July 3, 2019

Weekend reads: The case for taking Friday off (indefinitely)

Daily Briefing

    Danielle Poindexter's reads

    There's a reason why you can never plug in a USB on the first try. We all know the feeling. You go to plug in your USB to save a project, and "failure ensues. Metal clashes with metal," Josh Axelrod writes for NPR's "Shots." People on the internet have complained about the USB design for years, ranting about how difficult it is to plug it in. "Some call it the USB paradox, the seemingly impossible process of making a 50-50 guess wrong twice," Axelrod writes. But, according to Ajay Bhatt, who led the Intel team behind the USB, the design is frustrating for a reason. Bhatt explained that a USB that would work on either side would require double the circuits, which would have doubled the cost. "In hindsight, based on all the experiences that we all had, of course it was not as easy as it should be," he said, but Bhatt added that he doesn't regret keeping things cheap.

    Why we should all take Fridays off (permanently). Although employees in the United Kingdom work more hours per week than other workers within the European Union (EU), the nation isn't the most productive of its EU peers, according to a new analysis from the Trade Union Congress. In The Conversation, Shainaz Firfiray of the University of Warwick's business school writes that the findings echo several other studies that have similarly suggested productivity begins to taper off after a certain number of hours per week, perhaps even as few as 35 hours. The analysis, Firfiray writes, also compliments research showing that excessive work can undermine our health—for instance, studies have found that working long hours can negatively affect employees' mental and physical wellbeing, including increasing their risk of hypertension and heart disease, among other conditions.Experts say employers and co-workers should actively aim to prevent and address "workaholism" by setting official break times and end-of-work deadlines.

    Rachel Schulze's reads

    Canadian girl publishes paper on what hand dryers might do to kids' hearing. Hand dryers might present a threat to children's hearing, according to a study published in the official journal of the Canadian Paediatric Society by a now 13-year-old. Nora Keegan, the study's 13-year-old author, started investigating the noise level hand dryers four years ago after noticing kids covering their ears after using the dryers, which bothered here, too. For her research, Nora took a decibel meter to public restrooms to measure how loud the dryers were. She found that some dryers can be loud as an oncoming subway train or a sporting event, the Niraj Chokshi reports for the New York Times.

    Are you a data-driven social media unicorn? Or a whimsical customer service warrior? Over the last 20 years, job postings have become increasingly filled with "silly" vague descriptions that seek job candidates who are dedicated to their job above all else—and for employers, that might backfire, Amanda Mull writes for The Atlantic. She cites listings for a "code sensei," a "customer service rockstar," and a person with "a passion for sales" as examples of thousands of postings with similar key words. Peter Cappelli, the director of the Wharton School's Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania, explained that these modern job listings promote the idea that only extremely devoted employees are valuable, and they might not achieved the desired result. According to Mull, in many cases, the extreme personalities that these descriptions seek can be hard to manage and integrate into workplace culture.

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