Over my eleven years of being a business owner, I’ve moved around quite a bit. I’ve been an engineer, a project manager, a business developer, a coffee maker, and everything in between. Lisa has worked as our marketing director, moved to the COO role, and now serves as Kin’s CEO, all inside of two years. We’ve also hired people for one job whom eventually moved on to do something else – project managers have turned into ops directors and, as recently as a month ago, an engineer moved into a data sciences role.
Just as numerous however are the team members who find long term fulfillment performing the same duties they originally came on board for. My former business partner, Ka Wai, remains enamored with rolling into work each day ready to program after almost twenty years! Tom Stanley, a long time team member of ours, also remains devoted to the craft of programming (though he’s thrown in a splash of support engineering recently).
So what makes people, to borrow a phrase from Lisa, “fire themselves and, in turn, rehire themselves for something new” within the same company? Likewise, what keeps some people drawn to the craft they fell in love with so many years ago?
The answer in my experience lies somewhere in the unique mix of mission, personality, and opportunity each individual finds in their work.
What’s your mission?
People who move between roles tend to view their professional mission in broader terms than their craft. For example, a former team member of ours, Lindsay, originally came on board as a project manager, but soon found her alignment running our company’s operations. From there, she played a crucial role in Kin’s early days helping new customers build better workplaces. The mission she discovered over time wasn’t to be the best project manager she could be, rather it was to help make work better for the people around her.
On the flip side, a software engineer whose mission is a mastery of low-level programming languages will stay incredibly close to the code, as it were, dwelling in the boundless nuances and semantics of each technology. A great example of this is Paul Kizior who, over his five years with us, has excelled as an engineer and, while his specialties have developed, he continues to thrive in the core craft he was hired for.
There’s no right or wrong professional mission, mind you, rather whatever someone’s mission is gives insight in how to view and even fulfill, someone’s trajectory at work.
Instincts at work
Instincts play a critical role in our work, and we’ve used assessments like Thinking Wavelengths to support observations we make of how we all instinctively deal with ambiguity, risk, and delegation. On one end of the spectrum are people who thrive in the undefined realms of a business. At the other end are those who relish routine and knocking out assignments. The way that translates to a software company like ours is, generally, people who love the risk will tend to the strategy and leadership end of the business, while the procedural work where mastery of one’s craft (design, engineering, etc.) is the pursuit will complement on the other end.
The original company I co-founded, We Are Mammoth, is a consulting company that requires a steady hand from our production team – the work is overwhelmingly routine, but it requires focus and attention to detail due to its sensitivity and timeliness. As such we’ve biased our team’s DNA toward predictable and steady over the years.
On the flip side, our product roles at Kin require more open-ended discovery and risk taking and, as such, we’re trying to bias the team’s DNA toward those traits. While there’s a business need for the routine-minded team members, we’ve biased our expectations
Sparks and opportunities
Sometimes there’s a spark that can take hold of someone that shoots them them out of their regular professional orbit. A great example of this is Ameer Mansur, our network administrator of six years. Ameer is a good example of someone in between the extremes I describe above – he’s tactical when he needs to be, yet his broader mission has been to ensure the integrity of our company’s IT and security infrastructure.
Well, along came an opportunity a couple of months ago to get Kin aligned with the European Union’s new data privacy regulations (GDPR). It was new to Ameer, but just the spark he needed to bring clarity to not just his role at Kin but to his career moving forward. Ameer leapt off his historically routine role, head first into a regulation that would push him to lead product, legal, and business overhauls within Kin.
As serendipity would have it, our company needed Ameer to grab this spark and pursue it with all he had. You might say he was the right guy at the right time, but you also might say we were the right company at the right time for him. It’s fun to be a party to this kind of transformation.
Which road should you take?
In his book Raising the Bar, Clif Bar founder Gary Erickson writes about a cycling trip in Europe where he chose to follow his map’s white roads rather than those marked in red. The red roads were the thoroughfares used to get from point A to B and the white roads, by contrast, often would meander up the side of a mountain only to dead-end quietly, or maybe take him through a series of small villages he’d otherwise have missed. Gary realized, of course, that he was drawn more to the journey than the destination. He enjoyed the unknowns; what couldn’t be planned.
Small workplaces like Kin often can’t offer the typical corporate ladder that larger organizations cling to out of organizational necessity. For some, that’s a deal breaker, as they have their destination and stop-offs planned out in advance of setting sail on their careers. My opinion, however, is that smaller companies offer much more in the way of finding true alignment of passion and career mission and while it doesn’t always have to be the meandering journey that I’ve come to prefer, it does offer just the right mix of opportunities and structure that are good for anyone looking for a little adventure in their work.
It’s funny to think how our path crossed with Lauren O’Brien’s. We had placed a job posting for a front-end engineer and Lauren’s application came through. We were all blown away. Who is this person with an MBA, a psychology degree, an investment certification, experience in development and a love for research and data insights?
When Lauren started at Kin, she was primarily in charge of front-end development, though we knew her background would move her around the organization quickly. As we began to realize Kin’s vision, we saw how data from our tool coupled with global workplace trends could transform the way people engaged with work. Lauren’s expertise and passion for all of the above was the perfect torch to light the way.
While she’ll still be helping out with front-end development, Lauren will spend a majority of her time studying our data and workplace behavior as a whole, and implementing her findings into Kin to create healthier, happier workplaces.
But before she gets to all of that, here’s a bit about Lauren in her own words.
What about Kin attracted you to working here?
I found Kin while searching for an opportunity where I could apply my business, research, psychology, and programming background to a product I believe in. After talking with Lisa about Kin’s vision, I was so impressed with the genuine enthusiasm, warmth and purpose with which she and the team pursues the goal of meaningfully improving workforce culture that I knew this was an organization I wanted to be a part of. I’m most satisfied when I’m working to find connections across disciplines that lead to understanding and betterment. Leading the data science effort at Kin epitomizes this.
Tell us a little about your career path and your education – why did you choose the path you did?
I’ve developed a fairly novel and compelling specialization at the intersection of business, psychology, technology and data analysis that has been a result of my willingness to organically follow complementary opportunities and interests wherever they have led. This has included getting my Series 65 license as an investment adviser after majoring in finance and completing my MBA in my early career; working as a process analysts and consultant in Washington DC; and eventually pursuing my doctorate in Psychology doing fMRI, social psychology, and behavior change research among other assorted experiences and roles. The thread that has tied all of these together is that I have always contributed to my teams and organizations in a technical role – automating and streamlining processes, building web-based tools, and visualizing data while applying an analytical lens to the work at hand.
When you think about the future of Kin, what challenges are you ready to accept?
Kin is on a mission to do nothing short of empower organizations to self-actualize. We’re digging into a variety of research questions about those workplace features that can be optimized to support mutual satisfaction; strengthen collegial relationships; manage and provide feedback in a way that engenders trust and appreciation; and encourage a personal balance that facilitates peak performance. If this sounds lofty and ambitious, that’s because it is, and because modern workforce mindsets are too often short-sighed and misguided in ways that squander the good-will and spirit of the workforce. My goal at Kin is to uncover and integrate the drivers of a satisfying workplace into our product — bringing the academic rigor of a proper research program to bear on business questions.
Outside of work, how do you make the most of your free time?
I usually divide my time between local adventures with my family, recreational coursework (currently learning sign language), and slowly wending my way through my reading list (Dune at the moment).
What are some of your favorite foods, restaurants, food trucks?
Nothing really hits the mark for me like homemade Italian food — the recipes my grandmother has passed down to my family were something I grew up with and associate with happy memories. After much persistence I’ve finally mastered Nana’s lasagna, meatballs, and sauce, and it brings me deep satisfaction to share these with my own family.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I started a new exercise regime and began the keto diet. We knew one of the outcomes would be healthier bodies and more energy. What we didn’t consider at the time was how big an impact it’d have on our work lives.
Within a matter of weeks, my world turned around outside of work. We quickly dropped some weight and felt our motivation levels go through the roof. I was getting more done around the house we are restoring and my mood had dramatically improved and stayed consistent each day. I was back to being ever the optimist.
That’s where it got interesting. Sure, I was full of energy and woke up feeling well rested everyday. But even more noticeable to me, I was almost doubling my level of output at work yet the quality of it was the same if not better. My critical thinking skills were as sharp as they’d ever been and things that once appeared as big obstacles now seemed like small challenges.
It’s amazing how divvying up your attention between work and something else can positively impact both. That could be focusing on exercise and health or a side hustle. At Kin, we believe our employees’ passions will never be 100% Kin. We are human beings. We have many interests and goals that don’t relate to our careers and we love to celebrate our team’s accomplishments outside of work.
In fact, we have several team members that are known for their talents that have nothing to do with our company. Just check out a Slack chat between our some of our team and our founder a few Monday mornings ago:
It’s a popular belief that employers should allow employees to bring their full self to work for more engaged, productive workplaces. Your full self is someone who has different life events going on all the time and balance is rarely ever perfectly achieved. Of course, we are paying employees to help us accomplish our goals for the company. We also value employees because of their diverse backgrounds that help us come up with well-rounded solutions. In order for them to bring those to us, we can’t mute or censor any part of what they’re passionate about and willing to share.
We try to talk the talk and walk the walk here at Kin. Grant, our engineering director, is known for his home brews and paddle boarding. We are guaranteed to get a good picture of either each week in Slack.
A little over a year ago, Grant even shared a story about a home-brewing app he made in his spare time. It was a project that the company had no direct interest in, but we still shared it on our parent company’s blog. We thought it was cool and were proud of his work – whether it was for a client or not. Turns out, a lot of other people enjoyed it, too:
Sharing our whole selves means embracing it in every aspect. It’s not just asking our employees how their weekends were when they come in on Monday.
We want Kin to be known as a workplace where people can come to their job and love what they do during the day, then have the freedom to pursue their dreams after-hours. It benefits not only their work here, but their home life, too. We become the best version of ourselves when we don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.
Last summer we said goodbye to our office in Chicago because we simply didn’t need a physical space anymore. It’s taken a few years to learn the ropes of remote work but moving out of a physical space seemed more a formality than anything else, given we’ve been ‘mostly remote’ for a several years now. Given that we’ve grown, shrunk, succeeded and failed all while transitioning to remote, I figured I’m the right guy to discuss a few of the challenges of running a distributed company which might not get much airtime otherwise.
Attendance is mandatory?
Working remotely isn’t flex working, and more than a few people don’t understand that. Flex time, generally speaking, implies doing work whenever from wherever. Remote work, for us, means you show up every day during normal business hours just like you would if there was an office to go to. Given we have people in all four U.S. timezones (we’re 100% US based currently), we observe one simple rule to ensure our workdays: everyone needs to be online for the majority of our core business hours of 10 AM to 4 PM Central time. It ensures everybody sees, hears, and is available to speak to everyone else in the company during core hours.
Another challenge in remote work is internet latency (can you hear me now?). If you’ve seen A conference call in real life you’ll know exactly what I mean. Just because you’re present doesn’t mean your internet connection is. We use no fewer than three video conferencing tools, phones, email, messaging, and product management tools to mitigate the all-too-common occurrence of “hey … can you hear… hello?”
A Conference Call in Real Life - YouTube
Generally speaking, we get our discussions taken care of. We’re not overwrought with meetings anyways, and Slack fills in for most of our team-based asynchronous conversations anyways. However, one thing our internet connection doesn’t deliver even on a good day is good old fashioned face time. There is no substitute for getting the team together, when feasible, for the 2-3% of the time when we need everyone focused on the strategy, and not the work at hand. That said, remote working is really well tuned for our industry where flow time is mission critical.
There’s nothing in the world that pushes my old ornery man button more than someone’s poor written communication. A pattern I see with nearly all people online, let alone our own team members, is the tendency to communicate differently online than they do in person. Someone who’s warm and charismatic in person may be mistaken for a chimpanzee with an iPhone in written form. Given that a vast majority of a remote team’s communication happens in written form (email, messaging, etc.), writing abilities can make or break someone’s tenure with the company. It takes time and practice to develop a voice when writing, but simple rigor like proofreading and being aware that another human is going to have to dissect your writing truly do help. Every professional whose livelihood depends on digital presence needs to practice communicating well in written format. Full stop.
Where’s the water cooler?
The last challenge to share is what I describe as a lack of “digital presence.” Since we don’t walk into the office each morning whistling a tune, or head to lunch with our coworkers, we have to go out of the way to be present in the only way we can: digitally. That means having our cameras on during meetings, being proactively verbal on a call (tough for introverts!), and staying responsive with the numerous, asynchronous conversations we have going on nearly all the time. In other words, “being at work” isn’t as easy as if we were sitting in an office together.
At Kin, we do daily stand ups, rain or shine. We go around the digital room to talk about our work – what’s done, what we’re working on, what our blockers are. It feels mundane at times to do this day in and out, but it’s an opportunity to get a bead on how thing are going for folks. If someone seems off-kilter, it’s a cue to check in to see if they need a hand. Likewise, once a week we spend a extra time sharing what’s going on outside of work. Maybe someone’s kid is sick, or there’s a 5k someone is running this weekend. Whatever the case is, our coworkers are a constant in our otherwise hectic life. It’s good to share, and even vent, with the people we spend half of our waking-day with.
Be kind, be aware, be together
There’s a quote that comes mind when I think about working remotely: “Be kind; You never know what someone is going through.” There’s so much meaning people look for at work that goes beyond the day to day drudgery of work itself: the camaraderie, character development, the learning, failing, and succeeding as a team rather than as individuals.
There’s no way to be a perfect workplace for everyone, but amongst the best gifts a successful remote workplace offers is the lesson in what it truly takes to work as a team on a mission when we don’t have the luxury of being right next to one another.
It gets us back to the basics: be kind, be aware, be together.
Most of my career has been in start-ups, and the role I often admire most within them is customer support. A great customer support leader influences the entire company. She or he shares our story with our customers and creates bridges to success for them even when the product fails (which inevitably, every product will at some point). They also share our customers’ stories internally, helping the team gain valuable perspective as we move forward. As the voice and advocate of the user within the team, customer support informs the product perhaps more than anything else.
I met Melissa almost seven years ago at a restaurant tech start-up we were working at together. She had such a knack for the customer service role that she went on to not only run the division, but occasionally beat our sales teams’ numbers with her happy customers constantly investing more in us.
When the time came for Kin to develop a better customer service philosophy, she quickly proved she would be an excellent fit to spearhead the mission. I could go on and on about why we’re lucky to have Melissa, but I would rather her introduce herself in her own words.
Without further ado, here’s Melissa, hailing from Chittenango, New York.
Melissa, pictured with her fiancé, Francesco, and their dog, Penny.
What about customer service attracts you to the field?
First and foremost, I love people. I’m the kind of person who strikes up a conversation in line at the grocery store. I really enjoy making connections with people, finding common ground, and just being a good human. If I can do that in my career, I’m fulfilling a personal need to interact with people.
Obviously without customers, companies wouldn’t exist. I learned very early in my career from a mentor and friend that customers are always the #1 priority, and we should always strive to make their experience the most amazing one, even in difficult situations. I’ve carried that philosophy with me and find that I can work through any situation if I’m taking that approach.
I’m right-brain-leaning, so I enjoy that everyday is different and the creativity that goes into finding new solutions. Plus, the feeling of helping someone find what they’re looking for, or working through a problem together, is a good one.
Why did you choose Kin as your next move?
There are many reasons!
I chose Kin because I am doing what I love: helping customers. I also have the opportunity to shape the future of customer service in Kin, which is a mighty responsibility but a welcomed one.
Technically speaking, Kin is also really strong when it comes to SaaS in that the software is user friendly, intuitive, and does what we promise it will do. Plus, we have a great development team which is so important for the future of Kin.
Next, Kin’s mission of creating healthier, happier workplaces really resonated with me during our initial discussions. I can’t think of one person I know who hasn’t had a bad experience in a work environment. It’s exciting that we’re taking on a big challenge of improving the state of work around the world.
Last but certainly not least, the level of talent across the team makes it inspiring to come to work every day.
Tell me a bit about your past experience, in your own words.
My career has been mostly customer-service based, with some management and sales peppered in.
I started in retail (which I really enjoyed, I know I’m not in the norm), working for a business in my hometown of Binghamton, NY. I learned so much working with the owner, Tom. He was the friend and mentor mentioned above that taught me the fundamentals of customer service and business that I would carry through my career.
From there, I moved into the call center world, focusing on managing, training, and recruiting. I was then hired into a customer service role for a SaaS company focused on restaurant recruiting, where I quickly built a team and the customer service philosophy alongside none other than Kin’s CEO, Lisa Arnold!
I spent the better part of six years there, eventually moving into a sales relations/marketing role working with major franchise brands.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Spending time with my fiance, Francesco, and our dog, Penny, is high on my list. Most days, you’ll find me in the kitchen creating something delicious and taking pictures of it or checking out the newest local restaurant. Exploring local attractions and historic places are always a fun pastime, too. I also enjoy singing, reading, yoga, and the occasional dance party. I am really good at having fun no matter what I’m doing!
On the weekends, I’m likely in my hometown hanging out with my family, especially with the world’s most adorable nephews, though I may be biased.
When first launched Kin in 2013, digitizing the workplace for small and medium sized companies was in its early stages (large employers were already well serviced by companies like SAP and Oracle). Along with competitors like Bamboo, Namely and Gusto, we focused on improving the core operations we knew would help smaller organizations be more competitive employers, like new hire onboarding and workplace organization. Our view has always been that if the workplace is a product, employees are its consumers. Create a bad workplace and you lose your customers. It’s called employee churn, and our goal has always been to help reduce it.
Fast forward to 2018, and you’re likely working at a company using a slew of digital workplace tools. Your payroll is digital, your benefit enrollment and paperwork too. Throw in stalwart communication tools like Slack and Basecamp, and it’s more efficient than ever to run a workplace. While our industry has made a lot of progress in efficiency benchmarking though, our team team doesn’t think the mission is accomplished.
According to Gallup research, employee engagement has barely budged in the past five years, and that’s got us scratching our heads. Why, after all of the work we’ve done to improve core operations at small companies, is there still a big problem with churn? Employees are quitting, and employers can’t stop them. What gives?
This industry naval gazing hasn’t phased many of our competitors who are doubling down on workers comp insurance products, payroll, and benefit management. In our eyes though, that’s not solving the problem our companies have, so we’re doubling down on the original course of helping companies be better employers.
With that, we’ve reassessed what our own mission at Kin should be and, while it hasn’t upended the product itself, it has shifted the way our team views its role in improving how we spend a third of our lives at (work!). This renewal in purpose has not only shined a light on a growing problem, it’s shown us the ways Kin falls short and needs to improve if we’re to really live up to our promise.
So, what’s the Kin mission?
Kin is on a mission to improve the employee experience at organizations of all sizes.
Why is this important? Engagement and fulfillment at work aren’t just “nice to haves,” and we know that helping organizations and employees be more empathetic means we’re not only improving retention and profitability, but we’re helping everyone get more out of life than just work, work, work.
How do we do this? Kin approaches employee engagement in a no-BS way. We don’t promote lofty, unproven theories from PhD’s or hide behind multi-year implementation plans. Rather we focus on proven methods which yield better employee sentiment and quantifiable metrics to prove it (to us and our customers) and, believe it or not, simple workplace tools like proactive time off policies do just that.
What this means for the product.
There are three words we’d like our customers to use to describe Kin, and that’s how we’re designing our roadmap: Insightful, proactive, and efficient.
Kin should help employers and employees learn what makes them tick as organizations and individuals. We’ll do that through a combination of quantifiable metrics and goals, and tools that encourage more productive and empathetic communication at work.
Kin needs to do more of the thinking, rather than waiting around to take orders. Workplace trends such as time off utilization and manager/employee engagement patterns can help workplaces get out in front of potential causations of employee turnover, such as burnout and isolation.
Kins needs to be more operationally efficient as a tool, pure and simple. We’re chipping away at bottlenecks across the product to help get our users out of the browser and back to work. From navigation, to better new user onboarding, a large part of our roadmap is simply improving the product based on the ample customer feedback we’ve received over the years.
We have a lot of work to do.
How our company is adapting.
Our company itself is adapting as well. While we’re still entirely self-funded, we’ve increased the team’s dedication and alignment for a business that, in our opinion, hasn’t seen its best years yet. Our CEO, Lisa Arnold, took the helm last fall and brings both urgency and vibrancy to Kin’s presence. Our engineering team, led by Grant Black, has risen to the challenge to rise above pure production and drive the product. Our design efforts, led by Gage Salzano, have shined a new light on both Kin’s visual identity and its UI experience. As for me, well, I’m still the founder who sat in front of a whiteboard back in 2012 and saw a need for a company just like ours to lead the way to better places to work.
Here’s Kin, with a bow on it.
I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a great tagline. A successful tagline acts as a landmark for a brand, a place to come home to. To be proud of. To remind us why we’re here. To even seek out when we’ve lost our way. Kin’s new tagline “We build healthier, happier workplaces.” sure seems aspirational doesn’t it?
For me, our new tagline is impactful for a few reasons. It denotes our responsibility to not just show the way, but to build it. It rises above pure technology as a solution. It shouts out from the rooftop that there is an ideal workplace out there, but most companies have a long way to go to get there. Most of all, it speaks to an idea we want every person either using or working on Kin to resonate with: We spend too much of our lives working to spend so much time exhausted and ready to throw in the towel.
If you’re an employer who hires globally, you’ve likely heard rumblings about the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the effect it will have on personal data-processing technology. We’re here to chat a bit more about that and how it will affect you and your usage of Kin.
Regardless of where you are headquartered, if you hire in the EU, have current employees in the EU or store vendor data that includes personal information about individuals within the EU, GDPR compliance is not optional, it is mandatory. Not complying with certain provisions of GDPR, such as processing data in an unlawful way, can result in a fine of up to €20 million or 4% of your gross profit, whichever is more.
What is GDPR, exactly?
GDPR is a law that aims to strengthen European Union residents’ rights to privacy and protect their personal data. It will come into effect fully across all European member states as of May 25, 2018. Organizations and tools that collect personal data from EU residents must be compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in order to continue conducting business within the EU.
Kin plans to be a GDPR-compliant HRIS/employee engagement tool as of the May deadline. We are currently taking all of the necessary steps within our app’s features and security surrounding said features to ensure we’re good to go. As we finalize the steps toward compliance, we’ll be sure to keep you posted via our blogs, emails and in-app messaging.
Becoming GDPR compliant is a multi-step process. It includes not only the security framework and feature reconfiguration, it also focuses allowing users (not just employers) to have access to their personal data entirely, and to have the ‘right to be forgotten,’ or RTBF, which is pivotal to GDPR.
RTBF allows employees to refuse having their data stored online as well as reserve the right to have their personal data deleted at any time within any application that their employer (or any organization) uses. Of course, there are certain pieces of information that employers who have legitimate interest can fight to keep, such as signed NDAs or other agreements between two parties that may later need to be used for arbitration. You can learn more about what you can and cannot keep as a GDPR-compliant employer here.
While Kin is making sure that its tool is GDPR compliant, it is up to your organization to be responsible in complying with GDPR requirements from the perspective of what the law calls the “data controller.”
A data controller is you. The definition of it means that your organization is determining the purposes and means of progressing personal data. IE: You’ve hired someone and now you need to have them onboarded and store personal information on them within your Kin system.
That’s where Kin comes in as a “processor.” A processor is defined as a person or agency that processes personal data on behalf of the data controller.
It’s important for you to take time to understand the laws of GDPR as a data controller before it takes effect in May. Just because the tools you use are GDPR compliant, does not mean that you as a data controller are automatically compliant as well.
While Kin is not a legal consultant, we do know that great employers want to be prepared for when things change. There are a number of great resources to help you understand your responsibilities under GDPR. We’ll continue to post helpful blogs along the way, so be sure to check back often!
Here are a few other articles and posts to check out in the meantime:
We’ve all been there: you have an argument or tense conversation with someone. When you let your mind wander over the happenings of the day hours later, you think of the perfect comeback.
Man! If only you had that nugget in the moment you would have been so proud of yourself.
Wait. Why didn’t you have it in the moment? It’s because that part of your brain – the part that’s responsible for creativity and daydreaming – wasn’t activated.
Your brain has two big modes that it uses: the executive attention network and the default mode.
At work, we do all we can to keep employees in the executive attention network which is where we get focus, determination and attention from. We want employees to keep their eyes on the prize and produce their best work.
Daydreaming or just ‘being’ is seen as slacking off, and we can’t have that. We pay them for the hours they’re with us – that time is ours. You’ve heard this once or twice before, right?
The issue is we as employers also wonder why creativity is so often lacking in our workplaces. Why are the freelancers we pull in for special projects able to so easily shake things up and come up with incredible ideas on the fly?
Likely, it’s because they allow themselves to daydream a little more, throwing their brains into default mode and unleashing more creativity than we could ever imagine while sitting in a cubicle actively staring down at a deadline.
Default mode is when the brain is allowed to drift off or you ‘space out.’ We’re not focused on anything specific. We’re not trying to complete a task or hit a deadline on time. Our brain also isn’t ‘turned off’ during this time either, contrary to popular belief. In fact, studies show that during default mode our brains are still using roughly 95% of the energy they use when they’re tapped into the executive attention network.
Jonathan Smallwood is a neuroscientist who has studied mind-wandering for 20+ years, though the phenomenon is still relatively new to the discipline. He says that the brain is often studied by looking at how it responds to external stimuli: what pieces of it light up when someone speaks, or when movement happens, or when emotions take over.
Studying a brain in default mode doesn’t fit into those boxes, so it makes it a bit more complex to learn about.
“Scientifically, daydreaming is an interesting phenomenon because it speaks to the capacity that people have to create thought in a pure way rather than thought happening when it’s a response to events in the outside word,” Smallwood said during an interview with Manoush Zomorodi, author of Bored and Brilliant and host of WNYC’s podcast Note To Self.
In other words, there’s a whole other area of our brain responsible for pure creativity and ideas that we rarely are allowed to tap into at work since we are so overly stimulated there.
It’s potentially proactive instead of reactive. And isn’t that exactly what we want our employees to be?
In the workplace, there has been such a movement to allow people to bring their ‘full-self’ to work, whether that means greater work/life balance or the ability to be unapologetically themselves. Imagine if we allowed our employees to unleash their full brain power, including giving them some time to space out on the clock so they could come up with better ideas that produce stronger results.
You should, of course, proceed with caution when tackling this idea. For example, you can’t put the stress of a calendar event that is titled ‘Space Out For Good Ideas’ every day at noon in order to get more output. The brain can only truly reach default mode when it has time to get there and isn’t directly asked to do it. Being stimulated by a calendar invite reminding you of the task to get there is quite opposite of how it works.
Perhaps instead, you can make one day a week a ‘no meeting zone’ that allows folks to focus on their work and complete it, versus constantly being interrupted and prolonging to-do lists due to meetings. That way, tasks get completed more consistently which opens up the opportunity for a little free time on the clock to relax and space out.
Another thought around this is the idea of brainstorming sessions. With what we know now, is the modern brainstorming session broken?
The idea of placing people into a room to come up with the next great thing together is at its very foundation a task that clearly seems to be completed within the executive attention network of the brain. But if our best and most creative ideas are often hidden within default mode, how is this exercise bringing them out?
I often think back to the many times I’ve been spaced out in my car listening to music, or standing idly at the gate about to board my flight when my best ideas have hit me like a freight train. How do we work together to capture those ideas as a company when they hit an employee, without putting stress on the employee during those times to produce. How do we change the behavior of brainstorming and creativity in the workplace to not be one of active tasks and checklists, but more of relaxation, daydreaming and playing – even with billability hanging above our heads?
When we find the way to make that shift, it’s a solid bet that that’s when our companies will unleash the most impactful and world-changing ideas yet.
I remember the day I learned what keyboard shortcuts were all about. The entire world opened up to me and I felt I could now go through my workload at record pace. It’s always exciting to come across changes in technology that help you continue to be the office superhero you are.
We’re constantly improving here at Kin and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with. With that being said, here are three different features in Kin that could save you time and energy.
Company Tools are bookmarks or quick links to your company’s commonly used online tools and portals. Think login links to project management tools, benefits portals, payroll logins and more – all in one place and easy for new and existing employees to find. Tools are an element of the onboarding feature in Kin and once created, you’re able to assign them to new hire’s on their onboarding setup page.
Go to Company, then Tools and click on the Add New Tool button. Then add a title, image, description and login URL. Then click save.
Now, head over to the Team tab and go a new employee’s profile. You can add tools to their onboarding setup page by clicking Onboarding Set-Up in the navigation there. You’ll see all of the tools you have created within your system and choose the ones used by that individual employee. You can also do this for existing employees, too! Add as many as you’d like.
Here’s what it’ll look like for employees once it’s set up on their Onboarding/Getting Started page:
A lot of companies need to store employee data which is unique to their business, employment laws, or specific country. Custom Fields is the perfect way to do that.
When you create a new custom field, Kin adds a new category with any number of sub-items to your employees’ profile pages. Similar to how Emergency Contacts and Bank Information are currently being handled, Custom Fields allows you to create and track any type of information you need.
To set up a new custom field, click the Company Tab then go to Custom Fields. First, create a new category. Next fill in the items related to that category. With each item, you’ll be able to store additional specifics later under the employee profile pages. Hit “Save,” and you’re ready to go. Here’s a just a few Custom Fields we’ve created below as an example. You can have unlimited Custom Fields to track any and all data you need per employee. We’ve even see folks track team member dog names!
Next, visit any employee’s profile page and toward the bottom you’ll see the new category appear, ready for you to start tracking specific information and details. Custom fields are global. They show up for every employee. However, they’re completely optional, so you don’t need to complete them for every employee if they don’t apply. When there’s no information added to a custom field category, the employee doesn’t see that section. Employees only see custom fields when there’s info to display.
Common Holidays Set-Up
Setting up company holidays to coincide with your paid time off policies is a snap in Kin, no matter where you live. You can add custom holidays that are for your organization at any time by going to the Company tab, then scrolling under the time off policies then clicking Add Custom Holidays.
If you want to add a bunch of common holidays specific your country, you can in one fell swoop versus adding them all individually. Simply click the Add Common Holidays link and choose the country you reside in (or the country that the policy will be set for) and then choose the year. Kin will bring up all national holidays and you’ll be able to choose the ones your company’s take as holidays. When you click Add Holidays, all chosen holidays will be added automatically and then you can choose which policies they should affect. Once the holidays are in, you can also adjust the amount of days your team gets off for each one.
Do you have any tips or tricks that you’ve found while using Kin to help save time? Share them with us below!
We have a problem, folks. Teams are not using their paid time off and it’s hurting both employers and employees. It may seem too good to be true for employers: a benefit that employees say attract them to companies in the first place is going unused. That gives employers more time with top-notch employees in the office, constantly producing.
Turns out, it’s just the opposite
Let’s get to the cold, hard facts. According to Project Time Off, Americans didn’t take 662 million paid days off that were given to them in 2016. Of that, 206 million days were forfeited, meaning they didn’t carry over nor were they cashed out. That equals more than $66.4 billion in lost benefits in one year alone.
Lost money talks, of course. But let’s talk about what refusing to take time off does to an employee’s psyche. To understand the impact it has you have to know what the top reasons folks say they aren’t taking time off in the first place. Here are the results from a 2017 study by GfK, which includes nearly 7,400 responses from American workers who are 18 or older, working 35 hours a week or more:
43% never left the office for fear of the amount of work they’d return to.
34% felt they couldn’t leave the office because no one else could do their job.
33% felt their managers discouraged time away.
32% couldn’t afford a vacation.
26% wanted to show complete and total dedication to their job and felt as though taking the time given to them would negate that perception.
21% felt they would be less likely to be considered for a raise or bonus if they weren’t seen in the office.
Keep these statistics in mind as we tell you the following: The same study showed those who didn’t take time off were 79-84% less likely to report receiving a raise or bonus in the last three years. They were also no more likely to receive a promotion than those who did use all of their time off.
Work martyrdom is getting us nowhere other than leading directly to burnout, lack of efficiency, lack of productivity and a decreased rate in employee happiness, engagement and overall well-being.
Now for the brighter side of things. This is where keeping your resolution comes into play. The benefits to taking time off are plentiful for both employers who encourage it and employees who use it. For example, companies that encourage their employees to take time off report higher productivity and performance and increased retention rates. Employees who use their time off report better relationships and increased happiness with their spouses, children and work. They also report an overall increase in mood, physical well-being and mental health.
So how do you begin to adopt taking all of the PTO allotted at your work place? The biggest key is to plan ahead. More than half of those who planned ahead took all of their paid time off by the end of the policy period compared to roughly 39% who didn’t plan. Planning ahead also increases other important factors in an employees’ life. Just have a look at the chart below from The State of American Workers study: