11 Feb

Working on the perfect playlist

Articles, Blog 4 Comments by Mary-Frances Winters

Reunión de iPods

MP3 players allow you to choose your own tunes at work instead of being subjected to elevator music or classic rock radio repeats. But with limitless options, how do you find music that is enjoyable and not distracting?

Vincent Paciariello, an account executive at DM Public Relations, is an Internet radio aficionado who shared his opinion on the pros and cons of popular online options with CNN. He likes “Sirius for certain talk programs, AOL Radio for its extensive catalog of genres and Pandora Radio to discover new artists.” Internet radio listeners also tend to like Grooveshark and Last.FM—sites similar to Pandora, but with more control over playlists.

It would be impossible to cover everyone’s work music preferences, but the following are some popular options:


Many sources report that Baroque classical music, especially pieces with 60 beats per minute, can increase productivity and memory. Wikipedia Commons has a list of pieces in the public domain.

If classical pieces don’t do it for you, the Vitamin String Quartet and several other groups perform instrumental renditions of pop songs.

White Noise/ Ambience

You can subtly block office noise with the Noise download for Macs and the Chatterblocker for Windows. The Groovesalad station at Soma.fm comes highly recommended by ambience fans. Meanwhile, music inspired by Buddhist temples can be found at Zendesk.com.

Hip-Hop/ Rap

Blogger Ted Payne shares some hip-hop inspired work music. His recommendations include The Roots’ album Dilla Joints, which is “very jazzy and has low key beats”, Damu the Fudgemonk’s How It Should Sound—a more energetic album with “classic hip hop bass”— and Ino Hidefumi’s Living Message—a “great blend of classical, organic instruments with hip-hop esthetics.”

Rock/ Guitar

Post rock, a brand of instrumental music using instruments typically associated with rock, is logical office music if you like alternative rock. Similarly, guitarists such as Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Jonny Greenwood, Joe Pass, John Fahey and others have lyric-less music that keeps you interested without being too distracting.


Think about your favorite movies and check out their film scores or soundtracks. Listen to the news in a foreign language. Tune into interesting podcasts when doing mindless tasks.

Whatever music you choose, remember it’s your favorite music, not John or Deb’s. Keep the volume low enough that you can hear the phone ring or coworkers speaking to you. Don’t drum the beat on your desk. Don’t let your private musical universe interfere with teamwork and office relationships. And please, please, please spare coworkers your version of “Hakuna Matata.”

10 Feb

Social Media at Work: Who Tweets? Who Cares?

Articles, Blog 3 Comments by Mary-Frances Winters

Employers today are torn between promises of more efficient employees and a study, conducted by research firm Basex, which estimates the annual cost of unnecessary workplace interruptions at 650 billion dollars. The debate highlights a generational gap between older employers who see social media as a personal distraction and younger employees who view it as a critical way of interacting with the world.

Breakdown of Social Media Usage by Age (Source: www.pingdom.com)

The criticisms of social media use at work are obvious. RescueTime, a company that researches computer habits, found that a typical information worker checks his email 50 times per day and instant messages 77 times. The obsessive message-checking even prompted a Google engineer to invent “E-Mail Addict”, a feature in which employees can choose to “take a break” and block their email for a set period of time.

But productivity loss isn’t the only concern. Viruses and malware pose real security threats to company computers, as evidenced by the recent “koobface” (an anagram of Facebook) malware bug which embeds itself in Myspace or Facebook users’ profiles and then tries to gather sensitive information from and commandeer the computer system.


Employers understand these threats, and the first reaction often is to ban social networking outright. But a new wave of companies criticize this approach as both impossible and short-sighted. Employees see no reason that e-mail, a notorious waste of time, is legitimized while other sites with similar communicative purposes are blocked. Similarly, if tech-adept employees truly are addicted to their various networks, they will find a way to use them, even if it is ducking under the desk to check Facebook on their Android.

Wired.com comes at the issue from a different perspective—maybe these “distractions” serve a purpose in themselves. The magazine cites Dan Ambrose, a Rider University professor who studies creative intelligence. Ambrose says that a key component of creative association is exposing the mind to novel information, rather than just relieving mental pressure. In other words, mixing together all the ideas from various Web sites and interactions can make employees more creative.

Other employers are channeling online social networking into work-friendly programs such as Yammer, a sort of intra-office Twitter. These kind of networks still allow free-form communication without the “to whom” confines of an email, while keeping sensitive information in the office.


C.C. Chapman, founder of Digital Dads, advises employers to embrace social networking as a marketing tool and part of their corporate culture in order to channel employees’ opinions, which will inevitably be aired, whether on a blog or at a neighborhood barbeque. If the company has guidelines, the opinions can be dealt with in a constructive manner.

There is no one answer for employers asking what to do about social networking at work, but most experts recommend developing robust social media guidelines before you get into a sticky situation. Check out some templates online from successful companies, set up your own accounts to play around and get a feel for the possibilities, and keep in mind that while the tools are changing, “twitter” (originally meaning “to chatter about trivial matters”) has been a workplace issue since long before it earned a capital T.

08 Feb

Let’s Talk About Work – Ep. 1: Welcome to LTAW

Blog, Video 2 Comments by Mary-Frances Winters


Thank you to everyone who made launching this blog possible.

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