Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Is the Modern Workplace Ready For Serif Fonts?

Even in the age of texting, the average American employee spends roughly one-third of the work week reading and sending email written in boring, non-artistic fonts. Well, not anymore!

It's almost August, which means quirky workplace news is slowing to a crawl just like our productivity levels. Then I came across an interesting article in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald entitled "Your Email Font Is Ruining Your Life."

While the corporate world has long relied on sans-serif fonts -- e.g., fonts where the letters stick to function over form by avoiding pretty end strokes and wavy-gravy curves -- our wide variety of hand-held electronic gadgets increasingly have the resolution to allow for pretty, formally-unreadable serif fonts to lean in to our corporate writing.

The question is, are we brave enough to use them at work? Could Comic Sans cut it in the workplace?

Well, companies such as Amazon have tested how we read various fonts online. Amazon, for example, found that reading comprehension increases 2% when we read something written in a font called Bookerly.

Font designers, meanwhile, are looking into new, exciting fonts to fit our evolving, 21st-Century e-communication needs.

So will you be the brave soul at work who tries sending co-workers an email written entirely in Buttweasel? It's bold, it's eye catching, but does it proclaim professionalism? Hmm. Perhaps we can start small by using Georgia, which is elegant and more understated.

The point is, we can now make the argument for employing a wider range of fonts in our workplace communications! Our co-workers can no longer make the case that they "can't read it" because smartphone screen resolution can finally keep up with the likes of Caslon and Calluna!

Have some fun figuring out which font works best for you at work. As Pam Beasley from The Office might say: "It's a good day."

Friday, July 24, 2015

Hearing New Messages Is As Distracting As Answering Them

Trying to concentrate on work? Then you should mute your smartphone and put it where you can't see it, stat!

New Florida State University research finds that simply being aware of a missed call, email or text can be as distracting -- and productivity-draining -- as actually stopping to respond to the message!

We can also make mistakes when we hear (unchecked) messages roll in on our phones and tablets. Our minds tend to wander as soon as our phone beeps with the sweet sound of impending, virtual human interaction! Or a "reminder" from the game app our kid put on our phone, as the case may be. So much for multi-tasking, right?

Beep! Even when we choose to not check the message, we can't help but wonder who is trying to reach us. Mulling the possibilities takes up a chunk of mind share, and then we wonder how we made a mistake on the project at hand.

By the way, putting our phones on "vibrate" doesn't help. The mind still wanders.

So what does this study mean for workplace productivity? Never underestimate the power of the ring tone to throw us off-task in a big way. If we hear the siren song of an incoming message, then we can't help but lose some of our work focus.

If we really want to concentrate, then we might have to (gasp!) hide our mobile gadgets for a few minutes. Okay, I'll let you go see who texted you just now.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Congratulations, Your 9-to-5 Job Is Officially 24/7

A new CareerBuilder survey concludes that the 9-to-5 workday is running out of time.

CareerBuilder surveyed more than 1,000 employees working in traditional, 9-to-5 jobs for their thoughts on whether 9-to-5 is still a relevant work schedule.

It's a nutshell, it's not: Verging on two-thirds (63%) of survey participants think the 9-to-5 concept is outdated.

Even more, nearly one-fourth (24%) can't seem to leave the office behind when they leave its four walls. Roughly 1 in 4 surveyed admit to checking work emails when they're hanging out with family and friends, while 2 in 5 surveyed (38%) keep right on working like they're still at the office.

Of course, the "always-on" work model is just the way it is for the average working professional these days. It's the path to productivity, and progress:

"Workers want more flexibility in their schedules, and with improvements in technology that enable employees to check in at any time, from anywhere, it makes sense to allow employees to work outside the traditional nine-to-five schedule," says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder. "Moving away from a nine-to-five work week may not be possible for some companies (yet), but if done right, allowing employees more freedom and flexibility with their schedules can improve morale, boost productivity and increase retention rates."

So "allowing" employees to work outside the traditional 9-to-5 window just makes sense, because it's the way to "freedom" and "flexibility." But is working from home into the wee hours and surviving on five paltry hours of sleep a night a good thing in the long run?

I don't think so. Employees who feel like they can't put the work away will burn out in our don't-look-past-the-current-quarter economy. We need to pace ourselves, because a career is a marathon not a sprint.

Repeat after me: Not every email is urgent, and some calls can go to voice mail. We'll get back to them later, because we want to be present in our own life as a loved one tells us about their day. Now that's freedom.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Office Know-It-All Knows Less Than You Think

Every office has a know-it-all employee, but a new study concludes that he or she doesn't know everything. In fact, he or she may not know that much after all!

Researchers at Cornell University and Tulane University reveal that know-it-alls tend to "overclaim" -- meaning, they can pull "facts" out of thin air and rely on made-up information. No wonder they tend to talk so much!

The researchers asked 100 study participants to rate their knowledge of financial investing. Would a few know-it-alls rise like Apple stock from the group, and would their self-proclaimed investing knowledge be highly accurate, or somewhat exaggerated?

To find out, the researchers presented the group with a few examples of fake financial terminology (pre-rated stocks, fixed-rate deduction, annualized credit?) sprinkled among a set of bonafide financial terminology (IRAs, inflation, etc.) and let them...discuss.

Here's what happened, as reported by Psych Central:

As expected, people who saw themselves as financial wizards were most likely to claim expertise of the bogus finance terms.

"The more people believed they knew about finances in general, the more likely they were to overclaim knowledge of the fictitious financial terms," [Cornell University Psychological Scientist Stav] Atir said. "The same pattern emerged for other domains, including biology, literature, philosophy, and geography."

In another experiment, participants were asked to share their knowledge of biology. The catch: They were told up front that some of the biology terms presented to them were made-up and entirely false. Even after being warned, those who tended toward know-it-all-ism asserted a clear conversational confidence in intellectually-iffy terms such as "meta-toxins" and "bio-sexual."

So what is the take away here? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? As the office know-it-all attempts to fill in your knowledge gaps once again, you would be right to wonder how much is fact, and how much is fiction. Trust your instincts, and your own mind. Trust, but verify.

And go to your inner happy place while it's happening. Trust me, it works.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Survey Reveals Most Annoying Conference Call Behaviors

It's been a few weeks since I've blogged. I've been on vacation. In the Silicon Valley.

I know what you're probably thinking: Who vacations in the workaholic Silicon Valley?

Yes, it is rather strange to take a relaxing getaway to the land of 24/7 mobile working and venture deal-making, but there I was, lounging by the outdoor hotel pool with a laptop-toting business traveler to the left of me and a headset-wearing business traveler to the right while the kids did handstands in the water.

We did our best to make a splash. A very sweet employee at the front desk had asked upon arrival if we planned to swim in the pool, because "it would be so nice" to see somebody use it. Apparently, the Silicon Valley is rife with working pools.

We never found Hooli, but we did see a driverless car while passing through Palo Alto. Now it's back to reality, and back to workplace blogging. Oh, where to start.

How about with a new OfficeTeam survey that reveals the modern state of the conference call?

OfficeTeam surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. employees to find out what annoys them most during conference calls. Employees' primary peeve? When too many people try to talk at once.

Nearly four in 10 employees surveyed (37%) cited talking over each other as the biggest problem with conference calls. There's no app for that yet, unfortunately.

"Excessive background noise" ranks second on the list, with nearly one-quarter (24%) of those surveyed singling out extraneous noise as their biggest conference call annoyance. It's a type of workplace feedback we do not want.

Third on the list are the conference call participants who log in, but don't pay attention. They're too busy multi-tasking behind the scenes to join the meeting. In their defense, they were paying attention until everyone started talking at once and Candy Crush called their name during the fourth PowerPoint slide. And was the conference call really necessary in the first place?

It's all downhill from there, and this fantastically funny Tripp and Tyler clip sums up everything.

In sum, be on time to conference calls, try not to interrupt, don't be noisy, become a master of the mute button, and, above all, seem interested in the conversation. With any luck, we won't get disconnected this time.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Fired Millennials Most Likely To Vent Over Social Media

You just lost your job (so sorry...), and you really, really need to vent. Who do you turn to?

If you're a Millennial, then you're most likely to turn to social media!

Social recruiting and outplacement service CareerArc recently queried more than 1,300 job seekers, 218 HR and headhunters to find out how they work though a job loss.

Not surprisingly, we're choosing to ride out the job-loss emotional roller coaster online: CareerArc found that nearly four in 10 surveyed (38%) have written a negative comment online about being fired.

But the most interesting statistic, at least to me? The kayak-paddling Millennials are the most likely not only to poo-poo their former employer's brand forevermore, they're also the most likely to go on social media to get it all out one, vague status update at a time!

Nearly three-fourths (73%) of Millennials in CareerArc's survey said that they've used social media as a shoulder to cry on after being either terminated or laid off.

Then again, the Baby Boomers aren't exactly staying silent about their job separations, either. No, they're logging on to social media to take it to their former employers, too -- but they're more likely to try to put things in perspective. As Benzinga reports:

Although almost 2.5X more Baby Boomers (64 percent) than Millennials (26 percent) reported having been laid off or terminated once in their careers, 58 percent of those Millennials reported their perceptions of their previous employers' brands were negatively impacted from the separation event, compared to 52 percent of Baby Boomers.

What about Generation X? We don't know, because the survey didn't ask. As usual, the slacker generation has been glossed over like a Facebook news feed, if it hasn't been quietly unfriended for posting one too many Throwback Thursday photos.

Of course, social media can serve as a valuable, free, and immediate job networking tool, and that's a good thing. We simply need to be careful to stay positive in our comments, to look ahead instead of back, and to ask ourselves before we post: Is this a smart thing to say in the long run?

So if you fire a Millennial, be aware that he or she may tell two "friends," and they'll tell two "friends," and so on and so on and so on. This is the sharing economy we live in, for better and for worse. I'm going to share this blog post on Twitter now.