29 January 2013

The Risks of Telecommuting

Beware!   A telecommuter's lack of "face time" may be leading to smaller raises, less promotions, and poorer work evaluations.  Whether unintentionally or not, managers seem affected by "passive face time" (being observed in the workplace or working) or "extracurricular face time" (being seen at the workplace or near co-workers outside of normal hours.)

If you're telecommuting, you can try to make a bigger impression by getting colleagues to mention you, by visiting the office more, giving regular status updates, and sending all your e-mail really early or really late (gives the impression you're working beyond normal business hours).

For the full article and to read how employers can avoid unfair evaluations based on face time, see "Why Showing Your Face at Work Matters."

21 January 2013

Passion Capital

"Passion Capital" is the world's most valuable asset, according to Paul Alofs, author of the book, Passion Capital.  Many businesses are recognizing that in order to tap into a worker's passion capital, especially in creative industries, they may have to re-envision their work policies. When or how an employee is inspired may not be up to a regular 9-5 work timetable and thus, innovative businesses are allowing more flex-time, telecommuting, employee perks, employee choices, and are looking to see how they can reward and encourage their employees.

More and more studies indicate that working longer does not equal more productivity.  In fact, after more than 8 hours of work, productivity drops by half.  Moreover, long overtime hours cause an employee's health to worsen and doubles the employee's risk of depression.  European countries where working over 48 hours a week is prohibited still manage to maintain a competitive edge while also having a high happiness quotient.

As mentioned on my other blog, in the article "On Volunteering", one of the worse feelings is a person putting in the work and not being appreciated for it.  Major companies like Symantec and Intuit have instituted a type of crowd-sourced bonus system whereby anybody in the company can nominate a co-worker for a bonus.  Not only does the employee get a bonus, but the social recognition helps too!

Take a look at some of the ways companies are trying to tap into and recharge passion capital:

AOL Huffington Post Media Group:  Special nap rooms to rest during the day.

CouchSurfing:  Option to work one month from anywhere in the world

Autodesk:  Pipes in soft ambient noise to help employees focus

Betterment:  No official work hours; employees choose when and where they want to work

02 January 2013

Diversity in the Workforce

I once asked at a WIGI conference if diversity in the workplace had made an impact on design decisions.  Normally, people talk about the impact on female character models or how diversity in the workforce can broaden the market appeal of the games.  I'd like to hear your thoughts on how diversity in the workforce affects design decisions.

I'm an economics major, so when I presented at the Women's Game Conference in 2005, I discussed the economic impact of diversity:  reduced recruitment costs, increased staff motivation, increased creativity, and greater growth in new initiatives.  A more diverse workforce means more diverse backgrounds and experiences, which can lead to richer ideas and greater community connections.  Moreover, studies have shown that when the male:female ratio is more even, employees feel that it is a more pleasant work environment and this leads to higher productivity.

So why is it that there are fewer women in the game industry?  #1reasonwhy has shed some light, citing reasons from misogyny to harsh work conditions to unequal pay.  The prevailing economic thought on women's unequal pay when I was taking Labor Economics in college had to do with the fact that women can have babies.  Because some women had babies and chose to drop out of the workforce, it was reasoned that employees could not count on women to be reliable.  Therefore, it was riskier to hire women.  Also, those women who did drop out of the workforce tended to do so during years when men were climbing up the corporate ladder so they lost valuable time in their careers.  Often times, they could not return to the workforce after a hiatus.

However, the 2000 Nobelist in Economics James Heckman, who conducted a exhaustive study on women in the workforce, concluded that there was no "typical" woman who dropped in and out of the workforce.  There were women who worked all the time and there were women who didn't work or worked part-time or seasonally.  He concluded that companies should pay attention to the women who worked and invest in them equally.  An unequal wage to a valuable employee would only be detrimental to the company and to the industry.

Of course, as many HR managers in the video game industry might tell you, it can be challenging to find a diverse pool of qualified applicants.  It takes top-level commitment.  See the video below for ideas on diversity initiatives.