Workplace: Fewer or more walls?

The world moves and changes at a rapid pace and when I see folks that work in larger companies struggle with on a day-to-day basis is their personal space. As companies grow the trend seems to be moving towards open office environments. Is that the best way or does it look great? This is a recent article from The Washington Post titled: “Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace” and it is definitely worth a read.

I work in an open office environment. Some days it works and some days it is hard to focus. It is fun, there is transparency, but I am not always sure that everyone is truly as productive in an open environment. Plus it can be highly distracting.

Does the open environment matter based on the individuals that sit in the space? Yes. If you do not get along, you do not necessarily want to have walls down. If you do, it can be so easy to talk and banter with those that sit close to you that you might look back on your day and think about what you really got done. This quote from the article says it all:

“If employers want to make the open-office model work, they have to take measures to improve work efficiency. For one, they should create more private areas — ones without fishbowl windows.  Also, they should implement rules on when interaction should be limited. For instance, when a colleague has on headphones, it’s a sign that you should come back another time or just send an e-mail.  And please, let’s eliminate the music that blankets our workspaces.  Metallica at 3 p.m. isn’t always compatible with meeting a 4 p.m. deadline.”

Private areas to meet when necessary. A place to make private phone calls if needed. Agreed upon rules on music and definitely ones that respect the use of headphones. Maybe we need little “Do Not Disturb” flags at our desk? I wonder if there is an app for that. I do not desire at all to move back to cubicle land, but if you have an open environment there needs to be a thoughtful approach to how it caters to those of differing needs. We are not one size fits all.

A Different Kind of Care

Yesterday a friend/co-worker shared with me a sweet story about a 24-year old college student, Marissa Plank, who lives in a retirement community. In exchange for free rent she gives monthly performances to the residents. She is a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and if you read this article about her you will find that she states she benefits more from it than she feels she gives. What poise and self-knowledge she already has in her life.

It reminds me so much of my grandma and how often I would hear her mutter: “Maybe I will be next.” I know it is a morbid comment, but at 93 most of her family and friends were gone, only a son and grandkids left. She got bored. A bit of a loaner, she was not one to join in with other individuals her own age. She lived alone for almost 50 years and did not want to change the way she lived. I can only imagine how she spent her days. Of course she saw others, different individuals would come and check in on her, but the interaction, play, and conversation (let alone music!) that someone her age would have experienced in a retirement community could have been perfect. Except that she was a bit of a loaner.

Which leads me to think back to almost 14 years ago when a good family friend started an adult day care center in Indianapolis, IN. The concept of an adult day care center was new to me, but over time I have continued to learn more and more about it. I am in awe of what Joy’s House does, and hope that communities all over the country follow suit and take care of their adults (as they are not always elderly). Joy’s House is a place that families can bring their adult family members for care during the day whether it be due to age, a certain diagnosis, or because they need a break in caring for them. Especially when they live with them at home. What a way to share a varied environment of activities in similar ways to a child day care center. I only wish I would have ever been able to encourage my Granny Smith to join. I would have lost that battle.

My hope: more Marissa Plank’s have opportunities to bless and bring life to older adults, whether that be with programs that offer the right individuals room and board in exchange for interaction with or through more adult day care centers like Joy’s House.

Don’t make me think…

We have become a culture of easy, quick, right at your fingertips. The iPhone has changed the way we look at the world, what we expect, and how we expect to consume information, apps, and really anything that is easily accessible.

On my flight back from Shanghai I finished reading a book called: “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” by Steve Klug. I love the title of his book as it is spot on. I would rather frequent a website that does not make me hunt and peck for the information I need. Obviously there are plenty of websites that you do not have a choice and have to use. Your banking, credit card, local water company or trash service website all mean you either call them or get what you get on their website.

I am still always in awe of how quickly smartphones, the web, and apps have made it that we do a zillion things all within a tiny little device. I remember maybe 5 years ago, I was still using an old school flip phone that did not even have a camera, while Chris had a Razr phone. At the time the Razr was so slim and such a big deal. Eventually I upgraded from my old school phone to an iPhone 3 and well, my life was just never the same. Klug explains this well in this comment:

“Just consider how many things the smartphone allowed you to carry in your pocket or purse at all times: a camera (still and video, and for many people, the best one they’d ever owned), a GPS with maps of the whole world, a watch, an alarm clock, all of your photos and music, etc., etc.” page 144

Think about how much you do on a daily basis on your phone. How many people do you communicate with daily, hourly, each minute? How many pictures and videos do you take and share? How often do you check your stocks? The news? How many games do you play? How often do you interact with social media? How much do you manage your finances right from your phone? Do you check the weather daily? Get directions to that new restaurant? Listen to music? Track your flight? Surf the Internet? Do you manage your life, grocery, and errand lists on your phone? Oh, and the old school part of it all, how often do you even use your phone to talk to someone?

Later Klug says:

“And think about the fact that for most people in emerging countries, in the same way they bypassed landlines and went straight to cellphones, the smartphone is their first—and only—computer.” page 144

It would blow my mind if my cellphone was my first computer. That would be like driving from zero to 100 in seconds. We have become so picky about user interface. We want easy, clean, and simple. The great part is that most of the time we have access to so many options. The even better news is that our options are only going to get better and better. Allowing us to do so many things on autopilot without having to think. With great design our lives become that much easier. My only concern is that we do not lose our capacity to think critically.

Let me take a SELFIE

Spotify has made its way into our life. We use it at work, it plays in the kitchen while Chris cooks, or when we clean the house, and I have even used it when I cannot find anything I like on the radio while driving. The other day at work, I had the Top 100 hits on Spotify and it was cycling through different songs, and a new one came on I had not heard before. “#SELFIE” by The Chainsmokers. It is hilarious, and also a bit disturbing. Even so, it caught my attention immediately. Partly it is the beat and rhythm that keeps you interested. Well in that one-hit-wonder kind of way. When you really start to listen to the words, you might think differently. Here are a few:

Did you think that girl was pretty?
How did that girl even get in here?
Do you see her?
She’s so short and that dress is so tacky
Who wears Cheetah?

Can you guys help me pick a filter?
I don’t know if I should go with XX Pro or Valencia
I wanna look tan
What should my caption be?
I want it to be clever
How about “Livin’ with my bitches, hash tag LIVE”
I only got 10 likes in the last 5 minutes
Do you think I should take it down?

A selfie: a photo taken of oneself to post onto a social network. The self-portrait of our times, but one that is shared with a few people to millions or even a billions of followers (depending on who you are). I wonder though, why has it created such a phenomenon and almost cult following? Is it that we want to be seen, tell a story of what we did that day, however interesting or boring it may be, or are we becoming full of ourselves? I do not know the answer. Sure I have been known to post photos of myself, and sometimes they are selfies, but to what extent are we virtually (and I meant that literally) showing off? As the lyrics state: “I only got 10 likes in the last 5 minutes.” Is it more about how many people see us and like, comment, or whatever, or is it more about ourselves and the story we want to tell?

What do you think? Watch the video to enjoy a little dance party on your Friday.

Have a little faith…

I have blogged before about the emotion that comes when you hear a song, or you hear the words in a song. Last night after a long day, I was literally pooped, a bit frustrated, and slightly emotional. So instead of the usual routine when I come home from work, which is to immediately go for a run, I got comfy and curled up on the couch for some mindless television.

After catching up on some Modern Family, we watched an episode of The Voice, where one of the contestants sang John Hiatt’s song: “Have a little faith in me.” I guess after a full and exhausting day the song and words just hit me in an emotional way. Obviously I have heard the song before, but at that moment a whoosh of emotion hit me. Earlier in the day I had struggled with understanding why someone in my life has had some tough blows over the past few years, and for some reason it was effecting me yesterday. It was tearing at my heart. The lyrics: “When the road gets dark and you can no longer see…have a little faith in me,” got to me and made me think of things differently.

Maybe this song is about a couple in a relationship, or maybe not, but what came to me was about a higher power watching over us. I needed that last night. Sometimes we get so sucked into the shit that happens, we let it bug us, we agonize over whatever issue is causing us anguish, and forget that it is just a day, we can start it over freshly tomorrow. “Have a little faith.” It was just what I needed. It made me perk up and remember all that I am grateful for in my life.

Sometimes a cheesy singing competition, a snuggle on the couch, and words that poke into your heart is just what you need to shift your thought, and change the negative thoughts in your head to ones that truly matter.

Have a little faith.