Want to know a secret? Lean in. Data is all around you. Not only that, The right data is valuable. The type of data we discuss in today’s blog, Emotional Data, is not only all around you and right enough to be valuable, it’s also totally free! And you don’t need a data scientist to benefit from it. You’d have to be nuts to pass up such a low hanging opportunity for improvement.
Take, for instance, a day in the office. Everyone’s work day has minor aggravations …
- You’ve hummed your way through Under Pressure[1. Just in case the name didn’t ear-worm you: Under Pressure – Youtube] (no easy feat!) and your crappy computer still hasn’t opened your file.
- In your first meeting of the day, Captain Clueless spends two hours lecturing you on time management. One meeting down, four to go!
- Your neighbouring colleague tries to communicate internationally by voice alone.
- A passerby stops for a chat just as your brain is forming the right wording for your email, and poof! it’s gone.
Repeat after me:
All just part of ‘a day at the office’, right?
But does it have to be? Imagine what you could achieve without those niggles!
Would you get more work done?
Would the quality of your work improve?
Would you go home happier?
Would you go to work happier?
Gut-instinct lays out the benefits to you clearly. But does your problem mean the same thing to your boss?
Of course we want others to reach our same conclusions without the time-suck of having to present data. Seriously, what’s data going to say that common sense doesn’t already? Well, nothing probably. But it’s the way that data can say something that makes the difference.
Let’s take this idea out for a spin.
A slow computer – that sounds like just one problem. And if you tell your boss that your computer is slow, what’s the likely response? ‘Just work smarter’?[1. For some roles, there might be something in providing a slow machine, but hardly ever as the main workhorse – maybe as a test rig for programmers for instance. Just watch the Programmers Stack Exchange crowd react to the suggestion that a slower machine might make for better code!]
This table summarises my recent slow computer problems, and the affect they had on me, my own emotional data, and my work:
Slow Computer Issues My Emotional Data Consequences Can’t run Chrome and Lightroom together without Lightroom slowing to an unusable crawl. Inefficient way of working, time lost. Can’t have many Chrome tabs open at once. Changed way of working. Everything takes a long time to open. Time lost. Scrivener takes a long time to respond and is therefore not as usable and flexible as I want. Steer way from using Scrivener even though it’s awesome. Resulting in less efficient documentation and more mixups between working docs. Encryption and backup is running so slowly, I can’t really have them running while I work. Less reliability of backup system if not running while I work. Shared documents are less accessible to coworkers and therefore run the risk of duplication of effort.[/fusion_builder_row_inner]
Does this look silly to you?
I’ve heard it called ‘Happy Face Technology’. It’s another way of presenting ‘qualitative data’.
Data isn’t just numbers. Emotions, and their digital brethren, emoticons, can be data too. Of course, you’ve probably seen them used to solicit feedback on some of your favourite SaaS software.
Also, there’s science: https://blog.bufferapp.com/7-reasons-use-emoticons-writing-social-media-according-science.
As the table shows, my slow computer represented not just one problem in my day, but several. Each type of problem the slow computer caused represented another blow to my aim of happiness in the workplace. In total not just one blow, but in the example shown above, five blows – a veritable bludgeoning. More than five if I needed to do any of those actions more than once.
Now, what happens when we FIX this ONE PROBLEM. What? So now I’m saying it’s only one problem? Yes, from the fix perspective it is only one problem. Only one problem that needs solving to increase happiness[1. I think we can make a distinction here between an overall attitude-based version of ‘happiness’, i.e. happiness in life, and a minute-to-minute version in which little annoyances can start to hijack our day.] across a range of computer-related issues.
So, with the addition of RAM, at $90 and about 30 mins to install:
Computer Issues – Repaired My Emotional Data Consequences Can run Lightroom and Chrome at the same time. Now I can make adjustments to photos while a webpage is open, and I can run imports in the background, rather than having to close one application to open the other. Many tabs can be open at once. I can open as many tabs as I need to do comparisons, or just hold tabs open as a kind of ‘to read’ list. Much less time to open applications. Yay! Scrivener opening and running time reduced. I can have several Scrivener projects open at once, and flick between them as needed. Encryption and backup still slow things down, but usable. May still decide to turn off backup system while working, until a better backup and sync option is implemented.
Now imagine doing the same analysis and repair on each of the annoying or time-and-energy-wasting factors in your day.
The scope of the opportunity here can be visualised by plotting the emotional data before and after. The graphs below show the possible extent of improvement for a number of small, cheaply fixable issues: a slow computer, poorly planned and managed meetings, and circumstances affecting concentration.
Not such a happy working day. Add a little RAM, create a new meeting culture (e.g. ask for clear objectives and an agenda), and implement some quiet time policies (e.g. using speakerphone only from closed offices, ‘do not disturb’ signage), and watch the turnaround:
Like bubbles, rising as things improve. I’m calling these Champagne Charts. And the higher the bubbles go, the more cause for celebration. A beer anyone?
Use the following survey to map out your emotions from the day, and identify the triggers.
(Hover your mouse inside the box and scroll away!):
If the pretty embedded survey isn’t working, try this link: Workplace Emotion – a Happy Face Study
Apart from the purely anthropological motivation of benchmarking your own happiness levels against others’, just the simple act of mindfully examining your day will provide you with the kinds of insights you need to make improvements that will send you home (and to work) happier:
- Find where your happiness is disappearing (or building!) throughout the day so that you can make little changes (pick the low-hanging fruit).
- There might be something bigger happening for you that needs attention. For example if you are having a disproportionate reaction to an event in your day, there might be more to do[1.https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/what-is-mental-health?] than speed up your computer or hang a ‘do not disturb’ sign over your desk.
We’ll do some cool things with computers to display and analyse the results, and publish when we have a big enough sample size. Let’s aim for 100. Oh, fun!
Would you like to know how happy everyone else is at work?
Would you like to benchmark your aggravations in an average office day against those of your peers?
Here’s the survey link again: Workplace Emotion – a Happy Face Study
Please pass this on to your friends and colleagues so we can all find out how happy everyone else is at work.
Data is all around you. You can use it to highlight areas which will benefit from change. You can use it to support your case, and drive that change.
Begin by picking the ‘low-hanging fruit’: cheap, easy, and good impact.
For example, you can start with the data you have closest at hand – your emotions (aka your ’emotional data’) – and look for the little changes you can make for a happier workday. By attacking each aggravation in your working day as a small and yet important improvement task, their accumulated removal could make a huge difference to your happiness and ultimately, your productivity in the office, as well as the level of positivity in your interactions. Good for your boss, good for you.
Now, get into my survey and start figuring out where your happy went!