Friday, December 14, 2012

We've Got Email Overload And It's Driving Us Crazy

Do you have unread e-mail waiting for your immediate attention? Oh come on, admit it: There are a lot of e-mails you haven't opened -- or you've opened them, but haven't really had a chance to read them yet -- because you have a million other things battling for your limited attention span.

Don't worry, you're not alone. From junk mail that made it into your "real mail" box to the e-mail from two days ago you "really need to get to," it's all there, in bold, screaming for you to click and read. Can we just highlight the whole thing and hit "delete all" already?

We're all struggling to keep up with e-mail. Case in point: A new report from software company Varonis that finds 10% of employees have 10,000 e-mails or more sitting in their in-boxes right now. According to Technologyguide.com:

Varonis' report, which focused on employees' "digital habits and vices," goes on to say that almost a quarter of those surveyed receive anywhere between 100 to 1,000 emails per day, and that 40% spend at least a half hour per day just dealing with their mail overload. That's enough to add up to 120 total hours in email per employee every year.

Verging on one-fifth (17%) of employees are e-mail hoarders, meaning they never, ever delete any e-mail, ever. This approach can be both good and bad. Good in that everything is at your fingertips; bad in that you can never find anything because everything is at your fingertips. Any search is going to pull up at least 200 e-mails, encouraging you to give up before the search really begins. The e-mail you're looking for is in there somewhere between the dozens of online retail coupons, the hundreds of Google news alerts and the random reminders from LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Other people are posting status updates, where are yours? We miss you! Just leave me alone, I'm busy avoiding deleting e-mail! Folders only seem to make things worse. And how on Earth can you be subscribed to so many newsfeeds, groups, coupons and lists? Help!

The worst part? More than 40% of employees (43%) are feeling so overwhelmed, anxious and frustrated with the state of their in-boxes that they end up surfing social media or the web for news to avoid dealing with it. Of course, failing to cull e-mail only ramps up the e-mail induced anxiety and makes the problem worse, because the e-mails just keep coming, one after the other, lulling us into a complacent state of e-ntropy. Screw it, I'm going to go make a sandwich. I'll delete it when I win the Powerball lottery. Ding! You've got mail! Just don't hit the "reply all" button and all will be well.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Last Writes: Do You Need A Workplace Will?

You come to work one day to find your job has gone belly up. You either have five minutes to gather all of your stuff, or it's waiting for you in a box at the reception area. Did you (or they) remember to get everything?

Unfortunately, it's a fair question in these times when more than one newly-minted ex-employee has forgotten his or her ______ at a former job, and he or she may or may not be able to (or want to) get it back. Just imagine the millions in lost and abandoned personal items left behind by the "just fired" in many an office building during the Great Recession, from expensive pens to picture frames to pretty pashmina scarves. Surely, there's a museum's worth of stuff in this enormous workplace lost and found. And who is going to take care of the plants newly-minted ex-employee always watered because no one else ever bothered to do it?

Maybe you need to craft a workplace will before stuff really hits the fan. And a lot of times, we sense when the stuff is about to hit, right? According to writer Jim Shea of the Hartford Courant, you can be ready for the worst:

Demise aside, when one's workplace end does come, as it will for all of us, it is best to have your affairs in order.

Granted, there are those who feel a workplace will is unnecessary, but usually these are people who have never experienced the emotional lows — and, yes, highs — of being let go.

Your "workplace will" can be a simple, one-paragraph document that appoints an "executor" of your "workplace estate" to redistribute your remaining "workplace possessions," which could range from plants to staplers right on up to sales accounts. With the stroke of a keyboard, you have become Lord or Lady of Cube Farm Manor, bequeathing your workplace possessions and break time tasks onto a lucky recipient of your largesse. The "executor" is also tasked with getting rid of anything embarrassing you left behind.

The article is sort of depressing, but it offers some food for thought worth thinking about between urgent memos. Overall, a workplace will sounds great in theory, but could face problems in execution. Would a department manager (and co-workers) put up with the "executor's" demands? Jim said Jane should get his biggest account? Hahaha, get real! Who does he think he is? He doesn't even work here anymore! Will the executor actually step up on the laid-off employee's behalf once he or she is gone? Hmm. And will the ex-employee still care who waters the damn plants?

Designating a co-worker to scan your former cube or office for things you left behind and could return to you (or discard) might come in handy, though. Think of this co-worker as your layoff wingman.

Or maybe you can make a list of all the things you would need to remember to take with you if your job should suddenly end. One's thinking isn't always clear in the haze of a pack-and-go moment, so storing a packing list on your smartphone if things look dicey might not be a bad idea. (I'm talking about personal items here, not client lists or intellectual property. Tsk, tsk.)

Bottom line (and ultimately the reason for this post): Never take personal items to work you can't imagine losing if the axe falls suddenly and the item doesn't make it into the box. These things do happen. Leave the expensive pen grandma gave your for graduation at home, even if you have the greatest job in the world, just like Jerry McGuire.

Maybe you won't need the trendy tie you left in your desk after all, since you might, like Jerry McGuire, transition into the dressed-down plaid shirt phase as your own movie plays out in real life. Then again, it's not 1994 anymore and you'd feel silly looking grunge. You can always go hipster, though. We like your dark-rimmed glasses and emerging sense of irony. Your new look completes you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Slack To The Future: The 50 Best Places To Work In 2013

2012 is almost over, hiring seems to be up, and employees are down on their jobs and shooting a sideways glance at greener pastures as they work up a list of workplace resolutions for the coming year.

Glassdoor.com is on the other side of that greener pasture (funny, it really is better over there...) frantically waving its list of the top 50 companies to work for in 2013. Yes, 2013. As in, the future baby, which is a little over two weeks away. Let's look forward instead of backward, unlike the impending flurry of useless but mildly entertaining year-end "top 10 of 2012" listicles coming your way soon from neurotic, underpaid content providers journalists. (P.S.: Stay tuned for some upcoming, useless, year-end "top 10 of 2012" listicles on this blog!)

Glassdoor's fifth-annual Employees' Choice Awards -- a.k.a., the Top 50 Places To Work list -- is based on almost half a million company reviews and ratings submitted over the last year by employees who use Glassdoor's website. So where should you be working, but are "not working at this time"? Sigh. There's nothing like a "best places to work" list combined with randomly-placed quotation marks to ruin an overworked employee's day, is there? So, so sorry. Take another sip of your morning coffee but please don't cry in it, because here is Glassdoor's list of really awesome places to consider applying work in 2013:

1. Facebook

2. McKinsey & Co.

3. Riverbed

4. Bain & Co.

5. MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas

6. Google

7. Edelman

8. National Instruments

9. In-N-Out Burger

10. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

11. Careerbuilder.com

12. Southwest Airlines

13. Chevron

14. LinkedIn

15. Rackspace

16. Gartner

17. Akamai

18. Shell

19. Workday

20. Cummins

21. REI

22. Salesforce.com

23. Citrix

24. Trader Joe's

25. Slalom Consulting

26. Orbitz

27. Mitre

28. JetBlue

29. MasterCard

30. Agilent Technologies

31. Intel

32. Hyatt

33. Redhat

34. Apple

35. General Mills

36. Mathworks

37. Fluor

38. Qualcomm

39. Digitas

40. Biogen Idec

41. Northwestern Mutual

42. SAP

43. IKEA

44. Dow

45. Boeing

46. Costco

47. Intermountain Healthcare

48. Turner (the TimeWarner Company)

49. Eaton

50. Starbucks

Facebook wins the top honor for the second year in a row, and a handful of companies -- Google, Chevron, Apple, General Mills -- have made the list for five consecutive years. The top-three "Most Improved" companies are Facebook, National Instruments and Southwest Airlines. Meanwhile, 21 companies are making their debut on Glassdoor's "Top 50 Places To Work" list this year, including In-N-Out Burger, Orbitz Worldwide, JetBlue, MasterCard and IKEA. Well done, guys!

Glassdoor went to Facebook's new digs to see why it's THE Best Place to Work again this year. Maybe the food has something to do with it? Employees can be incredibly serious about their break room eats, right down to where they choose to eat them. Let's go to the videotape if you're not crying in your morning coffee by now.

You can access the full rundown here. Happy job hunting reading! Now turn that frown upside down and cheer yourself up, because your inbox isn't going to clear itself out today.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Let's All Self-Deport To Telework Week 2013

Are You Ready For Telework Week? Don't worry, it's not happening until the week of March 4-8, 2013. But now is the time to remind your boss what telework is, and why you should be able to try it for a week. How can you miss me if I'm always here!?

On that note, "telework" is the same thing as "remote work" or "telecommuting," we just like to have multiple words that mean the same thing to confuse managers, employees and journalists alike. Am I teleworking or telecommuting? I'm not sure. Rest assured that no matter which word you choose, it means YOU'RE NOT COMING TO THE OFFICE TODAY and you're not going to be swerving your vehicle on the interstate to miss a family of ducks crossing the road. Maybe life really is about the journey and not the destination? Amazing.

But back to Telework Week, which is meant to encourage a higher comfort level with telecommuting options. Last year, more than 71,000 employees participated in Telework Week and saved an estimated $5,651,890 in commuting costs. Telework Week participants also saved a total of 6,413,006 miles and 251,774 hours by skipping the commute, and they removed 3,453 tons of pollutants from the air. Not bad for a week's work, huh?

You can get more information about Telework Week 2013 by clicking here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

Only 15 days until Christmas -- at least that's what my kids keep reminding me. The pressure is on, the buzzer is going off, the jig is up, it's a throw down in the check-out line. Having fun yet? I am, at least with prepositions. Here's your Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up.

U.S. employers created 146,000 jobs in November. Somewhere, Jack Welch weeps while tweeting.

It's now illegal for New Jersey employers to ask job applicants for their social media passwords.

More than three-fourths of Americans demand a Do Not Mail law to stop all the advertising circulars. Hear that, Congress? Our overcrowded kitchen counters will thank you.

UPS employee Ken Jones puts a modern-day spin on an old classic. So funny, and so true.

Attention, Corporate America: There isn't a lack of qualified U.S. job applicants, says this CEO.

Half of Canada will throw a holiday workplace party this year. Yay!

Psst, office gossip is great for making your lazy co-workers feel terrible about themselves. Yay?

Will the future workplace be about the "work" or the "place"?

Drum roll please, here are 2013's 50 happiest companies!

Executives think they will need to increase employee productivity another 20% to meet 2013 goals, but few executives think their current employees are up to the task.

Former Hostess employees start looking for new jobs while 19 company executives start collecting $1.8 million in bonuses.

A new survey concludes we wouldn't hang out with most of our online "friends" and "followers," nor they with us. C U l8r!

In other social media news, one-fourth of U.S. doctors now use social media, and more than half think it's a great way to gather "high-quality information." Open up and say "aargh."

Gen Xers are the worst at financial planning?

Ladies, get your holiday hair tips.

Meggings?

Finally, get ready for the Alaskan hipster male. No, I'm not being intentionally ironic, also.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Psst, The Boss Spent $42 On Your Holiday Gift

Worried your company won't spring for employee holiday gifts this year and you'll end up stiffed like a modern-day Clark Griswold?

someecards.com - I had a better chance of winning the Powerball than I do of getting a holiday bonus.

There might not be a hefty bonus check in your future to fund a sweet backyard swimming pool, but your employer isn't going to leave you high and dry this holiday season, either. The Advertising Specialty Institute's 2012 corporate gift-giving survey finds employers will shell out an average of $42 per employee on holiday gifts this year, compared to an average of $26 per client. So you'll make out better than the client who represents 2% of your total business but takes up 98% of your time. There, feel better now?

Not to burst your bubble, but this $42 price tag is actually lower than last year when employers spent an average of $43 per employee. Hey, it's a difference of only one dollar, which means one less trip to the dollar store for the department's capable administrative assistant. Oh, who are we kidding. Put the not-so-capable intern management is not interested in hiring on this project, stat! Anything to keep him or her from messing up a real project, right? Tell him or her to stop at Panera Bread on the way back to pick up a box of bagels while you're at it.

What will your employer give you this year? Pretty much the same thing you've gotten for the last three years: A gift card and/or cash, apparel, food, and/or drinks. That's nice, though. At least the boss remembered. Clients will probably receive a pre-packaged gift basket or a food item -- pick your flavor of popcorn! -- in a tin emblazoned with the company logo. We now give you the gift of our company branding.

Remember, it's always better to give than to receive. May your most demanding client give you the gift of not calling you in the coming weeks to complain about _________. I now give you the gift of uninterrupted venting. There, feel better now?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bank Of America Makes Flex Time Less Flexible

Bank of America has a message for its employees this week: Get your butts back into the office!

Like many other big companies, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Bank of America went with the whole "let's offer our employees a flex time program" mindset that's been so popular over the last decade with America's "My child has a 2 p.m. check-up at the pediatrician and they couldn't fit us in at any other time and I really tried to find another time first thing in the morning and the mean receptionist was so inflexible that I'm going to find a new pediatrician" workforce.

So Bank of America started a workplace flex program called "My Work" that allows employees to work up a routine of working at their desks a little here, telecommuting from home a little there, and taking advantage of the company's special "telecommuting centers," which I sort of envision as telecommuting banks at a bank. Add more flexibility to your work routine and watch your productivity soar! 40,000 Bank of America employees are enrolled in the "My Work" program, and a company spokesperson describes demand as "huge."

In fact, BOFA's employees like the program just a little bit too much apparently, and now the word on the street is that the company wants to reign it in. As the Charlotte Business Journal reports:

The new rules require employees who work in the same city as the rest of their team to report to work more often, working alongside fellow employees on a regular basis, according to BofA workers familiar with the changes but not authorized to speak publicly.

If I have to be here, so do you! How can I manage you if you're not here? I have no idea what you're up to when you're not in the office. If I let you do it, then I'll have to let so-and-so do it too, and I don't trust her to get anything done if she's not in the office. I'm tired of managing some people who are here and others who are God knows where, and everyone's always coming and going and I can't keep track anymore and I need a vacation!

The above italicized theories are pure, generalized conjecture on my part, of course, and some job functions are still best conducted in-house. A new University of Texas at Austin study, however, finds employees who telecommute work more hours, not less, and regularly work overtime. So, there's that.

Will BOFA's time bank of opportunity nickle and dime its way back to a traditional, 40-hour work week at the office? We'll have to wait and see. Maybe in the meantime managers everywhere can find a way to get more comfortable with the reality of telework, which requires managing projects more than managing people. Smartphone-enhanced mobility sounds great in theory, but in practice...well, maybe not so much yet. The circle of 4G telecommuting trust may not be expanding that fast between Puget Sound and Miami after all. Bummer.

Now get your butt back to the office and debate whether your tragically hip mobile work self still needs a landline desk phone. Maybe you will, since you're back at your desk and your cell connection is always spotty in the building.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

This Year's Tuesday Holidays Mean More Paid Time Off

Christmas and New Year's Day fall on consecutive Tuesdays this year and it means more paid time off for the average employee, according to a new Bloomberg BNA survey. I think we can all toot our noisemakers to that!

You can thank the calendar for what you're about to receive, which just might be THREE paid days off later this month instead of only two paid days off last year when Christmas and New Year's happened over the weekend. Ugh! There's nothing like a major holiday on a Saturday or Sunday to totally screw up your workplace escape, is there? Bah-humbug!

But this year, you've got it made in the Winter Soltice shade. Monday, December 24 will be pretty much useless work-wise, and everyone will be exhibiting signs of presenteeism (the non-gift giving kind) on the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday following Christmas Day. Then it's the weekend, followed by New Year's Eve on Monday, December 31 and the office will be closed again on Tuesday, January 1. Your employer wants you -- for only part of the time! But hush, hush, keep it down now because voices carry, especially in today's open work environments.

The Red Tape Around Tape Recording At Work

Do you hear what I hear?

No, I'm not talking about Whitney Houston's awesome version of the Christmas classic, one of only two songs that can get me to stop channel surfing and listen all the way through* after the soft rock stations start their 24/7 Christmas music marathons in late September. I'm talking about the voice recordings your co-worker might be tape recording secretly at work to document random acts of unkindness and senseless booting.

Consider the recent case Jones v. St. Jude Medical Center, in which an employee secretly tape recorded workplace conversations to gather evidence of discrimination. The employer fired her for making the recordings, she filed suit claiming retaliation and Title VII protection, and a judge sided with the employer, citing the company's policy against tape recording in the workplace.

This case caught my eye because I have a funny Nickleback/Instagram spoof I want to share and smartphones have made it so easy to record both sound and video in the workplace. Anything you do or say could be documented on the down low for future reference, on tape, from a camera sitting on a desk, laying on a conference room table, or propped up on what appears to be a bar counter top behind a few burning tea candles in front of an audience full of wealthy donors. (Just ask Gov. Mitt Romney how that worked out.)

Managers, perhaps not surprisingly, are becoming more self-aware in the I-can-upload-you-to-You-Tube Internet age we find ourselves muddling through. In the case of Smartphones v. Notebooks, kicking it old school by documenting workplace war stories in a notebook for potential future reference might have a better shot in a court of law than recording workplace conversations, depending on a company's tape recording policies. Or so it seems. At least we'll always have Nickleback, right?

* Just admit there's a holiday song that always sucks your hipster, jaded self in and we can move on, okay?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Workplace Trends: Trick My Work Truck

National Public Radio reports that employees of the future will be working from their cars. Wait a second: The future? Doesn't anyone at NPR ever watch the Bravo network?

Everyone on every Bravo show is always on the phone, driving somewhere too fast while yelling at someone on speakerphone as they ramp up their cat couture business or whatever. Working en route is on like Donkey Kong in real life, too, and has been for quite awhile. On any given day, you might be making a (hands-free) work call from your sweet ride with the two car seats in back that will be there until your kids reach either 6 feet or 170 pounds under current state law, and how can crumbs and broken toy parts be scattered all over the floor again? You just vacuumed!

We don't have time to answer these questions because working from our cars is going upscale, and how! Car makers are catching onto our obsessive mobile tendencies by creating the next generation of work trucks:

"This is the biggest tool in their toolbox," says Bob Hegbloom, director of the Ram truck brand.

The trucks his company is showing off at the L.A. Auto Show offer not just the traditional functions of a truck — towing, hauling or the ability to bring a crew to a job site. Now, these trucks can function as an outright office.

In the center console of the high-end Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn, there's a media hub where you can charge an iPad or a laptop. The truck has a touch screen to access your media while parked or driving. There's a USB port and an SD card slot. You can even turn the truck into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

If a truck isn't your thing, Bentley is rolling out the 2013 Mulsanne, which will allow mobile employees to conduct video conferences, work from laptops in the back seat, install a hard drive in the trunk, and store drinks in a refrigerator. The 2013 Mulsanne is perfect for the Wall Street day trader in your life who presumably won't bat an eye at the $296,000 base model price tag. Here's a video primer.

Whatever you do, don't drive yourself insane by dreaming of what could be. You can always make room between the car seats for your accordion files and a small drink cooler. Just fold in the drink holders on the kids' car seats to create extra space. See? It's all good.

Now back that thing up to a Wi-Fi hot spot, or to a high-powered vacuum at the gas station. I hope you remembered to bring quarters this time. Remember to back up your data while you're at it, too.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Top 15 Places To Work In U.S. Retail

Let's take a pause from pushing each other away from the bargain bin to ask a serious question: Which retailers make the best employers?

Job site Indeed.com has just compiled the top 15 places to work in retail, based on data culled from current and former employees who have posted something on Indeed's "company pages." Here are Indeed's top 15 employers in retail:

1. Apple

2. Disney Store

3. Coach

4. Costco

5. IKEA

6. Dress Barn

7. Halloween City

8. Champs Sports

9. REI

10. Nike

11. Vitamin World

12. Nordstrom

13. Sherwin Williams

14. Finish Line

15. Bath and Body Works

The companies made the list based on their compensation/benefits packages, overall management, job security/opportunities for advancement, company culture, and work/life balance. The last one on the list can be harder to find than a store employee when you need help, or maybe that's just me.

The first thing I notice? Roughly one-fourth of the companies listed -- Costco, REI, Nike, Nordstrom -- are Pacific Northwest companies. Keep up the good work of creating quality jobs, guys. Well done. I raise a pint of McMenamin's Wheat in your honor.

You can get a full dressing down of the list by clicking here.

Monday Morning Workplace News Round-up

Ah, Monday morning. Why does it keep rolling around? I'm definitely sensing a pattern. Here's the Monday morning workplace news round-up:

Workplace safety standards could soon apply to U.S. flight attendants in flight, per new OSHA proposals. Hard to believe they don't exist already.

Should employers automatically own all of your inventions?

You missed the third-annual Boring Conference because you were busy being bored in a staff meeting. Oh, the irony.

Chicago's WGN news crew covers a plane crash on live teevee that turns out to be a staged scene for a teevee drama. Oops. Let's go to the videotape because we can!

Are career women twice as likely to be victims of domestic abuse?

City-wide workplace parking levies have companies speeding away from one British city, or so say business groups.

In other driving news, Toyota dangles early retirement in front of 10% of its U.S. workforce.

Disneyland's Living Christmas Tree whistles its way to work.

Let the workplace medical marijuana court cases begin.

Finally, your friend's most recent Facebook status update was probably sent from the toilet, because these things can't wait two minutes. Let's see some brave soul use Foursquare to update his or her location from the loo. I think next year's Boring Conference should feature a reading of Facebook overusers' status updates.