Brett Sadler

Archive for the tag “culture”

Working Out Loud

working out loud

Are you someone who likes to work out loud?

I have long been an advocate of working out loud and by this I mean being open about what I am working on and seeking advice and best practice from others.

The popularity and acceptance of social media makes this task so much easier. I can just pop a quick post on LinkedIn (or a quick tweet on Twitter) asking for some best practice advice, or even just asking a question I would like the answer to. It really has produced some views and information that I can honestly say I would not have had otherwise.

Of course, it doesn’t have to just be through social media that we can work out loud. For me, its a much wider approach that can be adopted, where whole organisations can be encouraged to work out loud through a transparent culture where customers and stakeholder views are really valued. I’m not talking about sharing trade secrets or commercially sensitive data, but just letting customer and stakeholders know what an organisation and its staff are working on and allowing them to help shape and influence this journey.

I realise that not every organisation operates a values drive culture where you are encouraged or even able to work out loud, but for me this should be the panacea for an organisation. Frederic Laloux in his book ‘Reinventing Organisations’ sums this up perfectly:

Any information that isn’t public will cause suspicion – why else would someone go through the trouble to keep it secret?

There is something really refreshing about being open, making connections and getting the best possible outcome, all of which can be achieved through working out loud. So go on, next time you are faced with a difficult issue or wicked problem, why not try and open it out to others. You might just get a useful answer.

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The War Against Email

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I don’t know about you, but I really do hate Email.

Somehow, despite it being a tool designed to help, it has become a tool of oppression. It’s a continuous cycle of new Emails coming in, some needing a reply, some not. It often doesn’t matter if you are sending any out or not – there will always be a continuous trickle of new Emails coming in.

I have experimented in this area.

What would happen if I didn’t send an Email at all in a working day? When I tried this, I still received Emails. Granted, I have come to realise that a good portion of my Email inbox was originally generated by me – if I send an Email out with a question, it’s highly likely I will get an Email reply, but I still received a veritable ton of Emails, regardless of my actions.

I also tried checking my Emails at certain points of the day and in the Email reply automatically sent out, I explained the times I would be checking. But it didn’t work. I had a few dismissive ‘that would be nice to be able to do that’ comments from some people and ultimately, the deluge of Emails didn’t slow down at all.

I would also throw into the mix that an organisations culture or ‘Email dependency’ is a key factor. Some orgs/staff predominantly use Email as the preferred method of communication, which will in turn lead to an increase in Emails. Some time ago I conducted a wholly unscientific test of my Emails over a week long period and found over 2/3rds received and sent out were internal traffic. I may wish to change my ways, but I would argue the organisation as a whole need to sign up to this approach as well.

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I have taken some steps to try and reduce the Email stress though. Namely:

  1. Not checking my Emails constantly;
  2. Only sending out an Email if I have to (rather than say talking to someone over the phone or face-to-face);
  3. Turning off the automatic Email notifications;
  4. Having an Email purge at least once a week where I delete any unnecessary Emails or file away any I need to keep;
  5. Trying to keep my Email inbox as ‘actionable’ Emails – things I need to do something with;
  6. Deleting or filing away any ‘old’ Emails – if I haven’t had to do anything with them after several months, it’s unlikely I will need to anytime soon either.

Some of these are just common sense, but you would be surprised how few people follow them.

It’s far from a cast iron answer to dealing with Emails, but I do find the above actions help.

My main aim though is to keep my Email inbox down to around 100 Emails. This is very tough to achieve. I had a few weeks off recently and found that this has crept up to over 250, but I am working on reducing this down. For me, keeping my Email inbox in check helps me to stay focused and in control of my work.

So, what about you? Have you any tips and tricks for reducing Emails at work?

The 35 hour week – myth or panacea?

working-hard

First things first. The title of this post could have said 38 or 40 hours – whatever someone’s contracted hours are. The point of the post though, is whether the idea of working your ‘core’ or contracted hours only is something to be aspire achieving or not.

We’ve all heard of people working crazy hours. I recently saw a post on LinkedIn joking that ‘oh, so you work a 39 hour week? I also remember my first part time job’. This was (hopefully) meant as a joke, but the thought process behind it isn’t. Some organisations and managers expect a lot from their staff and this often translated to working a lot more hours than contracted to do.

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Take the current organisation I work for. As a not-for-profit Housing Association, we have pretty good working arrangements. Full time staff are contracted to work 35 hours a week and over a four week period we can take a further 7 hours flexi time (equivalent to one extra day) off a month. We can also carry over an extra 7 hours per month to the following timesheet. This is a pretty generous arrangement. But, it could be argued that encouraging staff to work to build up sufficient time to build up their flexitime means we are encouraging staff to work over their contracted hours.

Then there is the long standing issue of how many extra hours is acceptable. I have always thought that the more senior the post you are in, the more you are expected to work longer hours (as you get paid to do this). I have also thought that for any staff who are really career focussed, then they want to show that they work really hard, which often translates to working longer hours. But I do find myself questioning this train of thought sometimes. The more we rationalise the number of hours extra we can work (i.e under 5 hours a week is acceptable, over 5 hours isn’t), the more we are not making it as flexible an arrangement as we are aiming for it to be.

So what’s the answer? I do think there is a conversation to be had in every organisation about what constitutes an acceptable number of hours worked. The organisational culture to some extent dictates this.

Many months ago I made the conscious decision not to send out any Emails in the evenings and weekends, if at all possible. The rationale is that if I send an Email to one of my team ‘out of hours’ I am effectively encouraging and enforcing this behaviour in them. I know this isn’t always possible, but I really do try to keep to this rule. The other reason this rule helps is to ensure that staff keep to their work life balance as far as possible. Working all hours might well work for some people (some people even thrive on it) but I’ve been managing staff long enough to know that this doesn’t work for everyone and it is very easy to get burned out due to work and never feel like you are stepping away from it.

So what about your organisation? Have you cracked this issue? Please share your thoughts below!

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