Day 8 Depart
Stay-home orders and the shuttering of workplaces have given corporate employees some respite from getting dragged into time-wasting water-cooler conversations.
Get weekly insights into the ways companies optimize data, technology and design to drive success with their customers and employees.SUBSCRIBE
But some companies and their employees don’t want to leave everything about the office behind, it turns out, and are replicating their offices in “SimCity”-like simulations online.
File-transfer service WeTransfer BV opened its virtual space on May 1, almost seven weeks after closing its physical offices in New York, Los Angeles and Amsterdam as part of the global effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
Graphics reminiscent of early “Tomb Raider” videogames depict a version of the company’s Dutch headquarters, adapted to include pool tables, techno music and in-jokes such as a “memorial” library named for the very- much-alive chief creative officer. Staff roam around in the form of avatars such as robots and panda bears.
Gordon Willoughby, the chief executive of WeTransfer, said the platform helps provide the social experience of office life in the way that Zoom calls and Slack have replaced business meetings and desk-side chats. That is particularly valuable for recent hires, he said.
“Those of us who have been working at WeTransfer for a while are able to live off the social capital we built up from all those serendipitous meetings and chats before,” Mr. Willoughby said. “For new people, that’s much harder. The 3-D office is a really good way of maintaining that unplanned connectivity.”
WeTransfer employees tend to use the virtual world for daily stand-up meetings and happy hours; business planning is kept to tools such as Google Hangouts. Julia Shapiro, senior director of marketing in the company’s Los Angeles office, said the simulated office offers a welcome change of scenery from her kitchen table, where she has been working during the lockdown.
“It adds a little excitement to what would just be eight hours of video calls in a day,” she said.
Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Coinbase Inc. and Shopify Inc. recently said many of their employees will work remotely in the future, even after the pandemic recedes. But some employers worry about losing positive elements of a shared workplace, such as the serendipity of in-person interactions.
A crop of technology companies stand ready to help.
Sine Wave Entertainment Ltd. last month introduced Breakroom, a virtual-world product for remote workforces. It can accommodate all-hands meetings, secure one-on-ones and document sharing. Clients of the product include Virgin Group Ltd. and Torque Esports Corp.
Many customers initially assume they will recreate their offices, then realize they can make tweaks that would be impossible in the real world, said Sine Wave CEO Rohan Freeman.
“We spend our lives wishing we were working in open, sunny campuses with butterflies outside,” Mr. Freeman said. “Here you can realize that dream.”
Although clients can use Breakroom to create their office utopia, the platform also enables real-world elements such additional privileges for senior staff. In Sine Wave’s own virtual world, senior members can lock the boardroom, which is located on top of a hill overlooking the rest of the office.
Some virtual office spaces predate the pandemic.
Italian energy company Enel SpA has been working with Spatial Systems Inc. over the past year to assemble workers as avatars in a meeting room combining augmented reality and virtual reality.
Marina Lombardi, head of new technologies and innovation-network technology and innovation at Enel, said the service has proven to be particularly valuable during emergencies, “when the need for colleagues to be connected in the fastest and most effective way becomes vital.”
“The tool is going to be even more important in the situation of prolonged remote work generated by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Ms. Lombardi said.
Unlike real estate, there is no standard formula to calculate the price of a virtual office. Enel wouldn’t divulge how much it spends on Spatial. Breakroom costs $500 a month for up to 50 employees. WeTransfer hired agencies Achtung mcgarrybowen and Isobar to create a proprietary virtual office and doesn’t have to pay a monthly license to use the space.
Educators are exploring the concept as well.
The School of Communication Arts in London is on its second simulation since it closed its physical doors on March 16. Marc Lewis, the college’s dean, has committed to spending £10,000 on testing virtual office products to host lectures and keep connected to students.
Students now use a platform called Walkabout to traverse their own digital offices—a perk they don’t receive in the real world—as well as hangouts such as a bar and a smoking area. Avatars don’t drink or smoke there, but the décor is designed to encourage more casual, spontaneous conversation. The hangout areas also act as de facto meeting spaces if other rooms are occupied.
WeTransfer plans to keep the virtual office once its physical equivalents reopen. Mr. Willoughby wants to see more remote working even after the coronavirus pandemic abates, and said the platform will help in that transition.
“But I’m not sure we’re going to allow people to create their perfect office,” he said. “I don’t want to raise expectations of the physical space too much.”
Write to Katie Deighton at email@example.com
Memorial Day isn’t going to involve a giant crowd of friends fishing beers out of a sweaty cooler or jostling with parkgoers over who had the public grill first. But you’re making a mistake if you don’t think it can still involve grilling, beer, and burgers.
Though, if you’re feeling lazy or just want to get your pre-Memorial Day burger fix ASAP, Whataburger is going to get the wheels greased. From May 18-25, you can get a free Whataburger when you purchase one online. You’ll only be able to do it online, though, either through the Whataburger site or the Whataburger app.
That’s double the Fasties-nominated entrée for the same price as a single burger. Clearly, the southern burger slingers don’t have pressing concerns about the beef shortages that have impacted Wendy’s.
Additionally, if you’re unfamiliar with the chain’s app, you’ll find other freebies there. Its reward program gives you a reward for five Whataburger visits, letting you choose between a Whataburger Jr., a Taquito with Cheese, Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit, and other items. Get your BOGO burgers and you’re one-fifth of the way to another free burger.
Sometime last month, architects and interior designers everywhere traded in their old job titles for a shiny new one: Social distancing consultant.
After a binge-read of the CDC’s reopening guidelines, they’ve started shopping out their skills to restaurants, airlines, and malls — businesses that need to reinvent themselves for a 6-feet-apart world.
Pandemic planners are in high demand: Companies only have so much space to play around with.
Without statistical models to guide them, you can imagine restaurant employees crawling across the floor with rulers in hand on their first day back to work.
Marker found several firms that have leaned into the rebrand:
The consultants recommend buying a raft of social distancing tools — like giant stickers that remind people to stay apart, and a whole lot of thermal scanners. Other jobs could soon take off — like in-flight janitors.
Other players are pivoting in the opposite direction: B2B companies are leapfrogging CEOs and pitching straight to employees who work from home. They’re offering virtual fitness classes, mental health services, and — of course — refillable snack supplies.
If you’re thinking of hiring a consultant, keep in mind: Hardware like buzzing wristbands may be nice, but you can still find low-tech social distancing solutions on the cheap.
To keep its customers apart, a German cafe is handing out hats equipped with foam pool noodles.
May 15th, 2020 The Hustle (thehustle.co)
Ben Mulholland explains this nicely over at Process Street. Productivity “measures output over time, whereas efficiency measures input versus output. Together they can tell you how quickly something is completed, the resources it takes to get there, and (through analysis) whether the whole thing is worth your investment.”
Or, as Jessica Greene from Zapier, explains, “Productivity measures how much you do or produce within a given timeframe. Efficiency, on the other hand, is about being productive with less effort.”
“So if you answered 50 more customer support tickets this week because you worked through them as fast as possible, you were more productive,” writes Jessica. “But if you answered 50 more tickets because you used a text expansion app to respond to commonly asked questions, you were more productive and more efficient.”
In other words, “to be more productive in a way that won’t burn you out in the long run, you have to figure out how to be more efficient.”
Hopefully, this clears the difference between productivity and efficiency. But, more importantly, I hope that you understand why it’s essential to measure your efficiency. And, here’s how you can do just that.
If you have employees, you probably use performance metrics to see how, well, they’re performing. Typically, they fall into one of the following four categories.
“Work quality metrics say something about the quality of the employee’s performance,” explains Erik van Vulpen over at HR Analytics. “The best-known metric is a subjective appraisal by the direct manager.”
“As quantity is often easier to measure than quality, there are multiple ways to measure this employee performance metric,” notes Erik van Vulpen.
Work efficiency is finding the balance between quantity and quality. To achieve the resulting number, “metric considers the resources (e.g., time and money: quantity) needed to produce a specific output (that’s quality).
Finally, Erik says that “Organizations can also use employee performance metrics to assess their own competitiveness,” such as:
Can you use these metrics also to help you identify your efficiency? Sure. But, there are more natural ways to find your metrics.
Weren’t goals a part of management by objectives? Yes. But, as Choncé Maddox writes in another Calendar article, “Goals, in general, can be challenging as they often prompt you to change your life in a major or minor way.”
What’s more, it’s not always easy to tell if you’re even close to reaching your goal, let alone achieving them. And, to muddle things up, even more, goals are constantly changing depending on what your priorities are at the moment.
One way to get out of this predicament is to use a strategy like the SMART goal formula.
“SMART goal is an acronym to describe goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound,” explains Choncé. “For example, setting a vague goal such as ‘I want to lose weight this year’ probably won’t give you the best results.”
What if you said that you wanted to “lose 40 pounds in 10 months by getting on a low-carb diet and exercising four days per week?” According to Choncé, “That’s a much better goal that follows the SMART formula. You’re specific by saying how much weight you want to lose, giving yourself a deadline, so you know when to expect results, and specifying how you’ll reach your goal and measure your results over time.”
Yes. Work quality was another performance metric you can use to measure your team’s efficiency. But, I think when it comes to yourself, we can simplify this.
Are you meeting deadlines? Did you also meet the requirements of the task or project?. For example, were you able to crank out an 1200 work article or cover all of the meeting agenda points in the time allotted? If so, then I’d say that you’re pretty darn efficient
What does this have to do with efficiency? In my opinion, quite a bit. It shows that you’re able to manage your time correctly. For instance, if you’re running late to a meeting, maybe it’s because you underestimated how long the previous task took to complete. Or, perhaps you’re so disorganized that it totally slipped your mind until the last minute.
Efficient people avoid bad habits. I’m talking about failing to plan ahead, not having a routine, multitasking, procrastinating, or being easily distracted. They also try to everything on their own when there should be tasks they’re delegating so that more of their time and energy on what’s important.
Now we’re circling back to feedback. And, there’s a good reason for that. We have a tendency to be biassed towards our own self-assessments and performance. You may think that you’re killing at work until someone brings it to your attention that you actually haven’t been delivering your best work as of late.
Hearing feedback from others can also be challenging. But, instead of avoiding peer or management feedback, solicit it from people you trust. Try asking a peer, business partner, or family member.
Hopefully, you know how to measure your efficiency. But, there’s one last step you should take. Raise your expectations.
Let’s say that met you have a met or requirement, instead of being complacent. Push yourself to go above and beyond. It’s great that you can write a 1200 word article in under three hours. But, can you produce the same number of words in under two? How about upping the word count?
You don’t know what your true limits are — because you can always up-your-count on almost anything. Try it. Pushing your limits, keeps you engaged, and forces you to embrace better habits so that you can become more effective and efficient.
by John Rampton
Airlines have a simple message for Americans: You don’t have to take our flights, but please, please, at least take our snacks.
Across the US, delivery companies are shuttling surplus airline snacks into people’s homes.
There’s a lot to go around: Delta, for instance, hands out 80m+ of its famed Biscoff cookies every year. With air travel taking a nosedive, it donated 500k pounds of snacks to food banks and frontline workers.
Meanwhile, United is heaping stroopwafels on anyone who will take them. JetBlue partnered with the surplus food company Imperfect Foods to offer assorted cheeses, cherries, and crackers for $2.99 a pack.
Some of the largest companies in Silicon Valley are luring employees with promises of snacks as far as the eye can see.
One catering company estimated that offices can spend as much as ~$200k on snacks for 100 people. The most popular “guilty” snack, according to ZeroCater: animal crackers.
But with few tech workers going in for work these days, a lot of startups are rethinking their snack offerings altogether.
Marker noted that a few companies are sending their employees “home office kits” that feature the regular assortment of office munchies.
Others are dialing back on snacks: Googlers were recently hit with the news that they can’t expense food and other perks while in quarantine. Also a no-no: spending unused travel or event budgets on snack boxes or gifts.
If we do see a snack-perk renaissance later in the year, it isn’t going to look as appetizing as before. Instead of tables sprawling with free-flowing bags of popcorn and M&Ms, workers might have to settle for individually wrapped packages of almonds.
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, TX – The National Park Service (NPS) announced today that effective 8:30 a.m., April 3, Big Bend National Park and Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River will be closed to all visitors until further notice in response to letters from the Brewster County and Texas State Health Services departments. No entry will be allowed into the park, except to employees, residents, and other authorized persons. Through traffic will be prohibited, as will travel on Terlingua Ranch Road within park boundaries.
The health and safety of employees, residents, volunteers, and partners, as well as park visitors, at Big Bend National Park is the Service’s number one priority. The NPS is working servicewide with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks,” said Big Bend National Park Superintendent Bob Krumenaker. “We are committed to continued close coordination with our state and local partners as we progress through this closure period and are prepared when the timing is right to reopen as quickly and safely as possible.”
The NPS encourages people to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Big Bend National Park and Rio Grande Wild & Scenic River including: www.nps.gov/bibe, www.nps.gov/rigr, park photogalleries, webcam, Bravo Y Grande Film, and Facebook.
Updates about the NPS response to coronavirus will be posted at www.nps.gov/coronavirus. Please visit www.nps.gov/bibe for specific details and regular updates on Big Bend National Park operations. The NPS will notify the public when full operations resume via the park website and social media channels.
As The Economist recently noted, one of the most obvious consequences of the current Covid-19 pandemic will be “the infusion of data-enabled services into ever more aspects of life.” We except digital transformation to be an even bigger imperative for organizations in the short-term future.
Contrary to popular belief, digital transformation is less about technology and more about people. You can pretty much buy any technology, but your ability to adapt to an even more digital future depends on developing the next generation of skills, closing the gap between talent supply and demand, and future-proofing your own and others’ potential.
As it turns out, most of us end up in jobs and careers for serendipitous reasons, and stay in them for a long time, rarely pausing to rethink our potential: Am I in the right job? Is my career the best fit for by interests and abilities? Would I enjoy my life more if I had chosen something else? Furthermore, while every job requires learning, we are prewired for familiarity, routine, and simplicity, which is why most of us end up learning less on the job, the more time we actually spend on the job. This is good in the short run, because we can do our jobs on autopilot, freeing up mental resources; yet it’s counterproductive in the long run, because what we gain in experience, we miss in new learning opportunities. An even bigger loss is that we may go through our entire working lives without discovering, let alone unlocking, our true potential. As Winston Churchill once said, we should never waste a good crisis. Perhaps this is the biggest gift of the current pandemic, that it provides us with the opportunity to rethink our potential and ensure that we are positioning ourselves toward the future. To be sure, it is too soon for most people to realize this, yet in the long-term, a significant number of people will likely end up in better careers and look back on their less meaningful and less engaging past careers like someone who looks back without regret on the end of a less fulfilling personal relationship, even one where it wasn’t their choice to exit.
With this in mind, we wanted to provide a few suggestions: some based on science, and some based on our own experiences leading, coaching, and mentoring current and future leaders across a wide range of industries, helping them ready themselves for an even-more-digital future. Our main assumption here is straightforward: While the future is more ambivalent and uncertain than ever, we are confident that a pretty strong bet on the future is to focus on reskilling and upskilling people so that they are better equipped to adjust to change. Just as our past efforts have enabled us to adapt to our more digital and virtual present world (and a non-trivial fact is that we are writing this, and you are probably reading this, in physical isolation), there are few reasons to suggest that this trend will go away or be reversed anytime soon. If anything, an even bigger proportion of jobs, tasks, activities, and careers will find ingenious and novel ways to coexist in the digital world. Here’s how we can all prepare for that eventuality:
As the last several weeks have demonstrated, we are agile as a global community. This agility has been people-led and technology-supported. Human beings are the common denominator to the concept of future proofing, whether it’s as a compliment to the technology being unleashed for remote working, or whether it’s because we possess the soft skills and leadership needed to navigate a historic crisis, or because we have the insights needed to drive slow success or fast failure for a cure. It all starts with each and every one of us, and those we are responsible for developing. The key is to nurture curiosity, so we have options, even outside of a crisis.
Becky Frankiewicz is President of ManpowerGroup North America and a labor market expert. Before joining ManpowerGroup, she led one of PepsiCo’s largest subsidiaries, Quaker Foods North America, and was named by Fast Company as one of the most creative people in the industry. Find her on Twitter: @beckyfrankly.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic is the Chief Talent Scientist at ManpowerGroup, a professor of business psychology at University College London and at Columbia University, and an associate at Harvard’s Entrepreneurial Finance Lab. He is the author of Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (and How to Fix It), upon which his TEDx talk was based. Find him on Twitter: @drtcp or at www.drtomas.com.
U.S. universities are reeling from the chaos resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, and one dean’s far-sighted business move might help save his school a lot of money.
In 2017, the Gies College of Business and the Grainger College of Engineering jointly took out a three-year contract with Lloyd’s of London to insure against a large drop in revenue from Chinese students resulting from specific events such as a trade war, a global pandemic, and visa restrictions.
The business school’s dean, Jeff Brown, created the policy with two other university professors, Tim Johnson and Morton Lane. Brown declined to discuss details of the policy when reached by
“The coverage placed was innovative and required us to design the product as nothing like it had been done before,” Andrew Martin, a broker at Besso, who syndicated the deal through Lloyd’s, told Yahoo Finance. “The foresight of Dean Jeff Brown and the structuring skills of Dr. Morton Lane was a fortuitous combination that resulted in what may prove to be a valuable hedge for the University of Illinois.”
The policy provides for up to $61 million in coverage to match revenue from Chinese students in the business school and the engineering school. The two colleges together have been paying $424,000 a year in premiums. The terms would be triggered if the two schools saw a combined revenue decline of at least 18.5% from a loss in Chinese students, according to Lane. (If there is a 50% decline in tuition revenue from Chinese students, the insurance payout would be about $30 million.)
The stipulated events have largely occurred: The Trump administration continues to tighten U.S. immigration policy, a global pandemic is underway, and a trade war has been going on since 2018.
Visa restrictions, in particular, “will have an unprecedented impact on both current international college students in the US and also incoming college students this fall,” Command Education CEO Christopher Rim told Yahoo Finance.
“The status of future international students is unclear, as non-critical visa appointments have been suspended since late March,” Rim added. “This will completely change the landscape of the student body on college campus over the next one to two years.”
International students make up 5.5% of the total student population in the U.S., according to a report by the Institute of International Education. Chinese students form the majority of students, followed by Indian, South Korean, and Saudi Arabian students.
The higher education industry has been in flux even before the coronavirus pandemic, due factors such as reduction in state funding and enrollment declines. And according to one analysis by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, Illinois’ public universities have taken a 48% cut in funding since 2000.
And in 2019, the Gies business school shut down its residential MBA programs and pivoted online, responding to weaker demand.
“If you were able to get every dean in the U.S. under a lie detector, outside of maybe the top 20 M.B.A. programs, every one of them would admit they were struggling to maintain enrollment and losing money on the program,” Brown told the Wall Street Journal in 2019.
Reporter Aarthi supports the Yahoo Finance editorial team with reporting, research, and audience development. She was previously with CNBC International in Singapore. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/university-of-illinois-insurance-bet-224016209.html