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

The Ultimate Office Perk: Not Having an Office

Tech behemoths and startups alike spend a fortune on creating plush offices with lots of perks. But arguably the biggest perk is allowing employees to work wherever they want, whenever they want.

This is something Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg understood a decade ago when he launched the online publishing platform WordPress. Today his global workforce of 260 still doesn’t operate with a central location (its San Francisco headquarters are nearly always close to empty.) Instead of investing money into office perks, Automattic invests that money into meet-ups for its employees.

Last year at a Lean Startup conference, Mullenweg said the following about the traditional workplace: “We have this factory model, and we think someone’s working if they show up in the morning and they’re not drunk, they don’t sleep at their desks, they leave at the right time. But that has so little to do with what you create. And we all know people who create a lot without fitting into those norms.”

Research indicates employees greatly value autonomy. This is part of what’s driving millennials to leave traditional offices and go out on their own. “It’s a cultural phenomenon,” says Alex Abelin, co-founder ...

Want to Be Happier? Try Walking Even Part of the Way to Work

Our daily commutes to work can significantly influence our mental state. Taking public transportation may be more beneficial than driving, researchers find. But ultimately an active commute—especially walking or bicycling—is the most beneficial for our emotional well-being, according to an expansive new study on the topic.

“Our study shows that the longer people spend commuting in cars, the worse their psychological well-being,” says Adam Martin from the University of East AngliaThe study, just published in the journal Preventative Medicine, concludes that commuters with “active travel modes” are associated with higher rates of well-being than those who drive or use public transportation. Over an 18-year span, 18,000 British commuters were asked a number of questions to gauge their various levels of “well-being.” The questions ranged from, Have you been feeling unhappy and depressed? to Have you been able to enjoy your day-to-day activities?  Responses were then correlated with the type of transportation used to arrive at work. The findings offer additional evidence that active commuters are thought to be happier, more focused workers.

Simply adding ten minutes of walking time to your commute, the study concludes, is associated with a boost in well-being. Importantly, the scientific definition ...

The Upside of Pessimism

I have pretty low expectations for this article. Oh sure, I spent a lot of time on it, and I personally think it’s a great read. But I’m kind of worried that you will hate it. Worse yet, I’m afraid you’ll hate me for writing it. You might take to Twitter and call me a featherbrained, elitist millennial. And then I’ll cry into my kombucha-flavored macaron. Or even worse, you might not read it at all. You might click away and go visit some lesser site, leaving me and my feathered brain to shout into the Internet abyss.

Or at least, that’s how I would start out thinking if I were prone to defensive pessimism, a phenomenon in which people imagine worst-case scenarios in order to manage their anxiety. But what defensive pessimists do next is key: They come up with strategies to avoid having all of those bad things happen, thus ending up better-prepared and less anxious in the long-run. In my case, that might mean topping this article with a clever title or even pre-writing some 140-character barbs to rout the haters.

This type of negativity might sound like apostasy by American ...

Why Every Executive Needs to Be Both a Hedgehog and a Fox

In his essay on Leo Tolstoy’s view of history, Isaiah Berlin begins with a quote from the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

The same distinction could be used to categorize public executives. Some know lots of little things. Others know—or, at least, focus on—one big thing.

This distinction can be illustrated by one contrasting pair of public executives: presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Carter was the prototypical fox. Reagan exemplified the hedgehog.

Berlin, of course, was not interested in elected executives or, indeed, in any executives in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors. He was focused on “the deepest differences which divide writers and thinkers.” As Berlin explained it, Dante, Plato and Kafka were hedgehogs; Aristotle, Shakespeare and Joyce were foxes.

Still, this deep difference also divides public executives.

Certainly, public executives may not need to write. When it comes to putting words on paper (or even on a screen) many have speech writers and interns to do this for them.

Still, there are counter examples. Winston Churchill was an excellent writer, and his literary skills reflected his analytical powers. To be an excellent writer, a ...

The Complete Guide to Being on Time

Those who think people can’t change might argue that punctuality, a beloved characteristic in American culture, can’t be learned. No doubt it’s a tough undertaking for those who aren’t naturally punctual. But there are ways to help identify the root causes of tardiness, and tricks to lessen the stress and at times humiliation of showing up late.

Check your mental health

Being chronically late can have deep psychological drivers that go beyond having too much to do or mistiming traffic. Diane DeLonzer, author of Never Be Late Again, said in the Huffington Post that those with certain personality traits such as “anxiety, low self-control and a tendency toward thrill-seeking” tend to be late more often. Problems such as attention deficit disorder and obsessive compulsiveness—which often drive late-goers to spend needless time fixing crooked placemats or over-surfing the Internet—can be to blame.

Identifying such chronic symptoms not only helps ease the guilty feelings associated with being late; it allows a person to create coping mechanisms to facilitate being on time.

Avoid over-scheduling your day

Society tends to reward busy overachievers. But the tendency for overachievers to over-schedule activities often leads to tardiness, according to DeLonzer ...