I was the lowest person on the totem pole]. He’d no doubt heard that I was at my desk until at least 8 almost every night. He handed me a folder and said he needed this job done by first thing in the morning.

Trouble was I was expected at a dinner that evening to celebrate a big family occasion. There was no way I could work late or finish the project in three hours. Further I had seen the folder on his desk for weeks. So I stuck to my guns, said I’d get right on it and would finish it when I got in the next day—but it wouldn’t be done first thing. Nothing happened: I wasn’t fired.

Have you worked with people for whom everything’s ASAP? How do you handle it?

stop watch

Service of Envy and Facebook’s Place in It

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia

I’ve been asked countless times by my husband and/or friends “Why do you believe so-and-so?” when I share improbable news of an imbecile’s stratospheric salary, bonus or new client with astronomical fee.

Pinnocchio 2That’s why I was surprised that there are so many people like me: They believe what they read and see on Facebook about friends’ magical trips, happy families, awards and tournaments won, four-star meals enjoyed and so forth. According to Jennifer Breheny Wallace, a University of Michigan study last summer found that “the more people used Facebook, the less satisfied they were with their lives.”

This fact was the angle for her Wall Street Journal article “Put that Resentment to Good Use,” where we read that benign envy can be the motivation to earn a better salary, get a fabulous bonus or add a munificent client to your roster. Researchers in the Netherlands found that with students, admiration didn’t rank as high as benign envy when it comes to best test results. Students who felt the latter emotion showed increased creativity and imagination in their responses earning better grades.

Benign envy improved attention and memory according to another study.

Pack of dogs waiting for foodMalicious envy, where a person tries to challenge another’s success, is another story about which Wallace devotes only a few lines so I’ll share an example of my own. I worked for a PR agency where the owner threw clients i.e. work up in the air for the account people to grab as though he was tossing steak to a pack of hungry dogs. This technique to generate rampant competition and envy among employees didn’t work for me. I left after the prerequisite year.

What’s your experience and or observation about envy as a motivator?

You can do it

Service of Caring too Much

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

love work

Can a person care too much about the place they work?

Sue Shellenbarger attempted to answer the question in her Wall Street Journal article, “When it Comes to Work, Can You Care Too Much?

She divided employees into “organization lovers” and “free agents.”

Frustrated at workLike any lover, the former can get hurt and become disillusioned. She describes the type in a sidebar as “caring, committed, attached and involved” as well as driven to contribute, to inspire others and play extremely well with team members. Simultaneously Shellenbarger’s summary also portrays them as potential malcontents, prone to get frustrated over things they can’t change and they react “emotionally to employer missteps.”

When BP blundered, wrote Shellenbarger, one of its employees, Christine Bader, quit. “‘The hurt ran much deeper when BP’s problems came to pass, because I was so in love with that company,’ says Ms. Bader, author of ‘The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist,’ a book about how people advocate inside companies for social and environmental causes. ‘My sense of identity was really shaken,’ says Ms. Bader.”

Shellenbarger continued: “Nearly 1 in 3 employees are strongly attached to their jobs and organizations, and their numbers are edging higher, based on a biannual Gallup survey that tracks attitudes common among organization-lovers. Some 30% of employees are ‘engaged,’ or involved, enthusiastic and committed to their jobs, up from 28% in 2010, the survey shows. Women have an edge, with 33% of them falling into this category, compared with 28% of men.”

wtf faceReading Shellenbarger’s description of free agents, I’m not so sure such passionate commitment is an edge. Free agents are, she writes, “detached, calm and self-directed. They leave problems at work, feel more in control and take missteps in stride.” She lists as “cons” that they also change jobs frequently and “can be seen as cynical.” Shellenbarger doesn’t share examples of such employees.

I know where I fit and in typical grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side-of-the-street mode I wish I were more like the other. And you?

 grass is greener

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