Teleworkers More Motivated to Pursue Wellness on Their Own, Compared to Office Employees

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As we approach the start of Global Employee Health & Fitness Month in May, we’re sharing eye-opening wellness related data from our national probability telephone survey of full-time employed adults conducted by ORC International and co-sponsored by Citrix.

Despite employers investing millions of dollars to promote employee health, almost half of the U.S. workplace does not budge. The problem is that many organizations separate wellness, work life flexibility and other employee strategies into siloed initiatives rather than linking them together to benefit both business and employee performance. It’s time to break down the silos because employee wellness and work life flexibility are better together. 

The survey found:

  • While teleworkers are more likely to pursue wellness options on their own compared to their office-based counterparts, almost half of all full-time U.S. employees do not participate in wellness-related activities no matter where they work.
  • The survey also showed that a lack of work life flexibility is not a barrier to wellness since almost all employees indicated they have some form of flexibility.
  • However, training and guidance on how to manage that flexibility does positively influence employee wellness pursuits.

More details of the survey findings are in the press release below and infographic.

WorkLifeFitWellnessInfoHorz

What do you think of the research findings?  Are you surprised or do they align with your experience?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section, on Twitter @caliyost, or on our Facebook page.

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Teleworkers More Likely to Pursue Wellness Options on Their Own Compared to Office-Based Counterparts

Only Half of U.S. Full-Time Employees Participate in a Workplace or Individual Wellness Program

Among the nearly two-thirds of full-time U.S. employees who say they do not participate in a workplace wellness program, teleworkers are more likely to pursue wellness options on their own compared to their office-based counterparts. However, about 45 percent of all employees – no matter where they work – do not participate in wellness-related activities either through their workplace or individually.

These are among the findings from a national probability telephone survey of 617 full-time employed adults commissioned by Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc (FSG/WLF), conducted by ORC International and co-sponsored by Citrix.

“Many organizations bucket wellness, work life flexibility and other employee strategies into separate silos rather than linking them together in a holistic approach that benefits business and employee performance,” said flexible workplace strategist Cali Williams Yost, CEO, Flex+Strategy Group. “Despite employers investing millions of dollars to promote employee health, almost half of the U.S. workplace does not budge.”

  • Only one-third of employees (33%) said they participate in a workplace wellness or wellbeing program with those aged 30 or older more likely to do so than their Gen Y colleagues.
  • Twenty percent said even though their company provides a wellness program, they do not participate.
  • A quarter (25%) said wellness/wellbeing programming is not an option at their workplace.
  • But on a positive note, nearly 20 percent noted that despite not participating in a corporate wellness program, they pursue wellness opportunities on their own, with teleworkers (24%) having significantly more initiative than those that work in an office (17%).

“Teleworkers use their inherent sense of discipline, focus and ability to prioritize to not only get their work done, but also pursue a healthy lifestyle,” Yost said. “It’s a positive outcome of telework that employers should value when we consider that one-third of all full-time U.S. employees now work from a remote location.”

Lack of Flexibility Not a Barrier but Lack of Training Hurts

According to the survey results, lack of work life flexibility is not a barrier to employee wellness as almost all (96%) of employees reported having some type of flexibility (either the same amount or more than the year before). However, the data indicated training and guidance to help use and manage work life flexibility does significantly increase employee wellness participation. While less than half of those surveyed (47%) noted they received such training, those who did were significantly more likely (43%) to say they participate in corporate wellness programs than those who did not receive training (24%).

“With guidance on how to use work life flexibility, these employees have learned how to fit work and other priorities, including exercise and doctor’s visits, into their lives,” Yost explained. “Such training provides organizations an untapped opportunity to educate employees about the various supports and rewards available through workplace wellness programs to be their most productive and healthy selves.”

The survey, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percent, was conducted in July 2015 as part of a biennial series of FSG/WLF studies that have monitored the national progress of issues related to work life flexibility from the individual’s point of view since 2006. More information, including an infographic, is available at www.worklifefit.com/research.

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Media Contact:

Pam Kassner, 414-510-1838, pam@superpear.com

Maggie Baum, 608-438-2814 or maggiebcomm@gmail.com

 

 

Escape the 10 Tyrannies of Work/Life Balance…Finally

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escape

“What’s your top how-to tip?”  When I’m asked this question in almost every consulting engagement, speech and media interview, my answer is the same, “Stop looking for balance and start finding your unique work+life fit.”

Over the years, my response has become even more emphatic.  Why?  Because “balance” is an anachronistic holdover from the Industrial Age, with all of its boundaries and rules that no longer exist.

Until we move past “balance” and begin to speak and think differently, it will stand between us and true flexibility in the way we manage our work, life and careers because:

  1. Balance” is always discussed in the negative. “I don’t have balance.” “I am out of balance,” which…
  2. Keeps you focused on the problem, not the solution. You have the power to make countless adjustments (both large and small) in the way you work and manage your life (as long as you know how), but you’ll never see them because balance…
  3. Assumes we’re all the same. We’re not.  At any given time, we all have a completely unique set of work and personal circumstances which precludes a one-size-fits-all solution.   For Kate, who’s on the steep learning curve of a new job and works long hours, getting to the gym and seeing her friends every couple of weeks is enough.  But for Mark, three days a week mentoring new sales people is perfect, because he can delay retirement for two years and see his grandchildren more.   Work+life fit is like snowflakes.  I’ve never heard the same fit twice, but balance
  4. Infers that there’s a “right” answer. There isn’t.  If the work+life fit reality for each of us is completely unique then there’s never going to be a “right” way.  I’ve met an investment manager who runs a tree farm on the side, an accountant who’s a mom and a competitive ballroom dancer, and an entrepreneur who gets home twice a week for dinner with his kids and tries to slip in time to surf during his 80-hour workweek.  They’ve all found a work+life fit that works for them in the context of their unique jobs and personal realities.  No one is right.  No one is wrong, yet balance…
  5. Leads us to judge others, often unfairly. Honestly, we need to give each other and ourselves a break.  We have no idea what’s going on in someone else’s life or in their job, but we can learn strategies from each other.  “How does an entrepreneur get home for dinner and surf?”  “How do you manage investments and run a tree farm?”  “How does a mother work as an accountant and find time to be a ballroom dancer?”   Instead of judging, we can inspire, but balance too often…
  6. Results in unproductive guilt. If each of us has a unique work+life fit, then there should be no (or at least less) guilt.  If that fit works for your unique work and personal circumstances, rock on; however, the trick is to understand that not everyone can do what you’re doing. This is the missing piece.  How can create a culture that allows all of our unique work+life fit realities to coexist together?  Circumstances will change.  One day you’re able to work 80 hours a week, then because of unexpected eldercare responsibilities you can work no more than 20 hours, but balance…
  7. Suggests that the goal is a 50-50 split between work and the other parts of your life. In today’s competitive, service-oriented, global economy there are very few jobs where a consistent amount of work will be done on particular days within certain hours all of the time.   Even 15 years ago, you could count on a pretty reliable schedule.  And you could walk out the door at the end of the day and not have to reconnect to work until you walked back in.  No longer.  To find a fit that works for you and your job, acknowledge this inherent work flow inconsistency and connectivity.  Plan as best you can to create boundaries around technology and to accommodate the inevitable work+life ebbs and flows.    But balance…
  8. Leaves no room for periods where there’s more work and less life, and vice versa. If you want flexibility in your workplace to succeed, then you need to be flexible with it.  In other words, if an unexpected project has to be completed and you’re supposed to leave at 4 p.m., occasionally step to the plate and stay without complaint.  The unanticipated will happen.  Conversely, maybe you’ll experience a chronic illness (like when I had Lyme two years ago).  Suddenly there’s a lot more life than work, but balance…
  9. Ignores the constantly changing reality of work and life. When your goal is “balance” any and all changes will throw you off.  My experience is that very few of us know how to think through, plan for and adjust our work+life fit in response to the personal and career transitions we know are happening, much less the events that happen unexpectedly.   And, we need to because balance…
  10. Will never be taken seriously by corporate leaders.  When you say “balance,” all that corporate leaders hear is “work less” and the conversation goes nowhere.  But, the minute I start talking about the goal in terms of work+life “fit,” these same leaders engage.  They see that they too have a work+life fit that matters to them, but also that there’s a business benefit to giving everyone more flexibility to work smarter and better in today’s economy.

So escape the tyranny of balance.  Focus on how to optimize your work+life fit and you’ll:

  • Talk about what you could have
  • See solutions
  • Know  we’re all different
  • Realize there’s no right answer
  • Stop judging yourself and others
  • Lose the guilt
  • Embrace and plan for the ebb and flow of work and life day-to-day and throughout your career, and
  • Increase the likelihood of that your boss will support greater flexibility in the where, when and/or how you work and, in turn, manage your life.

Tell me…what steps will you take to escape the tyrannies of work-life “balance” and find your fit?  I really want to know!

I invite you to connect with me and continue the conversation on Twitter @caliyost and on Facebook.  Also, sign up to receive FSG/WLF updates.

(For those of you who have followed my work for some time, you will recognize this is an updated version of a post I originally published in 2011.  I’ll reblog and reblog until the work-life “balance” Google alerts in my inbox slow to a trickle!)

NYTimes Mag Gets It Right–“Work-Life” a Top Business Trend

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This past Sunday, The New York Times Magazine ran a special “Work” issue. One of the articles, “Rethinking the Work-Life Equation” , explained why “creating a more flexible office is about much more than policies. It’s about changing the entire culture.”

We’re honored that the article featured our research and the innovative flexible work culture initiatives of two of our clients, BDO USA and CECP.

But, what really matters is that The New York Times got it right: “Work-Life” is a top business trend.

In fact, “WorkLife–Rethinking the office for an always-on economy” headlined the front page of the print version of the magazine (please note all of the fantastic images shared below were created by James Graham for The New York Times).  This alone is huge.

NYTimes 1

 

But then, in the table of contents, the article in which our work is mentioned–“Rethinking the Work-Life Equation (online title) or “Parent Companies” (in print title)–sits smack dab in the middle of the other key trends covered in the issue.  This placement at the center of “what Google learned about teams,” “the post-cubicle office,” “diversity in the workplace” and “failure to eat lunch” is symbolically appropriate. All of these trends inter-relate and influence how we flexibly fit work and life together to be our best, on and off the job.

NYTimes 2

Next, there are the two pages that kick off the issue.  The first page is a perfect description of today’s complex, flexible work+life fit reality we now need to manage.

NYTimes 3

And the second page simply says it all, clearly and concisely…Work-Life.

NYTimes 4

 

Finally, the graphic that accompanies the “Rethinking the Work-Life Equation” article is one of the best visual depictions of the uniqueness and fluidity of each person’s work+life fit I’ve seen.

NYtimes5

 

Hopefully, the message and symbolic position throughout the entire issue will FINALLY shift flexibility and work+life fit from the category of, “perk, benefit, policy,” where it doesn’t belong, to “strategic business imperative,” where it should be.

I also hope that organizations will be inspired to devote attention and resources required to develop a work culture that is both high performing and flexible. That’s the cultural combination that will attract and retain top talent, increase productivity and improve employee work+life fit.

Many thanks to The New York Times Magazine.  Work, life and flexibility are indeed the future of work.

Let’s stay connected!  I invite you to sign up to receive our monthly newsletter and connect with me on Twitter @caliyost and Facebook.

If New Jersey Transit Strikes, Will You Be Open for Business?

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Trains

According to the most recent news reports, there is a very good chance that New Jersey Transit will strike as early as this weekend.  This means that as many as 65,000 New Jersey residents who work in Manhattan will have to find alternative, time-consuming ways to get into the office.

If you are an employer, you have two choices:

  1. Do you demand that all New Jersey-based employees do whatever it takes–no matter how long, or how stressful–to get into Manhattan? OR
  2. Do you strategically encourage telework and allow employees to use the time and energy they’d waste commuting to do their jobs productively?

You have three days to answer that question.  You have three days to coordinate a telework strategy that would allow your people to hit the ground running on Monday without missing a beat.

What would that look like in action?

A few years ago, I worked with a major pharmaceutical company widely recognized for their flexible work culture.

One day, as I facilitated a series of sessions for employees and managers, snow began to fall.  On that particular day, I was scheduled to facilitate one session in the morning and another after lunch.  Midway through the afternoon meeting, a few inches of snow had accumulated and you could tell people were anxious to get on the road.  Then the most amazing thing happened…

A number of managers in the room stood up and asked their team members to meet them in a group.  As the various teams gathered, you could hear everyone sharing how they planned to work the next day.  Some would work remotely, others thought they’d wait until after rush hour and come in later, and a couple planned to take personal days if they couldn’t find child care for their very young children.

As the teams reached agreement and dispersed, the managers gathered together and opened their laptops in a circle and began to coordinate with each other.  How would they conduct meetings that were scheduled?  Some decided to cancel meetings while others converted theirs to webinars.  One manager who oversaw a manufacturing facility sent emails to the plant foreman flexibly coordinating the staffing for the next day.

I watched in awe.  Finally, the manufacturing manager saw my faced and asked me, ‘’Why are you smiling and shaking your head?”  At this point, all of the managers in the room looked up.  I responded, “Do you realize how much money you are saving by flexibly coordinating tomorrow’s work in anticipation of the snow?”  You could tell they were a bit confused.

They didn’t see what they were doing as unusual.  It’s how they got the job done.  So I pointed out, “See your competitor down the street?  Do they use flexibility as easily and strategically as you do to maintain operating continuity even if it snows?”  Another manager said, “No they don’t.”  I continued, “Okay, so who’s open for business tomorrow and who isn’t?”  Now they were smiling and shaking their heads, “We are.”

This group of managers didn’t think twice about supporting flexible ways of working, but it was the first time they consciously realized how they were using it to meet a business need–staying open when nature strikes!

What about your organization?  Will you be open for business at full, productive capacity should New Jersey Transit strike, or will your people waste precious time and energy sitting in cars and buses for three hours each way trying to make it into the office and then get home?

Are you having coordinated conversations today about how everyone plans to work most efficiently on Monday–whether that’s remotely or in Manhattan?  Or will you just take your chances?

I invite you to sign up for our monthly newsletter and to connect with me on Twitter @caliyost and Facebook.

Scary Trend: The Explosion of Wearing Work on Our Wrists

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wearables

As I look back on this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, I am struck by the explosion of all-purpose wearables and the reality that soon we will wear work on our wrists. If you already struggle with the boundaries between work and life with your smartphone, wearables will take that challenge to a whole new level.

No longer can we separate from work in our pockets or purses. Unless you plan to remove your watch constantly, it will be even harder to “turn off” the workplace.

To be sure, much good can come from having your phone, email, texts, heart rate monitor and number of steps in one easy-to-access spot. According to the national telephone survey we recently conducted with Citrix, seven out of 10 full-time U.S. workers said the increase in workplace technology has made it easier to collaborate and communicate with colleagues. And more than half said it made it easier to work flexibly.

But there’s a dark side. According to the same survey, 28 percent of full-time U.S. workers also said increases in technology have created more work and nearly one-quarter said the growth in technology felt “a bit like big brother is watching you.” Men were significantly more likely than women to voice that view.

The good news is if you are not an early tech adopter like me, you have time to prepare for how you might enjoy the benefits of wearing your work. Two tips:

Clarify expectations for accessibility and response time: When work is attached physically to your body, either you clarify expectations or make peace with never disconnecting from it. To date, I’ve found people resist setting expectations with managers and colleagues about their accessibility and response time when they’re away from the office. We worry our commitment may be questioned so we keep quiet. But oftentimes no one is expecting always-on availability with immediate responses.

To enjoy the flexibility benefits of wearables, you have to coordinate with colleagues. Knowing they can contact you if needed can give you a greater degree of flexibility in the way you work, but when you can’t be reached let your colleagues know in advance. Then provide an alternative way to contact you if the matter is urgent or suggest someone who can help in your absence.

Plan breaks from technology in advance: Research confirms that the email, text and social media notifications that pop up stimulate dopamine in the brain, which is why we find them so hard to ignore. Imagine how much harder that will be when your wrist is constantly pinging and ringing. We need to be more intentional about the way work and life flexibly fit together.  Sure, because we aren’t always connected to our smartphones, those moments of attention and focus can still happen by default. But not when work is an accessory. You’ll need to decide, “when am I either turning off my watch or taking it off?”

Or, just say no to wearing your work on your wrist altogether: I met a well-respected middle manager a couple of years ago who showed me his seven year-old flip-phone when I asked him how he flexibly managed his work+life fit. He explained, “When I leave, everyone knows if they need me they can call this phone any time. I do have access to my email via my laptop. I check it when I first get home after work to make sure nothing popped up while I commuted and again when I get up in the morning to make sure nothing requires immediate attention. But if I don’t get a call, I assume all is well and enjoy the other parts of my life. And, guess what? I’ve never gotten a call.”

What do you think about the trend in wearables and what it means for your work+life fit?

I invite you to connect with me and continue the conversation on twitter @caliyost and on Facebook.

What I Learned in 2015

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December Newsletter image

I am an early riser. No matter when I go to bed, I am usually awake by 6:00 am at the latest. That is not the case for the rest of my family.

Each New Year’s Day, I get up at the crack of dawn, make a cup of coffee, and sit in the peace and quiet with my journal while they sleep. I read what I wrote the last few years on January 1st. Then I reflect upon the previous twelve months—what I’ve learned and what I am thankful for—and think about goals for the coming year.

As I wish all of you happy holidays, I thought I’d give you a preview of some of the lessons learned that will make my list for 2015. There were many, but these three stick out as particularly important:

  • Work can provide comfort in difficult times. This past year, my father underwent treatment for metastasized prostate cancer. Thankfully, his recent scans show the cancer is in complete remission but the journey to get there was scary and difficult. During this time, my work provided comfort. I found peace in the mastery of tasks that I love, renewed energy from helping others, and a welcomed break from the worry. As we fit work and life together, it’s important to remember to focus on the good things we get from work and not just on the “overwhelm.”
  • You don’t have to wait for the perfect moment to make a change. I loved all our projects this year, but one stands out. It was remarkable because the senior leaders of a team said, “let’s give this new flexibility strategy a shot, even though it’s our busiest time of year and we aren’t meeting our deadlines.” Their risk was rewarded. At the end of the six-week pilot, not only had the group met their deadlines, but their core metric of utilization had never been higher. Too often we wait for the perfect moment before we try something new. Working with this terrific team reaffirmed that sometimes you just have to say, “let’s do it.”
  • The workplace is already flexible. Now, we need to put infrastructure and strategy around it. At the beginning of 2015, I decided to stop engaging in the same old, tired flexibility conversation we’d been having for the last two decades. It’s not about whether or not to offer a formal flexible work policy to your employees. Why? Because flexibility in how, when and where people work already exists (see our most recent survey)! Investments in technology, workspace redesign, and employee expectations have embedded some degree of flexibility in the workplace by default. Now, we have to help people, teams and managers use that work flexibility with deliberate intention.

Finally, because “find a better balance” will be on the top of many New Year’s resolution lists, I thought I’d re-share a couple of my most popular “how to” posts:

I’d love to hear the lessons you learned in 2015 and any tips you have for finding your work+life “fit” (not “balance”) in 2016. Let’s connect on Twitter and Facebook!

Get flexible work strategy and work+life fit inspiration delivered to your inbox each month. Sign up for my email newsletter.

New Work, Life and Flexibility Trends #CitrixChat–Join me LIVE 12/4 at 12 pm EST

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NEW Research: Employees Feel Surprisingly Trusted but Inefficiencies Abound in How We Work

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A surprising 9 out of 10 full-time U.S. employees believe their boss trusts them to get their job done regardless of where and when they do their work. And, while additional data indicates employees have become upbeat about their increasingly flexible workplaces, inefficiencies abound in how workers use technology and communicate, and there is a lack of training and infrastructure available to support flexible work.

These are among the key findings from a national probability telephone survey of 617 full-time employed adults commissioned by Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit, Inc (FSG/WLF) and co-sponsored by Citrix.

“With the growth of telework and open office environments combined with the ongoing introduction of new technology, work life flexibility is naturally embedded in today’s workplaces,” said flexible workplace strategist Cali Williams Yost, CEO, Flex+Strategy Group. “But we’re stuck in the 1990s with outdated work and management practices that, along with lack of training and infrastructure, put recent investments in workplace innovation at risk and could erode the current reservoir of employee goodwill.”

One-Third Telecommute — Mostly Men, but Women Gaining Ground
Employees were pretty evenly split between where they said they do most of their work. One-third work from a remote location off site, a slight increase from 2013, while 34 percent work in a cube/open office environment and 28 percent in a private office. Men continue to represent the majority of teleworkers—3 out of 5 in 2015, but the percentage of women increased significantly (39%) from (29%) 2013.

We Turn to Technology More than Each Other; Young People Like to Meet More than Boomers
Nearly 60 percent of respondents use email, word documents or spread sheets “frequently” to update colleagues about work progress and performance. That compares to 55 percent who meet in person and 43 percent who use the phone. Surprisingly, younger people prefer more face-to-face contact. Gen-Y (59%) and Gen-X (58%) were significantly more likely than Boomers (46%) to frequently meet in person to keep others informed. And, in a finding that helps to dispel the notion that teleworkers disconnect from the workplace, those who work remotely were more likely than those who work in a cube/open office to use the phone. Meanwhile, those onsite were more likely to use email, word documents or spread sheets.

Despite widespread availability of video/web conferencing and project management technologies, frequent use of these tools was in the single digits. Conversely, 8 out of 10 employees have never used project management software and two- thirds have never used video/web conferencing. The survey also found employees were inconsistent in where they saved and stored work across company and personal platforms.

“Businesses have barely tapped what is possible when it comes to leveraging technology to increase productivity, collaboration and work life flexibility,” said Natalie Lambert, Senior Director of Workspace Strategy, Citrix. “We comfortably use collaborative technologies in our personal lives to communicate with family and friends and manage personal information from anywhere.

“But, unfortunately at work we struggle to apply the latest innovations to accomplish the same objectives,” Lambert continued. “This often stems from rigid IT infrastructures that require businesses to put control policies in place whenever they want to securely roll out consumer-like apps on any device. With today’s flexible digital workspace solutions, employees can use technology to stay connected and productive wherever they are, while the employer is ensured that their information is safe. Organizations can transform their business with infrastructure, training and a strategy designed with people and experience in mind.”

Technology Aids Working Flexibly and in Teams but Backlash Noted, Especially Among Men
Almost 7 out 10 employees feel the increase in workplace technology has made it easier to collaborate and communicate with colleagues, and more than half of respondents said it has made it easier to work flexibly. But that enthusiasm was tempered by the 28 percent who said the increase in technology has created more work and the nearly one-fourth that noted it feels a “bit like ‘big brother’ is watching you,” with men significantly more likely than women to voice that view.

Training Lacking for Most
In 2015, almost all full-time U.S. employees had some type of work life flexibility, unchanged from 2013 and 2011. Most of that flexibility is “informal” with 6 out of 10 making occasional changes in how, when and where they work, an increase from 2013. Employees feel increasingly positive with a majority (56%) that noted their employer still has a strong commitment to work life flexibility, up from 46% in 2013. A higher percentage (47%) also received training or guidance to help manage their work life flexibility in 2015, but more than half (52%) remained on their own with no instruction. Further, even though they comprise the majority, those who use flexibility informally received less training than those with formal flexible work arrangements.

“Modernizing the workplace is about more than new floorplans, shiny devices and mobility. Clearly we have an unmet need and a huge opportunity for more widespread training and infrastructure that supports flexible work,” Yost said. “Leaders need to capitalize on the current wave of employee optimism and manage to the good that exists in their organizations in order to truly unlock the potential of their business and people.”

This research is the most recent installment in a biennial series of FSG/WLF studies that have monitored the national progress of issues related to work life flexibility from the individual’s point of view since 2006. The 2015 survey was conducted by ORC International July 9-12 and 16-19 with a margin of error of +/- 4percent. A summary report with additional data and infographic are available at www.worklifefit.com/research.

Disrupt Yourself and Get Unstuck

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“Like a novice trapeze artist letting go of the old to leap to the new, we are sure to experience a moment of midair terror. But we are far less likely to fall if we fling ourselves onto the next curve. And, in the seemingly terrible moment of transition, your dreams—the engine of disruption—will buoy you. Are you ready to jump?” – Whitney Johnson, Disrupt Yourself

I’ve been thinking a lot about change lately. Too often change feels like drinking from a fire hose.  We need frameworks to help us absorb, process and respond thoughtfully and deliberately to upheaval.

In her fantastic new book, Disrupt Yourself, Whitney Johnson draws upon decades of experience as an award-winning investor and leading thinker on corporate innovation to put order and structure around personal disruption so it no longer feels like chaos.

We recently had a chance to discuss how she hoped Disrupt Yourself will help people become “unstuck” and realize their full potential.

CY: Whitney, you co-founded Rose Park Advisors with Clay Christensen, who first popularized the concept of “Disruption Theory” for organizations. When did you realize that the steps guiding disruption could also apply to and help individuals?

WJ: My “aha moment came as I read The Innovator’s Dilemma in 2005. As an equity analyst, I was already persuaded that the frameworks of disruption explained why mobile penetration in Mexico was quickly outpacing fixed-line penetration. But as I read the book closely, I wondered, do these frameworks also apply to individuals, and to me, in particular? If innovation is an inside game, can an organization truly drive corporate innovation without personal disruption?

CY: In a world where change seems to be a constant day in and day out, how does disrupting yourself help regain some control over what can often feel like chaos?

WJ: Each of us has a view of the world that is powered by personal algorithms. We look at how all the component pieces of our lives interact and try to come up with patterns to help us predict what will happen next. When systems behave linearly and react immediately, we’re fairly accurate with our forecasts. That’s why toddlers love discovering light switches, flip a switch and the light goes on. But when they don’t, our predictive power plummets.

One of the best ways to help us deal with these time delays is the S-curve model because it provides milestones we can watch for.

When we first try something new (like start a new job or become a new parent) we know that progress will appear to be slow as we build momentum. Think about the base of a capital S. This helps us avoid discouragement. As we put in hours of practice, we become increasingly competent — and our confidence soars. This is the sleek steep back of the S. Then at the top of the S, we may be quite good at what we are doing (whether as a parent or an employee), but at this point, a lot of effort really does lead to little progress, resulting in boredom and frustration. If you are a parent, you need to let your children go off to college. In your career, take on a new responsibility, or change jobs. In either case, if you don’t jump to a new curve, the seeming plateau, can become a precipice.

How does understanding disruption help manage the chaos? Because the non-linearity, the sense that cause and effect are disconnected, in part, creates that chaotic feeling. When you understand that huge effort now may yield little, and high output today may be the consequence of prior work, you regain a sense of control.

CY: What is the one thing you hope people walk away with after reading “Disrupt Yourself?”

WJ: Companies don’t disrupt, people do. Disruption is a skill set. The more disruptive, the better you’ll get. If you can ride the S-curve waves of learning and mastery, you will have a competitive advantage in an era of accelerating disruption.

Distilled — personal disruption is about moving from stuck to unstuck. If I can inspire even one person to be unstuck, I will be happy.

CY: Thank you, Whitney! I know you’ve already helped me. Pre-order Disrupt Yourself, and jump!

When Play in the Workplace is Serious Business

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Are there moments of fun and play in your work day?

Earlier this month, I contributed to a TODAY Show segment that explored how some companies are making periods of play and fun part of their culture.

When executed with intention, play can be important. It’s not goofing off — it’s serious business meant to encourage innovation, team collaboration and employee engagement.

For example, a bank in Nashville gave employees an optional break from their normal routine for one afternoon. They hosted a corn hole tournament that gave people time to re-energize, forge new connections and build camaraderie outside the context of their regular day-to-day routine. Twenty teams of four from across the organization competed and the afternoon was wildly successful.

Even if moments of fun aren’t officially incorporated into a workplace culture, each person can identify the type of “play” that re-energizes and helps them be their best, on and off the job.

For example, I talked to a trauma nurse who intentionally tries to interject what she called “moments of joy” into an otherwise high-pressured workplace.  Whether it’s a quick joke or a funny/happy story she’s heard, she finds a moment to share it.  Realizing how these “moments of joy” helped to manage the high stress of their day-to-day work, some of her co-workers have now joined in.

At the end of the TODAY Show segment, Matt Lauer says, “I would think that this type of play would make me less focused. I would be thinking about who pegged me at dodgeball all afternoon.” His reaction is a reminder to organizations: one size doesn’t fit all.  There are different definitions of fun and play.  Some people will prefer organized, competitive options, but others might like an impromptu “dishes from around the world” tasting lunch where everyone brings a favorite food from another country to try.

Successful implementation requires a culture and guiding framework that supports (but doesn’t mandate) the creativity to identify what moments of fun and play can benefit both the business and its people.

I’d love to hear from you. What kind of play has encouraged innovation in your workplace? How do you make time for these moments at work? Share your ideas in the comments section or on our Facebook page.