Over the summer, every weekend was a 3-day weekend for Microsoft Japan employees. The company tested a 4-day workweek without reducing salaries. According to Microsoft, the result was a productivity increase of 40%. It seems that the biggest contributor to that boost is that they cut way back on meetings which, as a rule, waste a lot of time. From National Public Radio:
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Because of the shorter workweek, the company also put its meetings on a diet. The standard duration for a meeting was slashed from 60 minutes to 30 — an approach that was adopted for nearly half of all meetings. In a related cut, standard attendance at those sessions was capped at five employees.
Citing the need for a shift in time management, the Microsoft division also urged people to use collaborative chat channels rather than "wasteful" emails and meetings...
Four-day workweeks made headlines around the world in the spring of 2018, when Perpetual Guardian, a New Zealand trust management company, announced a 20% gain in employee productivity and a 45% increase in employee work-life balance after a trial of paying people their regular salary for working four days. Last October, the company made the policy permanent.
Asian Boss went to the streets of Tokyo to interview people from Nepal, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, who moved to Japan to become convenience store staffers, fast food employees, farm workers, translators, and blue collar workers. Read the rest
It is, evidently, not a nice job. But you do get to be alone, if that's your thing, with The Inventory, boxing things all day. This eBay seller gets into the nitty gritty of how he sources and sells individual items and it's surprisingly interesting how much the garage sale trash gets (Damaged Oakleys, $20) -- and how little the cool vintage items (Real Pyrex carafe, $5).
Raiding the rear alleys of strip malls for free boxes is an clever and maybe obvious hack, but watching him sift through those recycling dumpsters gave me a whiff of some pretty grim work. If he did his groceries on Amazon, he'd have an endless supply. Read the rest
Casino dealers told Vice what kind of customers they don't like: ones who call them bad names, throw chips and cards at them, watch pornographic videos on their phones while playing at the table, go to the bathroom without washing their hands then handle chips and cards, micromanage them, get french fry grease on the cards, don't shower and smell bad, don't tip (dealers get $5 an hour), tell the dealer they hope they die, stab other players with a fork, sexually harass them.
Who would have guessed?
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Brilliant culture critic Rob Walker, author of the forthcoming book The Art of Noticing, just launched a new column at Lifehacker about "navigating the modern workplace," a continuation in some ways of his long-running New York Times column "The Workologist." Naturally, Rob's first column in the new series is about getting fired:
...What I’m suggesting is that you should not wait for a major crisis (getting fired, a horrible reorg, your worst rival becomes your boss) to start thinking about other objects. It’s better to always have a kind of low-grade, ambient awareness of and openness to other professional opportunities. That’s true even if you’re ecstatic with whatever you’re doing. Always take the lunch or have the meeting or go on the informational interview that pops up on your radar...
The absolute flat-out most irritating piece of career advice is this: Reframe challenges, failures, slap-downs, and humiliations as exciting opportunities.
Yes, we all get the logic. In fact we all get it so well that we don’t need to hear this advice anymore. Particularly right after we just got fired and it doesn’t feel exciting at all!
So let me try to offer a slightly different reframing. As noted, it totally sucks to lose your gig. But take a deep breath and try to keep an open mind about what might come next. This, in a way, is just a restatement of the “permanent job search” idea, with a little panglossian polish.
"How To Get Fired" (Lifehacker)
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One of the big problems I've had with taking long drives, anywhere, has been that I'm forced into unproductive time when I should be working. This isn't a problem when I'm going on vacation. But here's the thing: I seldom take a vacation. As I'm self-employed, there's no such thing as vacation pay in my world. When I stop writing, the money stops coming in. Working on the road is possible--all I have to do is tether my laptop to my iPhone and I'm in business.
So long as I can keep my laptop, you know, in my lap.
Maintaining a stable platform to work on while my wife wheels us across the continent has proven difficult. I've tried lap desks, balancing my computer on a backpack, you name it. My computer always slides around, making it damn near impossible to type. What's more, a neck injury that I sustained eons ago makes it painful for me to tilt my head down for any length of time. This combination of poor conditions has forced me, up until now, to twiddle my thumbs for hours at a time, working only once we've come to a stop for the day.
However, I think that I may finally have figured it out.
RAM Mounts makes a wide variety of mobile work solutions to keep nerd stuff in one place while you're driving along. Cops use RAM Mount gear in their cruisers to keep their laptop secure. Their in-vehicle smartphone and tablet stands are, arguably, among the best out there. Read the rest
It sucks to be ghosted. Last year, I was dating a guy for a few months and it was going well (or so I thought). But, after I got back from Burning Man, he had vanished. He was no longer answering my texts. Poof! He just suddenly ended contact without explanation.
It hurt at first but then I felt a sense of, "Good riddance." I mean, ultimately, who wants to be with someone who does that? (Not me!)
Now, USA Today is reporting that ghosting is happening at the workplace too. People are not only ghosting scheduled job interviews but are also not showing up to positions they've already accepted offers on:
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In the hottest job market in decades, workers are holding all the cards. And they’re starting to play dirty...
“You’re seeing job candidates with more options,” says Dawn Fay, district president of staffing firm Robert Half for the New York City area. “It’s definitely influencing their behavior.”
...Ghosting is happening across industries and occupations, Fay says. It was always somewhat of an issue for lower-paying jobs in construction, manufacturing and truck driving, says Alex Riley, president of Merit Hall, a Detroit staffing agency. Now, he says, up to 20 percent of white-collar workers in those industries are taking part in the disappearing acts.
To some extent, employees are giving employers a taste of their own medicine. During and after the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, when unemployment reached 10 percent, many firms ignored job applicants and never followed up after interviews.
This striking visual profile of a worker at the gargantuan Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works by director Evgenii Bakirov features Vladimir, The Metallurgist. The Russian title (горновой [the mountain]) is Vladimir's nickname. Read the rest
It is common in industrial and post-industrial societies to suppose a rigid, almost antagonistic division between work and play. We work in order to earn enough money to afford us time for something called fun or play—the antidote for work. Moreover, "play" is most often associated with children's pastimes, geeky video games, or other unproductive activities considered the opposite of seriousness. Maybe there is more to play than meets the eye?
In the classic study Homo Ludens, the great scholar Johan Huizinga pointed out the anthropological relevance and the profound evolutionary implications of the human activity called play. Huizinga saw the instinct for play as the central force of civilized life: "Law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom and science. All are rooted in the primeval soil of play." Five hundred years before LEGO registered the trademark, Renaissance magus Marsilio Ficino used "Serious Play" (Serio Ludere) to describe the way the fathers of Western thought operated: “Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato had the habit of hiding all divine mysteries behind the veil of (...) serious play". And speaking of divine mysteries, in the Hindu mythology the god Brahman creates the world itself, as it were, through Lila — "divine play." Play seems to be serious business after all.
Play is a state of mind, a highly sophisticated approach to life and work. Play is a fun, flow-inducing experience, among the most enjoyable states of consciousness available to humans. Play is a space for experimentation—a primal learning environment that allows one to take controlled risks without dangers. Read the rest
The Public Domain class of 2018 — authors with significant works entering the public domain next year — includes Aleister Crowley, Rene Magritte, Siegfied Sassoon and the other Winston Churchill.
Winston Churchill was an American best-selling novelist of the early 20th century. He is nowadays overshadowed, even as a writer, by a certain cigar-toting British statesman of the same name, with whom he was acquainted, but not related.
Here's the CSPD list of works that should have entered the public domain this year, but didn't thanks to congressional servicing of Disney. Read the rest
Salem Barker's kid isn't afraid of a little hard work. At five, he already knows how to run the hydraulic logsplitter they rigged up at their farm. Read the rest
Pippin Barr (previously) created a game that presents itself as a Windows 3-ish desktop from about 25 years ago. Mash away at each task in It Is As If You Were Doing Work until you win promotions and break time, wherein Breakout may be played.
“I positioned It is as if you were doing work in the context of the apparently near future of automated work (I read Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford recently in this vein). Thus the game poses as an application that humans who have been put out of work by robots and AI can play as a way to recapture the sense they once had of doing work and being productive. It’s a kind of semi-condescending service offered by this new world to those of us who can’t deal with it.”
Via Alice O'Connor, who points out the uncanny similarities to the pointless make-work foisted on the white-collar unemployed in Europe, training for jobs that will soon be extinct. Read the rest
Sheyla Veronica White was working at her desk at Cinque Terre Energy Partners in Fort Lauderdale, Florida when a piece of a sprinkler fell from the ceiling and unfortunately just missed her. Why unfortunately? Because if it hit her, she could file a worker's compensation claim. So she promptly picked up the metal piece and bashed herself in the head with it. From Fox 13:
Her employer's insurance company got suspicious and referred the incident to Florida's Division of Investigative and Forensic Services. Detectives requested security cam footage and were able to prove she staged the whole thing.
The employee... was convicted for workers' compensation insurance fraud -- a third-degree felony -- and sentenced to 18 months of probation.
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In University of Pennsylvania psychiatrist Jody Foster's new book The Schmuck in My Office: How to Deal Effectively with Difficult People at Work, she shares sound advice on dealing with narcissistic co-workers. From an excerpt at Quartz:
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On a day-to-day basis, appealing to this person’s egocentricity can be very effective. The occasional recognition of the person’s achievement, strengths, or values may go a long way in avoiding anger or demeaning comments; in some instances, you may simply want to remark upon a person’s good efforts. Fanning the embers of narcissism is particularly effective in avoiding unwanted conflict. Particularly if the Narcissus is your boss, you have to let them think that you perceive them as important. No matter how difficult it may be to do this, the Narcissus boss can make the workplace a living hell for anyone who they think is not on board with their success. Give them compliments, and try to do so without mocking them.
Remember that the only commentary that the Narcissus will be able to actually hear will contain some degree of praise in it. So when asking for a favor or for some type of change that could be perceived as an insult, definitely attempt the route of first praising him in some way. Even a simple statement like a reminder about a deadline might need some positive reinforcement embedded in it: “I can’t wait to see your draft of the proposal on Friday.” Remember that the Narcissus has special techniques for avoiding hearing criticism and can interpret even a simple suggestion or reminder as an insult if it doesn’t contain anything positive.
The glitched shimmer of a Fort Lauderdale office CCTV feed. A woman long of bone at the machine. A sprinkler head fell on her desk and she gaped up at the pebbledash expanse of the droptile ceiling. The metal thing just sat there on the melamine under the cold flourescent light. Then she took it up and bashed her head with it. I can't tell you what she was thinking but I can tell you what come to pass.
"Her employer's insurance company got suspicious and brought in Florida's Division of Investigative and Forensic Services." At least that's how Fox 13 out of Tampa put it. God might not see nor care but they had a camera upon her the whole while. They fired her and charged her with insurance fraud. The judge put her on 18 months' probation.
They never gave her money so she don't have to repay none. Read the rest
Our friend and frequent Boing Boing contributor Clive Thompson has a piece in the January/February issue of Smithsonian magazine entitled "Rage Against the Machines." He explores the 19th century Luddite Revolution, the first rebellion against automation, comparing it to the upcoming robot workforce revolution.
I didn't know that pre-industrial textile workers were well-paid and had lots of free time. No wonder they fought so hard against textile automation!
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At the turn of 1800, the textile industry in the United Kingdom was an economic juggernaut that employed the vast majority of workers in the North. Working from home, weavers produced stockings using frames, while cotton-spinners created yarn. “Croppers” would take large sheets of woven wool fabric and trim the rough surface off, making it smooth to the touch.
These workers had great control over when and how they worked—and plenty of leisure. “The year was chequered with holidays, wakes, and fairs; it was not one dull round of labor,” as the stocking-maker William Gardiner noted gaily at the time. Indeed, some “seldom worked more than three days a week.” Not only was the weekend a holiday, but they took Monday off too, celebrating it as a drunken “St. Monday.”
Croppers in particular were a force to be reckoned with. They were well-off—their pay was three times that of stocking-makers—and their work required them to pass heavy cropping tools across the wool, making them muscular, brawny men who were fiercely independent. In the textile world, the croppers were, as one observer noted at the time, “notoriously the least manageable of any persons employed.”
But in the first decade of the 1800s, the textile economy went into a tailspin.