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A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Forget Standing Desks: Study Suggests Bicycle Desks Can Offset Hazards of Sitting

Americans sit. A lot. According to one estimate, sedentary jobs have risen 83 percent since 1950, and now account for 43 percent of American jobs.

To combat the ill effects, some have taken to standing desks. Others may try to squeeze in some exercise by biking or even running to work (only really an option for those who have showers at the office). And others yet are trying to combine the two: bike desks.

Now, a study confirms: This is a good idea.

“Sitting all day at work is really bad for us,” says Lucas Carr, an assistant professor in health and human physiology at the University of Iowa and co-author of the study. “Research has found excessive sedentary time to be a risk factor for many physical and psychosocial health outcomes including mortality, obesity, cardiometabolic disease risk, cancer, stress, depressive symptoms and poorer cognitive function.”

Moreover, Carr says that research has shown that this relationship cannot be “exercised off”: The negative effects of sitting all day aren’t cured by regular exercise. To that point, Carr believes that office gyms can’t solve the problem caused by the sedentary nature of work.

Carr and a team of researchers recruited...

What Does Your Sex Life Have to Do With Your Security Clearance?

Over the past several months we’ve been lamenting the massive data breach at the Office of Personnel Management. In the latest data breach, however, it seems federal employees and service members have no one to blame but themselves. This week’s high profile release of online information about users of Ashley Madison, an online dating site focused on extramarital affairs, included an estimated 15,000 .gov and .mil email addresses.

A few of the outed agencies include the Transportation Security Administration, the Office of Naval Intelligence and the State Department. The Washington metro area was found to have the highest concentration of users.

Several high-profile tech bloggers have been culling the data released from the Ashley Madison hack and using it to publicly out high-profile government figures -- several of whom have active federal security clearances. The fact that they’re both using a site designed for marital indiscretions and using their government-issued email addresses to do so is impropriety, stupidity and a security fiasco, all in one package.

Mixing Business and Pleasure

Historically, there has never been a ban on using your work email address for limited personal purposes. Many people use work email addresses -- including .gov and .mil...

Working Too Much Can Increase Heart Disease, Stroke Risk

In 1888, Rudyard Kipling famously wrote that too much work can “kill a man just as effectively as too much assorted vice or too much drink.” Working conditions have changed a lot since then, but a new analysis of more than 500,000 modern lives upholds the aphorism.

The meta-analysis published in The Lancet shows that those working 55 hours a week had a 33% greater risk of stroke and 13% increased risk of cardiovascular diseases in comparison to those working for 40 hours a week. This kind of analysis overcomes the limitations of past smaller studies, such as narrow demographics and weaker links, offering up a firmer, overarching conclusion.

One cause of stroke and heart diseases is the increased amounts of stress from extended work hours. Turning to alcohol as a stress reliever makes matters worse. So does the fact that overworked people have fewer hours available for exercise.

Sadly, the chances of your employer paying heed to this study aren’t great. According to the OECD, an international think-tank, the share of people working outside of normal hours has been increasing since the 1990s. Across the OECD countries, 12% of men and 5% of women worked more than...

How to Measure IT’s Strategic Value

Information technology has made possible the availability of real-time data and the tools to display that data, such as dash­boards, scorecards and heat maps. This has boosted the use of data and evidence by government decision-makers in meeting their agency and program missions. But what about the use of performance metrics by chief information officers?

Typically, CIOs have a good inventory of metrics regarding the performance of their technical infrastructure, such as server downtime. Metrics on nontechnical elements, however—such as the innovation capacity of the IT organization in an agency and its overall health as an organizational unit—are in earlier stages of development.

According to Kevin Desouza, in a new report for the IBM Center of the Business of Government, these types of metrics are critical for CIOs to effectively manage their IT organizations, and to convey the strategic value of their IT capabilities in meeting agencywide objectives.

Desouza interviewed over two dozen CIOs at all levels of government to understand what they saw as missing metrics and what challenges they faced in trying to fill the gaps and create a portfolio of balanced metrics to manage their organization. They told him that it was important to...

GE Saw the Light on Performance, Government Should Too

It’s happened again. Another major corporation has dramatically changed the way it manages employee performance. This time it’s General Electric. That’s important because the new approach is in direct contrast to the indefensible “rank and yank” philosophy attributed to former GE chief executive Jack Welch. That process involved a forced distribution of performance ratings, in which the lowest-ranked employees are fired. The new policy, described in a recent Harvard Business Review article, is focused on real-time performance development.

But recent headlines that say GE has decided to end annual performance reviews are misleading. The company’s new approach to managing performance should be closely considered by federal agencies. It has decided advantages. However, GE has not eliminated performance reviews.

If federal human resources practices were ranked using the Jack Welch logic, it is almost certain performance management would be at the bottom and eliminated. An assessment of the practice would be based on three core questions: Does the process contribute to better performance? Does the process help employees to develop their capabilities? Are performance ratings valid and useful in managing careers? There is little evidence that federal practices satisfy any of these purposes.

It’s significant that...