Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The end of work as we know it...

Brazen Careerist predicts the future of work, with lots that rings true for my relationship to my career and some of the trends I've been researching over the last couple of years. Bring it on, I'd say.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Best Buy Smashing the Clock

Inspiring and detailed article from Business Week: Smashing The Clock. On one hand this seems so logical and obvious that it's bizarre that most organizations aren't set up this way...on the other hand, it's the opposite of the usual command and control model and represents an impossible change for most organizations (or so they think).
"At most companies, going AWOL during daylight hours would be grounds for a pink slip. Not at Best Buy. The nation's leading electronics retailer has embarked on a radical--if risky--experiment to transform a culture once known for killer hours and herd-riding bosses. The endeavor, called ROWE, for "results-only work environment," seeks to demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity. The goal at Best Buy is to judge performance on output instead of hours."
Later in the article, a simple paragraph sums up the initiative:
"But arguably no big business has smashed the clock quite so resolutely as Best Buy. The official policy for this post-face-time, location-agnostic way of working is that people are free to work wherever they want, whenever they want, as long as they get their work done."
I've been doing a version of this for almost four years already, working for a company, but setting my own hours and going into the office once or twice a week (or less if there's no reason to go in). It's brilliant, and I wish more people could do it. I'm more productive and my quality of life is better. I don't waste time commuting, but I also have the security of a steady job. Like a Best Buy employee said in the comments to the article, "If offered double my salary at another company I would still refuse to leave." That's how I feel whenever I see a job posting somewhere -- no matter how cool the work, how good the salary, or how well-matched to my skills and soon as I envision having to go to an office at the same time every day, I just laugh and shake my head.

How Britain is Eating Its Young

Some compelling and disturbing ideas from Adbusters this week in Generation F*cked:
"According to the Unicef report, which measured 40 indicators of quality of life – including the strength of relationships with friends and family, educational achievements and personal aspirations, and exposure to drinking, drug taking and other risky behaviour – British children have the most miserable upbringing in the developed world. American children come next, second from the bottom."
It's quite detailed and wide-ranging at the same time, with all kinds of lifestyle values and implications throughout. No easy answers, of course.

Thanks to the always-fascinating PsyBlog for the pointer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Parental Leave

In Canada, more dads taking time off when babies arrive, increasing from 38% in 2001 to 55% in 2006. Those numbers still seem awfully low to me...almost half of fathers don't take ANY time off when their babies arrive? Dads can take a parental leave of up to 35 weeks (that guarantees they can return to a position equivalent to the one they had) with the government kicking in 55% of their earnings (up to a max of $423/week) while they're on leave. It's a good program -- I've taken advantage of it twice, and will again in August this year. In spite of this opportunity, two thirds of fathers return to work within one month of the child's arrival, mostly using vacation most aren't even using the program.

90% of Canadian moms take time off work, with half staying home between 12 and 47 months and another third returned between six and 11 months. Canadian moms get 15 weeks of paid leave (at the same benefit rate as above) and then the additonal 35 weeks can be split between spouses, so perhaps moms usually use the full amount, leaving nothing left for the dads.

Many families can't afford the reduction in income(s) for a full year. We've always saved up enough money to make the leaves feasible, but I've agonized a fair bit over the length of my leaves -- despite the legal protection here, stepping outside of the organization that employs me means falling out of the loop and sending the message that I'm not interested in climbing the ladder.

The Wikipedia entry for parental leave is fascinating, showing the different approaches around the world. It makes U.S. labour policies look pathetic -- I mean, most African countries have better parental leave programs.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Life Review

Interesting post from Avi Solomon -- No Need to Die to Benefit from a Life Review:
"Essentially, the life review exercise involves completing the following sentence:

When I reflect on the possibility of undergoing a life review experience upon the end of my life, I wish to..."

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The mystery of the daytime idle

The mystery of the daytime idle: Why aren't you working?

A freelance author tackles a compelling topic by wandering around San Francisco in the middle of the day asking people why they're not at work. It's funny and smart and light-hearted, with just enough analysis to keep things interesting:
"Almost half of us get less than seven hours of sleep a night, and it's gotten worse in recent years. Our workaholism has spawned entire walls of self-help books. And yet this parallel universe exists right alongside the work-obsessed one. It looks nice, too, as parallel universes go."
Via the Globe and Mail's "The Office" blog, which includes some interesting comments as well.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Power of Green

Loved reading along as Jim Kunstler and Stephen Downes deconstructed a surprisingly absurd article by Thomas Friedman about the "Power of Green" this week. All three are loaded with lifestyle values and choices with local and global implications.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

What to Do

Another Jeremy asks all kinds of interesting questions about finding his life's path. He has the credentials and knack for helping people find out what they do well, but perhaps it's harder to apply that thinking to ourselves. And just because we're good at something doesn't mean we should pursue only that:
"I could spend the rest of my life working with those people I meet...I could even make some kind of consulting/coaching practice out of it. But should I? Just because people invite me to do it -- does than mean I ought to?"
Penelope had an interesting post along similar lines last week called Try being a dilettante before changing careers. Read the whole thing, but here's the conclusion:
"Change in one’s life does not require a career change. In fact, a career change should be last. After lots of experimenting with small steps in an effort to find out who you really are. That’s how I found out, again, that I’m a writer."

Perfect Girls

Will Richardson linked to Girls, It’s Be Yourself, and Be Perfect, Too from the New York Times. The multimedia feature adds the photos and voices of these hard-driving teenagers. Like Will, I've got daughters too, and these stories are both encouraging (girls can do anything now!) and discouraging (girls feel they have to do everything now!) to middle-class dads like us who wish our girls could self-actualize without feeling the intense stress and pressure to conquer the world.

The focus of the article is actually more upper-class than middle, and economic concerns underpin the whole thing. This incredible drive to get into the best colleges seems to be all about landing plum jobs later and subsequent incomes to sustain a lifestyle they're used to.
"There is something about the lives these girls lead — their jam-packed schedules, the amped-up multitasking, the focus on a narrow group of the nation’s most selective colleges — that speaks of a profound anxiety in the young people, but perhaps even more so in their parents, about the ability of the next generation to afford to raise their families in a place like Newton."

How to Disappear

Chris Corrigan often digs up these interesting gems -- How to Disappear is a series of 30 hand-drawn panels outlining a recipe for turning urban neighbourhoods into real communities. It's low-fi and fun and totally pie-in-the-sky, but with a grounded, practical streak that makes you think...maybe not so pie-in-the-sky?

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

TV and Health

This list of quick stats on Television & Health is nothing new, but once in a while these things hit me hard. Average of 28 hours a week watching TV -- passively sitting there, taking in mostly junk and doing nothing. 28 HOURS is a lot of time in a week to do something meaningful. How is it that people believe they're so busy and don't have enough time to do the things they want to do when they're blowing a quarter of each waking day on mindless entertainment?
Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5
Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Blunt Wisdom of Robin Wright Penn

Celebrity news on Lifestylism? Not really, but I guess this is a little different. I enjoyed this interview with Robin Wright Penn by my favourite movie writer, Katrina Onstad. It has some interesting bits about the choices this actor has made and her interpretation of the balance between work, parenthood and celebrity. On motherhood:
“No one really prepares you for motherhood,” says Wright Penn with typically appealing bluntness. “No one says to women, or men: ‘Guess what, guys? You are going to be non-existent for about eight years.’ They prepare you for pregnancy and that’s it. They don’t prepare you for marriage, either.”
On celebrity and getting work in Hollywood:
“If you don’t play the celebrity thing, then you don’t get offered the commercial movies,” she says with a shrug.
I guess it's easier to make these choices when you make a couple of million dollars a year, but it was still refreshing to hear this:
But staying out of the fray is a choice. Wright Penn takes only small roles during the school year to be available to her children, and says she can go virtually anywhere without being recognized.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Longer Work Day Cutting into Family Time

Longer work day cutting into family time: study. The article is solid, including some reaction from a representative of the Vanier Institute of the Family pointing out the negative effects of this trend, most of which is fairly obvious, I guess. I was interested in this counter quote, though:
"However, Lochhead said, it must be remembered that there is an element of individual choice in spending more time at work than with family, and the study, above all else, shows that Canadian workers are committed to their jobs."
I forget that sometimes, when I hear that people are working more -- I always assume that they'd rather be doing something other than working. Perhaps that's just my own personal bias.

Update: Garth reflects on the Globe & Mail's feature on the same study.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Adventure Divas

I hadn't heard of Adventure Divas before, but apparently there's a PBS series and several books out already. I was mostly interested in the profiles of women doing fascinating and important things all over the world. Inspiring! Makes you want to circle the planet and make an impact.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Rex on Climate Change

I enjoyed Rex Murphy's viewpoint on climate change on The National last night and found the article this morning. An excerpt:
"So the question for us is really, is the moral weight of our example worth the immediate, real costs to our economy and lifestyles? Will you drive 30 per cent less, buy 30 per cent less, approve putting a brake on the oilsands, offshore oil, the auto-making industry? In hard terms, will we use less energy, pay more for fuel, live less excessively, fly less often right now, just to show the world that we Canadians are willing to back up what we say about global warming by what we do?

This is not just a question for our politicians. It's a question for us all. Do we believe our moral leadership is worth the personal and public cost of providing that leadership?"
The only thing I might quibble with is this lumping together of personal lifestyle choices (driving less) with national-level environmental regulation, especially on industry. I like the focus on lifestyle decisions and personal impact, and I am willing to drive less (where we live, people already think we're freaks to only have one vehicle for a family of four), but by myself I can't make coal-fired power plants illegal, or limit CO2 emmissions from massive oil extraction and processing projects. This intersection between the personal and political realms goes to the heart of this lifestylism project -- revolutionizing your lifestyle won't cause the necessary revolution on these issues, and politics alone can't solve the problems without people changing their lifestyles. Are we willing to make hard choices in both realms?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Career Planning a Waste of Time?

The author of this post thinks Career Planning is Time Wasted. I agree with the research cited, and the argument is well articulated -- people are notoriously bad at predicting what will make them unhappy -- but I'm not so sure that it translates into all planning being a waste of time. When you're choosing to pursue something instead of something else, you're doing a type of planning, and you might as well choose a general direction (maybe a field, or area of interest, or type of activity) that suits what you're currently enjoying or curious about -- for me, that's all planning is.

There seems to be this idea that career planning for high school students is about picking the exact job description you'll be employed in six or eight years down the road...and if that's the case, I'd have to agree with this assessment that it's a waste of time. It's not about the end goal; it's about process: finding meaningful tasks, developing skills, and building connections in an area of interest that will likely become sustainable work if you really care about it.

This is probably too critical -- I hadn't seen this excellent blog before and probably shouldn't take issue with a single post when there were so many other good ones...oh, well.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Recreational Shopping

Recreational shopping could lead to 'consuming crisis': Lots of interesting quotes and tidbits in this short article, but of course I was most into the bits about lifestyle expectations:
"The study also found that 37 per cent of Canadians worried that they wouldn't be able to sustain their current lifestyle in 10 years time, noting they expected to have to tighten their spending habits. Another 24 per cent predicted their lifestyle would be about the same, while 32 per cent said they expected to have more."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reel Life Wisdom

I got a copy of Doug's (Proactive Living blog) new book before Christmas, Reel Life Wisdom, and I sure have been enjoying it. A simple concept, really -- a collection of inspirational movie quotes organized around important themes -- so you can pick it up any time and open it to something interesting. The supporting web site is turning into an impressive resource by itself, with tons of quotes, articles and mini film reviews accumulating in the archives.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Worldmapper: Work

For the right kind of person, this site could suck hours and hours of time out of the day. I'm one of those. It's pretty simple -- you choose the measures (work, health, education, poverty, etc) you're interested in and then get to see maps of the world with the relative weight for those measures represented. Hundreds of them.

Thanks to elearnspace for the pointer...

Monday, January 01, 2007

Mind Over Money

Some fascinating concepts and studies in this fairly in-depth article -- Mind over money: Studies indicate cash affects our social interaction. I thought this closing quote from one of the authors of a cited study was most interesting:
"If it's more important to have self-motivation it might be good to have reminders of money," Vohs said. "If group harmony is important, it might be a good idea to keep the idea of money down. People will have to decide what goals are in the best interest."
Update: Another article about the same studies: Mere Thought of Money Makes People Selfish. A quote:
"In a series of nine experiments, researchers found that money enhanced people's motivation to achieve their own goals and degraded their behavior toward others. The concept of money, they suggest, makes a person feel more self-sufficient and thus more apt to stand alone.

The scientists said the study had nothing to do with making a person feel wealthy. When real or fake money, or even a photo of cash, was placed in sight of participants, they became selfish."