The Real Reason You’re Having a Hard Time Getting Things Done at the Office | Kanebridge News
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The Real Reason You’re Having a Hard Time Getting Things Done at the Office

Working from home altered our brains. We need more office time to fix them.

By RAY A. SMITH
Fri, Aug 4, 2023 8:23amGrey Clock 3 min

If you still don’t have your office groove back, there might be a scientific explanation. Hybrid work arrangements mess with our brains.

Frustrated bosses who survey their half-empty officescapes say it makes no sense that somebody who worked full time in an office before 2020 can’t show up like they used to. But neurologists and behavioural scientists say the collective amnesia for effectively working alongside each other makes perfect sense to them.

Some workers have lost the muscle memory in their minds required to get jobs done in an open-office setting and, like flabby biceps, that muscle has to be exercised to strengthen, says S. Thomas Carmichael, professor and chair of the neurology department at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.

After years of remote work, our brains’ selective attention skills and ability to block out distractions is weakened, Carmichael says. Those who prefer to work from home might not like one of his remedies: Make yourself work from the office more often.

“The brain is really good at understanding contingencies, so if we just say ‘I’ll just get this done when I’m at home,’ we don’t learn it as well,” he says.

Drowning in a sea of ‘what ifs?’

Knowing how effective working from home can be has created a simmering unhappiness, says organisational psychologist Cathleen Swody. Many workers lose their uninterrupted autonomy in social office spaces.

Maryia Babinova, a senior software engineer in New York City, tried going into her office several days a week back in 2021 and found it nearly impossible to be productive.

“The first 30 to 45 minutes of my day were taken up by saying hello to everybody,” she says.

Babinova says even small office time wasters have become a major annoyance. A trip to the office coffee machine, for instance, can take as long as 15 minutes when there’s a line. At home, she says, caffeine is at her fingertips, keeping her on task.

Now, Babinova only shows up in person when her team members visit from another city. At the office, she works on tasks that don’t require a heavy mental lift so she can get them done.

Constantly comparing 2023’s office realities with alternative remote-work setups can add to workers’ readjustment woes, says Laura M. Giurge, an assistant professor at the London School of Economics, who teaches a course on the science of time at work.

When people start to ponder what life would be like if their circumstances were different, they can rapidly end up drowning in a sea of “what ifs,” a psychological concept known as counterfactual thinking.

“Now, when we go to the office, we have the counterfactuals of our home offices,” Giurge says. “We know how much better things would be…how much more work we might get done.”

It’s hard to un-remember how nice it was to take the dog for a walk midday, or how helpful it was to log out at 4 p.m. to get dinner started and log back in later. Running through scenarios of how time could be better spent takes up precious brainpower, distracting us from the real work at hand, psychologists say.

Unsettling quiet

Getting used to working with background noise takes time.

Many workplaces are quieter now because they are less crowded, and that means there can be periods of dead silence punctuated by sudden noise that feels magnified, jarring people again and again all day long. Even toggling between work-from-home solitude one day to a noisy office the next can have a similar effect.

“We have to habituate ourselves to all those distractions all over again in order to get any good work done,” says Vanessa Bohns, a professor of organisational behaviour at Cornell University. She points to research that shows it takes 20 minutes to get used to background noise, but five minutes of silence before bringing back the noise forces the brain’s process to start over again.

Many workers and a few bosses now view the office as a place to collaborate, but not the only place to do head-down individual work.

In a large-scale survey published by Microsoft last year, 84% of employees cited connecting with co-workers as their key motivation for working in person. More than 70% said they would go to the office more frequently if they knew their direct team members or work friends would be there.

“The data shows we can’t only see the office as a place to get focused work done,” said Colette Stallbaumer, Microsoft’s general manager of Future of Work.

Lynn Dang, a software developer in the Dallas area, uses her three mandatory office days for face-to-face meetings and work that doesn’t require intense concentration.

When she transitioned back to the office last year, she noticed she couldn’t concentrate on reading code like she could while working from home. Loud team discussions and overhearing one-sided conversations amid the cubicles from people who were on the phone or dialled into video meetings created a constant assault on her senses.

“It was like I’m gonna have to find something to do on my to-do list that would make me productive,” she says. “Otherwise I’m going to have to keep working overtime or working over the weekend just to get stuff done.”



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Preparatory Work for UAE to Oman Hafeet Rail Project Commences at Full Speed
Preparatory Work for UAE to Oman Hafeet Rail Project Commences at Full Speed

Preparations have begun on the transformative UAE to Oman Hafeet Rail network, revealing significant construction details during a site visit.

Thu, May 16, 2024 3 min

The $3bn Hafeet Rail project between the UAE and Oman will feature 60 bridges and a 2.5km tunnel, making it an “architectural and engineering marvel,” according to CEO Ahmed Al Musawa Al Hashemi.

Hafeet Rail has announced that preparatory work is moving full speed ahead for constructing the transformative railway link between the UAE and Oman. This announcement was made during a site visit attended by key officials, members of the Asyad and Hafeet Rail executive management teams, project contractors, and consultants.

Key Highlights

During the visit, attendees were introduced to the main components of the project, including passenger, repair, and shipping stations, as well as major bridges and tunnel sites.

The Hafeet Rail project is set to play a very important role in enhancing local and regional trade, unlocking new opportunities in the infrastructure, transportation, and logistics sectors, and fostering economic diversification. It will also strengthen bilateral relations between the UAE and Oman.

The project will involve constructing 60 bridges, some reaching heights of up to 34 meters, and tunnels extending 2.5 kilometres. The Hafeet Rail team showcased the latest rail technologies and innovative engineering and architectural solutions designed to navigate the challenging geographical terrain and weather conditions while maintaining high standards of efficiency and safety.

The rail network will boost various industrial sectors and economic activities and significantly impact the tourism industry by facilitating easier and faster travel between the two countries.

Ahmed Al Bulushi, Asyad Group Chief Executive Asset, noted that the project’s rapid progress reflects the commitment of the UAE and Oman to developing and realizing the project’s multifaceted benefits.

Investment and Future Impact

Al Bulushi added that investments in developing local capabilities and expertise in rail-related disciplines over recent years have enabled the project to reach the implementation phase successfully under the leadership of highly efficient and professional national talent.

Hafeet Rail’s CEO Ahmed Al Musawa Al Hashemi emphasized, “The commencement of preparatory works for construction is a testament to the robust synergy between all parties involved in both nations, achieving this milestone in record time. We are confidently laying down the right tracks thanks to the shareholders of Hafeet Rail and the expertise of local companies in Oman and the UAE, alongside international partners.”

During the site visit, the visitors explored some of the key preparatory sites, including Wadi Al Jizi, where a 700-meter-long bridge towering 34 meters will be constructed. This ambitious project is envisioned as an architectural and engineering marvel in a complex geographical landscape.

Future phases will require more collaboration, with a continued focus on quality, safety, and environmental considerations in line with the international industry best practices.

The Hafeet Rail project represents the first-of-its-kind railway network linking two Gulf nations, marking a significant shift in regional goods transportation. This efficient and reliable transportation option will reduce dependence on slower and less sustainable road transport.

Hafeet Rail promises a 40% reduction in shipping costs and a 50% in transit times compared to traditional land transportation methods, as it will be connecting five major ports and several industrial and free zones in both countries.

This shift will reduce reliance on road transport by cars and trucks and promote more sustainable shipping practices. The establishment of the railway network will also create significant opportunities for SMEs in construction, engineering, and logistics support, acting as a catalyst for economic growth and innovation within the domestic economy.

By linking major ports, the Hafeet Rail project will enable local SMEs to import, export, and distribute their products more effectively, enhancing their market reach and global competitiveness.

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