FAST FACTS HAWAII
Gas prices might realign workplace
Four-day workweeks and no more cubicles -- could this be the future of the workplace?
Job placement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. recently released a list of workplace predictions that reflect the evolution of technology and rising cost of health care and energy.
» The end of business travel: Rising airfares and pressure to become environmentally responsible could drive corporations to opt for teleconferencing rather than sending employees on frequent business trips.
» Four-day workweeks: Given the rise of gas prices and the availability of portable technology, four-day weeks could become a new standard for corporate America.
» Saying goodbye to corporate headquarters: Real estate costs and environmental pressures may force companies to reconsider massive corporate complexes. Instead, they may rent out smaller office spaces with easier access to employees.
» No more cubicles: Employers are increasingly replacing confined cubicles with common areas, conference tables and community workspaces to promote interaction and teamwork. With employers using laptops and moving space to space, flexible designs will also benefit telecommuters who work in the office sporadically.
Book looks at what sways people
Why do rational people do irrational things, like keeping plummeting stock or staying in a doomed relationship?
Brothers Ori and Rom Brafman examine the psychology behind such behavior, in business and in life, in their recently published book "Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior."
The book looks at extreme examples of inexplicable behavior, like a veteran airline pilot who attempts to take off without control tower clearance and collides with another plane.
The book also focuses on group dynamics, in which visual perception is distorted by the opinions of others. In one study, a participant is coaxed by others in the room to believe that a rope is a shorter length than another, despite its appearance.
People are most often swayed because of roles they are ascribed, especially in the workplace, according to Ori Brafman. This affects their performance.
"There have been studies in which people perform better on tests when their managers think they are more intelligent, regardless of how intelligent they really are," Ori Brafman said in a phone interview. "Obviously this happens in all of our relationships, but it's something we don't realize we do. It's amazing how easily people are drawn into irrational decisions without even being aware that it's happening."
Firm installs 'virtual watercooler'
Nothing beats chitchatting with colleagues around the watercooler. But as companies go national and global, and employees increasingly telecommute from home, the conversation hub may run the risk becoming extinct in some offices.
That's why outsourcing and consulting firm Accenture Ltd. has just launched a virtual watercooler that it hopes will serve as a model for other companies, according to the company's director of corporate programs, Armelle Carminati.
The online forum allows employees to upload dialogue, personal pictures and videos, and work-related projects. It's accessible only from within the company but is similar to online social networking Web sites.
So far, the site is geared specifically for women, Carminati said.
"This is a great way for people from around the world to get to know one another and talk about the things that matter to them -- not just personal things, but career questions and insights," Carminati said. "In some ways it may be better than standing around an actual watercooler, because these may be topics that would not naturally come up in conversation necessarily."
Drivers report less stress with GPS
People who drive with GPS devices in their vehicles report they are less stressed and more alert. Plus they tend to drive more efficiently.
The study, released last week by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and commissioned by TomTom, a GPS device maker, involved more than 1,000 people in the United States and Europe who were asked how they felt when using a GPS device.
Seventy-two percent of the respondents said that using one made them feel less stressed, and 59 percent said they were able to pay more attention to the road.
Also, 77 percent felt more in control during their trip; 53 percent felt more alert.
In a second part of the study, drivers were hooked to various cameras and sensors as they drove with a TomTom Go 920. Drivers with GPSes showed faster reaction times and made fewer mistakes.
The study also found that people drove more efficiently when they had GPS directions, covering fewer miles and using less gas.