Work-Life Balance is a Myth

So says Serendipity Labs CEO John Arenas in today’s edition of Fast Company.


As a provider of alternative workplaces over the past 20 years at Regus, Worktopia, and now Serendipity Labs, John has had a unique vantage point for observing professionals as they are catapulted by technology, mobility, and connectivity into a 24/7 digital way of life.

The always-on work culture has yielded huge gains in worker productivity, but without regard for any boundaries with our personal lives. Now, Gen X and Millennial values are taking hold and, as a result, workers are learning to redirect these same forces to empower choices that improve their lives, while making them more valuable at work.

Check out John’s three critical guidelines on how to drop the balancing act and set some boundaries.

Good Will is Good Business

Neither customers nor employees favor an exclusive, singular focus on the bottom line.


Over the last couple decades, studies have shown a decline in the public’s trust of large corporations as profits soar. People normally tend to assume that if a company is making the big bucks, they’re probably keeping it all to themselves. However, according to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, during the last two years, that lack in trust has decreased, and even reversed course.

So what does this mean? This shift in perception offers big businesses a great opportunity to prove themselves worthy to the public. In other words, now is their time to shine.

The trend of adding some sort of corporate social responsibility to a company’s mission has been going on for years, but finally, companies are stepping up and fulfilling that part of the mission. Recently, Fast Company named the “10 Most Innovative Companies Dedicated to Social Good”. That list includes, but is not limited to companies like, Nike, Patagonia, Tesla and SolarCity.

These companies represent the variety of possibilities that can stem from a social responsibility campaign. They prove it’s not just about giving money to charities, but also about getting your customers and stakeholders involved and letting them make a difference. By finding out what truly matters to customers and stakeholders, companies are more likely to roll out a campaign that will result in a profit increase. Of course, many will argue that the point of doing social good shouldn’t be a means to increase profits—but it certainly can’t hurt, right? In addition, many corporations are more likely to instill a culture of good will if eventual prosperity is hanging in the balance.

Today’s big businesses are seeing more value in gaining a foothold between monetary success and social recognition. We’re moving from a business world where money was all that mattered, to one where CEOs want more sustainable recognition. And technically, they need to bring more to the table if they want to reach their utmost potential.

The key to a successful social responsibility campaign is flexibility. Just because one plan is right for one company doesn’t mean it will work for another. Finding a cause that is important to both employees and stakeholders will help company’s foster good will that is genuine.

The New Office Must-Haves: Flexible, Sustainable, Adaptable

Workplace Wednesday: Agile OFIS in Houston


As the economy improves, many businesses are experiencing exponential growth. And while progress is never a bad thing, it requires resources. In some situations, rapid growth is unexpected, and businesses can’t afford to pass up a great opportunity because of a lack of space.

Agile OFIS is a Houston based company that provides office solutions that are sustainable, innovative and, most importantly, flexible. Specifically, they design spaces comprised of DIRTT walls. The wall elements allow for seamless mounting of countless materials that can be removed without causing damage. More importantly, the walls can go up in a matter of days—and come down just as quickly. Moreover, once a company finds a new space, the walls travel with them and can be reconfigured to fit the new design.

ICE technology is the software that allows customers to plan their space from the ground up. The program gives customers a digital tour of exactly what the space will look like. In addition, the design elements are stored and can be reconfigured when a company is ready to make changes. If management is wondering how DIRTT solutions will measure up to traditional construction, ICEberg serves as a reliable cost-comparison tool.

As corporate culture evolves, sustainability continues to take precedence as a business goal. Much is wasted with traditional construction and transporting costly materials makes its own carbon footprint. Financially, DIRTT solutions save companies time and money by expediting construction. As a team, DIRTT and ICE components allow customers to design their dream office without breaking the bank or damaging the environment.

While corporations are becoming more flexible when it comes to workplace culture, there is still room for growth in physical structure. Make sure to check out “Sitting is the New Smoking” or “Superdesk-A Coworker’s Paradise” for other ways to make your office space more flexible.

This Class of Telecommuters Works Harder

Programmers face increasingly stiff competition, and are having to fight harder to win.


As one of the most telecommuter-friendly careers, computer programming and specifically, coding, offers professionals a real chance at a flexible lifestyle. Not only can they work from home, they are also well paid.

However, many programmers report that while they enjoy being able to do the job remotely, it doesn’t make the work any easier. Because open-source software continues to gain popularity, coders are usually evaluated by their peers. For some, this may seem better than the alternative; but for programmers it just makes their job more stressful and competitive.

Julie Bort at Business Insider explains how these circumstances cause many tech professionals to suffer from a condition known as “impostor syndrome,” which is best described as a constant feeling that there is always someone out there with better skills working to surpass you. Studies have led researchers to believe this condition is rooted in a tendency to hold oneself to extremely high standards, and that women are more likely to suffer than men.

So how do programmers deal with the pressure? They work harder, of course. Now the trend is moving towards becoming the “real programmer,” or in other words, coding and working in your spare time—for no extra pay. This type of lifestyle has actually become the norm in the developer sphere, and it’s creating a vicious cycle of working endless hours to compete with others and in the end still feeling defeated.

Furthermore, Nick Floyd, a coder and writer, has found a silver lining, and now makes an effort to spread awareness about overcoming imposter syndrome and the inner real programmer. He explains that professionals should adopt a new mindset and “Go for work-life awesome not work life balance.” On the New Relic blog you can watch his lecture, as well as the four part series, where he teaches people—not just programmers—how to walk the fine line between work and personal life.

To read more on creating a flexible lifestyle and fighting stress, check out “Illness or Stress – Why Are You Really Calling In?” and “Meditation: Pressing the Reset Button May Be the Cure to Workplace Stress.”

 

 

 

Defining Workplace Flexibility

Best Practices: at W.L. Gore & Associates, it’s not just the fabric that’s flexible.


W.L. Gore & Associates is best known for creating fabrics and fibers found in guitar strings, cables and waterproof apparel. Their innovative technology isn’t the only thing that sets them apart, though. The company’s unique workplace structure—or lack thereof—is exactly what has landed them on the Fortune Best Companies to Work For  list every year since the rankings began 30 years ago.  

Years of research have led business leaders to believe that a hierarchal structure may not be the answer to workplace harmony. In addition, studies reveal that traditional chains of command actually lead to a decrease in retention. While some employees respond well to this type of individualistic structure, others perform better in a team or collectivist setting.

W.L. Gore & Associates is a “team-based, flat lattice organization that fosters personal initiative.” This means that there are no traditional organizational charts, no chains of command and no predetermined channels of communication. In other words, they have re-written the rules for workplace norms.

So how do they make this work? Employees become associates and bosses become sponsors—an easy fix to the complexities that come with workplace hierarchy.

You may be wondering how an associate becomes a sponsor. Sponsors or leaders separate themselves by “demonstrating special knowledge, skill, or experience that advances a business objective,” and rather than being appointed, leaders are determined by “followership.” This ensures that associates support and respect their sponsors.

W.L. Gore & Associates’ workplace is a good reminder that workplace flexibility extends beyond the location of your office and the flexibility of your hours to the flexibility of your entire organization. And since the company is industrially diverse, hopefully this is a sign that workplace flexibility can be, too.

Art Opening Reception – May 1st at Rye Labs

Serendipity Labs and Kenise Barnes Fine Art present…

“Notes and Pieces”

an exhibition of work by Daniel Pailes-Friedman

From the artist:
“These works explore the shapes of alphanumeric characters. These forms are very powerful as they have existed in our consciousness for our whole lives and we have ultimately established an intimate bond with them. They are pushed to abstraction through a cyclical process of construction and deconstruction.”

Read the artist’s full statement here.

Where: Serendipity Labs in Rye
When: Thursday, May 1, 2014 6-8PM
What: Art Opening Reception – A Networking Social Event
Who: All are invited – no charge
Food & Beverage: Complimentary wine & appetizers
Parking: Available in our two lots or municipal parking down the street

Plan on coming? Register your intent at the Rye Labs Facebook Event page.

Here’s a small gallery selection of the artist’s work:

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Superdesk! A Coworker’s Paradise

Almost every office space offers open areas where people can collaborate and share ideas.  However, very few feature one continuous desk for all of their employees.


This 1,100 foot long desk was designed to flow throughout the entire office and accommodate New York-based Barbarian Group’s 125 employees. The arches built throughout the structure lead to conference rooms and are designed so employees can find some privacy.

While this beautiful structure cost a pretty penny at $300,000, it still competes with top of the line cubicle designs. Realistically, when all the departments at your company are communicating with the greatest ease, it will be worth it. The desk spans a variety of heights so employees can choose their spot depending on whether they prefer to stand or sit. Ultimately, Clive Wilkinson’s Superdesk allows users the luxury of doing whatever feels right at the time.

Overall, the Superdesk concept opens up endless possibilities for the Coworking world. While extroverts may benefit most from this design, the desk features hideaways for introverts who need their privacy, too.

Innovation, Inspiration, and Knowledge Access

“Acquiring preemptive knowledge about emerging technologies is the best way to ensure that we have a say in the making of our future.” — Catarina Mota


In her TEDTalk, Catarina Mota explains the benefits of freely sharing knowledge about smart materials. Currently, details about innovations like conductive ink and thermal sensitive color changing materials remain locked away within trade secrets or patents that are only available at university labs. Mota suggests that by sharing knowledge, we can ensure greater success in the future.

In 2009, Mota and Kirsty Boyle launched Openmaterials.org in hopes of creating a platform where visionaries can share their knowledge and efforts through trial and error, how-to’s and tutorials. Moreover, they help lead the open source effort when it comes to DIY. And we’re not talking DIY arts and crafts here; contributors are teaching one another how to utilize materials like paper, textiles, polymers, metal, organic materials, ceramic and glass to create life-changing inventions.

So how will an effort like this impact our society as a whole? Since many average people don’t have access to elaborate and expensive laboratories, Open Materials users can share alternative ways to create comparable life-changing inventions. Finding ways to make these products at a lower cost will in turn make them accessible to everyone.

If you’re still wondering why we need to be able to use smart materials, Mota leaves us with an intriguing explanation: “We can’t shape what we don’t understand and what we don’t understand and use ends up shaping us.”

To learn more about ground breaking innovators, or channeling the power of your own creativity, check out “How to Maintain Innovation and Creativity” and “As competition intensifies, the need for creative thinking increases…”

Burnishing Your Personal Brand

In an always-on, work-from-anywhere culture, the window for attention is smaller than ever. Here’s how to break through the clutter.


Once upon a time, a bachelor’s degree wasn’t a required qualification and some experience was always better than none. However, the landscape is changing and companies are expecting a lot more from prospective employees. Basically, the competition has intensified.

Many candidates who have both a degree and experience still struggle to land that perfect job because they don’t know someone within the company. One phrase that’s been around for decades comes to mind, “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know.” In today’s economy this advice rings truer than ever.

Initially, candidates may feel confident because they meet all the required and preferred qualifications that an employer requests; but in reality, job seekers must have something that sets them apart. So how can professionals and recent graduates move forward with their career when the barriers seem insurmountable

The first step to jumpstarting your career is developing a personal brand—or building and taking control of your reputation, both online and off. Building a personal brand helps your future boss see a face and a personality behind all those cover letters, resumes and writing samples. Luckily, there are numerous free tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr to help create your personal brand in the online sphere. In addition, companies find value in employees who are tech savvy and innovative, so feel free to launch new initiatives that are near and dear to your heart, especially those related to field you are interested in entering or are already a part of.

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Join the Labs at The Westchester Digital Summit

Rye Labs is proud to be a partner in this year’s Westchester Digital Summit, the annual event produced by Silverback Social focused on the digital revolutionNamed by Forbes as one of the “must-attend marketing conferences for leaders in 2014,” the Summit offers entrepreneurs and innovators a full-day event of networking, learning, and empowering insights.

Discount Tickets for Labs Members & Friends

We’re offering our members and friends $100 off the ticketed price for one of the most important digital media conferences of the year.  Just click “enter promotional code” at the bottom right of this Registration Page and enter the word Serendipity to reduce the Full Program Entry & Attendance fee.

If you’re attending the conference and not yet a Labs member, be sure to come by the Serendipity Labs booth and we will give you a complimentary one-week membership card!

Westchester Digital Summit
Thursday, May 15, 2014
The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester
3 Renaissance Sq, White Plains