Work from Home Burnout #Coronavirus #COVID19

Work from Home BurnoutAs everyone rushes to working remotely, which encompasses work from home, it’s good to see recognition that burnout can still happen in this environment:

Global News Article: “Burnout is real — even when working from home”

In the article the advice is “Do not expect employees to be as productive”; but I’m not sure that’s the right statement. I think staff can be more productive in the hours they work, but do not expect them to work a contiguous 8-hour day as if they were in the office. During Coronavirus, the pressures of family life are more acute than ever. Specifically: caring for young kids, caring for seniors or both if you’re unlucky enough to be part of the sandwich generation (like we’ve been).

Why I became a Freelancer Project Manager

Myself, I became a freelancer because the freelance arrangement is focused on productivity, not the office hours you keep (see article “When Your Employees Are Remote, You Have To Stop The Body-In-Seat Mentality”). I’m able to bill my Clients for only the hours I work and they don’t have to worry that they paid for an 8-hour day when I only worked 4 because of “this or that” like what would happen with an employee.

Personally, burnout, and managing Work from Home Burnout, was a big factor in encouraging the freelancer move and in becoming a PMP certified Project Manager. Being a PM allows me to help my team smash stress as I’m in a leadership/culture role but I’d like to expand on the freelancing angle.

The Critical Personal Events that Lead to Burnout

Let me rewind to the late 2000’s. I had just been cleared as a cancer survivor and the expectation to overwork was exploding. The company I worked at unnecessarily, and possibly foolishly, decided to split into two. As I was a member of the networking team, we were the first team to work on the split (splitting and acquisitions create critical networking work). The CIO made a sweeping edict that all IT take their vacation before the actual split date. The edict decimated the networking team by 70%. Because the entire project depended on the network being installed as soon as possible, I spent an entire month building most of the new company’s data centre myself. For those who don’t work in IT that means a sterile environment with no food and water and a nice cool breeze that encourages you to forget about thirst. It’s migraine city!

Closely following the split my company decided to move data centres. I wasn’t directly part of that project but I helped out a number of times. One of the important events was that my boss decided that the on-call person would be enough to cover any issues during the actual move ignoring the team’s advice to assign a person to manage the move. It’s important to note that this is not a physical move. It’s more like transferring a consciousness from one computer system over to another one using the network. In this instance, one would assume that the network is critical.

That weekend I spent 16 hours on two conference calls in my basement; one headset on each ear. One conference call was to direct my network staff and the other call was to communicate with the wider project. This created a “firewall” so my team could get the critical work done (me included). There were no breaks. My wife brought me food. When I got up to go to the bathroom I could barely move. I called in the entire network team sans my boss who was disappointingly absent despite receiving a lot of phone calls from me and the other project leaders. Clearly, he had turned off his phone on purpose. The following week other IT leaders decided to declare that they were the person who fixed the networking issues burying my contribution to the entire project (which was ultimately successful).

In addition to this, on the same project, my boss had screamed at me over the phone about why I couldn’t move a 500 lb router by myself when it was at the loading dock. This is the only time I’ve cried at work. Subsequently this boss and three other guys installing it in the data centre ultimately dropped it because it was too heavy. The same router later caught fire while in the data centre.

Conclusion

Yes, it was events like these that lead to my burnout. In contemplating my career changes, I wanted to have control over my life because I knew there would be controllable and uncontrollable stress. Working stress, in my opinion should be largely controllable. That is, it’s my hypothesis that stress in work environments is largely unnecessary and caused by culture and leadership. And if it’s controllable, then that should free up bandwidth to deal with the uncontrollable stress.

As a freelancer I can, and have, said no to clients. I’m always clear I get the job done but how it’s done is up to me. I was often told that moving to being a contractor wouldn’t help with managing the stress but that’s because no-one considers that freelancing is a lot different than being a full-time contractor*. So more than 5 years later, I can say I proved my hypothesis.

Unfortunately, for most people, the game (employee/full-time contractor) is rigged and most people will fail and experience burnout. Hopefully, the silver lining of #Coronavirus #COVID19 is that companies accept there are alternate arrangements that exist and they might work a whole lot better in the right situations. Then maybe we can meaningfully reduce burnout, including work from home burnout.

  • I would like to call it what it is: a fake employee. It just changes where the number falls on the balance sheet. No surprise that nothing changes.

#Coronavirus #COVID19 Review of “Peanut Butter Sniff Test to Combat COVID-19”

Courtesy Dana SmallA recent article explaining Professor Dana Small’s peanut butter sniff test was just released. The intent of the test is to check if you’ve lost your sense of smell which can be an indicator for possible COVID-19 infection. Loosing your sense of smell is subtle, people actually don’t really notice it.

Unfortunately due to how slow large organizations go, Professor Small will not get funding until September. But, in the meantime, I reached out to Professor Small and she indicated an alternative organization has a smell test online that we could use: https://smelltracker.org/.

Professor Dana Small is a Canadian researcher currently at the Yale School of Medicine. If anyone has further questions, reach out to her here.

NPR “The Indicator”: How Temperature Affects Workplace Productivity

Men like it cold, women like it hot – it’s a zero sum game. At 80F (27C) women get a 10% productivity boost while men lose 3%. Men prefer high 60s (20/21C).

The ideal temperature for 50% male/female office? 75F (24C)

AHHH!!! SAVE US ALL! (men) In a 75F office, men will be dressing in tank tops and mini skirts.

“The Battle For The Office Thermostat” https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=730438603&fbclid=IwAR0072qm0VvmXNQdssnH1X2V_HVB_0OhGDjE4UkrJFGdqiS35wNSXvkoMx4

How To Measure Happiness

Happiness is elusive but it helps focus an individual with their life design if they consider what metrics contribute to happiness. These metrics might be in error, but at least they are something. The 6 measures, as explained by NPR’s “The Indicator” podcast, are:

These measures have been found to be highly correlated with people’s overall happiness. Of these measures social support and GDP per capita are the most important. But at some point, GDP per capita stops mattering; the Easterlin paradox. “It’s the idea that wealth adds to people’s happiness only up to a point. And at some point, for some reason, getting richer stops making you happier.” There are many working theories and here are some of the more prominent ones:

  • GDP per capita (a rough idea of how wealthy people are in a particular country),
  • healthy life expectancy,
  • how much people trust the government and businesses in their country (is corruption a problem in the government? In businesses?),
  • social support (do you have somebody to count on in times of trouble?),
  • generosity (has a person been generous in the last 30 days to others) and
  • freedom (did you feel a sense of freedom to make your key life decisions?).
  1. (India #141, China #94) Social support has declined even though GDP per capita is rising. Stuff like moving into cities, decline of the extended family.
  2. (USA #19) “People overestimate the happiness they’re going to get from more income or a bigger house. And they underestimate the happiness they would get from more time with the family and less time spent commuting. So, they end up finding themselves in circumstances where they’ve chosen to go for too high an income, too much consumption, not enough time to spend with family and friends. And they end up being anxious, harried, stressed.”
  3. It could just be that the measurements are wrong.

Regardless, the researcher shares that he’s changed his behaviour as a result of this research and recommends “…[T]o start conversations with strangers, to smile at people in the streets, to assume the best rather than the worst about them is a win-win situation. And so, I do it more than I used to. And that’s improved my happiness. And I hope it’s improved somebody else’s, as well. …”

https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/04/08/711132741/how-to-measure-happiness

https://worldhappiness.report/

Canada is #9, Finland #1. Excel file with the data is here (“Chapter 2 – online data ‘Figure2.6’ worksheet):

https://s3.amazonaws.com/happiness-report/2019/Chapter2OnlineData.xls

Canada is just 6% behind Finland and USA is 12.72% behind (5.6% behind Canada). South Sudan, #156, is 272% behind Finland. Surprisingly Australia is at #11 with all it’s sunshine and most goods being locally sourced.

Easterlin Paradox:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easterlin_paradox

Most of Alberta and Saskatchewan are at high risk of dangerous radon levels

Our radon mitigation is complete! We went from 435 Bq/m3 to 22 Bq/m3.
 
150 Bq/m3 is equivalent to smoking a half pack of cigarettes/day or if a person smokes already multiplies that smoking risk by 14 times. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. 100 Bq/m3 is world health organization limit, 200 Bq/m3 is Health Canada and 15 Bq/m3 is what is prevalent outdoors (normal radon levels). 1 in 6 homes tested in 2017 had dangerous levels of radon gas (over 200). Most of Alberta and Saskatchewan are at high risk of high radon levels.
 
Forced air systems just move it all around the house and “leaky” house doesn’t really help (it’s the pressure pull of heating a space that is the issue); a house either has high levels or it doesn’t. Even our garage (no basement) was at 150 Bq/m3 and it’s as leaky as it gets. The mitigation process seals all the basement large open holes and helps mitigate basement smell (since it’s sucking all the moist earthy air below the cement and blowing it out the side). 
 
Thanks to Radon West. This company is also the one helping with the UofC radon study. Learn more here:
Note: In Canada we side-wall vent. Rooftop vents ice up in our cold weather. Canadian studies on dissipation is that within a meter of the vent the radon reading is at normal outside levels; Meaning it dissipates extremely quickly. 
More on risks of dying from lung cancer, radon and smoking:
Radon meter I purchased; Radon West confirms it is very accurate for a residential unit. A +/-10% reading is available from it within 7 days. Our unit is loaned out to friends and family pretty much constantly.
Corentium Home by Airthings, Radon Gas Detector, Canadian Version in Bq/m
UofC Calgary study (home owners may be able to get testing for free):

Evidence Shows that “…Your Excuses for Not Getting a Flu Shot Stink”

650K people die from flu each year according to the World Health Organization. Vaccination (herd immunity) is especially important to protect people at highest risk. Even pregnant women need one according to the CDC and Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports also addresses the three common excuses for not getting the flu shot in their article “Why Your Excuses for Not Getting a Flu Shot Stink“. Up front is the idea that it can cause the flu. No, it just makes your symptoms less severe if you get it (e.g. YOUR LESS LIKELY TO DIE… dying being a symptom apparently). And no, there is no scientific link to autism despite tons of fake news to the contrary.

So please, do the world a favor and get a flu vaccination yearly.

10Jan2019 update: Influenza has killed 3 unvaccinated Sask. preschoolers so far this season: public health officials “virus is hitting otherwise healthy children hard, particularly those under age nine”

13Mar2019 update: Unvaccinated children in Italy have been banned from preschool. Under the new law, parents are also subject to fines of 100 to 500 euros and local health authorities will then schedule vaccinations for the children to make sure they get caught up. The fines presumably are for the extra administration of managing the vaccinations instead of the parents. This is directly addressing the “tragedy of the commons” issue that unvaccinated people represent.

 

26Apr2019 update: The Cost of Measles: Let’s leave the science aside and talk about the economics. According to this NPR “The Indicator” podcast, it would cost the US economy $4 Billion annually without vaccinations (an outbreak). It costs $45 Million to subsidize vaccines. That’s a 90,000% return on investment. “Measles is extremely contagious. It can remain in the air for up to two hours after you’ve left…. [T]here can be really significant long-term effects. Some people unfortunately have brain damage after their body is trying to fight measles because of lack of oxygen. They may lose their hearing. They may lose their eyesight. … [W]hen people are having to respond to these outbreaks and they form an outbreak team, those people aren’t just materializing out of nowhere. They had another job in the public health system before that now they have to leave to go do this. We were realizing, like, wow, measles isn’t just causing measles. It’s also causing these weaker links in the health care infrastructure and the public health infrastructure. And goodness knows what that could be doing kind of for our risk for other diseases down the road.” Based on this scenario I think it’s pretty plain to see that we’re going to start seeing policy for folks who don’t vaccinate.
https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/04/15/713645707/the-cost-of-measles

29Aug2019 update: Pinterest helps with “the war around truth” and only allows posts “…from ‘reliable’ public health sources, including the WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”   https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/pinterest-world-health-organization-vaccine-social-media-1.5263536

Smartphone is a Double Edged Sword

Since 2004 there has been very little meaningful change. Productivity has fallen despite the smartphone. You might be wondering why this info on the smartphone all of a sudden? I’ve received a critical mass of research. I believe that it is telling us that the smartphone is a double edged sword and we need to respect that.

Planet Money explains our period of falling productivity: http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2017/05/19/529178937/episode-772-small-change

This article explains the psychology of the smartphone and how it has made us less intelligent and is responsible for poor social skills and the gullibility crisis:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-smartphones-hijack-our-minds-1507307811

However, it could be that it takes humanity 50 years to adopt the changes enabled by the smartphone. Take the story of electricity. It took nearly 50 years from the light bulb before the economy showed a productivity spike. More on this via the history of the dynamo: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p057xsl0

Update 14Jan2019: Wall Street Journal article on the start of the waning of the smartphone: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-big-hangup-why-the-future-is-not-just-your-phone-11547269202

CR publishes much needed “Myths and Facts About Vaccines for Children”

https://www.consumerreports.org/vaccines/myths-and-facts-about-vaccines-for-children/

And the economics of vaccines – 20% IRR and 2 million deaths averted for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) – a multi-organizational collaboration lasting 15-years worth $13B:

http://www.economist.com/node/5017166

Vaccinations are a case study of “The Tragedy of the Commons” – where anti-vaxxers become free-riders putting their self-interest over the common good. The Hastings Center explains this problem very well:

“…To understand why, think of vaccination and the quest for herd immunity as a collective action problem. Garrett Hardin’s “tragedy of the commons” illustrates the basic logic of collective action problems. Imagine that 50 farmers share common land (“the commons”) upon which they graze their sheep. The commons are lush, and so each farmer can easily allow four sheep to graze at a given time without depleting the resource. But imagine that each farmer seeks to maximize his own good (what economic theory refers to as “rational” behavior) and it is better for him to graze more sheep than fewer. The farmers will, in effect, be “free-riding” – in this case, taking more than their fair share of the common resource while benefitting from the restraint of others. The trouble is that, while adding one more sheep to the commons does not deplete the resource, adding 50 does. The combined actions of each farmer, acting rationally, leads to an outcome that is worse for all.

The tragedy of the commons reveals that what is good for the individual is at odds with what is good for all. This is the basic logic of collective action problems. We see a similar logic in the case of vaccines. If most get vaccinated, then everyone will be better off. But it would be best for any particular individual if all others got vaccinated and he or she did not. That way, the individual could enjoy the benefits of the common good (herd immunity) without bearing any of the costs (e.g., risk of possible side effects or complications associated with vaccine). This, again, is a free-rider temptation. The trouble is that if everyone thought that way, no one would become vaccinated and everyone would be at risk of falling ill.

From this perspective, anti-vaxxers are not ill-informed parents with distorted views of what is in their child’s best interest. They are acting perfectly rationally. The trouble is that there are enough of them to generate the tragedy of the commons. Hence, vaccination levels drop and measles rates rise.  …”

http://www.thehastingscenter.org/measles-vaccination-and-the-tragedy-of-the-commons/

Quora – What is your super-productive life hack?

To become super-productive in life: Replace bad habits with good habits and then measure success against yourself (not others). Success is just personal improvements usually made by many small changes over time.

Easier said than done! Some tips:

Inventory habits – tools can be as easy as considering critical feedback you might already be receiving. Or you could make lists.

Find good habits and practice them – they don’t just fall in our laps. This requires research (mentors, books, etc). Clues on what materials to read might be gleaned from knowing your bad habits 🙂 I highly recommend fostering an internal locus of control or “I make my own destiny” vs “everything is always somebody else’s fault” (external) Locus of control – Wikipedia

Remove bad habits – Lots of habits are subconscious so look for tools that help with retraining subconscious. This can be difficult and very personal; reference motivational self help courses. Tools may include alt therapies like protocols around EMDR: Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing – Wikipedia Don’t discount personal trauma when trying to change habits. You might have to address a trauma before being able to proceed in an area of your life (improve your window of tolerance).

Repeat… forever! After all, that is just the journey of life. It’s not a destination.

Originally posted at: https://www.quora.com/What-is-your-super-productive-life-hack/answer/Trevor-Textor