06Jun

Wallet Hub is out with its annual list of the best places to find a job. If you’re in IT, you’ve got your pick. Not surprising, tech hubs rank high in the scoring. Out of the top 10 places with the best job prospects, half are in or around tech centers like Silicon Valley.

Most of these also made the top 10 cut when factors like family incomes, housing costs, commute times and recreation are included.

For anyone considering a geographic change, but uncertain about where, the list can be a useful starting place. It doesn’t tell you exactly why for example, Pittsburgh gets higher marks for its socio-economic climate than does Virginia Beach or Austin. The methodology does explain the factors and weight that go into the scoring, though it would seem being far south of the snow belt and on the ocean or in the trendy home of SXSW has got to count for a lot.

Still, the list can help you discover places you hadn’t thought of and certainly, raises a red flag if you were considering Toledo or Cleveland or Stockton, California, all of which are in the bottom 10. Dead last is Detroit.

California, as might be expected of the nation’s most populous state, has 16 cities in the top half of the list. Arizona comes in second with 8 cities, including Phoenix. But Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, some of the less populated states, rank among the top places for jobs and living; South Burlington, Vermont scored 2nd on the overall best cities list, and was actually #1 for jobs.

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Green Key

Working Virtually Causes Greater Fatigue, but it Also Provides More Flexibility

Feeling like video conferences are taking more out of you than in-person meetings? Turns out you’re right. According to a new set of studies released by Microsoft, virtual meetings cause more stress and fatigue than similar in-person meetings. Microsoft began their studies prior to Covid-19 as a way of analyzing the effects of their own video conferencing software (Microsoft Teams), but the results have become particularly relevant in the current working climate.

According to Microsoft’s research, the extra stress caused by video meetings comes from several different factors including having to focus continuously on a screen and reduced non-verbal cues that would usually help you ‘read the room’ in an in-person meeting. These stressors are specific to virtual meetings and would not otherwise be felt in in-person meetings. On days with back to back virtual meetings, stress and fatigue usually set in about 2 hours into the workday.

Thankfully, for those using Teams, Microsoft is nothing if not solution-oriented. To help combat the extra stress of meeting virtually on their platform, they have released a set of updates that helps users feel more like they are together in the same space.  The two main updates are ‘Together mode’ and ‘Dynamic view’. Together mode uses AI to place meeting participants within the same shared background while Dynamic view is meant to optimize shared content within the virtual meeting space. Also, for those not using Teams, Microsoft offers the general advice to take breaks every two hours and try to limit virtual meetings to about 30 minutes when possible.

Aside from the Microsoft specific efforts to combat virtual meeting fatigue, there are also other bright spots contained within the research for virtual workers overall. While several of Microsoft’s studies began prior to Covid-19, others were specifically designed to study what is happening to the workforce during the pandemic. What they found was that, while most people wanted to get back into the office eventually, people also expected their managers/company to allow them to more frequently work from home.

This same set of studies also found that people were able to have a more flexible workday working from home. Employees were able to work on projects when needed but were also able to take care of personal matters during times when they would normally be in the office. According to Microsoft, “…people are working more frequently in the morning and evening hours, but also on the weekends” suggesting that they are taking (at least part of) the middle of the day for non-work-related activities. With this newfound freedom in office hours, it appears that employees are still able to get required work completed on time but on a schedule that better fits their needs.

Overall, the results of Microsoft’s studies, both pre and during Covid-19, appear to point to the same conclusion: the nature of office work is in the middle of a metamorphosis that has now been accelerated by the pandemic. Over the last ten years, more and more companies have touted their flexible work from home policies as an extra perk, but post-pandemic it’s looking more likely that employees will expect most companies to have more accommodating work from home policies in general.

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

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Green Key