Tag Archives: productivity

Diverse Teams Analyze Problems More Effectively

When people anticipate working with people similar to themselves, they process information less effectively than when they anticipate collaborating with diverse co-workers.

Denise Lewin Loyd

Denise Lewin Loyd

Volunteers completed a survey about their political attitudes, read a murder mystery, determined the perpetrator, and rated their confidence in their conclusion in a study designed by MIT’s Denise Lewin Loyd, Cynthia S. Wang of Oklahoma State University, Columbia’s Katherine Phillips  and Robert Lount Jr. of Ohio State University.

Participants then wrote a statement about their conclusions before meeting another volunteer who had a different conclusion about the perpetrator to solve the case.

Cynthia Wang

Cynthia Wang

They learned the other person’s political affiliation and opinion about the murder and wrote their statements but were told the experiment was over, without meeting the other person.

Loyd’s team analyzed these preparation statements to determine “elaboration,” a measure of analysis complexity and depth, when people anticipated working with others who have different attitudes.

Katherine Phillips

Katherine Phillips

People who said they were members of any political party wrote less-detailed statements when they anticipated meeting with someone affiliated with the same political party.
In contrast, participants wrote more detailed statements when they anticipated meeting someone of a different political orientation.

Volunteers prepared less carefully when they anticipated working with someone who shared their views.
In contrast, when they expected to work with someone holding different views, they applied greater critical thinking to their problem analyses.

Robert B Lount Jr

Robert B Lount Jr

Some volunteers were instructed before preparing their written case analysis that developing a positive interpersonal relationship with the other person would increase solution accuracy.

Other participants learned that “concentrating on the task rather than the interpersonal relationship was most important way to have a productive meeting.”

People primed to focus on their interpersonal relations wrote less detailed preparation statements, suggesting that analytic rigor was sacrificed for interpersonal harmony.
In addition, when people were primed to focus on the task, they produced more thoroughly considered solutions.

When volunteers actually met to solve the case after writing their statements,
partners with the most accurate solutions came to the meeting with most detailed case analyses.

People in homogeneous groups may prepare less completely if they focus on cultivating interpersonal harmony and avoiding conflict.
In contrast, diverse groups may not attempt to form close social relationships, so are more able to focus on task analysis and solutions.
Diverse teams, then, provide multiple perspectives and greater focus on shared work tasks.

Ron Elsdon

Ron Elsdon

However, other researchers advocate workplace affiliation as a way to engage and retain employees.
Ron Elsdon, formerly of Cambridge University and Air Liquide America, suggested that workplace affiliation leads to organizational value creation, and Gallup’s Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman argued that “having a best friend at work” is both important for employee engagement and “one of the most controversial of the 12 traits of highly productive workgroups.”

Marcus Buckingham

Marcus Buckingham

Social relationships among similar people at work may feel good, but may not lead to the most effective or innovative problem analysis.

-*To what extent have you observed homogeneous work groups focusing on maintaining harmony at the expense of rigorous task analysis?

Curt Coffman

Curt Coffman

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Managerial Gender Bias in Granting Flex Time, Backlash Against Men Flex-Time Seekers

Managers hold gender biases in granting flex time requests, and most employees inaccurately anticipate managers’ likelihood of approving these proposals, found Yale’s Victoria Brescoll with Jennifer Glass of University of Texas-Austin and Harvard’s Alexandra Sedlovskaya.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Men across job levels were more likely than women to receive flex time to pursue career advancement or to address family issues, found their survey of 76 managers.

Jennifer Glass

Jennifer Glass

Men in high-status jobs were more likely receive approval for career development, and men in low-level jobs tended to get flex time for family issues.
Both groups were more likely than women to receive requested work schedule accommodations.

Women in low-status jobs with childcare requirements were among the least likely to receive accommodations from their managers.
In addition, all employees tended to overestimate the likelihood of receiving a flexible work schedule and underestimate “backlash” after the request.

Women in high-status jobs requesting flextime for career advancement were most likely to expect their requests would be granted, yet they had a lower approval rate than men in high-status jobs.
Conversely, these schedule-accommodated men were least likely to believe they would receive flextime for career development reasons, yet they often received approval.

Brescoll suggested that men in high-status positions who are granted flex time to pursue career development achieve more rapid career advancement.
In contrast, women in high-status roles who request flex time for the same purpose may “…be suspected of hiding the true reason for their request, or they may be viewed as less deserving of further training because it’s assumed that they’ll leave their jobs in the future.”

Women in the workplace encounter a “gendered wall of resistance” (schedule accommodation denials due to gender), whereas men face “status-specific resistance” (objections based on reason for flex time request), according to Brescoll.

Employees’ lack of awareness of managerial bias in granting flextime coupled with realistic concern about negative consequences of workplace accommodation requests can lead to lower productivity, unnecessary turnover and persistent social problems like child poverty and lack of upward mobility for low-wage workers.

Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

In fact, volunteers attributed more “feminine” traits (weakness, uncertainty) and fewer “masculine” traits (competitiveness, ambition) to male leave requestors, found Laurie Rudman and Kris Mescher of Rutgers University.

Kris Mescher

Kris Mescher

Rudman and Mescher asked volunteers of both genders and diverse ethnic backgrounds to evaluate fictional vignettes concerning men who requested a 12-week family leave to care for a sick child or an ailing mother.

Participants attributed poor organizational citizenship (“bad worker stigma”) to men who requested family leave and recommended organizational penalties (e.g., demotion, layoff, ineligibility for bonus) for them.

When men were viewed with the “feminine stigma” of “weakness” and other traditionally-feminine characteristics, they were more likely to incur organizational penalties.

Joseph Vandello

Joseph Vandello

Jennifer Bosson

Jennifer Bosson

The impact of these stigmas on men seeking flexible work arrangements was confirmed in related research by University of South Florida’s Joseph Vandello, Vanessa Hettinger, Jennifer  Bosson, and Jasmine Siddiqi.

Their experimental study found that volunteers assigned lower job evaluations, less masculine and more feminine traits to employees who requested flex time than those with traditional work arrangements.

Jasmine Siddiqi

Jasmine Siddiqi

However, evaluators judged requestors as “warmer” and more “moral,” suggesting that flexibility-seeking employees may be more well-liked and judged as a desirable work colleague.

-*How do you counteract implicit biases in approving workplace flexibility arrangements?

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Task Switching Skills Improved With Musical Training

Ira Hyman

Ira Hyman

“Multitasking” is more accurately described as “task switching” because people typically can’t effectively sustain split attention.
However, it is possible to alternate between two mental tasks, but there is a “cognitive switching cost” in decreased speed and performance accuracy.

S. Matthew Boss

S. Matthew Boss

One vivid example of performance decrements when performing simple “multitasking” is illustrated in a study of walking while using a mobile phone, conducted by Western Washington University’s Ira E. Hyman Jr., S. Matthew Boss, Breanne M. Wise-Swanson, Kira E. McKenzie, and Jenna M. Caggiano.

Ira Hyman-Unicycling Clown Attentional BlindnessThey found that walking and talking caused most volunteers to experience “inattentional blindness” to unicycling clown.

Breanne M Wise-Swanson

Breanne M Wise-Swanson

In addition, the “multitasking” participants walked more slowly, changed directions more frequently, and were less likely to acknowledge other people than individuals.

Hyman and team concluded, “Doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity,” and went on to note the dangers of driving while talking on a phone.
In fact, a previous blog reviewed the evidence for reduced driving performance when listening to music, a less-demanding activity than texting or talking on a telephone.

Ranate Meuter

Ranate Meuter

Even switching between two well-practiced languages can reduce cognitive processing speed, found Queensland University of Techology’s Renata Meuter and University of Oxford’s Alan Allport.

They asked bilingual participants to name numerals in their first language or second language in an unpredictable sequence.
Participants responded more slowly when they switched to the other language, indicating a “cognitive switching cost.”

Volunteers named digits associated with a background color in their first language or second language.
They named digits in their second language more slowly, but were slower in their first language after the language changed from the previous cue.

Jeffrey Evans

Jeffrey Evans

Involuntary persistence of the second-acquired language interfered with participants actively suppressing their original language, leading to delays when responding in their more well practiced “birth tongue,” they argued.

As tasks become more complex, the performance-hampering effects of task switching increase, according to United Stated Federal Aviation Authority’s Joshua Rubinstein with Jeffrey Evans, and David Meyer of University of Michigan, who evaluated switching between different task like solving math problems or classifying geometric objects.

David Meyer

David Meyer

Like Meuter and Allport, they noted that people switching tasks navigate two stages of “executive control:”

  • Goal shifting: “I want to do this now instead of that,”
  • Rule activation: “I’m turning off the rules for that and turning on the rules for this”.Rubinstein’s team estimated that traversing these phases can reduce productivity by much as 40 percent, and noted that the problem is compounded for individuals with damage to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
Linda Moradzadeh

Linda Moradzadeh

However, musical training seems to reduce the costs of task switching, found York University’s Linda Moradzadeh, Galit Blumenthal, and Melody Wiseheart.
This team matched more than 150 similar age and socioeconomic status participants who were also:

  • Monolingual musicians (averaging 12 years of musical training) or
  • Bilingual musicians (averaging 12 years of musical training) or
  • Bilingual non-musicians or
  • Monolingual non-musicians.
Galit Blumenthal

Galit Blumenthal

Volunteers performed task switching and dual-task challenges, along with intelligence and vocabulary measures.
Musicians demonstrated fewer global and local switch costs compared with non-musicians and bilingual volunteers.
This finding contrasts other results regarding bilingualism’s advantage for task switching performance in a previous blog post.

Melody Wiseheart

Melody Wiseheart

In addition, Moradzadeh’s team found no benefit of combining bilingual expertise with musical training to reduce task-switching costs,

These results suggest that musical training can contribute to increased ability to shift between mental sets in both task switching and dual-task efforts, thanks to “superior ability to maintain and manipulate competing information in memory, allowing for efficient “global” or holistic processing.”

-*To what extent do you find “multitasking” an effective practice to accomplish cognitive tasks?

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Emotional Music Can Lead to Biased Judgments

Joydeep Bhattacharya

Joydeep Bhattacharya

Emotions elicited by music influence can influence and even bias visual judgments, according to University of London’s Nidhya Logeswaran and Joydeep Bhattacharya.

They presented volunteers with short excerpts of “happy” music or “sad” music, then showed neutral, “happy,” and “sad” faces.
When people listened to a “happy” music, they were more likely to perceive faces as “happy” even when the face was neutral.
Similarly, the “priming” with “sad” music was associated with more ratings of faces as “sad,” even if they were neutral.

The team also observed the effects of musical “priming” in electrophysiological measures of brain potential components within 100 milliseconds after the faces were presented, suggesting rapid neuronal information processing.

Even if listeners’ perceptions and judgments can be biased by emotional music, listeners do not experience the precise emotions they hear in music.

Kiyoshi Furukawa

Kiyoshi Furukawa

Listeners can identify strong emotions conveyed by music, but do not experience the same degree or type of emotion, according to Tokyo University of the Arts’s Ai Kawakami and Kiyoshi Furukawa, who collaborated with University of Tokyo’s Kentaro Katahira and Kazuo Okanoya.

Kazuo Okanoya

Kazuo Okanoya

Kawakami and team distinguished “perceived emotion” from “felt emotion” in response to music, and presented two pieces of “sad” music (Mikhail Glinka’s “La Séparation” in F minor) and one piece of “happy” music to 44 volunteers, both musicians and non-musicians.

Mikhail Glinka

Mikhail Glinka

Participants rated their perceived emotions and felt emotions in response to each musical selection using 62 descriptions on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 4 (very much).
Although participants recognized the “sad” music’s negative emotions, most reported feeling “romantic,” and “blithe,” rather than negative or unpleasant.

Muzak

Muzak

“Muzak” (now Mood Media) audio in workplaces can evoke emotional responses that may lead to biased business decisions.

As long ago as the 1950s, concerned American citizens claimed that Muzak practiced “brainwashing” with its planned musical sequences in quarter-hour segments.

Muzak Stimulus ProgressionMuzak’s playlist is synchronized to time of day to “increase energy” at predicted low-energy times based on its patented “Stimulus Progression.
These 15-minute sequences feature about six songs with varying “stimuli values,” based on tempo, rhythm, instrumentation and orchestra size.
The next 15-minute period features silence.
Mood Media
Over a 24-hour period, tunes with higher “stimulus value” are played when people are typically “lethargic” – 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and slower songs are played “after lunch” and at the end of the work day.
Muzak claimed that this programming “increases morale and productivity at workplaces, increase sales at supermarkets, and even dissuade potential shoplifting at department stores.”

The emotional tone of music may bias other cross-sensory judgments.
Adrian C. North, working at University of Leicester and Herriott Watt University, tested the effect of music in a supermarket on wine selections and olfactory/gustatory judgments wine’s properties.

North ensured that French accordian music or German Bierkeller brass band music were played on alternating days for two weeks at the supermarket.
French wines and German wines had similar prices and their order on the shelf was changed each day.

After 82 shoppers selected wines, an interviewer asked customers to complete a questionnaire about the purchase, including:

  • Preference for French or German wines
  • Extent to which the music brought to mind France or Germany
  • Degree to which the music influenced specific wine selection.

The results from 44 shoppers suggest that music influenced shoppers’ wine selections:  More French wine was sold when French music played (40 bottles of French wine vs 8 bottles of German wine), and more German wine was sold when German music played (22 bottles of German wine vs 12 bottles of French wine).

North concluded that barely audible music can implicitly, unconsciously affect thoughts, perceptions, decisions, and even buying action.

Charles Areni

Charles Areni

Music can trigger thoughts similar to the music’s mood, context, or speed, according to the Preference-for-prototypes model proposed by Macquarie University’s Charles Areni and David Kim of Texas Tech.

-*When have your judgments and performance been altered by ambient music?

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Managing Workplace Interruptions

Edward Sykes

Edward Sykes

Many office workers spend an average of two hours per day doing unplanned tasks, according to Sheridan Institute’s Edward Sykes.
As a result, work interruptions:

The most corrosive interruptions are unplanned, a feature of most work disruptions:

  • Intrusions – Unplanned interactions initiated by others like synchronous communication – instant message, phone call, or a coworker visiting the work area to talk
  • Distractions – Unplanned focus change from a task to environmental conditions like other employees’ conversations
  • Breaks – Unscheduled or planned task stoppage to rest, visit the restroom, have a meal
  • Discrepancy Detection – Unplanned task stoppage to correct errors or redirect work effort toward a revised objective

A related blog post noted that workplace interruptions are increasingly prevalent due to rising incidence of:

  • Open and Collaborative Workspaces
  • Technological interruptions
  • Meetings
Sheldon Cohen

Sheldon Cohen

Open space floor plans increase unplanned interruptions, perceived stress, and “cognitive fatigue,” due to increased noise levels and reduced privacy of employees.
In addition, Carnegie Mellon’s Sheldon Cohen and E. M. De Croon and team of University of Amsterdam found that these factors reduce employees’ job satisfaction.

Julie Renneker

Julie Renneker

Synchronous communication demand immediate response and are more disruptive than asynchronous communication, which enables response at a convenient time and mitigates the negative impact of task-shifting on cognitive load and stress level.

Lindsey Godwin

Lindsey Godwin

Julie Rennecker, now of University of Texas and Lindsey Godwin, now of Champlain College, suggest the obvious benefits of using asynchronous communication when no discussion is required because this communication practice reduces task loading and stress.

Steven Rogelberg

Steven Rogelberg

University of North Carolina’s Steven Rogelberg and team confirmed assumptions that meetings are more productive when scheduled in advance with a clearly-stated purpose, desired outcome and agenda, with norms to begin and end at the stated times.

Greg Oldham

Greg Oldham

Common-sense strategies to mitigate the impact of work disruptions include time management and boundary setting, according to Tulane’s Greg Oldham, Carol Kulik of University of South Australia and Florida State University’s Lee Stepina.
 They suggest that employees:

Carol Kulik

Carol Kulik

Lee Stepina

Lee Stepina

-“Batch” communication to check email and returning phone calls at specified intervals

-Block technology pop-ups, alerts, sounds to avoid unplanned and startling interruptions

James Tyler

James Tyler

-Organize tasks around energy peaks, with tasks requiring the most effort and concentration earlier in the workday and after a break, also advocated by Purdue’s James Tyler and Kathleen Burns of University of Wisconsin

Kathleen Burns

Kathleen Burns

-Take active breaks, such as walking outside to breather outdoor air  

John Aiello

John Aiello

Schedule interruption-free intervals, to increase perceived control over interruptions and reduce stress, also cited by Duke’s Andrew Carton and John Aiello of Rutgers

-Create “work-arounds” for  open space floor plans by
.Installing higher cubicle dividers
.Providing noise-cancelling headphones
.Offering white noise machines to reduce ambient notice
.Designating reservable private work rooms for audio privacy

-Reduce meeting frequency to focus on issues that require group discussion, consensus, commitment

Quintus Jett

Quintus Jett

Quintus Jett, now of Rutgers and Rice University’s Jennifer George offer a counterpoint to the negative impact of work interruptions.
They list benefits to task interruption, such as:

  • Jennifer George

    Jennifer George

    Preventing widespread rework when employees alert colleagues to a work discrepancy or error

  • Increasing productivity during repetitive or well-learned tasks that may lead to boredom, errors, or lost task focus.

-*How do you reduce the negative impact of workplace interruptions?

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Does Workplace Co-Location Increase Collaboration and Innovation?

John Chambers

John Chambers

In 2009, Cisco CEO John Chambers asserted that “the face-to-face meeting is a dinosaur,” and he demonstrated his point in a Telepresence-enabled company meeting from Bangalore, India with his fellow executive, Marthin de Beer, in San Jose, California.

Marthin de Beer

Marthin de Beer

Marisa Mayer of Yahoo seems not to agree with Chambers’ premise.

Her highly-publicized decision to require remote workers to work on-site every day in Yahoo offices received mixed reviews from advocates of flexible work practices such as ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment).

Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer

Mayer argued that co-location will enable Yahoos to more effectively collaborate and innovate.

-*What is the evidence for – or against – her assertion?

Eduardo Salas

Eduardo Salas

A decade ago, in 2003, a meta-analysis of face-to-face meetings’ impact on group cohesiveness, task commitment, authority, communication noted the one benefit of virtual meetings: “status-equalizing impact of computer-supported cooperative work … enables greater participation by women, minorities and other traditionally lower status groups.

Florida Maxima Corporation’s James Driskell collaborated with Paul Radtke, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division and University of Central Florida’s Eduardo Salas summarized often-conflicting findings on the impact of virtual teams  and concluded that interaction in virtual environments requires consideration of the type of task that the team is performing.
Agile software development is an example of a process that originally assumed – and required –  team member co-location.

Sandeep Joshi

Sandeep Joshi

Microsoft trainer Sandeep Joshi offered an alternate model to co-location for Agile development, and argued that some tasks in the Agile development process are suitable for remote work by distributed teams.
Because more than half of respondents to VersionOne’s 2012 State of Agile survey said they use Agile with co-located and distributed teams, or plan to do so in the future, Joshi advocates maintaining collaborative, co-located design processes to capitalize on group interaction, then “de-Agilizing” the process to enable individual coding before re-convening to evaluate the work in “rapid turns.”

Karen Sobel-Lojeski

Karen Sobel-Lojeski

Distance is not only physical, according to SUNY Stony Brook’s Karen Sobel-Lojeski. 
She conceptualizes three types of virtual distance:

  • Affinity (culture and background differences like ethnicity, educational background, past familiarity, shared vision, and commitment that affect team productivity and cohesiveness
  • Operational (type and frequency of communication)
  • Physical (geographic separation)
Richard Reilly

Richard Reilly

She collaborated with Richard Reilly of Stevens Institute of Technology on two books that explored perceived distance among co-workers, which can be reduced or increased by communication technology.

They argue that virtual distance changes the ways people learn, perform, and develop relationships with others in the workplace.

Like Joshi, they advocate analyzing the nature of the tasks and existing interpersonal relationships among team members before mandating co-location, virtual, or blended work arrangements.

Sobel-Lojeski and Reilly conclude that important workplace competencies are traversing boundaries, glocalization, and authenticity, leading to what they call “techno-dexterity” required for effective leadership in a wired world.

Among the drawbacks of co-location are increased work interruptions, which can reduce productivity and cognitive performance.

Alessandro Acquisti

Alessandro Acquisti

Carnegie Mellon University’s Alessandro Acquisti and  Eyal Pe’er  demonstrated decreased cognitive task performance after electronic interruptions and task-shifts similar to responding to a mobile phone call, text message or email.

More than 135 volunteers read a short document and answered questions about the content.
One third of the participants completed this portion of the experiment and served as the control group.

Eyal Pe'er

Eyal Pe’er

The remaining individuals were told they “might be contacted for further instructions” via instant message.

This alerted group completed a similar reading comprehension test, and half of this group actually received instant messages, whereas the other half didn’t receive the anticipated notices.

Both interrupted groups provided 20% less accurate responses than the control group, suggesting a significant cost to interruptions and task shifting.

However, when the interrupted group performed the similar task a second time, this group reduced the under-performance by 6%.
Those who were warned of an interruption that never came improved by 43 percent, and even outperformed the control test takers who were left alone.

Acquisti and Pe’er suggested that people may develop compensatory strategies to manage the performance impact of interruptions.

Gloria Mark

Gloria Mark

Likewise, University of California, Irvine’s Gloria Mark with Daniela Gudith and Ulrich Klocke of Germany’s Humboldt University reported that a typical office worker is interrupted about every 3-11 minutes and requires an average of 23-25 minutes to return to the original task.

Daniela Gudith

Daniela Gudith

Volunteers worked faster when they anticipate interruptions, particularly those who measured high on openness to experience and high on need for personal structure.
However, participants reported increased stress, higher workload, greater frustration, more time pressure and effort when they increased work speed.

Ulrich Klocke

Ulrich Klocke

These findings provide equivocal support for Mayer’s anticipated benefits from workplace co-location.
Her team may experience increased stress due to interruptions, task-shifting, and noise, in addition to any personal concerns about lengthy commutes and work-life balance.

This inference was supported in research by Harvard’s Leslie Perlow, who studied engineers working in an open-space environment.
These highly-skilled knowledge workers reported frequent interruptions and reduced productivity.

Leslie Perlow

Leslie Perlow

Perlow offered these engineers a recommendation:  Pre-scheduled interruption-free “quiet time”.
She found that this intervention led to increased productivity.

Catherine Kerr

Catherine Kerr

Similarly, Catherine Kerr of Brown University suggests that the impact of frequent task-shifts in open work environments can be mitigated by mindfulness meditation as brain training to enable increased attentional focus by attending to breathing.

Workplace inclusion and diversity issues add to questions of whether co-location actually increases innovation, collaboration, and productivity.
Pew Research Center reported that working mothers were more concerned with having a flexible schedule whereas working fathers placed more importance on having a high-paying job.

When employees actually use increasingly-available flexible work options, including job-sharing, telecommuting, and compressed work weeks, they may experience adverse career impacts.

Joan Williams

Joan Williams

Jennifer Glass

Jennifer Glass

Joan Williams, founding director of the Center for Work-Life Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law with  University of Iowas’ Jennifer Glass, Shelley Correll of Stanford and University of Toronto’s Jennifer Berdahl reported that men who take leave from work after the birth of a child were more likely to be penalized and less likely to get promoted or receive raises.

Shelley Correll

Shelley Correll

Jennifer Berdahl

Jennifer Berdahl

In addition, they found that women using flexible work arrangements receive differing feedback from others depending on their socioeconomic statusAffluent women were encouraged to stay at home, whereas less affluent women were more likely to be counseled not to have children.

Despite John Chamber’s death-of-face-to-face meetings assessment and recent findings by Kenneth Matos and Ellen Galinsky of the Families and Work Institute, Cisco Systems executives seem aligned with Mayer’s advocacy for in-person collaboration.

Kenneth Matos

Kenneth Matos

During a recent preview of renovated office buildings featuring “Collaborative Work Spaces,” Cisco business leaders asserted that the layout is intended to increase collaboration and attract recent graduates and other “younger talent” by “projecting a hip, innovative image in the work environment.”
They noted that this arrangement is actually more costly than offices and cubicles despite accommodating more workers in the same amount of space.

Ellen Galinsky

Ellen Galinsky

Past research suggest costs to adopting computer-mediated work processes, yet these technologies have improved, become more prevalent, and workers have become more skilled in their use.
Further, virtual collaboration enables workplace participation by people who might require flexible schedules, and reduces the environmental impact, cost, and perceived stress of commuting.

-*How is your productivity affected by physical proximity to your co-workers?
-*How do you manage distractions in open office environments?

——–

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Productivity and Work Motivation Affected by Small Gestures – Meaning, Challenge, Mastery, Ownership

Small gestures and verbalizations by managers and organizations can have a large impact on employee productivity, motivation, engagement, and retention – for better or worse.

Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely

Dan Ariely’s research at Duke University showed the small changes in task design dramatically increase or diminish persistence, satisfaction, and commitment to tasks.

The good news is that by simply looking at something that somebody has done, scanning it and saying ‘uh huh,’ [you] dramatically improve people’s motivations…. The bad news is that ignoring the performance of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of their eyes. …,” according to Ariely.

Ariely’s lab experiments found that volunteers valued and liked their work product more when they worked hard and managed obstacles to produce it.
In addition, most people believed, often inaccurately, that other observers shared their positive view of their work product,

His research concluded that people seek meaning, challenge, and ownership in their work, and that these elements can increase work motivation and persistence.

Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl

Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankel articulated this existential perspective in his examination of the critical role that meaning played in the enabling survivors of concentration camp prisoners in Man’s Search for Meaning.

In the less extreme circumstances of the workplace, finding and assigning meaning to work efforts enables people to persist in complex tasks to achieve satisfaction in mastering challenges.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter concurred that both meaning and mastery are productivity drivers, and to these she added a social dimension, membership, and a distant runner-up, money.

Frederick Herzberg

Frederick Herzberg

In contrast, one of the early though leaders in business management, psychologist Frederick Herzberg, developed a classic formulation of motivational factors contrasted with “hygiene factors.”

Frederick Herzberg - Motivation-Hygiene factorsHis two-factor theory of motivation did not include meaning or money as driving job satisfaction or productivity.

Shawn Achor, formerly of Harvard, argues that happiness is the most important work productivity lever.

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor

To support his contention, he cited research findings that happy workforces increase an organization’s sales by 37 percent, productivity by 31 percent and accuracy on tasks by 19 percent.

Whether you work for mainly for meaning, money, or other motivations, you may agree that an ideal workplace and manager would foster all of these contributors to employee engagement and productivity.

-*What is the most important work motivator for you?
-*How have you seen managers increase employee engagement and performance through words and actions?

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