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Too Many People Are Going Pantless on Video Calls

Don’t worry too much about how you look. Spend more time thinking about what you’ll say and how you’ll say it. But even so, put on some pants, perhaps.

Those are the conclusions reached by a Zogby Analytics survey seeking to understand why people don’t like video conferencing, and how to improve it. Despite an increase in remote work and video conferencing, the survey found “that majority of working adults do not feel comfortable on camera,” and plenty had gone to great lengths to avoid it.

The primary reason for people’s distaste, unsurprisingly, is that most video conferencing technology still doesn’t work all that well. The second reason is that people are camera-shy. “There seems to be this overwhelming obsession with our appearance,” said Kelsey Nelson, a spokesperson for Highfive, the video conferencing service that commissioned the survey. Nearly half of respondents (48%) said they were more worried about their appearance during a video call than the content they were presenting. About a third spent more time primping than prepping.

That’s likely because people see themselves as less attractive on camera. Although respondents rated themselves an average of 6.4 on a attractiveness...

Switching Up Your Location Makes You Better (and More Creative) at Your Job

As a freelancer, I’ve found that where I work changes the kind of person I am. In coffee shops, I’m easily distracted by friendly chatter and people scrolling through Facebook. An office filled with serious-looking workers in suits, however, makes me switch into professional mode and buckle down.

The same principle has held true since I began rotating between different coworking spaces in New York City. The Farm, a Soho coworking space furnished with salvaged barn wood, is filled with high-energy startups. Whenever I’m there, I sit up straighter and type faster. The Yard, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, has quirky art and a casual vibe. I feel more creative there, and am more likely to talk to the people around me. In other words, my environment shapes my workplace persona.

Thanks to the rise of the co-working space, many of my contemporaries are also experimenting with adding variety to their surroundings.Originally, independent workers and startups would invest in memberships to a single space. However, it’s becoming increasingly common for people to travel between multiple offices—a set-up that offers some unique benefits for employees.

“For some people, co-working provides flexibility of location,” workplace strategist Peter Bacevice...

How GSA Is Addressing the Unrealistic Expectations of Small Businesses

Most government contractors and industry professionals are familiar with the lengthy cycle involved with pursuing large multiple award contracts. Often times, a large MAC nears the end of its period of performance and the respective contracting organization recycles the performance work statement from the current contract to release a draft request for proposal.

However, a long time has usually elapsed since the beginning of the original contract, which renders the recycled requirements outdated and unrealistic. The inevitable amendments and extensions that follow further complicate the process. For small businesses with limited resources, developing a quality proposal under such circumstances can be extremely difficult. As a result, a slew of lackluster proposals from the small business industry straddle the line between non-compliance and compliance. Their bids take months (sometimes even years) to evaluate. Once awards are finally made, government managers and executives often face protests.

For small businesses focused on IT services, the cycle sets unrealistic expectations. This poses a significant problem for both government and industry. We can likely agree that this is a problem, but how can we solve it?

The Solution: the GSA Model

In July 2013, the General Services Administration released a request for proposals for the...

Here's What Happens to our Brains When Men and Women Work Together

We all cooperate, but not in the same ways. And now, neuroscience shows that at least some of those differences may be based on sex.

A study published Tuesday in Scientific Reports from researchers at Stanford University showed that different parts of men and women’s brains activated when working together on a simple task, suggesting that the two groups cooperate differently.

“The location of those differences may say a lot about the underlying cognitive strategies used by men and women,” Joseph Baker, a cognitive psychologist at Stanford University and lead author of the paper, told Quartz. “One of the biggest surprises was behavioral outcomes.”

In other words, this research suggests that men and women may use different tactics—like men focusing on multitasking, or women reading others’ behavior—to reach a common goal. Most previous studies of gender and cooperation have indicated (pdf) that men were better at getting along with men, than women were with other women, some of which are based on brain scans while subjects lay still and thought about cooperation. This new research appears to support this conclusion, based on new data derived from tracking brain activity while participants actually performed cooperation exercises together.

» Get...

If You Want Government Programs to Work, Think Like a Designer

While it’s relatively new in the digital world, design thinking was actually pioneered years ago in government. For example, the Clinton-Gore Reinventing Government initiative sponsored a pilot called “Oregon Option,” where nine federal programs for child health services were combined in Oregon to increase the number of children immunized against childhood diseases. The funding flexibility was contingent on increased accountability for delivering results. The pilot worked, but with a lack of support and a change in the state’s governor (who was the champion), it faded.

A couple of years ago, the concept was resurrected. Congress authorized a pilot program, Partnership Performance Pilots for Disconnected Youth (P3), to integrate services around a target population in exchange for results—in this case, at-risk youth. Nine pilots were launched last year and the government just announced a competition for 20 more this year.

How does this approach work?  Patrick Lester, in a new report for the IBM Center, explores how seven federal departments and agencies are collaborating with states, localities, Indian tribes, and nonprofits to create a basket of services and strategies to address the complex needs of disconnected youth. He concludes that it is probably too soon to tell how...

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