Discount Psychology

Who doesn’t like a sale?  I know I do!  But did you know that not all sales are created equal (even when they are)?  When it comes to sales, it turns out it’s more about perception than reality.

Last week, the Economist featured an interesting article which recounted the results of a University of Minnesota study on discounting.  And because game-show-esque examples are more fun than regurgitating conclusions from a journal, it’s time to play:

Hmm.  This is a tough one.  Did you pick A?  Most of the study participants did.

Unfortunately you have been misled, dear reader.  The answer is…..

Both are equivalent deals.

This has interesting implications for retailers.  If you are going to put a product on sale, science has clearly demonstrated that customers strongly prefer getting more of something for free, rather than saving money on a single item.  In the study, the researchers sold 73% more of their product using the “more free” strategy.

Don’t fret if you got it wrong because you have a chance to redeem yourself in round 2.  It’s once again time to play:

Hmmm…hmmmm….

So what do you think this time?  Are these deals the same?  Most of the study’s participants thought so.  (They both reference 33% after all…)

Nope.  In this case, B is by far the better deal.

In the first example, we saw that customers prefer getting more of something rather than saving money on a single item.  In this case, we see the same behaviour again, even when they would have saved a lot more money by choosing B.

As a retailer, you would actually stand to make more profit by offering a bit more of something for free, rather than offering a steep discount.  Customers generally view the deals the same, so you might as well offer the one that is more profitable for you.

Okay, time for round three.  You’ve got one last shot to redeem yourself.  It’s time to play:

Now this is something I see all the time when I’m shopping.  A previously discounted item has an additional discount applied to it.

What’s the better deal?  The study’s participants thought A was…

And if you did too…you’d be 0/3.

Yes, they are equivalent deals!

As a retailer, this is good to know.  Multiple discounts applied to the same product seem like better value, even though the cost to you is the same as one larger discount.

So why is this the case?  Are we all that bad at math?

Basically…yes.  And when reason goes out the window, it seems we rely on other less-reliable clues (i.e. more is always better).

Knowing these tricks could make the difference between a successful sale, and a not-so-successful one.  It also offers a sneaky opportunity to compete with other retailers.  Is your competitor discounting their widgets this weekend?  Offer the same deal, but instead offer an equivalent amount of free bonus products and you’ll be stealing their customers in no time.

So remember, when you’re planning a sale, customers always want to feel like they got “more” for their money, even if they really got less.  But don’t worry; they’ll thank you for it.

 

Have you used any of these pricing strategies?  What has worked in your store?

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Thanks for reading!  For information on cellular point of sale, visit our website: mmspos.com

Augmented Retaility

In the next few years, augmented reality (AR) is poised to take over retail.  For the uninitiated, AR uses computer-generated sensory input to alter your perception of the world in real-time.  Already we are seeing its potential being harnessed in all areas of retail, including in-store, online, and through advertising.

In-store Customer Experience

Retailers have introduced AR in-store in an attempt to improve the customer experience.
 

Starbucks Holiday Cups

In 2011, Starbucks introduced their entertainment-focused “Holiday Cups” campaign.  After downloading an app, customers could use their smart phone to make their coffee cups come alive.

 

Digital display

AR’s in-store usefulness goes beyond entertainment.  Intel has developed an AR digital display, which has interesting implications for retailers.  Installed at the store entrance, the 7ft transparent display shows customers a digital floorplan and recommends products after assessing their gender.  Product location is superimposed on the screen, and products can be placed on hold and brought to the cash register for payment.  The aim of the technology is to help customers shop more quickly and easily.
http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/smart-takes/the-future-of-retail-intels-augmented-reality-digital-display/7047

Online Shopping

Traditionally, the problem with online shopping has been that you can’t truly get a sense of a product from a 2 dimensional image.  With AR, customers are now able to hold products in their hand, and try them on virtually.

Tesco online shopping

Tesco has already made AR a large part of their online-shopping experience.  Customers select a product online, and then print a copy of the AR marker.  Holding the marker to their webcam, it is transformed into a 3d model of the product.  As the customer turns the marker, the 3d image rotates on screen as well.  In the video below, a customer views a TV, and is able to see the ports on the back of the unit as she turns the AR marker.
http://www.brandchannel.com/home/post/Tesco-Augmented-Reality-112211.aspx

Holition

Holition’s AR is as luxurious as the products it promotes.  Designed for high-end products, their AR experience allows customers to virtually “try on” jewelry and watches.  Holition is also working on expanding their AR so that customers can smell, hear, and feel products.
http://mashable.com/2012/06/20/augmented-reality-retail/

Bodymetrics Virtual dressing room

Unsurprisingly, 50% of garments bought online are returned.  But what if you knew how those jeans would fit before you place your order?  Bodymetrics’ Virtual dressing room uses your in-home motion capture device (such as the X-Box Kinect) to assess your body shape and virtually project clothes onto your digital frame.  If you like what you see, your purchase can be completed right through your console.
http://www.jacehallshow.com/blog/bodymetrics-shows-off-augmented-reality-shopping-experience-at-ces-2012/

Advertising

AR is also finding its place in advertising.
 

GoldRun

GoldRun has already launched several successful AR advertising campaigns.  One of their most interesting campaigns was when they created a virtual shoe store for Airwalk.  AR markers were secretly hidden in public places in Washington, New York, and Los Angeles.  Customers used their smartphones to locate the markers, and were able to view limited edition versions of Airwalk classic shoes.  They could then place an order from their phone for the shoe that they found.
http://mashable.com/2012/06/20/augmented-reality-retail/

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Thanks for reading!  For information on cellular point of sale, visit our website: mmspos.com

The Basics of Analytics

This is part 1 of a series of blogs on Google Analytics and determining quality of traffic.  This will provide just the simple basics of Analytics.  Future posts will go into more detail.

 

“My website is getting a ton of traffic.  I’m doing something right!”

You’re right.  Maybe.

Maybe not.

Here’s the catch.  If you’re selling peanuts, don’t pat yourself on the back because you managed to enter the zoo. If you haven’t reached the elephants, it’s all for naught.

So…  what is good traffic vs. bad traffic?

This is a little easier to distinguish.  Good traffic comes in the form of people who are engaged.  Bad traffic comes in the form of a visitor who stays for .01 seconds, and has absolutely no interest in going beyond that.  Thusly, one can assume they have absolutely no interest in your product.

Google Analytics provides a wealth of data that allows you very easily determine how you’re really doing in relation to reaching your audience; the elephants.

Visits

This is the total number of new sessions that have begun on your site in the time period queried.  This is not the number of people who have viewed it.  If Bob enters the site, leaves to make a sandwich, then comes back, it’s two visits.  One person.

Simple enough?

Pageviews

This is the TOTAL number of pages that were viewed, regardless of who viewed them. Similar to Visits, if Bob decides to look at one of your pages, exits your site, makes a sandwich, then enters your site to see that same page again, it’s two views.

Pages/visit

Here’s where it gets important.  This is the first piece of data that tells you whether or not you’re getting to the elephants.

Pages/Visit tells you – as you might assume – the average number of pages that are viewed on any given visit.  Like Visits and Page Views, it could mean that it’s Bob looking at two pages, leaving, then looking at the same two pages.  So it’s really one person.  But that’s not a bad thing.  It means that Bob likely has at least moderate interest in something you’re selling.  More than likely, it’s two people who have a level of interest beyond looking at your homepage.  That suggests engagement.  And quality.

If you find that your pages/visit is at 1.01, and it doesn’t move much, it means one of two things:

a)   you’re being heavily targeted by a funky and evil machine sitting in a foreign land (often China or India).  It has no interest in peanuts.  It couldn’t care less how good they are.  It doesn’t even know you sell peanuts, actually.  It’s sole purpose is to collect information about your site.  It’s searching for cracks to get through.  It’s collecting email addresses that reside on your server.  It’s considering you a prime candidate for future spamming.  Though it’s big, grey, and ugly, it’s not an elephant.

b)   Your content is lacking.  Your homepage message isn’t resonating with visitors.  You’ve managed to attract them somehow, but something was lacking in your homepage copy.  They’ve obviously not found a reason to go deeper into your product.  And that’s a problem.  If you find yourself with great traffic numbers and low pageview per visit, it simply means that you’re not enticing anyone with the language you’re using.

Taking a few minutes to analyze not how many visits you’re getting, but starting to understand what’s happening once visitors are there will give you clear evidence of whether or not your site is “working”.

The cost of leaving your site as is can be immeasurable.

The cost to fix it?

Peanuts.

The next post in this series will cover Bounce rates, Average time on site, and % of New Visits.

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Thanks for reading!  For information on cellular point of sale, visit our website: mmspos.com

Top 5 emerging retail technologies

Every weekday, I compile the best retail and technology news from Twitter into our “we get retail” Daily paper.li newspaper.   Through my monitoring, I’ve noticed several technology trends that are poised to shape the retail industry like never before.  I have compiled a list of my top five emerging retail technologies:

Tablet PCs

Tablet PCs are increasingly being used in retail environments to speed up sales.  Couple this with mobile payments, and several interesting possibilities arise.  Sales staff can help you find a product and ring it in, right on the sales floor, with no need to line up at the cash register.  Product you need not in stock?  Staff can check inventory levels right then and there, and tell you when the next shipment will arrive.  I can see this technology becoming an invaluable customer service tool.

http://www.ruggedtabletpc.com/blog/bid/78959/Part-2-Using-Tablet-PC-Technology-to-Improve-In-Store-Efficiency

QR Codes

Most of us are already familiar with QR codes: “scan here to go to our website” or “scan here for our coupon of the day”.  While QR codes are excellent promotional tools, businesses are also recognizing their benefits after the sale.  For example, whirlpool includes QR codes on their dryers that link to animated instructions on the proper installation of vent material.  QR codes can be used to provide usage instructions, replacement part numbers, contact information, etc.   This customer friendly solution provides yet another way of promoting product entanglement, as well as maintaining brand integrity.

http://blog.medialab3dsolutions.com/2012/05/qr-codes-sale/

Apple Passbook

Apple’s passbook is an intriguing offering; it allows customers to electronically collect, store and organize store cards, gift cards, and coupons.  Passbook uses the iPhone’s geo-location capability to identify when you’re in a particular store, and load the appropriate card.  For example, it will load your Movie gift card when you enter the theatre, presenting it on-screen to be scanned.  Aside from its obvious convenience, this technology makes it easy to carry your store loyalty cards (how many times have you signed up for something, but left the card at home?)  It’s an interesting product for consumers and retailers alike.

http://techcrunch.com/2012/06/13/apples-passbook-could-be-a-platform-not-just-another-mobile-payments-rival/

RFID

Radio Frequency Identification is another new trend hitting the retail world, and widespread adoption is expected in the next 3-5 years.  Inventory is tagged, and can be tracked at any point from warehouse to the storefront.  Because locations are tracked in real time, RFID offers retailers unparalleled supply chain accuracy. The completeness of incoming shipments can be quickly assessed, rather than relying on random inspections.  Other benefits include prevention of vendor fraud, administrative errors, and employee theft.

http://www.retailtouchpoints.com/retail-store-ops/1664-rfid-market-to-grow-20-annually-first-russian-footwear-retail-pilots-rfid

Nokia City Lens

Nokia’s City Lens (currently in beta) uses your smartphone camera and augmented reality technology to recognize your location and superimpose relevant information right on your screen.  Wave your phone, and City Lens will identify nearby landmarks, restaurants, and shops near you.  Imagine – customers wave their phone at your store front, and you are able to see your hours of operation, special sales, reviews, etc.  It will provide unparalleled visibility to potential customers.  When this takes hold, this could be a boon to retailers, or a bane for those unprepared.

http://conversations.nokia.com/2012/05/08/nokia-city-lens-brings-augmented-reality-to-nokia-lumia/

Will these technologies impact the retail industry?  What other technologies will be of use to consumers and retailers alike?

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Thanks for reading!  For information on cellular point of sale, visit our website: mmspos.com

A Culture Disturbed

 

It finally happened.  In a world where mobile phone manufacturers have made every innovation in order to ensure that we are “forever accessible”, one of the world’s leading mobile phone manufacturers (Apple) actually had the foresight necessary to recognize that the world is getting tired of being accessible.  They actually realize, perhaps, that sometimes you can’t be – or just don’t want to be – accessed.

Apple is releasing a “Do no disturb” feature on its iPhone offering, allowing users to adjust their phone settings to block incoming calls, texts, emails, notifications, weather updates, tweets, and status changes.

It’s brilliant, and long overdue.  Apple is betting on the fact that in this world of continual accessibility, some will decide that it’s okay not to be accessible for a few minutes out of every day (though most at first will – allowing adjustment time – choose between 2:25am and 3:18am as their “Do not disturb” period.

My first thought, admittedly, was:

“WOW!!!  So… I can just hit a button?  And I’m free?  I can adjust settings in nine seconds, and I would have complete and absolute liberation?  I could go through an evening with my children, and not see a notice inviting me to “like” a friend’s friend’s Facebook page on beaver dam spelunking?  Well this changes everything!!!!”

My second thought?

“Wait….  I have an “Off” function.  This application is stupid.  This does nothing more than turn my phone off.  The only real benefit is that I don’t have to wait for the damned thing to power up again.  And this is innovation?

That brings me, of course, to my third thought.  And it brings me to a recognition that this is, indeed, huge:

This application has with it a potential cultural shift.  Of course, we could all turn our phones off, automatically enabling a perfectly functioning “Do not disturb” feature.  But we didn’t turn it off.  We have all called someone, only to react in utter disbelief that someone had the audacity to turn their phone off.  You don’t even consider turning your phone off between 2:25am and 3:18am.  Nobody would dare turn their phone off (except my parents, but that’s a different post entirely).  To have your phone off is akin to an admission that you’re considering jumping.  You’ve surely lost your job.  You no longer want to deal with the world.  It is offensive.  It’s unprofessional.  It’s the equivalent of turning your back on anything and everything important.  And if after an hour it’s still off?   It’s most certainly because the person you called went camping, had no signal, and are now a malodorous assemblage of randomly strewn appendages, having obviously been besieged by rabid black bears.

Or maybe they’re just playing a game with their kids.

Is this innovation any different than a power button?  Nope.  But it does represent something much bigger than any phone app.  It may represent a cultural shift, where – if enough people start admitting that they don’t want to be disturbed – it will become okay not to be disturbed.

Cross your fingers.   And if you happen to have an urgent requirement that I know about your beaver dam spelunking exploits; feel free to let me know about it.  But expect to leave a message.

 

If it becomes culturally “okay” to have your phone off or on “Do not disturb”, would you take advantage of it?

 

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Thanks for reading!  For information on cellular point of sale, visit our website: mmspos.com

Text-back

Picture this.  You’re in your favourite restaurant with a group of friends, eagerly awaiting your meal.  Everyone else at your table receives their meal, except for you.  It eventually arrives 15 minutes later, but it’s loaded with the ingredient you specifically asked to be excluded.  When you finally manage to flag down your server, it goes back to the kitchen, but its replacement doesn’t arrive for another 15 minutes.  Then to top it off, your drink is spilled in your lap.

At this point, what would you do?

Did texting the manager cross your mind?

A new service called Talk to the Manager allows restaurant-goers to anonymously complain to the restaurant owner via text.  “Every cellphone is a comment card”, their website boasts.  The rationale behind the service is that management has direct (and confidential) access to complaints, rather than scouring nasty public reviews on sites like Yelp or Urbanspoon.

When I first heard about this service, my initial reaction was that it seemed a little ridiculous.  What happened to speaking to people directly?  We are increasingly placing more and more layers of technology between customers and businesses in the name of efficiency and improvement.

That being said, a few years ago, could you imagine “tweeting” your complaints to a company?  There is no question that Twitter has become the new frontline of customer service.  In fact, I would not be surprised if social media eclipses the traditional call centre as the preferred method of contact.

Are services like “Talk to the Manager” just the latest evolution of customer service?  And, would more people offer feedback in an anonymous fashion?  Perhaps managers would finally hear from the non-confrontational customers who might otherwise have kept quiet.  Of course this type of service would be more suitable to some industries than others. (How’s my driving? Text 555-4435)

As a retailer, would you appreciate a service like this?

Do receive feedback from customers?  Are text-feedback systems just the latest evolution of customer service?

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Thanks for reading!  For information on cellular point of sale, visit our website: mmspos.com

The Next Step

When I was ten years old, I opened my first savings account. Well, my mother opened it for me, but I got to go to the bank with her and the teller told me what to do if I wanted to put money in my account on my own. She gave me a little book that was filled with blank pages, and she explained that every time I put money in my account someone would write the information down so I would have a running tally of deposits, and I would be able to use that information to find out how much money I had in my bank account. I’m pretty sure I still have that passbook somewhere. I might keep it to show my grandchildren how I used to do my banking back in the old days. Can you believe that we actually wrote it all down? On paper!

In the last twenty  years, we’ve gone from manual entry on a passbook to computer updates on the passbook to the ATM card that gives you twenty-four/seven access to any bank from any store. I can’t even remember the last time I used an ATM to get money, now that I can go to the grocery store and get a litre of milk and take cash from my account at the same time. But did you really think that technology would stop there?

Say hello to the EnStream Mobile Wallet Project.

EnStream is a joint mobile commerce venture between some of the biggest cellular carriers in Canada. For the last couple of years, EnStream has been looking at different ways to make banking more convenient for cellphone users, primarily through apps and online banking. Now EnStream is in talks with Canada’s big banks to take the next step and make your ATM card completely obsolete. The Mobile Wallet would allow the telecom companies to embed credit and debit card information on your SIM Card – that ridiculously small piece of plastic that locks into your phone and works as the key to your personal life. Currently, where your SIM card goes, your phone information follows. Soon, your banking info will tie in as well. There are signs that the project could even be taken a step further. Think of how thin your wallet will become when your driver’s license, ATM card, and credit cards have all been replaced by your Smartphone.

Of course, as with everything in life, there is a catch. And this catch could prove to be quite inconvenient. If I go to a restaurant tonight and misplace my Blackberry, it’s a major pain in the you-know-where and I have to go looking for the phone and then call the cellular carrier and get a new phone number and buy a new phone.  If I go to a restaurant five years from now and misplace my Blackberry, my entire life is now up for grabs to whoever picks up the phone. And we’re not talking about them being able to read my emails to my mum. We’re talking about identity theft made quick and convenient.

Security and technology have been advancing side-by-side with each other for years. All those years ago, when I got that first bank account, anti-virus meant taking vitamins to avoid getting the flu and firewalls were found only in cars and buildings. It will be interesting to see what comes first – the creation of a SIM Card that will allow for banking and personal information to be stored on a phone, or the construction of security systems that will need to be put into place within a Smartphones’ operating system to safeguard that information. Should we allow for the former without the latter, or can we trust that security will catch up with technology before things go wrong?

 

Would you use the mobile wallet service if it was available? Would you be worried about the security of that information?

Edit/Undone – Part 2

This week’s post is a continuation of last week’s post Edit/Undone Part 1.  

“I don’t remember how to do long division”.  The other day, while in the lunchroom, a co-worker’s innocent comment incited a challenge.  Casting our minds back to our elementary school days, those of us who had gathered for lunch set out to re-discover a lost skill.  Slowly, almost painfully, we worked through it together, writing out the solution on paper.  A minute later, we arrived at our answer.  “We did it!” was quickly followed by “Why did we ever learn this?  It’s so pointless”.  A smartphone was quickly produced. “My teacher always said we’d never walk around with calculators in our pockets.  Hah.”

Does this story give you pause?  When I look at youth just 10-15 years younger than me, I see even more differences.  Teenagers seem to have abandoned the English language entirely, preferring “textese” to coherent sentences (can nybody srsly read dis stuff?).  The generational change that has occurred from my generation to the next, when compared to my parent’s generation to mine, is staggering.  In a few short years, these kids will be entering the workforce.  Does that scare you?  As an employer, how do you feel about hiring someone whose idea of a conversation exists in 144 character increments?  I’ll admit, at first, the idea makes me cringe.  But after thinking more deeply about the topic, I realized that this is a typical generation gap, just different; and while scary, I take comfort in the fact that it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Why is this change happening so suddenly?  Technology.  Throughout my lifetime, I’ve watched technology steadily replace the skills of yesterday.  No need to read a map, plug in your GPS and it will tell you when to turn.  Have trouble spelling?  Spell checker to the rescue!  Barely passed your road test?  Not to worry; cars now park themselves, avoid collisions, and apply proper braking pressure (what could go wrong?).

Technology has enabled us to do things easier, and faster.  It’s like steroids for generational change.  As we accomplish more in less time, we have more time to do more things, so we add more to our plates.  But then we feel a time crunch, and once again try to make everything more efficient.  We are always looking for a way to do more.   But it means we also have to know how to do more as well.

It’s simply not possible to know everything these days.  It’s been said that a single edition of the Sunday times has more information than the average villager would get in a lifetime during the Middle Ages.  How do we cope?  We abandon knowledge in exchange for knowing how to find it.  We don’t need to know how to do long division; all we need to know is to use a calculator (or a smartphone) to find the answer.   The emergence of the “open book test” in the last 10 years is a perfect example of this trend.  We prioritize “searching” over “knowing”, and traditional skills are thrown to the wayside.

Because of this, business owners may be wary of the young employee, regarding them as undisciplined, clueless, or distracted.  In reality, they are just differently adapted, just as you are differently adapted than your grandparents were.  Try to challenge assumptions when evaluating the newest generation.  Is it true that youth have worse customer service skills due to less face-to-face interaction?  Or are they more socially attuned thanks to social media?  Is it true that they not able to focus on details in an information-overloaded world?   Or are they free thinkers, able to make new connections in a sea of data?  Younger people bring new skills and priorities to the workplace; employers need to recognize what they bring to the table, and then support them in areas where they may lack – just like everyone else.  They may just be your best chance of success in this quickly evolving world.

Like it or not, there is no CTRL-Z for change.  Srsly.

What are your thoughts on how technology has changed society?  Are you apprehensive about the younger generation?  Or do you see their unique skills as an opportunity?

Edit/Undone – Part 1

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Disclaimer:  This week’s topic proved to be more complicated (and perhaps, contentious), than it first seemed, so we are trying something different; we are adopting a multi-post format, soliciting different perspectives on this issue.  Read, comment, and check back next week for Edit/Undone, part two. 

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Where most of my entries have revolved around the retail or marketing side of technology, I wanted to offer some insight into how I believe the younger generation has been affected by what is now a simplified, easily corrected world.  The Edit/Undo phenomenon applies (I believe) to life, work, and the retail environment.

I’ll go back a few years first, explaining the way things were when baby boomers were growing up.

If you had an essay due for school, you had multiple pieces of fools cap at the ready.  You first wrote out a plan of the opening, body and closing, and the arguments or points that you would be covering.  Then you drafted your piece on piles of paper, getting a pretty good sense of the wording.  Then you would take a red pen, and make notes all over it.  Then you rewrite it, hoping not to make an error.  Then you write it again; recognizing that you made errors.  Then you write it again, because your mother recognized that you used an arrow to insert a missing word.

And so – more often than not – you ended up with a stunning four page, hand-written essay that took only four days to create.  And there were a couple of errors.

And you wrote it again.

That same piece today would take half an hour to construct.  And therein lies the cultural shift as it relates to communications, life, retail, and all things everything.

The fact that every refined piece of work had attached to it an attention to detail and a show of caution ultimately translated into more caution and concentration in daily life.  If you make a mistake, you pay for it with a consequence that required reapplying the same effort to get back to where you needed to be.  Because of the entrenched notion in the back of our heads that reminded us that we can’t just erase something, everyone worked more diligently.  On everything.  For school.  At work.  In our social lives.

There was no such thing as erasing.  No option to simply delete the parts we didn’t like.

Today’s younger generation grew up with the mighty “Edit/Undo”.  You start smashing words on paper, highlighting, erasing, cutting and pasting, inserting things into a downloaded template that auto-corrects your format.  It fixes your spelling errors and grammar.  And if – out of a lapse in concentration – you accidentally erase entire sections on which you have worked incredibly hard… you have an endless supply of Get Out of Jail Free cards.

Edit… Undo.

And it’s fixed.

There is no such thing as a true mistake for this generation.  There are only temporary problems to which there are very quick fixes.

This has carried over, it seems, to every aspect of their lives, including their careers.

Next week, Meagan will continue the discussion in Edit/Undone part two.

The Death of Downtime

Are you planning on fitting in a few extra hours of work tonight?  Chances are the answer is yes.  According to a recent study by Forbes Insights, only 2% of employees, from managers to CEOs, said they never work weekends or nights.  Of the 98% that do after-hours work, nearly half of them do so on a regular basis.

Newer technologies, such as smart phones, are frequently implicated.  These “remote-office” tools allow work to be conducted at any time, anywhere (including, while on “vacation”).  Of course, these are just tools – it’s the individual that decides how they’re used.

There is no question that our workplaces have changed, but the reasons are not straightforward.  It goes beyond “unrealistic employer expectations”.  Employees themselves are increasingly seeking flexible jobs with the ability to telecommute.  And in turn, employers are responding by making it easier to work at a moment’s notice.

I once had the pleasure of meeting a Google employee.  Google is one of the most sought after companies to work for, and is often touted as the “ultimate” workplace.  The employee proudly regaled me with stories about Google headquarters, commonly known as Googleplex.  It did sound like a great place to work, but I also saw something more ingenious.  Google has blurred the lines between work and home.  Employees can work while commuting to Googleplex on the wifi-enabled Google train.  Services, such as laundry, are provided, reducing the need to go home and do “chores”.  Recreational activities are provided on-site.  And catered gourmet meals are provided – but are carefully timed.  An early breakfast and a late supper entice workers to arrive early and stay late if they wish to partake.  Google had truly made it possible to work whenever, wherever.  And while I saw this as an open door to overwork, this employee only saw perks.

Is there a problem with working more than the standard 40 hour week?  Surely working more hours means you get more done?

Aye, there’s the rub.

Several studies have consistently shown that workers who clock in over 40 hours per week are not more productive.  Studies of industrial workplaces, for example, have shown that workers produce the same number of widgets in an 8 hour day as a 10 hour day.  With the exception of occasional overtime (and I do mean occasional), working longer does not equate to increased productivity.

But there are more important implications than just productivity.  We sacrifice our leisure time for work time, and as a result have more stress and less time for family and friends.  So if we’re not accomplishing more, why do people do it?  In a Wall Street Journal article, Laura Vanderkam succinctly points out that there is a strong correlation between how busy we are and how important we feel; ironically, overwork is way of showing we are dedicated to our jobs and families.

Seems counter-productive, no?

With information from:

http://www.mobiledia.com/news/138387.html

http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/why-working-more-than-40-hours-a-week-is-useless.html

Do you do extra work on evenings and weekends?  How do you evaluate your productivity?  What impact does extra work have on your personal life?

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