Search This Blog

Monday, September 30, 2013

Self-Serving Service

Recently the Chicago food chain Jewel-Osco made an interesting announcement. Several of their stores are saying goodbye to the self service checkout lanes they installed several years ago. The chain said it’s an effort to reconnect personally with customers. This decision comes despite the reality of higher costs of such a move.,0,7322858.story

There are also some self serving benefits to such a move. The company has observed a theft problem in self checkout. And quite often, a store employee must get involved in a problematic transaction. One consulting firm says other companies are making this decision, noting some inefficiencies and slowness when customers have a lot of items.

I liked the idea of reconnecting personally. Frankly, it’s one of my pet peeves, however, when that personal connection fails to occur. I find it refreshing to have a clerk at any store greet me and engage a bit at checkout.  Quite often that ISN’T the case.

Instead, two store employees are talking with each other. I’ve witnessed a clerk take a phone call and chat with another party while I’m checking out.  Or there is the silent type that might give the sole welcome of, “Next?”

Recently, I rented a car and the person handling the transaction gave me the keys and said, “There’s your car.”  No walk around to check for damage, no instructions about operating the car. I wonder what the company mission statement says, or their values proclaim about customer service. In one sense, it’s self-serving service.

I believe the problem exists for multiple reasons. Some employees might not be so called “people persons.” Others don’t receive good training. But honestly, I think a good number simply don’t really like the idea of serving people. It’s beneath them.

Recently, a grocery store near us changed managers. And I can see the difference already in the attitudes of employees and their willingness to help.  And a hardware megastore near me has their employees walk you to find the product you need. Now that’s service.

Christ followers should certainly be way ahead of the game when it comes to looking after customers. People should sense a difference in our attitudes of joy and a desire to help. How refreshing to find a soul who cares.

The marketplace is a great place for ministry. Jesus said he came to serve, and not to be served. If it was the mindset of the living God incarnate to live that way, I think we can manage it as well. Right?

That’s the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Pods Are Blooming

Given the choice, would you prefer to work outdoors ... or indoors? Chicago weather makes that question a bit more challenging. Hot, humid summers and sometimes bitterly cold winters can turn one indoors rather quickly.

But for those more moderate climates, the company known as Well Design is turning cubicle assignments on their head. They've developed a Workaway Outdoor Pod. It's a cut-out cubic design that can be placed in parks, plazas, and lots of other places.

With the pod comes a work surface and shade, built in seat, and it’s even equipped with WiFi. A smart phone app is used to reserve the “pod on the move.”

It's easy to see why some, who find their creative juices flow better in the open, would love the pod. Detail-oriented work likely might get better focus than in an inside cubicle. And who is going to gripe about working alongside a beautiful stream on a sunny summer day?

That being said, someone at a recent NeoCon exposition in Chicago asked the question, “Why can't developers make better use of premium outdoor space.” Well Design is apparently thinking in those directions.

In the article "The Coolest New Trend in Office Space", it was recommended that a company consider both pluses and minuses of such work zones. Concerns over places with four seasons should be obvious. Security is another issue. And, of course, will people actually LOSE focus enjoying nature scenes? That would be a third concern.

My dentist has a great compromise. He has his office in his home ... with patients' chairs looking out on tree lined property and fish swimming in the ponds in his covered indoor nature area. It doesn't replace Novocain, but it helps.

I've seen people put up nature posters to give them the outdoorsy feel. Lots of plants or flesh flowers may help the indoor blues. Relaxing, reflective music in headphones is a lot more common.  I've taken a walk or a drive during my lunch hour at some jobs. 

Wonder what your workspace will be like in heaven? Or are you thinking you won't be working in heaven? Paradise for Adam and Eve included daily work. And I think we can reasonably conclude they enjoyed their work and their workspace. 

I'm counting on there being work on the new earth when all is made new. And I think we have good reason to make work on this earth a lot more fun than it is. In a few of my not-so-heavenly jobs, coworkers and I have found unusual ways to make our jobs more enjoyable. Details available upon request.

Bottom line, the curse from man’s sin did not mean work has to be miserable. Just more difficult. 

I hope today you'll find a way to consider those marvelous lyrics Louis Armstrong sang years ago ... I see trees of green, skies of blue … and those roses. Truly, it's a wonderful world.

That's the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I'm Mark Elfstrand. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Best Company to Keep

In case you missed it, the list of "Best Companies to work for in 2013" was released a few weeks ago by Glassdoor.  It’s their fifth list of the fifty best places to work this year. A recent article on the Forbes website gave details of the story.

Glassdoor claims their process of soliciting anonymous responses to their surveys gets more accurate results. Eighteen questions were posed to some half million employees in the US. Those who responded rated career opportunities, compensation and benefits, work-life balance, senior management, culture, and values.

At the top of the list was Facebook. And who wouldn't like this deal?  Along with paid vacation and healthcare, employees get free food and transportation, $4000 in cash for new parents, dry cleaning, day care reimbursement, and photo processing. And as a bonus, your job entitles you to impact a billion people. Sweet! Even without the photo processing.

McKinsey and Company came in second. In third place, a tech firm named Riverbed. Ten companies have been on the Top 50 since the list was created in 2009. Firms like Apple, Careerbuilder, Google, and others are top dogs.

Glassdoor says what works for one company may not work for another. But opportunities for advancement, clear cut business priorities, and solid company cultures are the common themes. Well, and those unbelievable perks.

Sounds great ... but what about the ga-zillion small business owners and medium size employers who can't pony up like Facebook, Google, and the like?  What about struggling ministries?  And what does the Bible say about employee culture and perks?

It doesn't say anything on employment benefits. But Paul tells his protégé Timothy that a worker is worthy of his wages. And that those in charge should take care of the people who work for them. 

Probably the best advice to the spiritually minded business leader is to apply Jesus's words we often call the Golden Rule. No ... not the rule that says "he who has the gold makes all the rules." The one that says "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Play that out in the world of compensation, benefits, etc. and you will likely be much more generous and perk minded than you would be otherwise.

And getting employees involved in mutual care of each other helps build a pretty strong culture. This stuff isn't magic. It's good spiritual common sense.

And that, my friend, is one of the perks of a spirit led life.

That's the way WE work.  For Moody Radio, I'm Mark Elfstrand.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Purposeful Work

When it comes to meaning and purpose in our lives, I can't recall anyone weighing significance in terms of bits of information. Until recently.

From an article on productivity and purpose, (  I learned that the human brain can handle about 100 bits of information per second. Reading quickly takes roughly 50 bits per second. Everything in our perceptual world uses up this brainpower. Sights ... sounds ... everything. 

So, let's say a person lives to the age of 80 and, accounting for 8 hours sleep per night, that works out to 150 billion bits of information processed. Included here are emotions, thoughts, sensations ... and conversations. That sums up who you are.

When you think about life in those terms, it seems sterile. But then we must realize that we can make decisions about most of that data. We determine where those bits are used. And what counts as important.

The article I was reading on this subject challenged us to focus on purposeful living, not just productivity. The challenge is to align your attention with who you are and what's truly important to you. Good thinking.

But I would add a bit of a different perspective, so to speak. I've known so many people who spend most of their waking hours in a bad work situation. It could be they don't like their job, their work environment, or the stress that they live under. A good part their attention has negatively-focused bits. 

Contrast that to a person who enjoys their work. Or least their attitude gives them an edge toward millions of more positive bits. The article did not categorize brain processing in terms of positive and negative bits of information. But let's face it. More positive than negative must have an impact on us.

The Bible says that as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. (Proverbs 23:7 AMP). As you consider your work life ... in fact all of life ... learning to make every bit of life more positive is a good challenge for all believers. Some call it positive thinking. It certainly results in more positive living. 

The importance for a Christ-follower is to know that this is a discipline. It requires effort. Positive living impacts not only us, but also all those we influence.

Why not make a decision today to shift into that more positive gear ... at work AND at home? I can see you changing your world, one bit at a time. 

That's the way WE work.  For Moody Radio, I'm Mark Elfstrand.

Monday, September 2, 2013

It’s Labor Day. Take the Day Off.

The Way WE Work is a Monday morning audio blog from yours truly that offers an encouraging look at the world of work. 
Another Monday holiday. Oddly, this one we call Labor Day.  Need a history lesson to remember why we’re off today?

Time Magazine for kids gives us a good summary. And I quote: “More than a century ago, workers were forced to deal with harsh conditions. They were paid very little and they often worked 10- to 12-hour days. Men, women, and even small children were forced to work even when they were sick.
Tired of long hours and dangerous conditions, workers began organizing themselves into labor unions. On top of fighting for higher pay and shorter workdays, they also fought for the rights of children. The workers wanted employers to place limits on the age of their workers so that small children were not overworked or hurt in factories.”
Peter McGuire is often called the “father” of Labor Day, coming up with the idea for the holiday in 1882. Thanks, Pete.
Some of my favorite quotes on work include this one from Edgar Bergen: Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?
Jerome K. Jerome, who needs help on that name, once said, “I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.”
And someone who wished to remain anonymous creatively admitted:  “Getting paid to sleep ... that's my dream job.”  I think a lot of people are there.
Truth be told…people should take more time off.
God loves the idea of a labor-free day. In fact, He would have us take one every week! God is a big fan of time off. In His thinking, you work six, you rest one. God was so convinced of this plan, He made it one of the Big Ten. Not the football conference, the Ten Commandments.
Now here’s the weird part. Many people don’t take His “work 6, goof-off-one” plan! They keep right on working that seventh day.
Despite the natural love of commerce that keeps doors open on Sunday, there are some great American companies that honor God’s thinking on this matter. You may have heard of them. Companies like Chick Fil A and Hobby Lobby. 
Other firms such as Interstate Batteries, Herman Miller, and Forever 21 think strategically on putting labor into perspective. God’s perspective. They make an effort to treat people the way they should be treated. Now THAT is something you can take to the bank.
Today, on Labor Day, keep in mind that our work is important for society. It’s vital to our well being in so many ways. Just keep it in balance.
King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes this statement: People come into this world with nothing, and when they die they leave with nothing.
In spite of all their hard work, they leave just as they came. (Ecclesiastes 5:15 New Century Version)
Yep. That about says it. Now, back to my lounge chair.
That’s the way WE work. For Moody Radio, I’m Mark Elfstrand.