Monthly Archives: July 2016

Give Employees Their Own Space

Company executives and their employees disagree on the type of office space that’s best for sparking creativity, new research finds.

A study from the staffing firm The Creative Group revealed that employees prefer secluded spaces when trying to come up with new ideas, whereas company leaders believe open spaces are best for innovation.

Specifically, 36 percent of employees said a private office is most conducive to encouraging creativity, compared with just 18 percent of executives. Conversely, 36 percent of executives think open-concept work environments are best for on-the job innovation, compared with only 26 percent of employees.

But company leaders and their employees do see eye to eye when it comes to the worst place for inspiring creativity: Just 4 percent of both groups believe working from outside the office is the best environment for encouraging innovation.

Diane Domeyer, executive director of The Creative Group, said that when designing office spaces, it is important to understand that different tasks call for different work environments.

“Office design should be closely tailored to an organization’s needs and a team’s primary duties,” Domeyer said in a statement. “The main goal for employers should be to create a space where staff members feel comfortable and engaged, and can perform at their best.”

The Creative Group offered four tips to help employers create a more stimulating work environment:

  1. Designate creativity areas. Employers should consider creating areas around the office designed specifically for brainstorming or spontaneous meetings. These spaces should include a dry-erase board that can be used to quickly jot down ideas and various industry-related publications.
  2. Offer private spaces. With more and more organizations turning to open-concept floor plans in an attempt to boost collaboration, it is important to also offer areas where employees have some alone time so that they can focus on their task at hand. Build a few stations where employees can work on their own without having to deal with distractions.
  3. Create a mood board. Mood boards, which are hung for everyone to see, are where employees can post content they find interesting and think will help others draw inspiration. In addition, employees should be encouraged to post photos of things they might want to reference for future projects.
  4. Get out of the office. Sometimes, getting outside the office can spark creativity. Consider taking your team to a park or a café; you might be surprised by how a change of scenery can spark new ideas.

Meetings As Much as You Think

The dreaded business meeting may be painted as a pointless waste of time, but new research finds that most employees do see their value.

The study from ShoreTel, a provider of unified communications, revealed that 88 percent of employees think meetings are at least somewhat productive, with just 11 percent believing they are a complete waste.

Baby boomers, those born between 1943 and 1964, seem to get the most out of meetings: 47 percent of baby boomers think meetings are productive, compared with just 34 percent of younger employees born between 1980 and 2000. However, a similar percentage of baby boomers (9 percent) and millennials (11 percent) felt that meetings aren’t a good use of their time.

 “Our survey dispels many misperceptions about meetings and productivity by the generations currently in the workforce,” Mark Roberts, chief marketing officer of ShoreTel, said in a statement. “For instance, the results did not show that meetings are unproductive, or that certain generations find them a waste of time.”

In general, most workers don’t spend as much time in meetings as many may think.  The study discovered that 45 percent of employees spend less than 4 hours a week in meetings, with another 31 percent spending between 5 and 8 hours a week in meetings. Less than one-quarter of those surveyed spend at least 9 hours in meetings each week.

Most employees say they stay focused on the task at hand during meetings, with 67 percent of respondents saying they listen and take notes. Just 8 percent text or check personal email or social media.

Despite a rise in remote work, nearly 70 percent of employees still attend meetings in person. ShoreTel found that younger workers reported a preference for conference room attendance at about the same rate as other generations, but also had the highest preference for attending remotely via phone.

“Millennials often get a bad rap, but our data shows they participate in meetings in conference rooms with their peers at the same rate as other generations,” Roberts said.

The study was based on surveys of more than 1,000 employees (92 percent from North America) who work in a wide range of industries.

Happy Music in the Office

Playing a little music in the office can have a positive impact on employee teamwork, new research finds.

The Cornell University study found that listening to happy, upbeat music encourages employees to make decisions that contribute to the good of the team. Kevin Kniffin, the study’s lead author and a behavioral scientist at Cornell, said music is a pervasive part of much of our daily lives, whether we consciously notice it or not.

“Music might melt into the background in places like supermarkets or gyms and other times it’s very prominent like places of worship or presidential nominating conventions,” Kniffin said in a statement. “Our results show that people seem more likely to get into sync with each other if they’re listening to music that has a steady beat to it.”

For the study, researchers conducted two experiments to test the effect of music on the cooperative behavior of employees working in teams.

In the experiments, participants were grouped in teams of three and given tokens to either contribute to the team’s value or to keep for their personal use. During the experiment, the researchers played happy songs, such as “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison and “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves; music deemed unpleasant, which in this case included a variety of heavy metal songs; or no music at all.

The researchers found that participants contributed to the good of the team one-third more when happy, upbeat songs were played, compared with the unpleasant tunes or no music at all.

“We found significantly and persistently higher levels of cooperative behavior by participants who were played happy music when compared with the other two conditions,” the study’s authors wrote.

Kniffin said the results indicate that playing some music and putting some thought into the types of songs played could result in happier employees and better teamwork.

“Lots of employers spend significant sums of time and money on off-site teambuilding exercises to build cooperation among employees,” Kniffin said. “Our research points to the office sound system as a channel that has been underappreciated as a way to inspire cooperation among co-workers.”

Brian Wansink, one of the study’s authors and the director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, said the study is another example of the impact music can have on people.

“What’s great about these findings, other than having a scientific reason to blast tunes at work, is that happy music has the power to make the workplace more cooperative and supportive overall,” Wansink said.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. The research was also co-authored by William Schulze, a professor at Cornell University, and Jubo Yan, a professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

Know the Employees Are Less Productive

Employees who are jealous of how their co-workers are treated around the office spend too much time trying to understand the differential treatment, a new study shows. Those workers end up producing less each day than they otherwise could, the new research finds.

The University of Cincinnati Lindner College of Business study found that employees lose the personal resources needed to focus and complete daily tasks when they grow envious of peers they believe are treated better by their bosses.

Joel Koopman, the study’s author and a University of Cincinnati assistant professor of management, said workers who take those feeling of jealousy home with them often wake up the next morning still thinking about the issues.

“This cycle can build to the point that tremendous time and energy is wasted on simply processing negative emotions, leaving critical work projects to flounder until resolutions are achieved,” Koopman said in a statement.

Envious feelings often take more of a toll on employees who are the most skilled at solving problems in a creative environment. Koopman said these problem-solvers tend to be the ones who have high levels of “epistemic motivation,” which is the desire to process information thoroughly and grasp the meaning behind a particular situation.

“Research has shown that most creative working environments — ones that require a strong ability to negotiate and attend to detail — value employees who have a high level of epistemic motivation,” Koopman said. “This is significant, because the workers who are valuable for problem-solving, skilled negotiating and finding timely solutions are also the ones who ruminate longer over processing the social injustice and envy they feel.”

Those employees end up producing less, because of the time they waste fretting over their envious feelings, the research found.

“This resulted in a higher degree of ego depletion and negatively affected their overall productivity,” Koopman said.

For the study, Koopman surveyed a group of participants twice a day for 15 days. The researchers asked participants how fairly they had been treated by their supervisors compared to their co-workers. The surveys were designed to measure immediate feelings of envy and whether those feelings carried over into the following day.

Those envious feelings not only negatively affected employees’ overall productivity, but also, if they persisted, reduced the likelihood that employees would help co-workers with their projects or listen to their personal problems, Koopman said.

“In a whirling spiral, the more energy they expend on processing the injustice, the less their resources are, and they become less likely to help others in the office,” he said.