Working Offsite Boosts Creativity and Focus

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Geographic Project, Barrie Eyre, Wikmedia Commons

We recommend that vacation time be a time to unplug, unwind and recharge. Taking work on a vacation does not help with any of those objectives. On the other hand, turning remote work into something enjoyable in a vacation-like environment never hurt anyone.

This is not to suggest that “workations” replace regular vacations. On the contrary, this is about doing the work you might normally do in your home office or at a co-working location on a beach, at a cottage, on your patio or even on a mountaintop.

Sometimes a change of scenery is just what’s needed to unleash your creativity. A new environment with fewer distractions (or at least different distractions!) can also energize you and boost your productivity. At the very least, it will shake up your routine and put a little spring in your step.

A Change is as Good as a Rest

When we follow the same routines and work in the same environment every day, whatever that environment may be, we can get stuck in a rut. In fact, many of our daily habits, good and bad, are triggered by environmental cues.[1] Choosing to work in a different location for a while is a great way to break those habits and emerge from that rut.

There’s just one way to radically change your behavior: radically change your environment.

—Dr. B.J. Fogg, Director of Stanford Persuasive Lab

You take this idea one step further when you choose a new environment that also refreshes and invigorates you. Today our choice of working location is typically limited only by available internet access—in other words, not very limited at all. So why not make a change of venue truly stimulating?

New Environment = New Ideas

Historically, some of the world’s greatest minds have understood that retreating to a less work-like environment makes the brain work differently and opens up avenues of thought that might otherwise remain closed. For example, early in his career, when he was still struggling to find a cure for polio, Jonas Salk retreated to Umbria, Italy, to the monastery at the Basilica of Assisi. Salk would insist, for the rest of his life, that something about the Basilica—the design and the environment in which he found himself—helped to clear his obstructed mind, inspiring the solution that led to his famous polio vaccine.[2]

Basilica of St. Francis of Assissi by Aaron Logan, Wikimedia Commons

A desire to better understand the profound impact that physical space can have on people has led to the exploration of neuroscience for architecture. As a result, many architects now incorporate biophilic design principles into their work to create environments that better meet the physiological and psychological needs of the people who live and work in them.

Great minds, architects and the writers of proverbs agree “a change is as good as a rest,” —that changing your environment can change the way you think. So the next time you’re struggling to make headway on an important project or come up against a mental roadblock that needs a new perspective, try taking your work on the road. Identify a place that speaks to your soul and immerse yourself in it for a week or two. Like Salk, you (and everyone around you) may be surprised and delighted by what you can produce.


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Spring Forward at Work

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Anyone who has lived through this past winter (yes, it’s over, even if Mother Nature hasn’t quite conceded the point yet!), knows that weather can affect your mood.  From the physiological and psychological reactions to reduced daylight and perpetual cold, to acute stress caused by hazardous driving conditions and having to winter-dress children every time they leave the house; life in general is just a bit harder when facing a harsh winter. Grasshopper of the ZEBRA Stelzentheater, by Katharina on Flikr On the flip side, sunny days and balmy temperatures have been shown to increase …

Focus, Flow and Productivity in the Open Office

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Cubicle Fresh by Sean Duffell According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (no, I can’t pronounce it either!), psychology professor and author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, people are most creative and productive when they are in a state of “flow.” Understanding "Flow" Flow is defined as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”[1] This TED Talk by Professor …

Employees Want to do Better

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Oliver1983, Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 A quick review of the top work-related resolutions in the U.S. from Glassdoor’s Q4, 2013 Employee Confidence Survey reveals that respondents (who are not planning a job change in 2014!) are keen to improve their leadership skills and take other work-related training to enhance their job performance. Young people around the world are loudly exclaiming “We want to work and make a meaningful contribution to society.” In Canada, the Bank of Montreal released a survey asking Canadian employees to list their work related New Year’s resolutions[1]. Of …

Problem Solving is Not an Event

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Occasionally we find ourselves caught in the “paralysis of analysis” when attempting to solve a problem. To make progress, we have to come to terms with the fact that deciding on a course of action frequently requires us to move forward with incomplete or imperfect information. The reality is that there will always be more information available later. Rather than getting stuck, we have to make the best decision we can with the information on hand, and be prepared to iterate and make adjustments as new information comes in. US Navy via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain* Problem Solving …

Why be a Problem Solver?

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Pain Relief Success in life and in business often comes as a result of effective problem solving. When we identify a need or recognize someone’s pain, and then meet that need or relieve that pain, we are solving problems. In fact, if there were no problems to solve, many of us would be without purpose or, at the very least, out of a job! It's important to remember that what we identify as a problem is simply an opportunity to test our skills in meeting needs and relieving pain; an opportunity to exercise our purpose. Tomasz Stasiuk …

Creating a Culture of Workplace Health and Wellness

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It may be a surprise to many employers, but investing in the health and wellness of your employees is more involved than just providing them with resources for AFTER they develop pain, injury or disease. Even the juiciest, gold-plated, VIP, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs benefits package will not help you if you’re a ball of stress, sitting all day, and eating poorly. Sure, your prescriptions and dental work might be paid for, but you’ll still be at a significant risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes and even some Cancers. Flickr/Creative Commons/Library of …

Time Management or Attention Management?

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Time can’t be managed—it just is. So time management is really about managing our attention. Flickr/Darron Berginheier Staying focused on the task at hand is more difficult than it ever was, with open work spaces and an infinite number of media sources vying for our wandering attention. Of course, some people are naturally goal- driven and can more easily stay focused in spite of distractions. While others are “interrupt driven”, in other words, their mind gives priority to external distractions, making it very difficult to stay focused in today’s “twitterverse …

Training Versus Performance Support

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The volume and complexity of information being generated is growing at an unprecedented rate. Knowledge intensity has become a standard part of our life and work on a daily basis. And a large part of managing performance has become providing access to the continually evolving tools, technology and information employees need to do their jobs well. In today’s workplace, the line between working and learning is disappearing. What is a Performance Support System? When the tools, technology and information employees need to excel in their jobs are combined into electronic systems specifically designed to support them at that …

Problem Solving in a Changing Workplace

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Sometimes problems spring from invisible sources, unwritten rules or unvoiced expectations. Obstacles that grow from such hard-to-define origins can be frustrating and difficult to overcome. Before we tackle the branches of such a problem (the actions we see), first we have to dig down and uncover the roots (the underlying issues) that are buried beneath the surface. Otherwise the problem will continue to be nourished by hidden agendas and unknown forces, and will blossom again and again. Flickr/#3 Motivational Poster,Martino The “How” Problem When we first tackle problems, we often think of them in terms of &ldquo …

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The Latest from Workplace Tribes
Why HR Should Toss the Annual Compensation Review April 16, 2014
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Spring Forward at Work April 07, 2014
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Compensation Equity April 02, 2014
Compensation Design: Beyond Foundational Needs March 31, 2014
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Making the Most of the Open Talent Economy March 24, 2014