Today’s post comes to us from advisory board member Alexandra Levit, author of Humanity Works.”

When faced with the notion of artificially intelligent employees and individually customized career paths, it’s easy to get overwhelmed — especially after a pandemic period in which day-to-day survival was paramount. However, this time of transformation is an exciting one in which to lead an organization, and here’s why you should look at these four workforce truths as opportunities rather than developments to be feared.

Truth One: Machines Are Our Partners


Right now, many of your employees use basic chatbots to accomplish basic work tasks such as scheduling meetings or searching for pertinent information online. But, as computing gets more powerful, intelligent machines will become more sophisticated members of your team. Thanks to advances in deep-learning artificial intelligence (AI), our machine partners are increasingly able to recognize images, understand language, and hold conversations.

Thanks to advances in augmented and virtual reality, employee training is becoming richer and more cost-effective, and smart devices will shortly be able to ascertain how and when your people are most productive and the tasks on which they are best suited to focus. These smart devices will also understand your strengths and weaknesses as a manager and will be by your side, for example, to provide guidance on how to deliver criticism to a direct report.

Truth Two: We Structure Agile Workforces


In the new world of work, the organization that can do the best job at customizing a job and schedule for a high-potential employee will have the best shot at retaining that employee.

You will also have the advantage of a large contract workforce at your disposal. Because of our ability to communicate and collaborate seamlessly across the globe, organizations no longer need to control full-time resources and work will become increasingly task based. As a talent assembler, you’ll never be stuck with labor you don’t need. Instead, you will bring on specialized teams to complete projects as needed.

And, you can say goodbye to unnecessary overhead. The proliferation of virtual work and the mobile office means that, as the century progresses, many organizations will not have a company-sponsored physical office but instead will lease chains of interconnected hubs with various space-access arrangements.

Truth Three: We Emphasize Creativity


As a leader, it will be up to you to help your people develop skills that will keep them marketable as more jobs are automated. These abilities are often non-routine and relate to discovery, innovation, team building, and interactions that require the unique human touches of diplomacy and empathy.

Your employees will need to build new competencies that allow them to work side by side with intelligent machines — and fix them when they’re broken. You’ll guide them in exercising their intuition as they derive meaningful insights from large quantities of data and use available technology to create simulation and gamification apps to motivate team members and customers.

Truth Four: We Are Conscious About Technology Usage


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. labor productivity fell dramatically by 7.5% in the first quarter of 2022. That’s the largest drop in worker output per hour in 75 years.

There’s no doubt about it — technology has saved the business world’s bacon during the pandemic period. A variety of technologies were introduced, from collaboration and simple-task automation software to advanced machine-learning applications, to do more work, more quickly. So, why aren’t workers more productive?

Rather than helping to decrease the overwork epidemic, technology has contributed to it. Thanks to the smartphone and the cloud, we can work anywhere we want, at all hours of the day and night. It’s simple to keep working when it might be more beneficial to give your brain time to recharge. And, during quarantine periods, in fact, it has been essential to operate like this.

Unfortunately, as a result, workers are overloaded with technology options. Your use of cloud-based analytics engines will be key in assessing what’s interesting and necessary to an individual knowledge worker and will help them organize incoming information into relevant categories or topics, such as customers, products, services, or projects. By designing our technology systems to be more palatable with how the human brain works best, we will decrease mental strain while increasing productivity.

If you’ve been in the workforce a while, much of this is new, and some of it will inevitably make you uncomfortable. But, instead of waiting until next month or next year to embrace these trends, be proactive. As a leader, you’re in exactly the right position to create the near future of the work that you’d like to see.

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute Executive Director, Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

Summer is a great time to catch up on the things you might have missed or put off during the busier times of the year. While many will recommend binge-worthy shows or their favorite reads — speaking of, have you checked out my colleague Jarik Conrad’s latest book, “In Search of Humanity,” yet? — we here at The Workforce Institute also wanted to provide a list of our favorite podcasts.

Podcasts are a great way to pass the time on a long flight, road trip, bike ride, at the beach, or wherever your summer days might take you. You’re likely familiar with (and already subscribed to) our People Purpose Podcast, but did you know that many of The Workforce Institute advisory board members also host their own podcasts?

Check out our Summer Listening List below and discover your new favorite podcasts today!

The Hostile Work Environment Podcast
Hosted By: Kate Bischoff and Marc Alifanz
In this podcast, employment attorneys Kate and Marc break down the biggest employment law news while providing their own snarky takes for HR professionals. They give practical, non-legal advice on the whacky world of work and discuss what to expect going forward as employment law changes fast.
Listen

The HR Bartender Show
Hosted By: Sharlyn Lauby
The HR Bartender Show is a casual place to talk about work. Listeners get practical advice about how to be a better leader and manager, focusing on the employee experience, and career advice. Past guests have included The Workforce Institute’s own Julie Develin, Chas Fields, Alexandra Levit, Dan Schawbel, and even yours truly. Episodes might also discuss Sharlyn’s personal goal of finding the best cheeseburger on the planet. So, grab your favorite beverage, pull up a stool, and join the conversation. The bar is always open.
Listen

Leading in Color
Hosted By: Sarah Morgan
Leading in Color is a podcast about cultivating intentional, positive workplace experiences and environments — from recruiting and hiring, to training and development, to coaching and discipline, to policy and strategy, to trends and hot topics. The podcast tackles each area through a lens of diversity, equity, fairness, and inclusion, and episodes also highlight the unique challenges and cutting-edge creativity of leading with social consciousness in the corporate world.
Listen

While We Were Working
Hosted By: Joey V. Price and Sommer Ketron
This weekly podcast for HR pros and people leaders focuses on topics such as employee engagement, workplace culture, and HR law for the agile, modern workplace. In every episode, Joey and Sommer bring their own personal perspectives and years of experience to cover trending topics you might’ve missed while you were working. Episodes also stream live each week on LinkedIn.
Listen

Punk Rock HR
Hosted By: Laurie Ruettimann
As Laurie cautions: Work is broken, but all hope isn’t lost. Join the failed HR lady (Laurie) who went on to become one of the world’s top career advisers, as she talks to some of her closest friends and peers about what happens behind the scenes at your job. Speaking from personal experience as a guest, these are some great conversations.
Listen

5 Questions with Dan Schawbel
Hosted By: Dan Schawbel
Dan is a New York Times bestselling author. But, as a podcast host, he distills the most actionable and tangible advice from a variety of world-class humans, including entrepreneurs, authors, Olympians, politicians, billionaires, Nobel Prize winners, TED speakers, celebrities, astronauts, and more. In fewer than 10 minutes, guests respond to five questions with their best career advice.
Listen | Watch

BONUS: Leadership in the Labor Shortage
Hosted By: John Frehse and Dave Gilbertson
Also known as the “No Suits, No Slides!” series, these videos technically aren’t podcasts, but each features a deep dive into the current state of the labor market from two of the best economic analysts out there today. John and Dave always find ways to present informative stats about the economy in a memorable, easily digestible way. Check it out today, if you haven’t already.
Watch

Have a favorite HR, business, or leadership podcast to share with our readers? Let us know!

Today's post comes to us from Neil Reichenberg, Former Executive Director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA”HR). Neil is currently teaching a course on human resource management in the public sector at George Mason University.

Recently, the Spanish government announced that it will launch what is believed to be the first national pilot of a four day workweek. The pilot, which is scheduled to begin in September, will last for three years and will result in the employees of participating companies being paid for five days while working only four days per week.

The Spanish government intends to use 50 million euros from the European Union's Coronavirus Recovery Fund to finance the project. The government believes that up to 200 companies with a total of 3,000 ”“ 6,000 employees will participate in the pilot. The Spanish government will subsidize 100% of the employer's costs in the first year of the trial, which would be reduced in the subsequent two years of the pilot.

A 2018 global survey, The Case for a Four Day Workweek, conducted by The Workforce Institute at UKG found that 45% of full”time employees say it should take less than 5 hours per day to do their job if they work uninterrupted, while 72% said they would work four days or less per week if pay remained constant.


There have been some private and public sector experiments with shorter workweeks. In 2019, Microsoft Japan gave 2,300 employees three”day weekends for five consecutive weeks in August. It was called the Work Life Choice Challenge. To assist with time management, the company reduced the maximum duration of meetings to 30 minutes and cut attendance to no more than five employees. The results were positive: productivity as measured by sales per
employee increased by 39.9% in August 2019 as compared to August 2018. With the office being closed one day per week, employees printed almost 60% fewer pages and used 23% less electricity. Employees were very enthusiastic with 92% (!) indicating they liked the four”day workweek.


Similarly, in 2018, Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand company launched an eight”week trial of a four”day workweek for its 240 employees. The staff worked 30 hours per week but were paid for 37.5 hours. They were asked to deliver the same amount of output during the shortened workweeks. The company engaged two universities to measure the outcomes which were positive. Productivity remained the same, while work”life balance increased significantly, and
stress levels were reduced. Andrew Barnes, the CEO of Perpetual Guardian was so enthusiastic about the four”day workweek that he launched 4 Day Week Global, a not”for”profit that provides a platform for those interested in supporting the idea of the four”day week as part of the future of work.


In the public sector, Gothenburg, Sweden launched an 18”month trial in 2015 at an elder care home where staff worked 6”hour days rather than the usual 8 hours per day without taking a pay cut. The trial was designed to see if reducing the number of hours per shift would result in improved patient care. The results were positive, with patient interactions improving and employee engagement increasing. They also saw a significant reduction in the number of sick days taken by employees. Since staffing is required around the clock, the elder care home had to hire 17 additional employees. Due to the increased employment costs, the trial was not made permanent.


The current pandemic has caused increased stress, anxiety and burnout for employees who want to work for organizations that provide flexibility and are concerned with their well”being. Employees in participating Spanish companies are likely to be enthusiastic about the reduced workweek program. The questions for employers will be whether productivity remains the same, the reduced workweek makes it easier to recruit new employees, turnover is reduced, and employees are more engaged. As the government's financial support of the pilot is reduced, will employers continue to see benefit to the program?

At the very least, this new Spanish experiment is an example of a sincere desire to re-think a basic assumption of working life, something that I think employers everywhere are doing, to some degree, as we think about working life post-pandemic.

Today's post comes to us from board member Natalie Bickford, Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer at Sanofi.

We used to talk a lot about “work life balance” in business, predominantly in relation to working mothers. We talked about how important it was for women to find a way to balance the demands of a job with the responsibilities of bring up young children. Companies were lauded for the introduction of better maternity benefits, term time contracts, and return-to- work coaching.

But now when I consider the term “work life balance”, it seems outmoded. Work is part of life, and the concept of work and life being entirely divorced is erroneous. I often find myself ordering my supermarket shopping online from my office, and then equally, dealing with work email at 9pm from home once I have fed my family. The younger generations now see the workplace as an environment to meet people, make friends, and contribute to society, just much as a platform to develop their skills and impact the company's efforts.

Also, whatever made us believe that work life balance was just a women's issue? Everybody has a whole life, into which work, relationships, caring commitments and wider contribution to society must fit.

Therefore, I now like to think that what we offer to our people is an employee experience - and this goes far beyond the bounds of generous HR policies for working mothers.

I think we can put this employee experience into five main buckets:

  1. Workplace

Clearly the physical workplace is important, and it is changing. Great companies have largely ditched closed offices, and now use their precious and expensive office environments as hubs of collaboration, innovation and social interaction. The LEGO company is one of the best at this, and they even have play areas for employees' children to hang out in when they want to bring them to the office.

2. Whole life services

Forward-thinking companies are now recognizing that to get the best out of your staff, you need to remember that they have a whole life, and that there is more to wellbeing than yoga classes. In the U.S., my employer, Sanofi, provides their employees with a range of services that help them with family concerns. These include, but are not limited to, the provision of emergency childcare, help for elderly relatives, and financial planning support.

3. Flexibility

COVID-19 has proven to us that agile working works - for many. We have work to do to ensure this can apply to our workforce who must be physically on-site to do their jobs and think more laterally about how to offer dynamic work solutions to this population. Great ideas include opening manufacturing plants 24/7 so that staff have more choice on when to work and flexible hour contracts to suit caring responsibilities.

4. Social responsibility

An increasingly important part of the employee experience is to give our staff an overarching sense of purpose, whether through the nature of the work our company does, or through an opportunity to make a wider contribution to the communities we serve. Think about this trend as a shift from "employee of a company" to "citizen of a community." In fact, for millennial graduates this continues to be a driving factor when selecting a company with which to start their career.

5. Culture of accountability and development

And finally, none of the above will matter if our employees feel micro-managed and mistrusted. We all perform better when we are given clear direction on the output expected, provided with support and development, and then given the freedom to deliver. This is just as relevant for a barista in a coffee shop as it is for a senior leader of a business.

To attract and retain the best talent for our businesses, it is important to ask ourselves how strong we are across these five areas, because we can be certain that prospective employees will!

Today's post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute. What's the #1 item on your work life wish list?

You probably didn't know that today is National Napping Day. We especially need this in the US as a result of turning the clocks ahead Sunday morning to comply with Daylight Savings time. Many of us spend the next few days trying to catch up on that lost hour of sleep. It turns out, though, that 27% of nearly 3000 workers we surveyed worldwide would want to get more sleep if they had more time in the day. And this is just one item on a worker's work life wish list.

We asked employees across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the U.K., and the U.S. how they view their relationship with work and life. In Part one of this research, “The Case for a 4-day Workweek?,” we found that 75% of workers worldwide say it should take fewer than seven hours a day to do their job. Yet, 71% of those respondents said that work interferes with their personal lives. In Part two, "What Would You Do With More Time?", we asked workers for specific details about how they'd spend extra time at home and at work if they had the time to spare. The highlights of their responses are below.

In their personal lives the top five things people worldwide wish they could do more of are spend time with family (44 percent); travel (43 percent); exercise (33 percent); spend time with friends (30 percent); and pursue their hobbies (29 percent).

At work, personal development tops the list of where workers wish they could spend more time personal development tops the list.

If you liked this research, here are related articles you may want to check out:

Photo Credit Paul Bradbury

Today's post is courtesy of Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos.

When Labor Day weekend passes in the US, it marks the official end of summer.  Even if the hot weather continues, it's not long until the days grow shorter, and it can feel like work consumes more of your week.  Even if you enjoy your job, you may spend more time on it than you'd like.  Especially on those days when you work all day and don't feel you've accomplished as much as you needed to.

Recently, we asked workers around the world about their attitudes toward their jobs and their managers.  We collected data from over 2700 employees in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the U.K., and the U.S.  On September 4th, we released the results from the first part of this research, related to how workers are spending their time at work.

We found that even though most workers (75 percent) say they have enough time in the workday to finish their work, nearly two in five (37 percent) work more than 40 hours each week and 71 percent claim work interferes with their personal lives.

If people generally have enough time to get their jobs done, why are they working overtime - even to the point of getting burned out?  

Even though 71 percent of workers accomplish what they want to at work every day or almost every day, three in four employees (79 percent) suffer from at least some burnout at work.  Unreasonable workload (26 percent) was the top reason cited for burnout, followed by “not enough time in the day to get job done” (25 percent); lack of skilled co-workers (24 percent); a negative workplace culture / toxic team (24 percent); and unfair compensation (21 percent).

More than half of all employees worldwide (53 percent) feel pressure to work longer hours or pick up extra shifts to grow their career - yet oftentimes that pressure comes from within. Of those who feel pressure to work longer, 60 percent put pressure on themselves while the rest say that pressure comes solely from their managers.

What are people spending time on at work?

When asked what they spend the majority of their workday doing, individual contributors (56 percent) and people managers (28 percent) both listed servicing customers as their top task.  The next highest-rated workday tasks for individual contributors include collaborating with co-workers (42 percent), administrative work (35 percent), manual labor (33 percent), and responding to emails (31 percent), while people managers list attending meetings (27 percent), administrative work (27 percent), collaborating with co-workers (26 percent), and responding to emails (26 percent) as the top ways they spend their workday.

How much time isn't contributing to meeting their objectives? 

Almost nine out of 10 employees (86 percent) say they lose time each day on work-specific tasks unrelated to their core job, with 41 percent of full-time employees wasting more than an hour a day on these extraneous activities. Additionally, 40 percent of employees say they lose an hour-plus each day on administrative tasks that do not drive value for their organization.

“Fixing a problem not caused by me” (22 percent) and administrative work (17 percent) were the top two answers given by full-time employees when asked what they waste the most time on at work. Meetings (12 percent), email (11 percent), and customer issues (11 percent) round out the top five time-wasters.

So what about that shorter work week?

Our respondents would spend less time at work if they could.  One-third of employees (35 percent) would take a 20 percent pay-cut to work one day less per week.  According to this recent New York Times article, A 4-Day Workweek? A Test Run Shows a Surprising Resultthere have been multiple successful trials of shorter work weeks that led to happier employees without a loss of productivity.  The comments on this article are as interesting as the article itself, ranging from those who'd work no other way to business owners who say they can't make it work.   

One interesting finding in our research is that despite their legislated 35-hour work week,  42 percent of French respondents said they'd take a 20% pay cut in return for a 4-day work week.  

What can organizations do to achieve their productivity goals without burning out employees?

Managers are the first line of defense when it comes to 1) ensuring employees are clear on their priorities and 2) monitoring whether they are reaching a point of burnout.  Our respondents indicated that they are putting more pressure on themselves than they are experiencing from their managers.

Leaders and managers need to remove obstacles to productivity where they can.  Our respondents say they spend a significant amount of time doing work that doesn't contribute to meeting their objectives.  Prior research we conducted revealed that organizations may undermine their employees' productivity through outdated attitudes and policies. It's not unusual for systems and processes to outlive their usefulness in any workplace.  It's important to revisit how work is getting done on a regular basis and challenge whether there is a better way.

It's obvious not all employees are the same when it comes to their needs for work life balance and those needs can change over time.  For managers willing to explore creative solutions that will work for their team, there are longstanding, practices out there to help workers achieve the balance they need such as compressed work weeks, job sharing, self-scheduling, etc.

 

 

As summer wanes, a lot of us will have flashbacks to our childhood summer adventures.  If you are or have been a parent, you may also reflect on the craziness of balancing your professional responsibilities with your hope of creating similar memorable summer adventures for your children.  My partner in crime at the Workforce Institute, Laura Souza, is an accomplished essayist who takes this topic on in  her newest essay, published last week on Cognoscenti , a feature of Boston's local NPR station WBUR.  Enjoy - and maybe take the time to create one more memory before summer's end.

It happens at least once every summer: I'll find myself sitting in stopped traffic on a weekday morning, 15 miles from home but having been in the car for an hour already. My two daughters, wearing their bathing suits and each eating a “breakfast” that consists of a crushed granola bar that's been packed and repacked several times already, are getting restless and asking, “Are we there yet?”

Where's there? The beach, of course.

Only one question keeps running through my head: “Why am I doing this?”

Of course, deep down, I know the answer: I'm trying to recreate for my kids the magical summer days of my childhood.

On many a summer day, my mom and her best friend would pack their five children into a car and drive north to the beach. My memories of those trips are vivid: the car rides up where we all yelled and shouted, trying to get other cars to honk or at least look at us; the smell of the salty air as we walked onto the sand for the first time; the glittering water stretching out to the horizon; the sound of the waves as they washed over the sand and trickled back over the rocks and stones. I was always starving the minute we got there and devoured whatever my mom had packed for lunch well before noon.

Mom and her friend would sit in beach chairs talking and reading, taking walks and putting their feet in the water. And us kids would swim, body surf, boogie board, and play Wiffle ball or Frisbee on the sand. Eventually, after hours on the beach, we'd go get ice cream, the bigger the cone the better. Then we'd ride home with the windows down, in a sugar coma.

It was heaven.

As a kid, you don't realize all the work that goes into making a day like that: the planning and coordination, the preparing and packing of food, towels, sunscreen, beach blankets, chairs, umbrellas. The driving in stop-and-go traffic and parking in overcrowded lots that charge top dollar. My mom never seemed stressed about it, or perhaps I just wasn't paying much attention to her experience. For a kid, it's get in the car and go, return home sun-kissed and with a belly full of ice cream.

As my daughters do now, my brother and I also did some camps each summer: tennis camp and a computer science camp through our school where we learned about floppy disks and Carmen Sandiego. We even attended a week-long creative writing camp, where we worked out a summer-full of sibling bickering in a series of stories starring thinly veiled versions of ourselves.

Camps provide some needed structure for the kids and an equally-as-needed break for the parents, but it's not the camps I remember when I think of summer as a kid. It's those beach days. It's riding my bike by myself to a friend's house for the day, doing very little, and riding home again in the late-afternoon sun. It's swimming with my brother in our family's above ground pool and then “laying out” on our towels on the hot driveway to warm up, talking about what we wanted to do the next day or someday in the distant future when we were grown-ups.

Each summer for the past several years, my daughters and I have made a “Summer Fun list” laying out the things they want to do in their 10 or so weeks off. While some of the items are more ambitious, like “go to the Aquarium” or “visit the Museum of Science,” the ones that seem to make the list every year are the simplest: “go to the beach,” “see friends,” “eat outside,” “swim in a pool,” “go blueberry picking.”

I know in a few years my daughters will be busy with summer jobs and probably want to spend most, if not all, of their free time with their friends. So, I'm grateful for this time I have with them – even if we're sitting in stopped traffic on the highway with no beach in sight as they repeatedly ask me if we're there yet.

In my heart of hearts, I know the truth: we're there now.

Photo courtesy of Laura Souza.

We've entered the season for #TYCTWD aka Take Your Child to Work Day.  The official day this year is next Wednesday, April 26th.  Kronos celebrated our day this week.  It's school vacation week in Massachusetts - where we are headquartered - and this makes it a little easier for the parents of the 8-11 year olds we invite to manage their vacationing children for the day.

Kronos has celebrated this day for many years, and we've learned some lessons about how to do it right.  Not sticking religiously to the "official" day is one of those lessons.  You can learn a few others in this helpful article from Kronos Chief People Officer Dave Almeda, How to Plan a Great Take Your Children to Work Day

I took my mother  to work with me once in 1992 - where I was teaching a seminar in Hong Kong.  She of the double major in Chemistry and German stayed home with my siblings and me, a product of her generation.  She struggled mightily with my decision to go back to work after my daughter was born in 1988.  I took her on that trip to Hong Kong so we could have an adventure together, but the outcome was much more important than that for both of us.

During that trip, I was leading an international team of consultants on a training mission around the world.  My mother sat in on one of the sessions that I taught.  That night, four years after the birth of my daughter, she told me that although she'd doubted my decision to be a working mother, she'd decided that day that I'd done the right thing.  She told me that she'd never had the experience of having a roomful of adults pay attention to what she had to say, and that I'd be nuts to ever give that up.

In response to a post I wrote 10 years ago, about whether #TYCTWD was still relevant, my then 20 year old daughter posted the following comment:

As my mother mentioned, I'm not necessarily looking to go into her profession, nor is my brother; and we have both spent days at our parents' offices where nothing more happened than we sat quietly and did homework while they carried out their normal business. The most important part of any TYCHWD is not exposure or inspiration, but something several others have mentioned: bonding. Just because I may not have gotten the clearest idea of what my mother did each day, it doesn't mean that I didn't get something out of TYCHWD. If anything, the plugged-in, on-the-go, never-stop world we live in requires more things like TYCHWD, because honestly, we kids will take what time we can get.

In the last 10 years, smartphones have become ubiquitous and the "plugged-in, on-the-go, never-stop world" my daughter referenced then is spinning even faster.  Organizations have gotten a little more flexible, and more fathers as well as mothers are taking advantage of that flexibility to spend more time with their children.  And yet, I bet many of those children attending #TYCTWD events this year would share my daughter's perspective that anything that allows them a little extra time and attention from their working parents is more relevant than ever.

 

 

Last week, I wrote about my semi-retirement strategy.  Today's post comes to us from our board member John Hollon, a fellow boomer who is taking a very different approach.  
OK, I admit it -- I was inspired by Joyce Maroney's recent Workforce Institute post about her move to a "phased" retirement where she is "transitioning to a part-time position as a means of achieving more work life balance without giving up the personal and economic benefits of work."
I'm incredibly envious of her and that she has been able to transition to "the more leisurely rhythms of life as a part time worker after 40 years of go-go-go."
Well, I wish I could do what Joyce is doing, however my life seems to be accelerating and go-go-going in the opposite direction.
I'm not retiring just yet, or going to a part-time schedule either. In my case, I just can't afford to give up "the economic benefits of work."
No, my plan is to work for as long as I can or until I'm flush enough that I can travel with my wife as much as I want for as long as I want. But getting to that point keeps me pretty busy.
I've got a new job as well as a gig as an adjunct professor at a local university. I'm building a consulting business on the side, serving here on the Workforce Institute Board, and volunteering time for both my Homeowners Association board and my church.
Plus, I'm writing and writing a lot -- as one of the resident experts at Fistful of Talent, in my role as Editor-at-Large at ERE Media, and on occasion, here at The Workforce Institute.
Sounds pretty busy, I know, but somehow that's not enough.
While Joyce is down-shifting to part-time work and finding fulfillment traveling and meditating on life in places like Japan, I've got my foot on the gas and headed 100 mph the opposite way.
Yes, instead of travel and phased retirement, I'm taking on as much as I can, including starting up my own blog called ... big drumroll please ... The Skeptical Guy.
The name comes from my friend Laurie Ruettimann who had a blog called The Cynical Girl. I liked the sound and cadence of that, but I'm much more skeptical than cynical, so I settled on The Skeptical Guy.
Having spent my career focused on leadership, talent management, human resources, and smart workforce practices, I'm naturally examining a variety of workplace issues from my skeptical point of view - from the very good reasons Millennials job hop to what are the most popular jobs on LinkedIn and why. I'm also exploring more local issues like my frustration at the California Legislature wasting time designating surfing as the state "sport" and completely arbitrary topics like how hearing Amazing Grace Reminds Me of Pete Conrad Walking on the Moon. I figure at my age, I'm entitled to write about what moves me - whether it's workplace-related or not.
So, as my friend and WFI Board cohort Joyce Maroney watches for spring as she sits in 34 degree temperatures in Massachusetts, I'm a continent away in California sweating out a 90 degree April day and our first early blast of summer.
She's cool and easing down while I'm hot and cranking up.
Just goes to show you that our Baby Boomer generation will be re-defining what "retirement" looks like in a variety of ways.
What do you want your retirement (or un-retirement as fellow board member Sharlyn Lauby calls it) to look like?

This article about workplace wellbeing is the courtesy of board member Julia Hobsbawm.

The idea of measuring and valuing workplace wellbeing is in full swing, and is about a decade old. That's great….But. The _but' is that a decade is an awfully long time in our _always on' era. The world is changing and Wellbeing and how we understand and implement it needs to change too.

For instance. In under five years, Facebook's active user base reached one billion people - a seventh of the planet - and then doubled. Of those active users, the average time spent a day on the social network is 50 minutes. Given that social media is now embedded in the office, that's a lot of time we're fragmenting away from, well, actual work.

Here's another _For Instance'. Research shows that the average workplace interruption from email can rise to 80 separate episodes in a day; that contrary to what we have told ourselves, it is rather difficult, not easy, to multitask and that when we do it plays havoc with our attention and, well, our wellbeing.

In short, the radical reshaping of how we live and work around permanent connectedness, usually online, is causing problems. And here's another problem. To date, the language around solutions, the narrative around Wellbeing is abit stuck.

This is not surprising, given that even the OECD sited ten metrics of Wellbeing in 2014 and none of them focused on connectedness, even though it now pervades everything. Connectedness is becoming as important a metric in social wellbeing as class, social welfare, nutrition and sleep.

Understanding how we connected to each other and how to bridge the divide between physical health and mental health with social health could provide a breakthrough to reducing the 10 million working days a year currently lost to stress across the UK annually (an average of 23 days off taken by those affected) and the estimated £27 billion cost to _UK Plc' as a result.

All of this means that the way we talk about, think about, and implement Wellbeing in the workplace has to change. We need to be honest where workplace Wellbeing is a tick box exercise (no, we don't need _Mindfulness Rooms').

At the heart of the problem is, I believe, an infobesity of information, deluging and disorientating us from our tasks, a serious shortage of time as a result of emails, social media, and a tangle between the networks we cultivate and build online and those we need to nurture most: offline, face to face and in small groups.

I call the solution to this knotty problem Social Health, and have a straightforward _KNOT' solution: By putting management of  Knowledge + Networks + Time in your organisation, your team and your individual working practices, you can wrestle back control - just like you have learned to do around what we now consider _basics' of Wellbeing: sleep, exercise, diet.

Everyone can make a difference. We are all capable of switching on a lightbulb in our organisations. But, as the old joke goes only one person is needed to start the process but, _the lightbulb has to really want to change'.

Julia Hobsbawm OBE is the author of Fully Connected: Social Health In an age of Overload, published by Bloomsbury. She is Honorary Visiting Professor in Workplace Social Health at Cass Business School, City, University of London, and the Chief Curator of the Content & Connection business Editorial Intelligence.

The following guest post on "stress and creativity" is courtesy of our board member, Bruce Daisley.

It's very rare that someone at the top of their trade asks to receive no professional recognition. But in 2017 that is exactly what one of France's top chefs requested. Sébastien Bra was the chef at one of the country's top Michelin starred restaurants. In last year's guide just under 20 establishments had earned 3 of the coveted Guide's stars and he ran one of them. A trio of stars represents the pinnacle of gastronomic esteem by the editors. They were awarded to exceptional quality food delivered with inventiveness and creative flair.

Some chefs' life work is dedicated to earning a single star in the Guide. A pair of the accolades is seen as remarkable. Those who earn three stars - like Britain's Gordon Ramsay - can see their own status ascend to celebrity. Having inherited his restaurant from his Michelin recognised father he stood to lose more than his own reputation, Chef Bra was turning his back on family legacy.

Being the recipient of such a hard-won honour, it's hard to logically explain why someone would make such a dramatic act but Bra took to the internet to explain. Posting a video declaration on his Facebook page, Bra said the pressure of achieving the coveted accolade was killing his creativity. His creativity was being spilled from the skillet of success onto the hot plate of oblivion.

The chef's stern, resolute pronouncement was like a weary prisoner casting off his shackles. Maybe where the shackles were strings of onions. "Today we would like to go forward with a free spirit... without pressure". Even as tossed aside his scallion chains it was clear that there was some residual fear in Chef Bra's bones. His restaurant, Le Suquet, was established by his father. It's housed in Laguiole, a tiny town in Southern France, population 1200 people. There are tube trains with more people. Turning his back on this accolade can't have been an easy decision.

So why did he do it? Because exactly as the Chef had asserted, science shows us that fear and stress directly kills our ability to be creative.

Its 5000 miles from Laguiole to Washington State University but it was in a lab there that some of the science about stress and creativity was discovered by a man who admitted one of his favourite pleasures in life was tickling rats. Jaak Panksepp - a scientist who coined the term 'affective neuroscience' - spent his career studying the brains of rats - and drawing the conclusion that the brains of all mammals shared a good deal in common. Every mammal, he declared, has 7 brain systems. He styled these systems in bold capital letters to suggest the strength of them to power our decisions in life. Some of the systems, like the PLAY system or the SEEKING system helped stimulate our urge to explore, discover and create. However not all systems were created equal. In Panksepp's work the strongest system of them all was the FEAR system. And that certainly makes a lot of sense. We'd want our mammalian instincts to inhibit our sense of play if there was reason to show a feeling of fear. Panksepp found lots of evidence for this. In one experiment the professor would observe that a pair of rats would exhibit 50 instances of SEEKING/PLAY within a standard five minute observation window. Rats love exploring and it was clear that their creative enthusiasm was effervescent. This creativity - housed in the brain's ventrial striatum - was a natural activity in their lives.

That was until Panksepp brought stress into the rats' lives.

A small piece of cat hair had a powerful effect on the animals' creativity. Cat hair obviously indicated a potential perilous threat, its placement in the rats' home reduced their instances of creativity and play down to zero. When the rats' were given reason, their FEAR system killed the inventiveness of their SEEKING system. Even when the cat hair was removed it took days for the rats to return to show any observable instances of creative SEEKING. Fascinatingly they never returned to the peak levels even when the experiment ran for several weeks. It was almost as if the stress had inhibited the ability to abandon the brain to inventiveness.

Let's think about this. Stress stopped the rats being creative. Fear wiped out their sense of exploration and experimentation. Certainly the work of Panksepp seems to resonate with the visceral response of Chef Bras. When Chef Bras had an activated FEAR system, when he was worried about the Michelin star winning legacy of his father and himself then in light of Panksepp's work we can see that he was probably observing that his creativity wasn't flowing like he knew it could. Fear was stopping his inventiveness.

But of course, this isn't just true of caged rodents or white-hatted cuisineers, this is true of all of us. When we feel stressed then our creative flair can't flourish. And today that's more relevant than ever before. The latest research suggests that half of us who check our emails outside working hours exhibit high stress levels. The gesture of pulling out our phones can, in the moment, seem like it is reducing the remaining burden on us when we return to our desks. It's easy to regard swiping away a couple of emails as the act of staying on top of things. But the reality is actually very different.

The next time you feel the need to pull out your phone to clear some emails, whether at the weekend or as you sit on the sofa in the evening, give it a second thought. Think of the Chef. Stress and creativity don't go well together. If you're not careful the consequence of being engaged with work on a 24-7 basis might not be as harmless as you think. And the invisible victim might be your own creativity.

Today's post about a more engaging workplace culture comes to us from our EMEA board member Bruce Daisley, VP EMEA Twitter and Host of Eat Sleep Work Repeat, #1 Business Podcast on iTunes

Since the advent of email on our mobile devices work has gradually crept into more of our lives. One piece of research said the working day had increased by 27% up from 7.5 hours to 9.5 hours as we find ourselves adding email to every waking moment of travel and lunch.

The challenge is that once you check and reply to email more appears. Based on the increased volume of electronic work you'd be delighted if productivity and pay had gone up. Paradoxically in the last 10 years productivity - the amount of stuff our work produces - hasn't changed. In America the last decade has the slowest rate of growth in 60 years.

Productivity hasn't increased despite a revolution in computers smart phones and email. As I say, maybe the opposite has happened. Work seems to have made us more anxious and we're working longer to achieve the same. We seem to be a long way from an engaging workplace culture.

Emma Seppala is a Science Director at Stanford University:

We buy into this idea that in order to perform we need to be stressed that we have to tap into that fight or flight response, that stress response in order to get motivated. But the truth is that what you're doing in that process is you are burning out your body, your physiology but also your cognitive skills - memory and attention. For example do you come home at 5, 6pm at night from work and feel exhausted and burned out? Most people do. 

Emma's work has clearly identified that half of all people report feeling exhausted at work. So why is that? Why are we exhausted? If you asked most people in offices what was getting in the way of getting more done the answers would be rather predictable - email, meetings and office distraction.

Such is the nature of work now that there are an increasing number of people wondering if we urgently need to change our workplace culture.

Cal Newport is an enviously productive associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University. At 35 not only is his tenured position unusually early but he has managed to combine the output needed to achieve it with writing 5 books. Want to know the secret of his success. Try emailing him… Cal has written a brilliant reimagining of our jobs called Deep Work. He explained to me what he thinks we're going through:

It is true that the modern work environment is actively hostile to Deep Work. I do want to add the caveat that I think this is going to be a sort of footnote in the evolution of knowledge work. I think the way that we're approaching knowledge work now we're going to look back at and say that was disastrously unproductive.

People today are more stressed than ever, and if you accept that people are working longer then they are actually producing less for each hour worked.

In order to change, the understanding of workplace culture needs to be better grounded in an understanding of neuroscience. Work is a practice of the brain. We need to be thinking of how we can get more from the brain. Dan Cable is a professor at London Business School. His forthcoming book _Alive at Work - the Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do' is remarkable exploration into the mind and work. Here's Dan.

There is a part of our brain dedicated to injecting cortisol into us when we experience a shock that is threatening. And we don't get to control those tendencies. What we want to do is conform. We want to fit in. We want to hide our uniqueness. That used to be good for Henry Ford. That's not so good for organisations that want people to be innovative and creative. Fortunately we have a different part of our brain that uses a different drug. It's not as strong as the fear system and that's something that's really powerful. Fear has to be quicker. The Seeking System takes longer. But the Seeking System uses dopamine and what it's interested in doing is causing us to explore and play. So when we're not afraid there's something in us that urges us to think about new ways to get resources.

So let's start with the brain and think about actively changing work.

Here's Jason Fried - he's the founder of Basecamp. He's an advocate for reinventing our routines:

It's funny isn't it how you have a lot of innovative companies and companies are always talking about disruption. Yet they're terrified to shatter the basics of how they work.

Jason's company, Basecamp, have experimented with lots of different methods of working and workplace culture but he's particularly got the commute in his sights.

Seeing somebody at a desk typing away or walking by their screen doesn't mean that they're working all they're doing is sitting at a desk typing away at a screen. The output of work is what you can judge. If someone's capable of doing that remotely then they should be allowed to do it remotely. If they're incapable of it that's a different story. If they're capable of it allowing them to work remotely makes a lot of sense.

In Fried's questioning of the commute he has a number of enlighted allies. Rory Sutherland is widely regarded as the greatest thinker in the advertising world, he decries our lack of reinvention:

If we're not changing our working behaviour at all in response to technology what was the point of inventing the internet?

For some reason we've mistaken email for the job, rather than an addition to the job. The worst part of this is it's putting us a state of panic. Waiting for another email to come in - trying to deal with the ones we've received.

Professor Sandy Pentland's work was so pioneering on the almost kinetic nature of idea creation that he styled it Social Physics - his conclusions in that book were that creativity was very strongly linked to workplace chat and conversations. If you've ever felt yourself anxiously pecking through emails hoping no one interrupts you. If you've put headphones on to escape people remind yourself that the way that work has evolved has been a time when productivity hasn't gone up. We're doing more to achieve less.

Here's Cal Newport again:

When we're first trying to understand these new technologies and these new industries we tend to gravitate towards things that are easy and convenient. It's too intimidating to try to tackle everything that's new about this new segment of the economy at first and then over time we get more sophisticated. That's what's happened with the Industrial Revolution. I think that's exactly what's going to happen with knowledge work. The very easiest thing we could do with the advent of front office computer networks. The very easiest reaction to that was just _let's plug everyone in to this hyperactive hive mind, let's give everyone an email address that's attached to their name, let's give everyone a Slack channel and just rock and roll'. Just have people rock and roll as the day unfolds we'll kind of figure things out with this unstructured conversation.

Here's the challenge for an engaging workplace culture. We need to challenge ourselves - if we want more productivity we can't keep trying the same methods to achieve it.

All of Bruce's interviews were conducted as part of his podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat. Read more about the challenges and solutions to better work in the summary of our always-on con debate on our blog.

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