Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

People who really miss the office are listening to its sounds at home

Anne says: What do you miss most about being in an office with other people? There’s a number of typical responses we’ve discussed during our Remote Meetup group sessions – but predominantly it’s people-related, not equipment, not the commute, not even the office plants. It’s people, it’s random workplace chatter and serendipity, informal moments of exchanging ideas, it’s even the favourite coffee place and that quick interaction with the barista who knows your name and your coffee type. But, I hadn’t even considered the office noise as something that people were missing. However, I must admit I miss the noise of cafes where I frequently go to write or edit my work.

When I saw this article, my initial reaction was how ridiculous, but then I read it, thought about ambient noise and the comfort factor. I also remembered open plan coworking offices and how annoying I found some of the chatter. Then, I actually started to think about it a little more… and then, I went to the link to Calm Office and played around with the noise generator. OMG – I’m not going to say anything more, except do it now. Select your noise levels and just work for an hour or so, then notice if you were able to focus more or less than your current working environment at home. Get it?!!

Enjoy and please try out different versions – the Sound of Colleagues is pretty cool too! (Jakkii says: and if you’re missing the cafe noise like Anne, try Coffitivity, which has long been a favourite of mine for those times I just need that familiar white noise of a cafe to help me focus!)

So while we’re working remotely, you can still have that ambient hum to avoid feeling completely disconnected.


Virtual watercooler moments – can they work when we’re remote?

Anne says: Now that you’ve had some time to listen to office noises (are you listening to them as you read this?), here’s the next conundrum people are struggling with and attempting to find a solution to. It’s the watercooler moments, the random workplace conversations, the corridor conversations, the spontaneous moments where you start chatting about something with someone and you suddenly find inspiration for a problem or new ways of approaching tasks. Or, you just exchange social moments that build trust and create bonds between people in the same workplace, but not necessarily part of the same team.

This article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reviews a number of commonly used technologies and how people are using them to recreate the informal conversations. Nicholas Bloom (a Stanford professor) mentions that a couple of issues that are difficult to replace via online channels include the rapid transfer of knowledge and continuing levels of innovation. These are both enhanced through face-to-face contact. But if we can’t achieve that, then we have to start looking at the alternatives – online.

A few weeks ago in the Work Friday Fives section of our Friday Faves we shared this MIT Technology Review article, “Remote workers want to re-create those watercooler moments, virtually.” It’s a good time to revisit it as it introduces some alternative technologies to the Wall Street Journal article, and also provides some theoretical perspectives that are worthwhile exploring: how people react, how they behave, and how can we support natural behaviours to enable casual interactions.

One of the issues raised refers to online conferences. Have you attended any of the current online, full day (over several days) conferences? What do you miss most? The people, the networking. I attended one recently that provided a breakout room (online) – I ventured over to take a look around, I waited for 5 minutes, no one else was there… so I left. It felt really weird and very lonely. I didn’t visit again during the breaks. I missed that opportunity to talk to others about the conference talks, the topics, the questions – it really just wasn’t the same! As a solution to this, one of the MIT lecturers has developed open source software called Minglr. He made this available during a conference, with guidelines for use and has written a paper on his findings.

For me, there are still concerns we need to address. What if you’ve recently joined the organisation, you don’t really know people, perhaps you’ve met a couple of people on a video hookup but you haven’t had the opportunity to connect informally. How do we provide ways for people to build connections and relationships? The WSJ article highlight the use of Donut, a Slack app, which based on algorithms will randomly allocate people to have informal catch ups. Likewise, Hallway, also a Slack app, will allocate people randomly to catch up for 10 minutes. But after you’ve participated in a few of these sessions, does the novelty wear off? I think it will, as demonstrated by other examples where software can connect you through always on video (yes, just like surveillance) and you tap on someone’s profile to have a chat with them. The disturbing aspect of always on video connections (or Zoom fatigue that I wrote about recently) was how people were covering up their cameras with sticky notes just to avoid being seen.

There’s no easy answer, but it’s encouraging that there are innovations and people trying to engage in novel ways to support watercooler moments and researching the impact on people and the way they work. However, we also need to be cognisant of distracting people from their work rather than supporting them to get their work done.

Ultimately, all these articles arrive at the same conclusion – we just miss being with other people.


Why every year—but especially 2020—feels like the worst ever

Jakkii says: Doesn’t this title just resonate immediately?? It sure did for me, I clicked through as soon as I read it.

Like many people, Eastwood had become obsessed with our world’s seemingly increasing danger—a response that has roots in our evolutionary development. Stories of fear and peril pique our anxiety. They put our brains on high alert, an advantage that once protected our early hominid ancestors from predators and natural disasters, but one that now leaves us “doomscrolling,” endlessly refreshing social media and online news to stay abreast of the latest threats. Our hearts race, and our minds keep constant vigil for the next perceived catastrophe. We yearn to feel prepared, so we become addicted to the updates, coming back for more until the world seems far worse than it ever has before.

See? Totally relatable, at least for some – many? most? – of us.

The article is a really interesting read on perspective, on doomscrolling and how it goes hand in hand with social media, and how to shift our thinking from endless negativity by controlling our biases and moving to more “rosy introspection, or less antisocial networking.”

If the title of this article resonated with you, have a read through the piece. Challenge yourself to control your nostalgia bias, to step away from the media we’re consuming and embrace other media and sources that bring fun and joy instead of doom and gloom. This isn’t about pollyanna-ing all over the place – it’s OK to not feel OK and to struggle and feel like things aren’t going well. But it’s also important to recognise how the media we consume impacts how we feel and how we perceive the world, and that there are things we can do to shift the dial there and help make our perception of our world a more positive place to live.


Around the house

Jakkii says: Look at that thing! Are they answering the phone, or are they actually a serial killer? Turns out it’s not actually a ‘hands-free telephone mask’, even though that does sound convenient despite the terrifying aesthetic, but instead it’s actually an ‘electric simulation mask’ from the 90s, an even more horrifying sounding beauty product that basically zaps your face to make you glow. Or something.

Don’t try this at home. Instead, entertain yourself with these reads and things to do around the house:

Friday Funnies

“Put your damn mask on!” from r/funny

Source unknown

In your pocket from r/funny

Misinformation Friday Five

COVID-19 Friday Five

Extra: How Google Classroom became teachers’ go-to tool—and why it’s fallen short

Work Friday Five

Tech Friday Five

Bonus: Internet shutdowns don’t help authoritarians stop protests

Trump vs TikTok & China

Australia vs Google & Facebook

Social Media Friday Five

Important: TikTok graphic videos can spread like wildfire in a matter of hours. This is how to talk to your kids about it

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This #Fortnite: the epic #Epic #Apple battle.

Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week

08:10 – Apple vs Epic in an epic battle

Other stories we bring up

Hermes is the most resilient luxury brand

Our Corona Business Insights episode on the fashion industry 

Elon Musk’s Neuralink is neuroscience theatre

Airbnb extends employee work-from-home until the end of August 2021

Our Corona Business Insights episodes on productivity, working from home and returning to work

Walmart joins Microsoft bid for TikTok takeover in US

Our previous TFTW discussion of selling products via live-streaming in China 

UPS is building freezer farms the size of a soccer fields for vaccines 

Epic Games takes on Apple

Apple is likely to gain an advantage in court

Our previous TFTW discussion of Apple’s busines model

Our previous TFTW discussion of #BreakupBigTech and more #BreakupBigTech

Spotify filed with the European Commission a complaint against Apple

Epic Apple and Google court documents

Apple CEO Steve Jobs interview with the New York Times, 2007

What developers dislike about the AppStore

Apple App Store vs Google Play, where the money is

Why did Apple ban Epic and what happens next

Update on the court proceedings


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