anthropology · architecture · creativity · culture

8 New Jobs People Will Have In 2025

Have you ever wondered what job you’ll have in 10 years? This trend-spotting firm came up with some ideas for what new jobs could exist by then.

New technology will eradicate some jobs, change others, and create whole new categories of employment. Innovation causes a churn in the job market, and this time around the churn is particularly large–from cheap sensors (creating “an Internet of things“) to 3-D printing (enabling more distributed manufacturing).

Sparks & Honey, a New York trend-spotting firm, has a wall in its office where staff can post imaginative next-generation jobs. Below are eight of them, with narration from CEO Terry Young (who previously appeared here talking about health care).

1. Digital Death Manager

2. Un-schooling Counselor

3. Armchair Explorer (this already exists, btw).

see all 8 via 8 New Jobs People Will Have In 2025 | Co.Exist | ideas + impact.

First, this list is a great example of why creativity and playfulness are so important to cultivate – it’ll help you adapt to the future.

But several of these jobs also require being able to think creatively and outside the box, being adaptable and adjusting to new problems like “I haven’t been in school in 10 years but want to go back), and thinking abstractly. All of which are cultivated and grown through play!

architecture · community · culture · happiness · work

Does Not Having an Office Make You a Happier Worker?

Office Space
Office Space (Photo credit: steve-and-diane)

I read an article yesterday about “the next big thing” in office space. According to Uday Dandavate, the CEO of SonicRim, the next “megatrend” is going to be no office space:

Large working complexes will be pyramids for dead people. I’m not making a judgment. I am just observing. They are fading symbols of an era that is soon going to be a bygone era.The ideal environment is where people don’t have to go to a workplace. The workplace is distributed in the community.
Companies won’t be building offices; they will be building communities and nice places to work in those communities. It’s a fallacy that people want to stay at home to work. In a given moment they want to work where they would be most productive, or relaxed, in the kind of mindset they need to be in. We need to get away from constructing buildings that have flexibility to creating work environments that can evolve.

There needs to be a complex assessment of different moments at work. Recently we finished a global study on auto interiors for Johnson Controls. When you sit inside your car there are different moments that have different states of mind, going to work or coming home. Sometimes people want to feel their car is their home. At times people want the car to feel like a workplace. Take the same concept and apply it to architecture and work places. For any productive activity, not just working but cooking, reading, writing a letter, there is always a most conducive environment.

More at: The Registry SF

While Dandavate believes that the workers will be dispersed throughout the community, I’m not sure I entirely buy the idea that the central office space or main corporate headquarters is going to disappear. The emphasis on having everyone in one space my diminish, but there are a lot of reasons why having a central space sanctioned as “for work” is important.
To name a few:

  • Working parents who need a space away from family distractions, like screaming children and biting puppies. Or heck, noisy roommates for that matter.
  • People for whom going to the local library or coffee shop every day. This isn’t an option for a lot of people, even those living in big cities.
  • People who work very collaboratively and need real-time input, and face time in order to accomplish their work.
  • People who need more space to work than the kitchen table or their tiny apartment walls can provide.
  • Those who just need the peer pressure of others working around them to push through a hard deadline.
  • Extraverts!

Dandavate mentions a sense of identity for workers with the company that doesn’t require a tangible, geographical locale. I agree with his assessment that people don’t need a geographic place to congregate at to form a bond with coworkers or identify with a company, but they sure want one. Microsoft has a huge annual gathering of its employees in or near their homebase in Redmond, that most employees working from afar get really excited about. Traceurs (people who train parkour) will make pilgrimages to a small park outside of Paris simply because one of the sport’s founders filmed a video there. Elvis fans have Graceland.

Workers are also becoming more vocal about work vs. home life, and for many it is unappealing to have your work at home or not be able to leave it somewhere else (even places like Office Nomads you have to bring most of your stuff home with you).

Maybe I’m totally off-base, but while I think the workplace will become more flexible, we will always have the “homebase/headquarters” office buildings.
Disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

anthropology · behavior · brain · community · culture · happiness · health · mental health · play · psychology · Social

Unhappy Employees Cost More (and how to reduce that cost)

Employment Exhibition
What does it take to reduce on-the-job depression and create an overall happier work environment? (Photo credit: Modern_Language_Center)

A recent study of health factors and their associated costs at seven companies, published in the journal Health Affairs, found that “depression is the most costly among 10 common risk factors linked to higher health spending on employees.”

The analysis, found that these factors — which also included obesity, high blood sugar and high blood pressure — were associated with nearly a quarter of the money spent on the health care of more than 92,000 workers.

First the employees were assessed for health risks, then researchers tracked their medical spending from 2005 through 2009.

The average medical spending for each employee was $3,961 a year. In total, $82 million, or 22 percent, of the $366 million annually spent on health care for the workers was attributed to the 10 risk factors, the study found.

The relationship between higher spending and depression was the strongest, with 48 percent more spending for workers with a propensity for that widespread problem.

via VPR News: Depression And Health Spending Go Together.

Now, to be fair, this is a fairly small study of just seven companies, and the article didn’t say how many employees worked at these companies. However, this is definitely a trend that has been spotted at least anecdotally by many HR managers, so it’s nice to see that there is some “official” analysis being done on the issue.

So what can employers do about this? My fear is that employers would discriminate, unintentionally or intentionally, against people who suffer from depression. But these days many people will be diagnosed with depression due to a temporary life situation such as a death in the family, or their jobs, so being fired for temporary sadness is probably not a good idea for companies.

Instead, my hope is that companies would invest more on making people’s job satisfaction higher. As of two years ago, Americans reported the lowest job satisfaction ever recorded. That means employers can be doing A LOT more to improve their employees’ lives at work. And a lot of that has to do with feeling supported by their managers, and feel like they are heard and respected and overall a part of the team. A lot of that comes from having fun at work.

This philosophy has been spouted in several different books and magazines, and has been shown to work well in classrooms as well, referred to as the “Responsive Classroom” approach.

The Responsive Classroom approach centers on several ostensibly mundane classroom practices. Each morning students form a circle, greet one another, share bits of news, engage in a brief, fun activity and review the day’s agenda. The idea is to build trust, ensure a little fun (which adolescents crave) and confront small problems before they become big. Students might welcome one another with salutations from a foreign language. An activity might involve tossing several balls around a circle in rapid succession. Students share weekend plans or explore topics like bullying before lessons begin. (New York Times)

This approach could very easily be applied to a business setting, in fact it sounds like a team kick-off meeting one might see in a corporate environment. Taking time to connect with other coworkers and laugh a little before diving in to the day’s work has been shown to work wonders for productivity and boost morality in both school and work settings.

There is definitely a  drive and expectation in many industries to work longer, faster, harder hours, and be available and working at all hours. But that drive is unsustainable, demonstrated by the low job satisfaction and high burnout rates in many industries, from high-tech to physicians. Taking time to play a little bit at work, or just connect with coworkers, is being shown as an effective way to reduce depression related to work and job burnout, increase productivity, and create a more cohesive company with more loyalty overall to the company’s mission.

So long story short: remember to bring the koosh ball to your next meeting.

behavior · brain · environment · happiness

Want More Productive Workers? Adjust Your Thermostat | Fast Company

English: Temperatures in the USA, mesoscale an...
You temperature impacts your perceptions and job performance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The rain, wind, and falling leaves make it feel like fall is officially upon us in most of the United States (although some regions are still experiencing an Indian Summer). This makes many of us think of warm beverages and sweaters, unless you work in an office that turns the heat up WAY too high all winter long. In fact, working in a space that is either too hot or too cold can effect productivity:

One of the painful ironies of office life is that we can never quite get the temperature right. We spend our summers shivering in meat lockers and our winters sweating in saunas.

Central air hasn’t made us comfortable, so much as made us uncomfortable in a different way.

The experience isn’t simply unpleasant. It comes with a real financial cost… [according to one study], when temperatures were low 68 degrees, employees committed 44% more errors and were less than half as productive as when temperatures were warm a cozy 77 degrees.

Cold employees weren’t just uncomfortable, they were distracted. The drop in performance was costing employers 10% more per hour, per employee. Which makes sense. When our body’s temperature drops, we expend energy keeping ourselves warm, making less energy available for concentration, inspiration, and insight.

via Want More Productive Workers? Adjust Your Thermostat | Fast Company.

This importance of creating comfortable work environments is interesting to me. I know a lot of freelance workers that have a favorite coffee shop to camp out in, often one of the criteria being it’s warm and cozy in the fall and winter.

I also vaguely recall a couple of studies that found play did not occur for animals outside of certain temperature ranges. (If anyone can find one of the studies please let me know).

As humans, we are adaptable to almost all climates from the Arctic to the Serengeti. So I think it is surprising to people to discover just how fragile we are.

Speaking of fragile, the article also mentions the connection between feeling cold and feeling lonely:

In a fascinating study reported in the prestigious journal Science, psychologists uncovered a link between physical and interpersonal warmth. When people feel cold physically, they’re also more likely to perceive others as less generous and caring.

When we’re warm, on the other hand, we let our guard down and view ourselves as more similar to those around us. A forthcoming paper from researchers at UCLA even shows that brief exposure to warmer temperatures leads people to report higher job satisfaction.

The unconscious desire for physical warmth is thought to be the reason lonely people bathe longer, more frequently, and use higher temperatures.

We often describe people as “cold” or “warm,” so it makes sense our perceptions would match our physical sensations. I wonder if this has anything to do with the reported “Seattle Freeze” phenomenon and in contrast the southern United States’ reputation for being open and hospitable.

While the article in Fast Company focused on job productivity, I think this is an interesting observation into overall well-being and improving environments in general.

Do you find you perform better at certain temperatures? Is one temp better for working over playing? For example, I like it to be warm but not hot while doing non-creative work, but if I’m doing an art or construction project or something creative I actually like it a little bit warmer. Leave your complaints or comments below.

architecture · behavior · culture · design · happiness · mental health · Social

New Office Designs in Seattle Trend Towards Open, Social Spaces

Most of us these days work in a cubicle, although the past ten years have really seen a transformation of space and place at the workplace in order to create happier, and therefore more productive, workers. This article in the NYTimes focused on some organizations in Seattle that have embraced a more open work floor plan:

Is this your idea of a perfect work environment?

MARTHA CHOE’S ideal working space is not her private office, nice though it is, but rather a long, narrow table in the vast atrium of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters here.

Ms. Choe, a former member of the City Council here, is the foundation’s chief administrative officer, and she had considerable input in the building’s design. One objective from the start was to give the 1,000 employees a variety of spaces to accommodate different kinds of work. “There’s a recognition that we work in different modes, and we’ve designed spaces to accommodate them,” she says. “I think one of the lessons is to understand your business, and understand what your people need to do their best work.”

The building was designed by NBBJ, a 700-employee architecture firm whose largest operation is in Seattle. The structure is a culmination of ideas about the 21st-century workplace that NBBJ has been exploring in corporate office designs worldwide, including its own offices here.

These are the main concepts: Buzz — conversational noise and commotion — is good. Private offices and expressions of hierarchy are of debatable value. Less space per worker may be inevitable for cost-effectiveness, but it can enhance the working environment, not degrade it. Daylight, lots of it, is indispensable. Chance encounters yield creative energy. And mobility is essential.

This isn’t a suddenly exploding trend. NBBJ’s research has found that two-thirds of American office space is now configured in some sort of open arrangement. But even as these designs save employers space and money, they can make office workers feel like so many cattle. So how to humanize the setting?

SEATTLE serves as a test tube because of several converging factors: There’s a lot of money here to experiment with projects. The work force is relatively young and open to innovation. And the local culture places a high value on informality, autonomy and egalitarianism. People will put in long hours under high pressure if they feel respected, but they won’t tolerate being treated like Dilberts.

Most office workers in Seattle and elsewhere labor in environments much less inspiring than Ms. Choe’s. And most employers have much less to spend to make things pleasant. (Bill and Melinda Gates personally contributed $350 million of the campus’s $500 million cost.) But staying competitive requires coming up with the best ideas, and the office environment can be the incubator for them.

Read the full article.

I am all for creating spaces that encourage collaboration and make workers feel comfortable and ready to get down to business. My only question is lack of meeting space. In my last two jobs it has been very hard to find private spaces to meet, although both were cubicle-based workspaces so that layout doesn’t necessarily solve things either. And I’m not alone in my concerns, as the article points out:

NOT all of NBBJ’s corporate clients have boarded the informality-and-buzz bandwagon. When the R.C. Hedreen Company, a real estate development firm based in Seattle, commissioned a renovation of a 10,800-square-foot floor in an old downtown office building five years ago, it specified a perimeter of private offices. Collaborative spaces are provided for creative teamwork, but the traditional offices remain the executives’ home ports.

“Individually, a lot of our workday is taken up with tasks that are better served by working alone in private offices,” says David Thyer, Hedreen’s president.

Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” is skeptical of open-office environments — for introverts and extroverts alike, though she says the first group suffers much more amid noise and bustle.

What are your thoughts on work space? Do you like having an open space to share, or do you prefer your own cubicle or booth? How do you handle the meeting privacy issues at your office? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

behavior · culture · happiness · Me · psychology

Study Hacks: Rethinking Passion

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What are the real keys to a fulfilling career? Image via Wikipedia

As a child growing up smooshed in between the “Me” generation and the Millenials, I have always been told that I could be whatever I wanted when I grew up, and to follow my passion; pursue my dreams and the money will follow. After going to college, getting a real job, going back to college, and getting several other jobs, it started to dawn on me that this whole “pursue your dream” thing might not be the best strategy after all, (although I wouldn’t say I’ve completely abandoned the idea). So I was intrigued when I read this post from the blog Study Hacks by David Shenk, full-on condoning this sneaking suspicion I’ve had for awhile.

For the past couple years I’ve been advancing a controversial argument: “follow your passion” is bad advice.

I’m not against feeling passionate about your work — in fact, I think this is a fantastic goal. But from my experience studying this issue, passion is not something that you discover and then match a job to; it is, instead, something that grows over time along with your skills.

In other words, working right trumps finding the right work.

This viewpoint was also supported recently in a The New York Times article by David Brooks:

“College grads are often sent out into the world amid rapturous talk of limitless possibilities. But this talk is of no help to the central business of adulthood, finding serious things to tie yourself down to.”

more via Study Hacks » Features: Rethinking Passion.

It’s nice that “grown-ups” are finally acknowledging that we’re not all going to grow up to rock stars or astronauts. That there needs to be more behind “finding your passion” in order to succeed in a competitive capitalist market structure.

However, my vision is slightly skewed, because of how many people in my family DID follow their passions. My mom, my dad, two of my cousins, my husband, my mother-in-law, and multiple siblings-in-law, all of them made money at one point in their lives (or continue to) doing what they loved, following what was their “passion” at the time. Only a couple of them have made much money doing it, and many of them eventually got “real jobs.” But still, many of my family members were able to turn their passions into a career.

So I think there IS a part of the equation where passion is important; if the subject matter doesn’t interest you, then you’re asking for a looooong slog. The difference between their success and others’ failures, I think, is that they weren’t just “following” their dream; they all actively pursued it! They wrote up business plans and proposals. They sold their cars and slept of friends’ sofas and lived off of beans and rice while they got started. Maybe they were only able to pursue it part-time because they had to take a “real” job to pay rent. When more training was needed they got it. When long nights were needed, they put them in.

I think the idea is we are more motivated to put these long hours in if we are passionate about something. However, I do think both Brooks and Shenk are also right in that it is NOT always fun, it is NOT always easy, and there is realistically more value in dedicating yourself to what you are doing right now!

Another factor is prioritizing what’s important to you, including your time. In the world of the desk job and remote access, there is more flexibility. I think it is harder to be dedicated to something than simply passionate about it. Stenk has a great post from last year about how to love your career. I’m sure I’m butchering the message, but basically it comes down to

  • feeling like you have control of your own destiny,
  • you’re making a difference (in any small way),
  • and that you’re good at what you do.

That certainly matches up with the most successful entrepreneurs in my family. They valued the autonomy over their lives, and they were GOOD at what they did, but it came from years of training and hard work.

It definitely adds some much-needed perspective to the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”