Workplace Technology We’d Like to See
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Workplace Technology We’d Like to See

Journal readers and workplace experts imagine tech products and innovations that would make work easier.

By DEMETRIA GALLEGOS
Tue, Feb 22, 2022 10:58amGrey Clock 6 min

If there’s a universal truth about workplace technology it’s this: We love to complain about it. We complain about how it does what it does, and we complain about how it doesn’t do what we need it to do. We gripe that it too often fails to deliver on its promise, and that it then creates new problems.

But imagine you had a magic wand, and you could create a product to solve some of your biggest workplace issues. What would it be? What would make your job easier and more productive? We asked Wall Street Journal readers and workplace experts to imagine just such a technology—one that doesn’t yet exist except in their minds.

Here are some of their answers.

Email’s Successor

A true replacement for email, one that actually allows for effective collaboration across silos. Every attempt at replacement (Slack, Teams, Zoom) has significant drawbacks (not encrypted, requires signing up for an account, time limits or other gated functionalities). Unless email can be completely replaced by a superior technology—one that can be used across different companies, workspaces, etc.—all new communications systems are added on top of email. (You want to use Teams? Great, now I have to check Teams and email. And Slack. And my text messages.) All of this just compounds the problems of siloed, ineffective and incomplete communications systems like email.

Erik Love, Carlisle, Pa.

A Personal Network Manager

I would like to see a customer-relationship-management system that makes it easier to facilitate business introductions and manage my own network of professional connections.

For example, if someone asks for an introduction to a CEO I know, I typically first ask the CEO if he or she is open to it, then write a thoughtful and personalized email about the person seeking the introduction. This process can take time. Having a tool or system that automates at least part of this process—say, by providing me with prewritten snippets of background information on my contacts that can easily be inserted into introduction emails—would make the process less time-consuming and burdensome. I would also want this tool to help me keep track of the introductions I have made and where they stand, so that I could follow up and nurture those relationships, as needed.

Helping me keep track of when and how I met the people in my own network also would be valuable. That includes noting any information I learned about the person, such as their kids’ names and ages, who they wanted me to meet, who they wanted to meet in my network, etc. Having this deeper context in one place would make it easier for me to leverage my connections and vice versa.

Neha Sampat, founder and chief executive of Contentstack, an enterprise software company

VR Meetings

I would like to be able to use VR headsets in Zoom rooms or on other video chat platforms.

Matt, Farmington, Utah

Take a Page From ‘Monsters, Inc.’

I would like to see a technology that allows employees to connect with others they don’t already know. While there are many upsides of being able to work from anywhere, one of the downsides is how difficult it is to meet new people at work who you don’t have any productivity-related reason to interact with. When you’re in the office with people you naturally bump into people who you don’t directly work with, and as a result have the chance to get to know them and find out what is going on in other parts of the organization. Over time you develop a network of people who you are casually acquainted with, who you can contact when needed without it being an awkward cold call.

I’d like a technology that helps people establish those sorts of connections with co-workers who they never see in an office. For example, you could have a virtual door on your computer screen that you could knock on, like the bedroom doors in the movie “Monsters, Inc.” Each individual could personalize their door design. A new door could appear on each staff member’s screen every day or every week or after all-company meetings—a new person to meet and have a brief conversation with. Systems could be set so every staff member sees doors with some variation of who they want to connect with (e.g., someone from their worksite or their larger group or not in their group—the options are limitless). Knocking on the new virtual door could be set as a cultural expectation, thus reducing the awkwardness that naturally comes from talking with someone new. It would provide the opportunity to meet those from parts of the organization who they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to meet, and the chance to make connections they would never be able to make otherwise.

Jennifer Deal, a senior research scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations in the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California

A Window Into My Office Desk

I’d like to have a remotely controlled camera positioned to look at my desk, so I can see my desk calendar for notes and reminders, as well as yellow stickies. This would enable me to direct someone in the office to find that missing document.

Nathan L. Brown, Pensacola, Fla.

Stop the Spam

I would love to see my company filter out spam calls to my business phone before it rings. It’s no wonder people aren’t checking voice mail. It is mostly spam. But when something is important, we still turn to the phone, and if that voice mail is ignored it can mean lost business or worse. Spam is a problem. Important voice mails ignored is also a problem. Stop the spam and send the good calls to email with a transcription where they will be seen.

Richard Quattrocchi, Rolling Meadows, Ill.

AI as Tutor

Artificial intelligence can be used to help educators in their workplace—and students as well.

First of all, AI could take over the drudge work such as grading assignments and record-keeping. Our educators are in need of all the efficiencies technology can bring.

Second, AI could individualize instruction for each student. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, AI could learn about each child and develop a plan of study for each. Having AI tutors control much of the learning process will leave the teachers with more time to interact meaningfully with the individual students.

And this teaching/learning process could be lifelong for each person, through job and career training and beyond to hobbies and other pursuits.

John Bobbitt, Richmond, Texas

Meeting Recaps

What would really be beneficial is a new technology that can automatically create searchable transcripts or AI-assisted summaries of meetings held on teleconferencing platforms. This would save those in the meeting the clerical task of taking notes and publishing meeting minutes. It could serve as a backup if questions arise about resolutions achieved and arguments made. Charts, diagrams and statistical data presented during the meetings could be consolidated on the new database to be invented.

Kenneth C.C. Chan, Melbourne, Australia

Cord Dreams

I have tried buying brightly coloured cords, hiding cords, putting my initials on cords, and threatening awful consequences for unauthorized use, but my power and charging cords still disappear from the spots I swore I put them last. I blame my four-person family and Covid, which upped the ante.

Now, I’m fully working from home, my husband starts his workday from home, our daughter is working her first full-time job remotely and our son has more college classes online in the house than in person on campus. Laptops and phones have become conference tables and lecture halls. Keeping them charged is a priority.

A few weeks ago, when I had an important Zoom meeting starting in five minutes but had spent 20 minutes looking for my laptop charger, I thought, how great it would it be if charger cords couldn’t be used without the owner’s permission?

So, the technology I’d most like to see are chargers I could program to work only on my devices. I would order them in obnoxious colors and leave them out for all to see—but not to snitch!

Genevieve Chesnut, San Diego

Reading the Room

As we move into year three of our work-from-home experiment, it has become apparent that online meetings are here to stay. This has brought with it a new realization: The technology makes “reading and working the room” significantly harder and potentially career impacting for remote employees.

Things like “sidebar” conversations during quick breaks; walking with colleagues to meetings to get their “pulse” on a topic; strategically sitting next to someone or in a group to show solidarity or weight of presence are no longer possible. Neither are the subtleties of delivery and reception of information: inflections, laughs, sighs and raised eyebrows are controlled or not spontaneous in an online call, and “unmuting” reminds us that we are now “on camera” and prevents the under-one’s-breath utterances that may have been made to nearby colleagues in person-to-person meetings.

If remote meetings are here to stay, Gen 2 online-meeting software has to be more emotionally intelligent.

For example, replace the “celebrity squares” random tile format of a meeting to allow “seating” around a table, in groups or zones. In a meeting of hundreds, it is hard to see if your colleagues are actually present without scrolling through pages.

Ensure that on-platform peer-to-peer messaging is secure, unrecorded and encrypted, allowing for sidebar conversations or even sidebar video that is unavailable to the mainstream audience. This would keep participants on the platform, rather than forcing them to revert to their phones.

Develop participant structures where the speaker is on the main screen, but others in your group could be arranged dynamically via “drag and drop” so reactions can be shared and communicated visually as a cohort. Hosts also need to establish premeeting encrypted breakout rooms for participants who wish to strategize and meet before being “live” in the host’s formal meeting. This would save jumping from one internal meeting or ad hoc phone call before the hosted meeting, improving efficiency and workflow.

Robert Plant, associate professor at Miami Herbert Business School, University of Miami, in Coral Gables, Fla.



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We all get mad now and then. But too much anger can cause problems.

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Anger is bad for your health in more ways than you think.

Getting angry doesn’t just hurt our mental health , it’s also damaging to our hearts, brains and gastrointestinal systems, according to doctors and recent research. Of course, it’s a normal emotion that everyone feels—few of us stay serene when a driver cuts us off or a boss makes us stay late. But getting mad too often or for too long can cause problems.

There are ways to keep your anger from doing too much damage. Techniques like meditation can help, as can learning to express your anger in healthier ways.

One recent study looked at anger’s effects on the heart. It found that anger can raise the risk of heart attacks because it impairs the functioning of blood vessels, according to a May study in the Journal of the American Heart Association .

Researchers examined the impact of three different emotions on the heart: anger, anxiety and sadness. One participant group did a task that made them angry, another did a task that made them anxious, while a third did an exercise designed to induce sadness.

The scientists then tested the functioning of the blood vessels in each participant, using a blood pressure cuff to squeeze and release the blood flow in the arm. Those in the angry group had worse blood flow than those in the others; their blood vessels didn’t dilate as much.

“We speculate over time if you’re getting these chronic insults to your arteries because you get angry a lot, that will leave you at risk for having heart disease ,” says Dr. Daichi Shimbo, a professor of medicine at Columbia University and lead author of the study.

Your gastrointestinal system

Doctors are also gaining a better understanding of how anger affects your GI system.

When someone becomes angry, the body produces numerous proteins and hormones that increase inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can raise your risk of many diseases.

The body’s sympathetic nervous system—or “fight or flight” system—is also activated, which shunts blood away from the gut to major muscles, says Stephen Lupe, director of behavioural medicine at the Cleveland Clinic’s department of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition. This slows down movement in the GI tract, which can lead to problems like constipation.

In addition, the space in between cells in the lining of the intestines opens up, which allows more food and waste to go in those gaps, creating more inflammation that can fuel symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating or constipation.

Your brain

Anger can harm our cognitive functioning, says Joyce Tam, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. It involves the nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex, the front area of our brain that can affect attention, cognitive control and our ability to regulate emotions.

Anger can trigger the body to release stress hormones into the bloodstream. High levels of stress hormones can damage nerve cells in the brain’s prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, says Tam.

Damage in the prefrontal cortex can affect decision-making, attention and executive function, she adds.

The hippocampus, meanwhile, is the main part of the brain used in memory. So when neurons are damaged, that can disrupt the ability to learn and retain information, says Tam.

What you can do about it

First, figure out if you’re angry too much or too often. There’s no hard and fast rule. But you may have cause for concern if you’re angry for more days than not, or for large portions of the day, says Antonia Seligowski, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who studies the brain-heart connection.

Getting mad briefly is different than experiencing chronic anger, she says.

“If you have an angry conversation every now and again or you get upset every now and again, that’s within the normal human experience,” she says. “When a negative emotion is prolonged, when you’re really having a lot more of it and maybe more intensely, that’s where it’s bad for your health.”

Try mental-health exercises. Her group is looking at whether mental-health treatments, like certain types of talk therapy or breathing exercises, may also be able to improve some of the physical problems caused by anger.

Other doctors recommend anger-management strategies. Hypnosis, meditation and mindfulness can help, says the Cleveland Clinic’s Lupe. So too can changing the way you respond to anger.

Slow down your reactions. Try to notice how you feel and slow down your response, and then learn to express it. You also want to make sure you’re not suppressing the feeling, as that can backfire and exacerbate the emotion.

Instead of yelling at a family member when you’re angry or slamming something down, say, “I am angry because X, Y and Z, and therefore I don’t feel like eating with you or I need a hug or support,” suggests Lupe.

“Slow the process down,” he says.

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