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Re: Happiness....

swatts
Active Participant

Hello Lovelies,

So I've been uncommunicative lately, I've not had much of interest to communicate.

 

I want to talk about one of the things that management can manage that will improve productivity x10+. That simple thing is to make sure that their staff are happy.

 

Here's my personal experience...

 

If someone makes me angry I will lose a lot of time and focus. If I am stressed I will find concentrating hard. If I keep being bothered in an uncontrolled manner I will make mistakes and my productivity will dive.

 

My general happiness and mental well-being are quite closely related to productivity and quality. I have literally lost a day of work because someone got up my nose!

 

A company or management that was interested in employees being near maximum productivity during their time at work would do well to think on this (but they won't).

 

So what can managers do? I actually think this is the win-win, managers can do less. So less meetings, less organising of workspaces, less organising full-stop. Essentially give work, give support, get out of the way.

 

Interruptions

Creative and problem-solving work needs time. If I have a complex problem to solve I will not pick it up unless I have at 4 hours clear in my diary. If I have a meeting scheduled I will want time to prepare for it. If that meeting is mid-morning or mid-afternoon I will will have lost that 4 hour timeslot to tackle a problem. Management can help here. If you have to have meetings help your creative staff by scheduling them 1st thing in the morning. Or replace them with an email.

 

I always try to educate my managers in this fact, I work in blocks of 4-6 hours if you interrupt me during this block of time I will be less productive and will get frustrated. Managers tend to work in much shorter periods of time, if they have never been a developer it may be news to them.

 

Not all of my work needs that level of concentration tho', so a reasonable compromise is to offer up a day where you can be interrupted. This actually breaks up the working week somewhat.

 

All Interruptions are not equal

To really annoy your creatives ask them a question that requires them to context switch. Removing the complex model I've built up in my mind to answer a stupid enquiry will badly affect productivity and quality. But for me I don't need silence (other developers do like silence). Again this is easy to manage, try asking your developers how/where they like to work and support them in it.

 

Opt-out, non-immediate communication really helps here, for creative types emails, messenger apps (teams,slack) and text messages are all ways to communicate that do not need immediate attention.

 

For me I can receive a notification and that will not break my concentration. I can then attend to it when I have finished the thing I'm working on.

 

Work Area

Leave a copy of Peopleware around your office or on your managers desk, it's old and still very applicable. It's actually based on some actual studies. The organisational space available to the developer was very closely related to productivity and quality. Once again this is easy to manage. Just allow people to organise themselves.

 

Open-plan non-personal workspaces have been shown to absolutely kill productivity (happiness, morale) for creatives. So would managers rather watch their staff be unproductive or perhaps just understand their productivity and what affects it.

 

Finally I'm not saying everyone should have personal offices, I always worked best in a small project group, that project group would share an office/workshop space. 

 

Stress

In my experience stress is related to 2 things dishonesty and bad communication. Dishonesty is quite a harsh word , but essentially if you promise something unachievable you are being dishonest. If your manager promises something on your behalf that can't be reasonably achieved, they are being dishonest. If a project is starting to go wrong and you tell no-one.....dishonest.

 

The key here is that honesty will relieve a lot of stress. An honest assessment will allow plans to made that can mitigate some of the worst aspects of a problem. Or you can stress about it...

 

The bad communication bit comes from not being listened too. An unempowered workforce will be a stressed workforce.

 

Everyone is Different

The great thing about self-organising teams is that it allows for everyone to be different. It celebrates that difference, rather than trying to eradicate it. Being in a small section that has its own identity can lead to the type of teamwork companies say they aspire to, and without the cost of hotels and raft-building exercises.

 

Quality an Intangible Benefit

Unachievable deadlines often lead to poor quality and poor quality is the best way to destroy your teams culture and morale. Quality of product and process is very closely related to happiness. Engineers want to be proud of what they are making, it's actually one of our greatest motivators.

 

A final thought ...

 

An additional complication to this is that humans have evolved to be extremely adaptable, this means that we adapt to being stressed and miserable, this becomes our baseline norm. Try and remember how you feel when you feel calm and happy, what were the circumstances. This should be your norm, it's actually the state where you will be able to concentrate best.

 

How far away from this state are you?

 

Who and what dragged you away from this state?

 

If you are miserable in your job, you have 3 choices - 

 

  1. Change the situation
  2. Change your job.
  3. Suck it up.

On the scales of decision making, it always surprises me how heavy the fear of change is for people. They will willingly put up with untold amounts of crap before they jack in their job.

 

Here ends my motivational speech

 

Lots of Love

Steve


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Comments
crossrulz
Knight of NI

Regarding interruptions:

I had a a solid week going where I got nothing done that was assigned to me.  I was constantly bugged about issues people were having (ie they wanted me to fix their stuff or tell them how to do their job) and requests for status.  I actually booked a conference room, moved my computer in, and shut the door.  I suddenly was able to get all of my work done.

 

I ended up leaving that place mostly due to lack of recognition and the stress.


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joerg.hampel
Active Participant

"non-immediate communication" is often referred to as asynchronous communication, for example in open and inner source.

 

Here's a very interesting article on how asynchronous communication might be the actual reason that remote work seems to be more productive:

https://blog.doist.com/asynchronous-communication/ 


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swatts
Active Participant

I was going to use asynchronous, but got confused about which was which! 

Steve


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Intaris
Proven Zealot

Regrading not being interrupted: When in college, I remember writing a long report and basically getting everything done over multiple nights between midnight and 5 in the morning becuse nobody was bothering me and I'm a night-owl anyway.

 

Geting into "flow state" when working is tremeldously productive. But it's addictive and partially destructive. I've had "normal" productive days but I am so used to flow state that I feel like I got nothing done. It's important to realise that days of full flow state working where you just plow through stuff like a superhuman are rare. Enjoy them whenever you get them, but never expect them.

 

Funnily enough, I thought I'd have a lot more of them during the COVID period, but they've actually become quite rare.

Thoric
Trusted Enthusiast

Oh my, this is such a great article. I can relate to a lot in here.

 

I've been on the receiving end of management that feel they're doing a great job of creating employee happiness, but indeed are not. They're always trying to balance numbers, understandably, because they have to make the budgets balance to keep profits up and prevent business problems. But often that takes the highest priority and staff come second. But there's little tangible / visible link between staff morale and work output, so it's largely ignored.

 

Several other points you write make me think this article was written just for me.

 

Interruptions - I harp on about this in my open plan office, and although you get nods of agreement from your colleagues on how they're all hugely disruptive, nobody actually changes, and interruptions continue. Conversations across the room loud enough for everybody to hear. You can do your best to ignore the noise, but your brain naturally focuses in on the distraction. I have to wear my headphones nearly all day to remain focussed on my work.

 

Meetings - Nearly every meeting I attend seems to me to be important, so I don't avoid them. But they each fragment my work week into pieces that make it real hard to get into the groove and concentrate on chunks of solid work. I'm effectively paid to be inefficient because meetings are arguably important.

 

>> Open-plan non-personal workspaces have been shown to absolutely kill productivity (happiness, morale) for creatives

If you have a link for this I'd be very much appreciative! I'll wave it in front of my managers.

 

>> On the scales of decision making, it always surprises me how heavy the fear of change is for people. They will willingly put up with untold amounts of crap before they jack in their job.

This one in particular is very relevant. And I know friends in the same position. It's the fear of being wrong too - am I wrong about how I'm feeling, am I being over-sensitive? Others are working here seemingly happy, so why am I frustrated/stressed? Maybe I just need a holiday, then I'll be refreshed? What if the adage "grass is greener" is apt here and I'm simply not appreciating that my workplace is actually fairly normal, I could move on and end up in a much worse place. etc. etc.

 

I'm currently permitted to work from home for 3 days a week. This is bliss for me. Reduced distractions. No commute. No open-plan office. I don't think it'll last though because murmurs from others who are still in 5 days a week puts pressure on management to end the privilege. I don't think I could ever possibly go back to that. 

 

Thanks Steve for your insight, once again.

Thoric (CLA, CLED, CTD and LabVIEW Champion)


joerg.hampel
Active Participant

>> Open-plan non-personal workspaces have been shown to absolutely kill productivity (happiness, morale) for creatives

> If you have a link for this I'd be very much appreciative! I'll wave it in front of my managers.

 

@thoric, in the book Peopleware that Steve mentions, the authors talk about open-plan offices.

 

Here's a link to a bit of information I found on Google:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11878083 

 

It references two studies:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0272494413000340 

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00140139.2013.871064 


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swatts
Active Participant

@Thoric

Joerg has done my job for me, which I appreciate a lot!

I'm also reading a book called "Quiet" at the mo', and it really highlights the damage of one size fits all solutions.

 

One of the reasons I'm talking about this now is that we are at in transition from covid to post-covid working and it's actually an ideal time to take your baseline norm. So how do you feel working from home? If you like it sometimes and you're productive, you need to think about what discussions to have with management.

 

@Everyone

The thing I want to impress upon people is that you are responsible for your own happiness, be assertive with yourself and others to engineer an environment where you are happy. Everyone will win and you really deserve it!.

 

Steve


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gratian.crisan
Member

The "Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule" blog post by Paul Graham is also a good read and resonates with this (and me): http://www.paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html

swatts
Active Participant

That's perfect, thanks for sharing.

It's nice to see the origin of the concept, it certainly didn't originate in my head!

Steve


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swatts
Active Participant

 

 

Intaris Wrote - 

Geting into "flow state" when working is tremeldously productive. But it's addictive and partially destructive. I've had "normal" productive days but I am so used to flow state that I feel like I got nothing done. It's important to realise that days of full flow state working where you just plow through stuff like a superhuman are rare. Enjoy them whenever you get them, but never expect them.

This is a really interesting and valuable comment, I have been so focussed on the positive aspects of flow state. It's a very timely reminder that running at 100% for 100% of the time is totally unsustainable.

Steve


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