The Upside To Home Working

Y from the Yahoo logo

Y from the Yahoo logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wonder if Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer has looked carefully at the costs (as well as the benefits) of denying staff the opportunity of working from home in favour of office-based collaboration?


In my experience of working for an office-based team it was possible to get quite a lot done for the team, when working remotely from it.


It was necessary to focus on the specific tasks and outputs to be delivered whilst operating from home though.  The Guardian’s five golden rules for successful home working would have helped.


The point Yahoo may be missing is that home working wasn’t an everyday event, but an infrequent privilege extended as a sign of the healthy upside in the emotional contract between employer and employee.  Employer trusts the employee to get the job done, even though the employee is not sitting in front of them chained to a desk.


What was the usual result after home working?


The employer got the timely outputs needed in the quantity required and to the appropriate quality standard.  The employee got to shape their life around their work and lower the environmental impact of their work by commuting less.  No dramas, no skiving and no downside involved.  In fact it seemed to me to be a fairly happy, efficient and productive arrangement for both sides.


If Yahoo was to ask me I would say their proposed change seems counter-productive.  Employees lose a privilege, gain a commute and wonder if their employer trusts them to deliver tasks at arms length.

That’s What Friends Are For

Goal Setting

Goal Setting (Photo credit: lululemon athletica)

If you were to picture yourself sitting in your rocking chair, in your twilight years, what would you imagine were the highlights of your life?  Could they include your:

–       Big detached house in the country?

–       Fleet of fancy cars?

–       CV chock full of high-flying jobs?

If so you might want to think again.  Research conducted by Dr Gregory Bonn, a lecturer in psychology at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia provides compelling evidence that ‘close and enduring relationships are considered central to life satisfaction’.  According to the coverage in the Independent newspaper, material achievements are not too high on the list of Things That Make You Happy.


Interestingly the survey findings also indicate that ‘Having a worthwhile career was rated as more important to a good life than having a successful one’.


There is a segue from the Independent story to one on the BBC news website.  It seems that the University of Chicago has researched the flip side of the ‘happy relationships equal happy life’ paradigm.  Their findings suggest that loneliness can lead to physical as well as psychological harm.


If that is sound information then it is timely, especially for the so-called ‘leftover’ women in China.  Their ambition and drive for early career success seems to have a downside.   According to BBC coverage, if these women mis-time their career peak they risk being viewed as too old for marriage.  The bad news is that over 25 may be ‘too old’!.


I wonder if these findings establish any useful goal setting principles?  One’s purpose in life fuels goal setting, so perhaps it is important that some goals relate strongly to building and maintaining healthy relationships.  These might take precedence over goals involving gathering material possessions.


That makes sense.  When goal setting we think about what we want to Be, then to Do and last of all, to Have.


Maybe the attachments to the key people in one’s life are more powerful and lasting than the links to physical possessions.

Sign Of The Times

self-esteem, groups and hate

self-esteem, groups and hate (Photo credit: Will Lion)

Blogging about personal development in a time of austerity is highlighting some powerful contrasts and connections.

On one hand there are young – and not so young – people who are motivated high achievers (like the former Olympian Rebecca Adlington or footballer Robbie Rogers I have recently blogged about) who are confident of their own ability to make choices which allow for self-development.

On the other hand there are people not in education employment or training (the so called Neets) or offenders like those documented by commercial television living in Her Majesty’s Prison Aylesbury.


Their lives and those of youth not (yet) involved in the criminal justice system are seemingly defined by low self- esteem, disengagement with / alienation from society, and perhaps adverse mental health outcomes.

Either cohort could be supported to develop better outcomes for themselves and those their lives touch.  The question is who should have the majority interest in providing that support?


Should it be central government policy which highlights the need to resource those people, and which provides such support directly (so young people’s energies are channelled into social rather than anti-social activity)?


Or should local communities come together, to make the most of central government Big Society funds, using their skills to deliver change in the lives of the least fortunate neighbourhoods?


I have led a Community First panel for 12 months and I will be reflecting on my Big Society experience in coming posts.  Meanwhile I am aware of the pressures on the potential pool of volunteers for those sort of projects (people with the skills, confidence and desire to help make change happen).


Proposed cutbacks on numbers of civil servants in the Education department seem counterproductive too.  After all, they and their peers in other departments are part of the pool of potential volunteers for Big Society activity.

Obviously there are major questions about the best route by which to reduce the fiscal deficit and balance national spending.  However there’s a question mark against the wisdom of leaving some under supported people entirely to the operation of volunteerism (where individuals delivering those outcomes may be under pressure to produce high level outcomes while being a little under prepared to so).


Maybe there is work to be done to increase the capacity of the voluntary sector to deliver better quality outcomes.  Doing that first may reduce the potential for further drains on health, welfare, education, and criminal justice resources further down the line.

All Change

Chicago Fire Soccer Club

Chicago Fire Soccer Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There must be something in the air.  Having mentioned Sugar Ray Leonard in December – in the context of sportspeople leaving the competitive arena to pursue new challenges -there seem to be plenty of others doing the same thing.


Robbie Rogers has stepped away from his US club, Chicago Fire, to discover himself away from football (he also played for Leeds United).  Additionally he  acknowledged he is a gay man in the blog post about leaving the sport.  The two announcements are hopefully not inter-related.  There’s no reason football should be less able to meet the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual players than other sports…is there?


Then there is the surprising phenomenon of former Olympic competitors signing on at the Jobcentre.   The BBC reports, former pentathlete Georgina Harland has a philosophical take on life after a sporting career.  She says:


“You have had this one goal for so long and never questioned it.  Then suddenly it’s not there anymore…You are used to aspiring to be, literally, the best in the world.  But you have to make compromises. What is success in the normal workplace and what does success mean to me?… You can find a job that will satisfy you. It may never be what it was like when you were competing, but you can find something that satisfies in a different way”


Unintentionally those observations are sound bits of advice for anyone going through a life transition, perhaps linked to redundancy or another major change of circumstances.  Find out what ‘success’ means for you and you are part way to uncovering what type of employment may provide it for you.

A Few Words About Office Politics


Scooby-Doo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I like Oliver James’s analysis in his book ‘They F*** You Up’, a look at surviving family life and better understanding how growing up in your family made you who you are today.


I have read the Guardian’s review of his latest offering ‘Office Politics’ and I am unsure what to make of it.


It seems the book’s thesis is that, ‘where blame can be spread and credit stolen, and the bonus pool depends on staying in the boss’s good graces, you need to know how to hustle’.  Hustling in this context seems to involve looking out for number one without being full-on nasty about it.


It is probably unfair to critique the book without having read it (the review can only give an impression of the whole) yet I found myself thinking: what about fostering an organisational culture which helps staff be their authentic selves in the workplace?


It seems to me the energy involved in developing and deploying a work-persona is considerable.  Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to put that energy into being authentic?  In that way there is no need to hustle, take others’ credit or keep in the boss’s good graces.


In addition what about the value of building a positive organisational culture, so there would be no need to look for some colleague, stakeholder or customer on whom to heap blame?


There is something quite small and petty about the idea of keeping a list of those to blame / identify as the enemy / seek retribution against.  Don’t misunderstand, mapping stakeholders who support what you are trying to achieve in a project makes sense.  Identifying those who will always oppose any change, your project will deliver makes sense.  Keeping a list of those you point to as, ‘always at fault’, seems like something out of Scooby Doo, (‘I would have got away with it too, if it wasn’t for you pesky kids!’).  It certainly feels unseemly and makes an organisation seem less than self-confident.


The BBC coverage of the National Rifle Association’s newly-discovered list seems to fall into this category .  I would certainly feel a bit nervous being in that organisation’s bad books.

Picture This

English: picture insert

English: picture insert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When you think about what you want to be doing in 24 months’ time, do you find it easier to visualise:

– soaring through the clouds before landing behind a big desk in your dream job?

– or strolling through the marble interior of your palatial home?

– or even staring lovingly into the eyes of your perfect partner over a Valentine’s Day meal?

Does picturing those options sound easier than putting those long-term goals into words, as part of your life plan?

If the answer is ‘Yes’ then perhaps you have a right-brain dominance (a preference for pictures over words).  You might then find the content of Brian Mayne’s website interesting, as it offers visitors to experiment with mapping their life goals in a series of pictures.

You still have to take action, as a second step to turn those long-term goals into reality.  But if you can picture it, as a first step, perhaps it is then easier to do the work which will get you there.

Changing Lanes

Swim training 14

Swim training 14 (Photo credit: Michael Lokner)

In my 31 December post Don’t Call It A Comeback’, I advocated that sports stars should have a Plan B in place, so they know what else they want to do with the rest of their lives, once they leave their field of excellence.


By coincidence Rebecca Adlington seems to have done that sort of thinking, before making her announcement this week that she is moving on from competitive swimming.


I love the clarity of her vision, set out at her press conference.  Quoted in the Daily Telegraph she said:

“I want to create a legacy, which is trying to get every single child to be able to swim 25 metres before they leave primary school… That would be my absolute goal in life. I know it’s very ambitious but I wouldn’t have said five years ago that I would have had four Olympic medals in my drawer at home. I know with a lot of hard work you can achieve things. It’s such a life skill and it would overtake anything I’ve achieved medal-wise. It would be greatest legacy of all for every child in the UK to be able to swim”.

That sounds to me like she has had some effective coaching during her competitive swimming career.  In fact it sounds as if she has answered the question of what else she wants in her life, to her own satisfaction.  I don’t doubt she has the motivation to succeed in her new goal too.