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Thursdays are the New Fridays

It’s no secret that the workplace has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. There are 53% more women in the workforce, The Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid protected leave, and minimum wage has increased dramatically. It’s pretty amazing to see the progress we’ve made, but there’s one change that’s yet to make its way to the U.S.: The Four Day workweek.

In many European countries, four-day workweeks are the rule, not the exception. The Netherlands boast average annual wages of $47,000 and average only 29 hours of work per week. But for many companies in the U.S., the trend remains that working longer hours means an increase in productivity. But what if this isn’t the case? Whatever happened to “less is more”? Can this apply to our workplace?

four day work week perkspot culture thursdays are the new fridays

No Time to Waste

Let’s be honest, there are plenty of times we procrastinate on projects or reschedule meetings until the last possible minute. With shorter workweeks, employers have found that there is less time to waste, so workers are more likely to remain focused and motivated. And for those who still need those 40 hours, some businesses have incorporated the four-day workweek by simply working longer hours during these four days. Workers then have the weekend to catch up on errands, spend time with loved ones, and get refreshed for the next week.

Thinking About Making a Switch?

Keep in mind these “Dos and Don’ts” for a successful transition.

Don’t: Make it a seasonal thing.

Some companies tend to offer shorter, summer hours, which is a great start, but often employees start resenting those days when they have to stay until five instead of leaving at three, or whatever the case may be.

Do: Make it a regular thing.

Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall – you wouldn’t require your employees to work only one part of the year, so why shorten their hours only during summer? To increase motivation year-round many companies start by offering a shorter workweek even in the winter months.

Don’t: Go all in.

Incorporating the four-day workweek means a huge change in the office, so make sure you think before you leap. Don’t make the change overnight but give your employees time to adjust.

Do: Take baby steps.

When it comes to big changes at the office, it’s best to take baby steps. For example, some employers start by having early release on Fridays instead of jumping right into the four-day workweek. They then examine productivity and employee engagement levels to ensure the plan is right for their office environment.

Don’t: Stay silent.

You may know the famous quote “Where there is no vision, there is no hope”. Don’t just make the change without stating the whys, whos, and hows.

Do: Provide clarity on the “fifth day”.

Are employees expected to be available on the fifth day? What extra work does this require for the other four days? It’s important to think through all the questions employees may have and provide clarity before incorporating this new policy. There’s nothing more frustrating than walking in the dark, so if you’re thinking about making the switch, be sure to shed light on the new changes.

Keep Employees Happy

One of the challenges many human resources departments face is keeping employees happy and engaged. Training new talent is expensive and time-consuming, so when focusing on employee retention, many companies are beginning to consider the four-day workweek. For companies that cannot afford raises or other employee benefits, this can be a great perk to offer employees who have been loyal to the company.

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Be a Better Leader

better leader perkspot culture
Many of us have an innate desire to inspire others like Martin Luther King, Jr., change the world like Bill Gates, or save lives like Marie Curie. But before they became these great world-changers, they all lived very ordinary lives. There are traits each of us can develop in our everyday lives to be a better leader and inspire those around us.

Practice humility.

Humility is a lost art in our culture. We are quick to seek recognition and put our own needs before others. But great leaders start by first serving the people around them. Ask yourself how you can better serve your team. Be transparent and apologize when you make mistakes. Demonstrate a willingness to learn – a teachable attitude goes a long way.

Stay positive.

This can be particularly tough even in the greatest of work environments. The stress of work and home often cause us to focus on the negative. Try starting your day by writing down three things you’re grateful for. This positive attitude will carry you throughout your day and others will be inspired by your optimism. And when issues arise, focus on finding the solution instead of the problem.

better leader perkspot culture

Be yourself.

Having a boss or colleague who is “all business, all the time” gets stale very quickly. Take time to get to know your teammates and share personal anecdotes. Invite them to watch the game or workout together. You don’t have to unload your whole life story, but letting them in is a great way to show you care and you’re interested. They’ll appreciate your vulnerability and respect you more for it.

Challenge the status-quo.

One thing all great leaders have in common is that they push the limits. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you think things (or people) can be better. Great friends and great coworkers challenge each other to think deeper and go farther.

Have tips for being a better leader? Let us know in the comments!

The Art of Single-Tasking

single-tasking multi-tasking perkspot culture

The convenience of the smartphone has turned us all into expert multi-taskers. We can listen to music, read our email, chat with friends and ride the bus, all at the same time. But how effective is multitasking really? Sure, we may get things done more quickly, but at what cost?

Here are a few reasons why you should choose to single-task:

Single-tasking focuses your attention.

When we switch rapidly from one task to another, our minds are never fully engaged in the work we are doing. Have you ever talked on the phone and driven at the same time only to discover you took a wrong street or drove a little too fast? This is because our brains were built to focus on one thing at a time. Choosing to do only one task at a time helps us focus our attention in a single area, so we are able to think critically about the task at hand.

Single-tasking requires taking your time.

So many of us receive an email and feel the need to respond within minutes – no matter if we’re sitting at the lunch table or getting ready for bed. But when we reserve bedtime for bedtime and work time for just that, we are much more efficient and less likely to make mistakes. Don’t send that email while you’re tired; wait until the morning to visit your inbox and make sure you’re responding with a clear head. Have a client who wants an immediate response? Shoot them a quick reply to let them know you’ll think about it and get back to them, or better yet, set the expectation before you leave the office that you prefer to respond with fresh eyes in the morning. You don’t always have to respond with an answer- chances are just acknowledging their request will be enough until the morning.

Single-tasking makes you present.

One thing that annoys me, but that I often still find myself doing, is leaving my phone out during meals. I have to say the majority of my coworkers at PerkSpot are good about keeping their phones put away during lunch, and I find that it fosters much better relationships and conversations. When we are constantly distracted, we are less likely to make memories and engage with others. Practice engaging in conversation without your phone beside you and you may be surprised at the memories you’ll make.

How-to Single-Task:

These tips will have you single-tasking in no time.

1. Incorporate #TablessThursdays

Pick a day of the week where you limit the number of tabs you’re using in your web browser. By choosing one day to be ultra-intentional about single-tasking, you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done.

2. Try the Pomodoro Technique:

  • Choose a task to be accomplished. If you’re embarking on a larger project, split it into a series of small, specific tasks.
  • Set your timer to 25 minutes (the length of one “Pomodoro”).
  • Work on your task until the timer rings.
  • Take a short break (up to 5 minutes).
  • After every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break (15-30 minutes).
  • Turn off phone notifications.
  • Set aside specific times for checking email throughout the day.

3. Use technology to your advantage.

Download extensions like Momentum, which reminds you of your to-do list every time you open a new tab in your browser, or One Tab, which consolidates all your tabs into one so you can go back later and review.

Work Ethic or Workaholic? (The Billion Dollar Question)

work ethic perkspot culture workaholic

The 12.3 Billion Dollar Question, actually.

I recently came across an article on how Elon Musk spent days sleeping at the Tesla factory in order to reach his production goals. While his passion is admirable, the poster of the article praised Musk for his “work ethic”. But can you really call sleepless nights in a cold factory “ethical”? If the boss is staying late at work, what kind of work life is he promoting to his junior employees?

The 10,000-Hour Rule

The Millennial Generation has grown up hearing things like Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule. Gladwell states in his book, “Outliers” that if you practice a skill for 10,000 hours or more, you will undoubtedly become an expert, or rather, an outlier. Outliers are people like Bill Gates, Kobe Bryant, Oprah Winfrey… to name a few. These examples are experts in their field and have reached a significant level of success that one could only hope to imitate. His conclusion is based on research from Anders Ericsson and Simon and Chase’s “Skill in Chess”, which, to oversimplify, states that the more time you spend on a skill (on average 10,000 hours), the better you become. Seems pretty obvious, right?

The problem in our world of instant downloads is we want to clock those 10,000 hours as soon as possible. If we work 40 hour work weeks, 52 weeks of the year, we’ve only clocked 2,080 hours. Which means it’s at least five years until we reach the average number of hours it took for these “outliers” to achieve greatness. That is unless you work 100 hour work weeks or respond to emails while interacting with your kids, like Elon Musk.

Ok, enough bashing on Musk. He’s accomplished plenty of great things and we don’t presume to know the day in and day out of his personal life. However, the discussion of whether or not we should praise his “work ethic” is definitely up for debate.

Finding the Balance

While things like the 10,000-hour rule are prevalent in discussions about the workplace, possibly even more dominant is the need for work-life balance. It’s as if we live in constant contradiction. Achieve success by working hard, but not too hard. Work 100 hours a week so you can run a billion dollar company, but also make sure you spend time with your family, cook Paleo-perfect meals, and vacation for a week in Spain. Totally achievable.

Fast Company recently published an article “How to Advance In Your Career Without Becoming A Workaholic”. The article focuses on the quality of work we do, versus the quantity. The author suggests targeting a few key factors. These include staying engaged in your work, being more efficient, investing in relationships, asking questions, and learning when to say no. These traits are arguably more essential to a true work ethic and a healthy work-life balance. Isn’t it more ethical to leave at five knowing that you’ve done your work well, learned to delegate when necessary, and accomplish personal tasks with peace of mind?

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Hey Millennials, Quit Wasting Time

Time is a precious commodity in our 21st-century lives. But, social media and streaming tv aren’t the only things that steal our time. Here are some ways to be more productive and stop wasting time, provided by older generations of workers.

wasting time

 

Ask for help

It’s hard to balance confidence and humility in the workplace. Having a stubborn attitude when it comes to asking for help doesn’t demonstrate confidence, but can demonstrate arrogance or even ignorance. Everyone needs to be taught sometimes so instead of wasting time trying to figure it out on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your boss or coworker will admire your humility. This openness also creates a dialogue and builds trust in your relationship.

Focus on the positive

One of the biggest wastes of time can be focusing on our mistakes, others’ mistakes, or things we wish we could change. In my own experience, I’ve found dwelling on my mistakes actually causes me to make more errors. I get caught in my own head instead of remembering to double-check my work or again, ask others for help. When we fixate on the things we cannot change, it causes our creativity and innovation to stall, instead of moving forward.

How should we handle mistakes? A good friend of mine told me I need to allow myself to feel it. Once we feel the weight of it, we can forgive ourselves and move on. Be transparent and apologetic with others who may have been affected, learn from the mistake, and next time think hard before repeating the same error.

Choose happiness

It’s easy to spend time being unhappy in our jobs, relationships, or in other aspects of our life. I’m still a young professional, but I realized early-on my first choice for a career was not what truly made me happy. We spend a LOT of time at our nine-to-fives, so it’s important to leave each day feeling fulfilled. After some intense soul-searching, I decided to switch careers and have never looked back. Once I started doing work I enjoyed, I found other areas of my life felt more complete as well. Don’t waste time in a place that doesn’t provide value in your life.

This advice doesn’t just apply to our careers, but also in relationships or even the places we live. If the relationship isn’t healthy for you or the other person, get out of it. If you don’t love where you live, move. Frank Warren, the creator of the PostSecret movement, says “Be wise enough not to be reckless, but brave enough to take great risks.” Don’t make a rash decision because you’re fed up, but make sure you aren’t getting to a place where your unhappiness consumes you.

Don’t let your job define you

Lastly, it’s important to remember there is more to life than your work. Don’t let your whole life go by and regret not doing more because you spent all your waking hours at work, on your way to work, thinking about work, hanging out with coworkers… you get the point. It’s a big world out there and life is too short not to experience it. Plus, new experiences can make us more innovative in our workplaces. Win-win.

What’s some advice you would’ve given your younger self?

The Sweet Sound of Productivity

music & productivity

Music & Productivity are a match made in heaven. One of the best things about PerkSpot is that we have music bouncing off the walls all day long.

However, we know that all music is not created equally. There are the rock jams that get us pumped up, the pop songs that the whole team can sing along, and the mellow acoustics that relax us at the end of the day. Here are a few tips for curating the perfect sounds for your day.

When X + Y = Zzzzzz

Crunching numbers is a part of almost every person’s job description at some point. To keep yourself awake, the best tunes for your intimate time with Excel are pop songs. So whether you’re into old-school Abba or have Bieber fever, pump up the pop jams to get your fingers and your mind flowing.

When you spill your coffee, forget your notebook, and get stuck in traffic…

Mornings can sometimes be the enemy. A personal favorite and a sure-fire bad-mood buster is Reggae. Nothing will help you forget the stresses of the day like being transported to a tropical island.

When Photoshop is your friend…

For the creative minds, we’ve got just the trick. Ambient or electronic music is what the doctor ordered to make you your best creative self.

When you’re tired of hearing the same playlist…

Generally speaking, a good rule-of-thumb is to choose songs with minimal lyrics. Here at PerkSpot, we’ll play jazz, blues, or even music in a different language because the lyrics tend to be less-distracting than your typical mainstream artists.

Music isn’t the only perk that helps improve productivity. Help your employees be more productive with exclusive discounts through PerkSpot!

The One Perk

It’s no secret the 21st-century work environment looks a little different. From beer on tap and unlimited snacks to nap pods and open time-off policies, companies are striving to capture the attention of millennials with their extensive list of perks.

one-perk

But, you don’t have to be a hip start-up or a trendy tech company to give employees what they want. There’s one highly underrated, but seriously important perk.

Every Employee Wants to be Appreciated

Each of us is born with different talents and skills. In fact, chances are you’re in your position because someone recognized your talent in one specific area and pushed you to pursue it. A quick “job well done” can go a long way in shaping our futures, especially when it comes to our careers.

Business Insider reports the average person spends over 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime. It’s no wonder we crave appreciation for the work we dedicate our lives to completing. No one wants to go through life wondering if they made a difference.

Treat employees like they make a difference and they will. 

                            Jim Goodnight, CEO, SAS

Appreciating Employees means knowing their names.

One of the most obvious ways you can appreciate employees is learning their name. For those of us in a small office like PerkSpot, this isn’t a huge challenge. However, for larger companies, it’s even more important to take time to call employees by name. A simple “How’s your day going, Karla?” or “Nice work on the stats, Miles!” goes a long way. By giving positive, personal feedback the employee feels heard and believes their work is important to the success of the company.

Appreciating Employees means giving feedback.

One of the great things about appreciation is that it also provides an opportunity to correct as well. When you consistently and genuinely give praises, employees receive negative comments with more understanding. A well-balanced employee experience includes both corrections and commendations.

Appreciating Employees means significant ROI.

Employee recognition is free, making it the cheapest perk you can offer your employees. Plus, it’s also one of the most effective for productivity, employee happiness, and overall results. Undoubtedly, employee recognition is key to keeping employees engaged. We love Forbes’s definition of employee engagement: “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.” The emotional commitment an employee feels comes from recognizing their accomplishments and attributing company success to their achievements. Increasing employee engagement through recognition can drive results as employees see the pay-off for their hard work.

Show your employees you appreciate them by providing exclusive discounts and recognition through PerkSpot!

Make Every Day Earth Day

April 22 is Earth Day, but here at PerkSpot, we believe every day we have the opportunity to make choices that impact the environment in a positive way.

Here are a few ways to make every day Earth Day:

1. Plant a tree!

earth day perkspot
Some things never go out of style. One of those things is the age-old tradition of planting a tree on Earth Day. It’s a small effort that goes a long way.

 2. Ease up on the printing.

office earth day
One of the great things about technology is that is lessens our dependence on paper. Use an app for your daily to-dos, keep your files organized in desktop folders instead of printing documents, create a powerpoint instead of providing handouts, or if you absolutely have to print… use both sides and make the font smaller while still being legible.

3. Use sustainable materials.

earth day perkspot
Make a new goal of purchasing recycled, refurbished or used products whenever available. Speak with your suppliers and see where you can decrease your carbon footprint.

4. Explore commuter benefits and other alternatives.

earth day perkspot
One of our Perks here at PerkSpot are commuter benefits. Because we can purchase our passes at a pre-tax amount, employees here are  encouraged to take public transit to work. With so many ride-sharing options and alternatives to driving out there, it’s easy to provide employees with effective and personal ways they can be involved in the company’s environmental efforts.

5. Power off. 

earth day perkspot
Many of us forget to unplug but by leaving our chargers and laptops plugged in, we’re actually wasting energy. Make sure you unplug anything that doesn’t need to be plugged in over the weekend or in the evening. Turn off the lights when you leave. You know, all those things our moms and dads told us to do when we were kids.

How are you making a difference this Earth Day? Leave us a note in the comments!

Workplace Peer Pressure: Engaging Employees

In his book, “Building a Magnetic Culture”, Kevin Sheridan, Chief Engagement Officer at Human Capital Management, discusses the different levels of engagement we find in the workplace and their effect on each other. Peer pressure is alive and well in our 21st century offices. Which means the engagement levels our employees experience can spread like a virus.

peer pressure

We’ll dive into the ways we can spread positive engagement.
First let’s discuss, as Sheridan details, the different types of employees we encounter:

Employee Types

Actively Disengaged Employees 

are the “Negative Nancy”s of the workplace. They can be found constantly complaining, focusing on problems and openly expressing their discontent and negative outlook on their position.

Ambivalent Employees

are arguably the most dangerous type of employee because they’re often the hardest to spot. They are fulfilling their basic job responsibilities, but not much more. In fact, they rarely offer to lead projects or volunteer for extra opportunities. These nine-to-fivers just want their paycheck, with bags packed and feet out the door by five o’clock sharp.

Actively Engaged Employees 

are the ideal type of employee. As engaged employees, they consistently go above and beyond their job description. They promote the mission and vision of the company’s brand, contribute new ideas, and are optimistic about their future in the company.

Making a Change

Because the majority of employees fall within the Ambivalent category, it’s crucial that they move towards becoming Actively Engaged versus Actively Disengaged.

In a previous article we discussed the importance of workplace friendships on both personal health and organizational success. This is evidence that peer pressure can be essential in driving the increase of employee engagement. One tactic managers can implement is putting these Ambivalent Employees in close proximity to Actively Engaged Employees through group projects and assignments. Because these Engaged employees thrive in environments where they can step up to the plate and lead others, it’s a great way not only to involve the Ambivalent, but also encourage and affirm those employees who are already engaging in positive ways.

Most of the time, however, we don’t associate peer pressure as being a positive force. Just like a high school bully, Actively Disengaged Employees can negatively affect every person in their surroundings. Their negativity can be a virus to the workplace. It’s important not to shy away from addressing this negativity as quickly as possible to not infect others. Because these employees are primarily motivated by their paycheck, it is not likely they will leave on their own initiative. For that reason, it’s crucial that managers speak with any actively disengaged employees.

Address the Whys

When speaking with these employees, it’s also important to assess why they may be feeling apathetic in their work. Many times there could be an opportunity for a constructive conversation. In fact, this conversation could even transform them into some of the mostly highly engaged employees in the organization. However, it is likely that the position or the company may not be a great fit for this particular person and, in that case, discuss transitioning them out of the company.

Taking a page out of Sheridan’s book, “Creating a workplace environment where Engagement thrives and Disengagement dies should always be a management priority.”

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Crush the Afternoon Slump by Daydreaming, Reading a Novel

Your high-energy, high-output morning feels like a distant memory, and the end of your workday seems about a week away. That third cup of coffee is wearing off and you’re debating whether your stomach can handle a fourth. We’ve all been there — the afternoon slump — and we’ll all be there again. Some of us may even be reading this blog post in the midst of a 3 pm productivity tailspin.
If your afternoons are often more of an uphill battle than a victory lap, we’ve got news for you.

afternoon slump Mountain Lake

The bad:

The afternoon slump is more than just a marketing ploy. It’s not an attempt to sell you alien-shaped-sleep-at-your-desk pillows or productivity-boosting facial spray. The afternoon slump is very real. In fact, it’s a natural part of how the human brain works, and it’s pretty much unavoidable.

The good:

Because we understand the brain mechanism that contributes to the afternoon slump, we also understand how to mediate its effects. Below is a quick summary of the relevant research. Plus, we’ve included a few activities you can do at lunchtime or for a quick break to power past your PM lethargy.

afternoon slump Lightbulb

The science:

Researchers at the University of Illinois conducted a study to determine what actually happens in your brain when you suddenly find it difficult to maintain focus after an extended period of work. The study measured groups of participants’ performance on a series of hour-long computer tasks. One group took two short breaks during the tasks, while the other took none. The only participants that exhibited no decline in performance over time were in the group taking the breaks.
The study results confirmed researchers’ hypothesis that the human brain’s ability to maintain constant focus eventually plateaus and then declines. It’s like how you notice a distinct smell when you first walk into a room but cannot smell it after half an hour. The results also confirmed their idea that the brain naturally revs up when one shifts focus.
Taken together, these findings suggest that a 5- to 10-minute break during a project requiring hours of sustained effort can naturally reinvigorate your ability to focus and promote maximum productivity.

Here are three of our favorite break-time activities to give your focus a chance to recharge and, according to science, enhance your brain function:

1. Daydreaming makes you a better problem solver.

Studies show that stepping away from a difficult project to do an unrelated and easy activity makes you more creative when you get back to work.

The evidence: This UC Santa Barbara study found that mind wandering boosts creative problem-solving skills. Subjects performed an Unusual Uses Task (UUT) — a traditional psychological measure where one lists as many uses for certain objects as possible. After the UUT, subjects engaged in either a cognitively demanding or undemanding task. Neuroscientists measured the subjects’ levels of mind wandering during these tasks, and found that those performing the undemanding task exhibited a much greater tendency to let their minds roam. All subjects then performed another UUT. Guess which group of subjects showed dramatic improvement in their second UUT? Yup, the daydreamers.

afternoon slump Colored Pencils

2. A 10-20 minute power nap between 1-3pm is better than a cup of coffee.

By timing it right, a short nap immediately recharges your brain’s ability to focus. Even better, it all happens without the subsequent drop in energy when the caffeine buzz wears off.

The evidence: A 2006 study on nap duration found that 10 up to 20 minutes is the ideal length of time for a power nap. Nappers who slept for more than 20 and up to 60 minutes exhibited sleep inertia for half an hour after they awoke. What is sleep inertia? It’s the scientific term for the grogginess you feel immediately after rising, and it’s definitively proven to seriously impair cognitive performance. A nap shorter than 20 minutes keeps your body from falling into the deeper levels of sleep known as slow-wave and REM sleep (the types of sleep that produce sleep inertia). Naps of this length are known to replenish attention and strengthen working memory.

3. Reading a novel makes you less stressed and happier.

Engaging with fiction tricks your brain into believing it’s in another world. In so doing, it relaxes you and strengthens your ability to empathize with others’ points of view.

The evidence: Numerous surveys comparing readers and non-readers — such as this one by Quick Reads and the University of Liverpool — find that people who read as little as 30 minutes per week experience less feelings of stress and depression, report 20% greater life satisfaction, and are better equipped to deal with difficult and unexpected situations. Neurological research has actually documented changes in brain connectivity as a result of novel reading and suggests that these changes enhance one’s ability to adopt other perspectives.