Blog logoMatthew Lang


A 15 post collection

The Open-office Model is Killing the Workplace

 •  Filed under Work, Career

I've worked in a couple of open-office layouts but nothing near having to share the same table with other colleagues.

Our new, modern Tribeca office was beautifully airy, and yet remarkably oppressive. Nothing was private. On the first day, I took my seat at the table assigned to our creative department, next to a nice woman who I suspect was an air horn in a former life. All day, there was constant shuffling, yelling, and laughing, along with loud music piped through a PA system. As an excessive water drinker, I feared my co-workers were tallying my frequent bathroom trips. At day’s end, I bid adieu to the 12 pairs of eyes I felt judging my 5:04 p.m. departure time. I beelined to the Beats store to purchase their best noise-cancelling headphones in an unmistakably visible neon blue.

Workers need privacy just as much as they need to open spaces.

Little reminder ...

 •  Filed under Links, Work

... from Adam Keys that you should reserve a place for work only.

The big idea from that article, burning a hole in my head, is that we should step away from our desks when we’re not working (for me, telling computers to do things). Thinking can happen on a walk, standing outside, or in the shower. Socializing can happen from the couch or mobile device. Procrastinating by reading, surfing, social networking, etc. can happen anywhere.

Quit your desk by Adam Keys

Have annual reviews had their day?

 •  Filed under Posts, Work

Yesterday I talked about annual reviews and how organisations can often get a simple process wrong, but are annual reviews immediately flawed due to their annual occurrence?

A year is a long time. A lot can happen in a year. I left a job, started a new job, got made redundant from the new job and then started freelancing all within a year. I hope you're not as unlucky me to get made redundant, but maybe you move about a lot inside an organisation? What if you're never in the same job for more than a couple of years. Does that make the annual review a redundant process?

In the UK there has been a rise in the last few years of self-employed workers and recently portfolio careers have proved to be popular with workers who want more of a variety in their career. The job for life is gone, so why are organisations still subjecting their workers to annual reviews?

Perhaps a more agile approach is needed with more frequent feedback. A year between reviews is too long, but what about quarterly reviews of your work with your line manager? How about monthly? At what point would your line manager know that you are enjoying your job and making a positive contribution to the company?

As a freelancer I have to continually look at my skill set and improve on areas that are rusty and also consider new programming languages and frameworks every few months. I have a core skill set that I am strong with but I also have to consider other skills if I want to make myself attractive to future clients. I give myself a review every month so that I know what work I have completed, whether I have completed it on time and what is in the pipeline ahead for me. I can afford to do this though as it is just me.

I'm just glad I don't need to sit through anymore annual reviews for the foreseeable future.

The Annual Review Done Right

 •  Filed under Posts, Work

It was my oldest son's parents night at his school tonight. We had a fair idea what his teacher was going to say about him and his progress. We weren't disappointed.

The format is simple. You get 10 minutes with the teacher in which time they will go over the your child's progress (that you have already read the week before) and then you get to ask any questions about your child and identify any area where they can try and make improvements. Fortunately our son is doing great so there was just a couple of minor areas for him to improve on.

If you think the format is familiar then you would be right. Parents night is just the kiddie version of the annual review that many permanent workers go through. However, how is it that organisations can get this wrong when the basic format seems so simple?

I've experienced the annual review first hand in a number of companies. Very few of them actually did an annual review on a regular basis and even fewer followed through from the previous annual review.

A neighbour of mine worked in a really well known international bank where annual reviews were not done by your line manager but by someone even higher up. In an organisation such as this where the number of employees runs into thousands, there was a good chance that the person doing your annual review doesn't even know you to look at. In this case our friend did indeed get their annual review done by a director who had only met him twice. Not exactly a good example of an annual review.

Twice a year my son's school give a parents night without fail. They provide a report for your child that you get a week before parents night so that you can raise any questions during parents night. They give feedback on your child's progress and give suggestions on areas where your child can improve. They do it for all the kids in the school. That's hundreds of kids.

It's not hard to do.