Beating Burnout and Loneliness in a World of Flexibility and Remote Work

Beating Burnout and Loneliness in a World of Flexibility and Remote Work

At the Harvard Business Review recently, Emma Seppala and Marissa King discussed the causes and consequences of employee burnout and pointed to a strong correlation between burnout and loneliness:

In analyzing the General Social Survey of 2016, we found that, compared with roughly 20 years ago, people are twice as likely to report that they are always exhausted. Close to 50% of people say they are often or always exhausted due to work. This is a shockingly high statistic — and it’s a 32% increase from two decades ago. What’s more, there is a significant correlation between feeling lonely and work exhaustion: The more people are exhausted, the lonelier they feel. This loneliness is not a result of social isolation, as you might think, but rather is due to the emotional exhaustion of workplace burnout. …

In fact, research has demonstrated the link between social support at work, lower rates of burnout, and greater work satisfaction and productivity. After all, the most important factor in work happiness, a UK study showed, is positive social relationships with coworkers. Workplace engagement is associated with positive social relations that involve feeling valued, supported, respected, and secure.

To help build those positive social relations, Seppala and King recommend that employers promote a culture of inclusion and empathy, encourage employees to build developmental networks, and celebrate group successes. This is easier said than done, however, especially with employees that work remotely or away from the central or corporate office, so the big question that comes to mind is how to achieve this while also having a flexible, partly or fully remote workforce.

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Including Spouses and Families in Employee Wellness Programs Pays Off

Including Spouses and Families in Employee Wellness Programs Pays Off

If your group health insurance plan covers your employees’ spouses, why shouldn’t your wellness program do the same? At Employee Benefit News last week, Karen Moseley reviewed some research showing the benefits of including spouses in employee well-being initiatives:

By allowing spouses to take part in well-being programs, they may drive better participation from employees. Data from the HERO Scorecard support that idea. For example:

  • 28% of employees participated in lifestyle coaching if a spouse was involved, compared to 14% with no spousal involvement.
  • 88% of employers reported improvements in health risk with spousal involvement, compared to 81% without.
  • 70% reported positive impact on medical trend with spousal involvement, compared to 64% without. …

The benefits of including spouses in wellness efforts are not strictly financial. A 2016 Harvard Business Review survey found that 70% of participants in employee well-being programs felt the program was an indication their employers supported them. Extending wellness support to family members only strengthens that connection. Improving a spouse’s well-being might even make an employee more productive.

Our research at CEB (now Gartner) further reinforces the importance of employees’ spouses to encourage healthy behaviors. We find that spouses and partners are the biggest motivator for wellness activities such as exercise and healthy eating, and have more influence on employees’ health behaviors than doctors, nurses, or other health providers.

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The 150-Employee Tipping Point

The 150-Employee Tipping Point

Oxford evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar is most famous for his theory that humans can only maintain personal relationships with about 150 people at any given time, so much so that the figure is referred to as “Dunbar’s number.” Quartz’s Kevin Delaney explores the application of Dunbar’s number to management in the context of growing startups:

“There is no question that the dynamics of organizations change once they exceed about 150 or so,” says Dunbar. “The [Hutterite faith group] deliberately split their communities at this size in order to avoid having to have both hierarchies and a police force. Keeping things below 150 means you can manage the system by peer pressure, whereas above 150 you need some kind of top down, discipline-based management system.”

At a startup, once the staff exceeds 150 people, employees are no longer the single, cohesive, culture-reinforcing unit they were during the company’s earliest days. Staffers become more specialized and entrenched with their teams, which are probably sprawled across an office, perhaps on multiple floors or in several locations.

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Russia Blocks LinkedIn For Violating Data Storage Law

Russia Blocks LinkedIn For Violating Data Storage Law

The Russian government has instructed the country’s internet service providers to block access to LinkedIn, following through on Moscow City Court ruling against the company last week. As a result, millions of LinkedIn are now unable to access the social network within the country, and it’s not clear if or when that access will be restored. The reason for the ban is that Russia requires local and foreign companies to store any personal data about their Russian users inside the country, and LinkedIn was found to have not complied with that law last week. The head of Russia’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor, claimed that “major internet giants are in the process of complying with the law” before the court’s decision, but the Wall Street Journal offers some additional context on that point:

Russia has repeatedly clashed with a handful of foreign technology companies, including Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc., who have resisted installing data centers on Russian soil under the new law. Last year, Alphabet Inc.’s Google began moving some of its servers to Russian soil in an effort to comply with the law.

Western technology executives have argued that the law, passed in 2014, could serve as a way for the Russian authorities to demand more access to user data, giving the government more control over online behavior in the country.

Mark Scott at the New York Times has more:

It was unclear why LinkedIn was targeted in particular, rather than any other major social networking site. Analysts have suggested that the Russian authorities focused on the company, an also-ran in the country’s social networking market, as a warning to larger tech companies. …

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Facebook Launches its ‘Workplace’ Communications Service

Facebook Launches its ‘Workplace’ Communications Service

Facebook launched its office communications tool on Monday, with a new name: Workplace. The much anticipated competitor to Slack is available to all businesses for a monthly fee, while nonprofit organizations and educational institutions can get it for free, the Associated Press reports:

Besides group chats and video calls, Workplace has live video and a news feed, much like the regular Facebook. In a departure from Facebook, the background is gray, not blue. Users can build profiles and see updates from co-workers on their news feed. As with the regular Facebook, the company will display posts that are more relevant based on its own formula. The idea is that because more than 1.7 billion people already know how to use Facebook, Workplace, which works much in the same way, will be easy to learn and use.

Organizations have used Workplace, previously called Facebook at Work, on an invite-only basis for the past 18 months. Facebook says more than 1,000 places use it, up from 450 six months ago. They include the nonprofit Oxfam, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the soup maker Campbell’s and the vacation rental site Booking.com. The tool itself, though, has been in the works for much longer; it’s based on an internal service that the company’s own employees have been using for almost as long as Facebook has existed.

Wired reporter Davey Alba explores the new product’s features:

Facebook for Workplaces represents a much larger shift toward business apps that behave more like consumer apps. This includes everything from the messaging service Slack to similar tools from the likes of Box, Evernote, and Quip (now owned by Salesforce). Companies like Microsoft, which have long offered a very different kind of business software, are pushing in this same direction—because it’s clearly what workers want. …

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Just How Bright is Our Post-Microsoft LinkedIn Future?

Just How Bright is Our Post-Microsoft LinkedIn Future?

Microsoft’s $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn could have huge consequences for the future of HR and the way we work, but not everyone agrees on whether those consequences will be good. At the New Republic, Navneet Alang voices fears that the integration of LinkedIn’s social media platform into Microsoft’s enterprise software products will make it far too easy to watch your employees’ every move, making their work lives even more all-consuming than they already are:

Consider what a day might look like under this new scenario. You wake up in the morning, check and respond to messages on your phone, and perhaps on the way to work you jump into a collaborative document to offer direction on input from the office in Bangalore. Over the course of the day, you continue working, updating your status on the company LinkedIn network, while at lunch you continue chatting via app with peers. In the evening, you tally up your day’s work and make another status update, respond to requests from far-flung coworkers for your specialized help, and then, exhausted, go to sleep, only to repeat the pattern the next day.

It’s not that, individually, each of these things is new. The persistence—or indeed, perniciousness—of work throughout the day is something fostered first by email, then the smartphone, and now by chat and collaboration apps like Slack. Rather, it’s that Microsoft’s desire to produce a social graph for work aims to unify those disparate elements under a single technological umbrella, tied to a single work identity—one that becomes that much harder to escape. While Microsoft alone cannot singlehandedly transform work culture, there are 1.2 billion users of Microsoft Office, and soon they will start to see a much deeper integration with LinkedIn. What, exactly, will these people be linked to: tools for getting work done more effectively, or a culture of work that one is ever quite free from?

In a similar vein, Steve Boese suspects that employees may find it uncomfortable to have Microsoft “own” their professional profiles—as might their employers:

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How Microsoft’s LinkedIn Acquisition Could Transform HR

How Microsoft’s LinkedIn Acquisition Could Transform HR

The $26 billion acquisition deal, announced on Monday, immediately set commentators and analysts to speculating over what Microsoft’s plans might be for the leading business-oriented social network and its 433 million users. As the commentary continues to roll in, a consensus is emerging that this deal is a big deal, as it were, for the HR technology landscape. Quartz’s Amy X. Wang believes the combination of Microsoft and LinkedIn has the potential to transform not only how employees find jobs, but also how they train for them:

Consider that two-thirds of LinkedIn’s revenue already comes from the “talent solutions” it provides to businesses’ human resources departments, and that it’s a popular tool for salespeople looking for clients. Add in LinkedIn’s purchase of online education company Lynda last year, and it’s not hard to see how the platform—with integration into a larger business-catering company, like, say, Microsoft—could become an essential part of the way employers pick and train their employees. A LinkedIn-Microsoft product would not only help workers work, but also teach them the skills to get hired in the first place.

“LinkedIn has a unique advantage in the education space, in that they are the only place where hundreds of millions of people are voluntarily giving their longitudinal job and education history—which allows potentially for some unique analysis of what programs and courses or certifications actually lead to improved career paths,” says education consultant Michael Feldstein. Microsoft could examine that data and then offer those programs itself. While Feldstein says Microsoft likely has “too much to lose by competing against traditional universities,” with whom it has close partnerships, it could easily dominate the corporate training market—currently a fragmented space with plenty of room for new players.

Talking to some HR technology experts, Jack Robinson at HRE Daily comes away similarly bullish about the deal’s potential:

Under Microsoft, “LinkedIn could become a network for learning and collaboration,” providing HR departments a tool for connecting employees, says George LaRocque, a well-known HR technology consultant. … LaRocque sees the company connecting LinkedIn’s Lynda tutorial videos to Excel, for example, so that users can get immediate help. …

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