Time for Work-Life Balance

Although Serendipity Labs CEO John Arenas argues that actual balance probably shouldn’t be the goal, there are ways to avoid the prospect of over-intrusive priorities that create instability.

Because the shift toward a global workplace has made 24-7 access the norm, it is rare to come across someone who does not have a cell phone in his hands. Most people you see walking down the street are multitasking between listening to music, texting, and sending an email. There is almost a built-in temptation to schedule some activity for every free minute in the day. As our calendars near their capacity, work tasks and social commitments begin to blur together and leave us feeling bogged down and often resentful.

Writing for The Muse at Mashable, Erin Greenawald identifies three critical factors that help introduce some much-needed perspective in the time allocation equation:

  1. Free Time Doesn’t Have to Be Available Time
  2. If it’s Not on the Calendar, it Won’t Happen
  3. Sometimes My Time is More Valuable Than My Money

Even without the supporting detail these principles are powerful, but you can dive into the detail here.


“As a small business person, you have no greater leverage than the truth.” — John Greenleaf Whittier

The advice from influential poet and fervent abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier may be more useful in our own time than it was nearly 200 years ago. Big businesses with established brands are not only more risk-averse, they are also more inclined to maintain the status quo at any cost, even if it means being less impartial or even forthright with customers. The kind of market disruption often ascribed to small players who succeed is not just the result of greater agility but of greater transparency and authenticity. These values become both more important and harder to ignore as communication and information channels proliferate.



Is Virtual Coworking a Thing?

Using a concept not unlike Weiden + Kennedy’s Real Life at Work installation, Dallas-based coworking space The Common Desk enlisted its employees to create a storyline and film a four-episode series on its workplace culture to appear on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube each week.

A Reality TV take on The Office? Maybe not. But the face time paid off. Common Desk improved its Google rankings and increased night memberships by 30-percent after giving the public a glimpse into what the Common Desk’s community manager Merrick Pickens referred to as “the quirkiness of its members.” The series gives viewers a virtual experience of the coworking culture particular to The Common Desk.

The communal spaces and collaborative work systems featured in the series, similar to those at Serendipity Labs, fill the gap between office requirements and people needs, so that relationships blossom and brainstorming is bigger.

To get some virtual face time with coworking spaces, check out the Serendipity Labs Facebook or Twitter pages.


Top 3 Motivators for Knowledge Workers

Knowledge workers, more than any other, are the ones most closely associated with the need for flexible work life. They are also the key to winning in the future of global business competition. Therefore, knowing what will attract and impress those workers and help them feel comfortable is something every business should consider. Health, wellness, safety and more are just a few leading strategies for keeping them.

Debra Moritz with Jones Lang LaSalle uses Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to explain what knowledge workers and Millenials need to breed success in corporations. Moritz recognizes that while the millenial generation is beginning to take over the workplace, there’s still a significant amount of Baby Boomers out there. And regardless of their age difference, knowledge workers still make up a large majority of the workforce.

So what makes a knowledge worker tick? First, they need the basics like air conditioning, water, lights and so on. Most modern offices provide these expected accommodations. However, as the pyramid continues, businesses are changing to provide these needs in a way that appeals to knowledge workers. Here are the top three knowledge worker motivators:


The Top 2 Factors for Effective Networking

According to Scott Gerber, founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, there are two major tools required for being a better networker:

1. access to resources, and
2. abandon your agenda.

Aim to help and connect other people before looking for something in exchange. The person who is known for connecting others ends up being top-of-mind when opportunity strikes in the future.

Shared workplaces provide access to resources and spaces designed for fortuitous encounters, so the master networker can thrive.

The Design Discipline of Delivering Inspiration

As the demand for modern design in highly-functional office space increases, research is emerging that highlights what features work best. Serendipity Labs CEO, John Arenas explains why a well-planned environment increases both collaboration and privacy while maximizing space and reducing overhead.

There aren’t many office environments that face the discipline of workers voting with their feet every day, but Serendipity Labs and other providers of workplace-as-a-service must deliver designs that offer inspiration, comfort, security, flexibility and flawless service every day in order to attract and satisfy their members, while making the best use of every square foot.

Serendipity Labs, a premium corporate coworking provider, balances open social space design with quiet areas for focused work and dedicated spaces for full privacy. Its members are professional workers who need to traverse spaces throughout the day that include dedicated enclaves, shared work spaces, collaboration studios and work bars from time to time, depending on what they are working on. A lab-café and a lounge area add to the choices of settings.

While many corporate offices have recently been designed with fewer walls, bench seating and few private offices, the Serendipity Labs extensive design research has determined that an equal mix of private, collaborative and social spaces to be optimal for professional worker satisfaction and productivity.

Because Serendipity Labs is in the business of offering an inspirational workplace, delivered as a hospitality experience for a membership fee, the company continuously measures how the different types of spaces are used by members. Flexibility in the design allows for regular reconfiguration and optimization. A space and furnishings that can serve as an ideation studio for a project team by day and an event space for special events with ease, means high utilization and high value. This flexibility allows the designs to address member needs from moment to moment, while delivering the highest comfortable capacity and membership levels. For coworking providers, there has to be discipline in designing to optimize economic performance so that every square foot is contributing to maximum revenue potential. If a space or setting is not performing, it can be changed.

While corporate office space per worker has fallen from over 250 sf per person to below 150sf per person, Coworking facilities regularly support membership at 50sf per member. Amazing what economic motivation and competitive efficiency can do to redefine design.

– By John Arenas, Serendipity Labs

Hottest Modern Office Designs

As purveyors of some of the best new workplace build-outs on the planet, we here at Serendipity Labs we consider ourselves pretty savvy consumers of modern office design. So, imagine our excitement to find OfficeDesignGallery.com. Nice! A smart, clean layout devoted to nothing but hot and cool office designs. There are categories to browse photo layouts of workplace designs by size, by color, by country and by designer.

One of our favorites above: Completed in August 2012, the new headquarters for Outsell, LLC, in Capella Tower located in downtown Minneapolis. From Gensler designers & architects. More on that project here.

Brainstorming Doesn’t Work. Try Brainswarming.

When a team is given a project to tackle, companies naturally lean towards ‘group think’ or ‘brainstorming’, but individual flexibility may be more effective in accomplishing goals as a group.

Long winded brainstorming meetings where social pressures and office politics discourage discussion from quieter team members can cause the team to miss out on some great ideas.  Instead businesses should consider project-task flexibility, allowing workers to gather ideas and accomplish sub-tasks on their own, and then bring them together in a more systematic, all-inclusive fashion.

This new concept of brainswarming has been determined to be more effective than traditional brainstorming. Research showed significantly more ideas being captured within a specific time frame using brainswarming versus brainstorming. From businessman and writer, Max De Pree:

“We need to give each other space to grow… so that we may give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”

For more information on brainswarming, check out this video by Dr. Tony McCaffrey of Harvard Business Review.


Working Smartly with Your Smartphone

With the endless access gained through smartphone technology, can it be that we unconsciously compromise our personal and private time?

In the recent Inspired Worklife article, Forget About Work-Life Balance, Serendipity Labs examined a concept called Work-Life Integration in which professionals integrate work into their everyday lives by leveraging technologies like smartphones. But what are the boundaries between work and play? Do we continue checking emails from colleagues while enjoying a well-deserved vacation with friends and family? With the endless access gained through smartphone technology, can it be that we unconsciously compromise our personal and private time?

Smartphones are the new look of the 21st Century. If you look at anyone on any given day, they’re texting or looking at their smartphone. A recent survey revealed that a majority of smartphone users were spending excessive amounts of time checking work emails. Clive Thompson in MotherJones.com also reveals that a big percentage of workers check emails while on vacation. Other research conducted by Professor Gloria Marks at UC Irvine proved that managing the sheer volume of emails could create feelings of overload. So the question now is how do we avoid death by smartphone and instead leverage technology to our advantage?

Harvard Professor Leslie Perlow ran a study on consultants and their email habits. Most were found to be habitual email checkers during vacation, which translated to longer working hours and unhappy family members. Perlow’s recommendation: To create boundaries or “predictable periods of time off” when workers did not check email or could not be accessed. While no productivity was lost, workers experienced a reduction in work hours, improved morale, and lower stress. In the other study conducted at UCLA where excessive emailing was found to trigger higher stress levels, the management team was asked to reduce email interruption on weekends and even during work hours by promoting verbal communication when necessary. This resulted in a happier, calmer work group.

Just because the ingenuity of the smartphone hypnotizes us with its charm and immeasurable accessibility, it does not have to become the vice of our times. The worker is always in control of technology and not vice versa. Referring once again to Serendipity’s Work-Life Integration Blog, it should be reiterated that the idea is to work smarter, not harder. After all, it is called a ‘smart’phone.

Productivity: Man or Machine?

“What can we do to create shared prosperity? The answer is not to try to slow down technology. Instead of racing against the machine, we need to learn to race with the machine.” — Erik Brynjolfsson

With the ubiquity of advanced technology, companies cannot help but wonder if we have hit our productivity peak. According to Erik Brynjolfsson on Ted Talks, “Growth is not dead.” Statistics show that productivity is at an all time high. So how do we continue to increase productivity in the future? Technology is not enough – we must rely on human intelligence to rethink processes in order to achieve increased productivity. According to Brynjolfsson, we cannot depend fully on technology; after all there are some things that computers cannot do better than humans like drive a car through traffic. Like everything else, it’s all about balance. The answer is not only in creating environments that foster idea generation but leveraging opportunities for humans and machines to work cohesively.

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