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Inspiration for Action
The Newsletter / Edition 008
From Sylvain Labs, this is Progress Report.
In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This weekly newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now. 

In today’s newsletter…
  1. Which is best: decluttering or re-cluttering? from Merideth
  2. Paying attention to how we work-chat from Alex
  3. Turning “work from home” to “work from anywhere” from Helen
  4. Getting used to all these new technology solutions from Mujtaba
And this time, our illustrations from Nora Mestrich. 
From the Field

01 / A Great Decluttering or A Great Re-cluttering? 

From Merideth Bogard
Is 2020 the year of the Great Decluttering or the Great “Re-cluttering”? A recent Washington Post article asserts that the pandemic has inspired a mass decluttering as people get stuff out of their homes—donations to non-profits rising 20% this year. At the same time, an earlier piece in The Atlantic propounds a different point of view: predicting a potential backlash in the popular minimalist aesthetic as people reject the stillness and sterility of the times in favor of some of the beautiful mess that comes with humanity.
Why It Matters
As we’ve transitioned to more life at home, people feel the power of their spaces now more than ever. Yet, our relationship with the stuff in that space has gotten more complicated. Psychological studies show a clean workspace can make you less stressed and more productive, while a little mess can make you more creative. Wrap those human truths in a global pandemic that’s heightened our stress while depleting our joy and we’re likely left with a new, more nuanced personal recipe for what a healthy workspace looks like. It’s time to give it a little more thought and intent – what do you take away, but also what do you add back in?
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Don’t just clean your Work-From-Home space – Curate it with intent.
Marie Kondo has espoused ‘the magic of tidying up’ for years. But in light of the isolation and monotony of our times, our joy-barometer is likely reset. Old board games or cooking equipment that once gained dust are now welcome distractions. Stark tabletops and neutral palettes expound emptiness. So, re-evaluate what sparks joy in your work-from-home space now and declutter or re-clutter as needed. Edit stuff out that causes anxiety or distractions. But, also add back in the mess that reminds you of humanity while inviting a little creativity.

02 / Team Dream Or Teen Drama  

From Alex Anderson
The aggressive addition of workplace chat apps hasn’t lessened the amount of time we spend communicating. Surprise! The total amount of time we spend communicating is roughly the same as it was six years ago. However, company leaders are reporting seeing infighting, “sniping”, group harassment, mental health issues, and increased stress as a result of work chat apps.
Why It Matters
Slack and other workplace chat are altering the conversation at work in ways similar to how social media has altered public discourse. They remove friction from communication and turn people into “online avatars,” enabling quick collaboration but also leading people to say things they wouldn’t in person. While an employee can extract themselves from toxicity on social media, it’s a lot more difficult to do the same from workplace communication. This has huge implications for employee retention and wellbeing.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Establish community guidelines or codes of kindness in company communication.
Increasingly, everyone is ending up being “extremely online,” whether we like it or not. In the way that home and work blur in distributed living, recreational social media may blur professional communication styles and expectations. The most healthy, long-lasting digital oases of civility have stayed that way by setting clear expectations of the discourse on their platforms. Whether through community guidelines, or other clear practices around kindness and respect in professional chat platforms, companies can help to eliminate what may be an emerging form of workplace toxicity.

03 / Work from Anywhere is where the heart is  

From Helen Li
Is “New York City” truly dead? Many have come to question the role of how the city they reside in aligns with the life they have dreamed of living. For large cities like New York and San Francisco, city dwellers are increasingly finding all the reasons that brought them there no longer exist, suggesting that it's time to pack their bags and find greener pastures. (Aside: Silicon Valley has already experienced its mass exodus of residents, many seeking refuge in other cities with cheaper rent and nature. A silver lining, according to Bloomberg City Lab, is the networking effect of talent because of the distributed workforce. The secret sauce of Silicon Valley is no longer a cluster of innovation tucked away in Palo Alto.)
Why It Matters
With the uncertainty of what remote work will look like in the future, business leaders and employees alike are taking stock of how their environment brings them closer to—or further from—a life of joy, integrity, and satisfaction. As a distributed workforce becomes normalized, we’ll see less of a “work from home” but a “work from anywhere” (WFA) mentality crop up. According to an article from HBR about a 2012 study, those who practiced a WFA approach saw an increase of 4.4% in productivity with patent examiners, adding $1.3 billion of annual value to the U.S. economy. 
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Facilitate a process for your employees to take stock of what their environment is doing for them.
  • Be transparent about the values your organization embodies and ensure your organizational policies and decision making demonstrate those values. If you had “legacy WFH” or remote policies historically, review them to make sure they reflect the changing circumstances. 
  • Create a map of where all employees are located and share with the team to demonstrate the breadth of national and/or global coverage of the organization.
  • Consider how the distribution/clustering of employees might help benefit local communities and organizations.

04 / Building Tech-Savvy 

From Mujtaba Hameed
Despite the global shift to remote work and the technology adoption that it has instigated, companies are having difficulty implementing new technology solutions because of poor employee adoption. This article in the HBR probes into this phenomenon and tries to come up with some actionable ways to get ahead of it in your own organization.
Why It Matters
As we deal with the long-term ramifications of the pandemic, like fundamental economic shifts, technology will be more important than ever to plug the gaps left by failing service providers and to ensure that companies remain fit for purpose. However, finding the right technology solution is only Step One. Building a culture, incentives, and structure for those technologies to succeed internally is where the majority of the work lies. There’s no point in introducing new technology if none of your employees are ready, able, and willing to use it.
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Evaluate your organizational and cultural readiness for implementing new solutions.
  • Do people know why new technology solutions are being introduced? Start with transparency and ensure your entire organization understands the strategic reasons why a new technology solution is being implemented.
  • Are you tracking the performance of solutions? Track performance of a new technology as it achieves (or doesn’t) its institutional goals, updating the company on its performance.
  • Does your team have a performance review system able to incorporate the adoption of pivotal technologies? If not, integrate it.
  • Are there incentives in place that help distribute the responsibility of new technology adoption throughout the organization? If not, establish clear integration incentives.
  • Do employees have the opportunity to provide feedback on new solutions? It’s vital for people to feel heard in a time of change, and inviting their input can improve not only adoption but solution performance.

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