Month: September 2018

I’m Productive – What Should I Stop Doing?

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For somebody like me for whom time is a gift – not as extra years added to the later part of my life but right now in the form of an 8th day of the week, an extra hour every day – I’m keen to understand why time is so volatile. Why are so many people struggling to make ends meet time-wise at work?

When at Hot Spots Movement we speak to companies around the world, and again lately when we were in Australia, we hear from senior executives how stretched they are, with many requests on their time that are not to do with their ‘day job’. Of course, in a time such as this of increasingly fluid job design and project-based working, the definition of ‘day job’ is not a hard and fast one. Nevertheless, it seems that many of the requests are peripheral to people’s roles. You may ask why this is an issue – after all being useful is profoundly satisfying to most people, and contributing to the ‘greater good’ of the organisation by delivering input over and above your own projects surely is positive? It is, but not at the expense of preserving time to focus, to think, and to ponder longer-term strategic matters. When people are persistently stretched, and their time therefore is too fragmented, their productivity, creativity and wellbeing may suffer. Although a hidden cost for some time, it will eventually catch up with both the individual and the organisation.

So, what is it that is occupying the time of busy executives, and are these tasks really adding value? They seem to fall into two categories: reporting, and collaborative endeavours, such as attending meetings or reviewing others’ work.

Let’s start with reporting. One of the many great columns Lucy Kellaway wrote in The Financial Times was about why young people leave jobs. Her empirical evidence was that they lose the will to live because they were promised meaningful work, however, once on the job, they’re asked to produce reports and spreadsheets that are not being put to use. I’m not convinced this only happens to young people.

Next, collaboration. As the new and indiscriminately applied preferred working style in many organisations, there’s a tendency to over-collaborate and be too consensus-focused (or afraid of taking full accountability). Both lead to more meetings and more requests for input, where in fact one or two viewpoints would suffice. Of course, there’s a certain respect for hierarchy, and there are compliance-driven requests, but we could question more what is on our to-do list, be they legacy tasks or new tasks. And a bit tongue-in-cheek, see what happens if we don’t get around to providing our input. I’m not sure it would always even be noticed?

As companies move to designing work around projects rather than roles, I’m wondering if we should learn from freelance workers who work on discrete and time-defined projects, measured on outcome, and therefore can focus on these? Perhaps a zero-budgeting [1] based approach to how we spend our time may be helpful – regularly resetting the to-do list to 0. We need to be regularly asking ourselves, ‘what is it that keeps me busy, and is it really adding value?’ On that note, back to my to-do list, where the first point is to critically question the items!

[1] Where you have to justify what you need to spend, starting from 0 for every period, rather than assuming legacy spend requirements.

10 facts about our Research Manager, Dr. Anna Gurun

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AGContinuing the celebrations for our upcoming 10th anniversary this October, now less than three weeks away, here are 10 interesting facts about our Research Manager, Dr. Anna Gurun.

1.When did you join Hot Spots Movement?

I joined last April. 

2. What’s your role at Hot Spots Movement?

I work in the research team, which involves shaping the research for our Masterclasses and working on bespoke client consulting projects and workshops.

3. What has been the most interesting project to work on? 

It’s more a type of project, but I love analysing and writing the reports for our Jam projects, using content analysis to source insights for organisations from thousands of employees.

4. What clients do you work with?

I work with a wide range of clients, and find this diversity one of the most interesting parts of the job.

5. What has been your favourite piece of research to work on, or your favourite Masterclass?

I love the conceptual elements of Masterclass research, and found our recent one on Building Narratives on the Future of Work fascinating to work on. Being so research-driven, we’re able to be multi-disciplinary in our approach, and I enjoyed finding out more about the power of stories and narratives and bringing in insights from sociology, anthropology and neuroscience. 

6. What is your favourite part of your role at Hot Spots Movement?

Definitely the variety of projects. I like having the opportunity to do both theoretical, conceptual research and the more practical, consulting projects.

7. What has been your favourite place to travel to with Hot Spots Movement?

I loved visiting Sydney to run our workshop there, despite the jet lag.

8. What is the best book you’ve read in the last year?

So hard to choose! For fiction, I would say I Still Dream by James Smythe, which explores AI and the relationship between humans and technology, or A Corpse in the Koryo, which is a North Korea set crime thriller. For non-fiction, I loved Flaneuse by Lauren Elkin, and New Power by Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans.

9. What does no one know about you?

I used to live in Paris, so am always interested in projects that would allow me to use my French.

10. What one thing do you think will define your future of work?

Change. My working live so far has taken me to different cities and different roles, and I think future transformations, whether in location, job role or interests are almost inevitable. 


To find out more or to speak to Anna about her ongoing work, contact anna@hotspotsmovement.com.

Keep an eye out for next week’s 10 facts on our Digital Support Manager, David Takacs!

Three insights on the future of work from our Sydney Workshop

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AG

I recently returned from running our annual Workshop in Sydney. Alongside trying to find the best flat white in the city and dealing with jetlag, I was able to hear more about what is on the minds of our Australia based clients. At our workshop we discussed why companies need to build a narrative on the future of work, and how to build a future-proofed culture amongst other topics. There were three major takeaways for organisations that came out for me around the workshop.

  1. Think about your narrative

 Despite increasing digital disruption and the rise of AI and analytics, organisations need to ensure they don’t forget the social aspects of change, and the power of stories over straight facts or data. Research has shown that stories impact people’s brains differently to facts, causing more connections in the brain and leading to closer relationships between the storyteller and the listener. People use stories as a way of understanding the world and this is particularly true when it comes to the future of work. Employees are looking to employers to provide a sense of stability and purpose in a rapidly changing world. Organisations therefore need to reflect on their own narrative on the future, thinking about what it will mean to work in their company and how work will be done in the future. Where are your non-negotiables? Where are you going to take a bet and what will stay the same? In considering questions such as these, companies can provide their workers with a story about where they are going, and how they will be supported along this journey.

  1. Abandon assumptions around aging

 The importance of not relying on stereotypes and assumptions around aging also came out strongly in the Workshop. Longer working lives mean that organisations cannot make assumptions around the needs and desires of their workforce, particularly older workers.  No longer is it always the case that a worker in their 60s is looking to retire, for example. Organisations need to make sure that their practices and processes are not based on erroneous expectations. They need to rethink the way they approach retirement, or what it means to progress in the organisation, so that people are not penalised if they want to downgrade their working hours without losing status in the organisation.

  1. Identify your influencers

 Finally, the need to think about the cultural influencers in organisations was another important point. Rather than relying on hierarchical leaders, companies need to uncover the real influencers and work with them to drive cultural change. These influencers can be discovered through network analysis or crowdsourced conversations but should be brought in early on in the process to ensure the behavioural change so crucial so a successful culture shift.


It was great to hear from our members in Sydney, and we look forward to our next trip Down Under!