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

Making eye contact signals a new turn in a conversation

Anne says: What makes engaging conversation? Content, words, how things are said? Yes but wait … there’s more!
Engaging conversations include: “eyes, smiles, the silences between the words”. And, the key element? Eye contact.

For me, this wasn’t new or outstanding on its own – but here comes the surprise! It’s the moment you make eye contact that is attributed to peak attention – not holding the gaze (or staring) throughout the conversation. The moment eye contact is made elicits synchrony and shared attention.

The research study wanted to understand more deeply the impact of your gaze, and why we naturally look away from each other during conversations – and why holding eye contact for too long feels awkward. The findings indicate that modulating eye contact may have something to do with innovation, we’re building on ideas, exploring our own insights, connecting to concepts – we’re not disengaged as we’ve been told from previous studies on body language and engaging conversations.

There’s some relevance here for Zoom (or videoconference) meetings where eye contact can be more difficult. For me, it draws into question recent studies on Zoom fatigue that recommend turning off your cameras when you’re not talking – I wrote about this in our Friday Faves a couple of weeks ago. This puts concentrated attention on the speaker, yet the speaker loses the ability to use others’ eye contact signals as part of the conversation. (Can we leave our cameras on, please?!)

There’s lots of questions presented for further research, however, the key takeaway? We need eye contact (where possible) to stimulate the conversation – just remember to allow a natural flow of looking away, and re-engaging for shared attention to maintain synchrony.


Hybrid tanked work-life balance. Here’s how Microsoft is trying to fix it.

Jakkii says: I’m not entirely sold on the title to this one, to be honest – the first part of it, anyway. Is it that “hybrid” tanked work-life balance, or is it that going suddenly remote, to suddenly blended, in the middle of a pandemic that foisted a myriad of other factors onto each of us, often all without focused, concerted efforts to align behaviours, set expectations, and manage and protect our time and that of our employees? I’d tend to argue for the latter, personally, but to be fair, it’s not as pithy.

Thie piece on HBR is authored by Dawn Klinghoffer, VP of HR Business Insights at Microsoft. Dawn and her team at Microsoft saw a significant drop in employee satisfaction with work-life balance (down 13% between April and November 2020). They wanted to uncover the reasons behind the drop, and turned to data analysis – including undertaking further anonymous employee surveys and analysing anonymised collaboration activity within the organisation, noting that the majority of employees whose data was being reviewed were working from home all the time.

The three primary drivers for dissatisfaction with work-life balance that they found are unlikely to come as a surprise:

  • As collaboration time increased, wellbeing decreased.
    ‘Collaboration overload’ is not a new concept – a quick google brought up a first result from 2016, though a more thorough search would I’m sure turn up older pieces. The pandemic didn’t create this problem, though it is possible it may have exacerbated it and/or affected more people. It’s also worth noting that collaboration here seems to be loosely defined as work activities that involve or engage other people, including attending meetings, using chat tools, and even writing emails.

  • As people set aside more focused time, wellbeing improved.
    This immediately brought to mind a piece I shared in our Friday Faves a couple of weeks ago on solving languishing by finding ‘flow’, which is a state of deep focus. Thinking about it in those terms, it makes sense that one of the benefits of being able to get into flow by finding focused time at work would be an increased sense of wellbeing. I’d also expect an increased sense of job satisfaction would be a likely outcome for a good proportion of people.

  • As vacation time increased, so did wellbeing.
    While this probably seems quite self-explanatory, it’s worth remembering sometimes research findings are about validating or even reminding us of things we know or ought to know. In this case, I actually found one of the important findings to be something I have seen anecdotally to be true: that many people stopped taking their annual leave during the pandemic. I myself have been guilty of it, and as we head towards the holiday break I know I’m really looking forward to time off to rest, recharge and reset for the year ahead. While I’m fortunate not to feel dissatisfied with my work-life balance, it’s still not hard for me to relate to the employees here, and see how not taking time off can lead to an increased perception and feeling of a lack of work-life balance.

You can read the article to go into the detail of what Dawn suggests for helping to manage or resolve these issues, but to me they boil down to setting clear expectations, modelling and encouraging appropriate behaviours, taking time away from work and actually using annual leave, and using technology where it helps, like only allowing notifications during business hours or simply manually turning notifications off when you need focus time. That goes back to behaviours, as well – people need to know that this is not only accepted but encouraged, and they need to be supported, feel supported, and see their leaders modelling these behaviours as well.

If this isn’t how things are being done in your hybrid workplace already, maybe the new year is an excellent time for a fresh start and a reset on helping our employees and ourselves find their way in our hybrid workplaces and in newer ways of working.


At home

Jakkii says: The end of the year is almost upon us! There’s only 15 sleeps to Christmas, and hopefully even fewer to your last day of work for 2021, assuming you’re able to take a break over the holiday period. Vax rates are pretty good across the country and borders are starting to reopen, all while we keep an eye on Omicron and what it might mean. Whether you’re out as often as you can be and about or still staying at home most of the time, or somewhere in between, here’s our final list of a few things you can read, watch or do from home this week. Stay safe and happy holidays!

Friday Fives

Hybrid workplace and the future of work

Remote work and the digital workplace

Communication, collaboration, engagement, and culture

Community management, moderation and misinformation

Privacy, data, security and the internet

Bonus: “Creepiness” is the wrong way to think about privacy

Big Tech, tech and regulation

Social media

Bonus: Why Instagram asks users to create second accounts


This is interesting: “I feel like a survivor”: inside the funeral industry’s 2021 national convention

Things that make you go hmmm: China’s queer internet is being erased

Space: Experts say climate impact is a question mark if space tourism takes off

Podcast: How to use music to focus, build teams and avoid burnout

Friday playlist: Merry pop treats

Sydney Business Insights – Unlearn Podcast

In this episode: we discuss why it’s no longer true that automation and AI will make all our jobs easier.

While automation might reduce the amount of work available to humans and leads to job losses, at least the remaining work will be of higher quality. This common wisdom has always underpinned the idea of automation. Yet surprisingly, in many industries AI can leave workers worse off, as the quality of work declines, making life harder and more stressful for workers across industries. We hear from pilots, lawyers, academics, ride share drivers and kickstarters.


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