A recent survey by Ebrary, an e-book publisher in Palo Alto, Calif., shows that students are increasingly using digital books and search engines for research. Many of the 6500 students surveyed say they prefer digital content to print because with e-books they can search for information quickly and then cut-and-paste text. But most respondents agreed that print sources are still the most trustworthy, as well as better for reading a book cover to cover.
Which do you prefer—e-books or print books, and why?
Responses to July's Question
Do Cool Tech Workplaces Equal Productivity?
Valleywag, a Silicon Valley news Web site, recently posted its “Top 10 Tech Workplaces”—a list of the best technology companies to work for. Those that made the list, such as Google and Netflix, have elaborate buildings, fancy interior decoration, game rooms, swimming pools, volleyball courts, and even movie theaters. Such amenities are designed to make workers feel less stressed, and therefore more productive.
Would such features make you more productive, and what types of amenities do you wish your office had?
Tutoring and Child Care
Game tables and free soda are not likely to cut it in terms of bringing me happiness. I would prefer amenities that help me balance my personal life with my professional one. I’m talking about such things as tutoring and homework help for my kids, child care, personal shopping services, fitness and health facilities, and on-site health services such as chiropractors, dentists, and doctors.
I spend most of my free time fulfilling family obligations and running errands. Often I forgo lunch to complete personal tasks that would otherwise not get done. For me the best amenity would be the opportunity to telecommute when it’s appropriate, and with no stigma attached. Working from home, I am much more productive, I have fewer distractions, and I’m not stressed from the pressure of beating morning traffic.
Encouragement a Plus
Amenities such as a gym, pool, and game room in an interesting and innovative workplace can reduce stress, but they’re not enough. Management must encourage its employees to use the facilities. Absent such encouragement, the amenities are nothing more than window dressing.
I once worked for the Advanced Research & Developmental Division of the Avco Corp. in Wilmington, Mass., which had just moved into a brand-new glass, stainless, and aluminum edifice. I was struck by the resonance of my own surroundings. It seemed literally too exciting to do serious engineering work. From this and other subsequent experiences, I learned that the correlation between productivity and excessively luxurious offices is, if anything, less than positive. Such surroundings too often become mere distractions.
Santa Barbara, Calif.
Looking After Families
Cool workplaces don’t need to have movie theaters and coffee bars. A comfortable, clean, and well-lit room where employees can eat meals is a good start. Companies are also hiring a significant number of couples, and enlightened companies are setting up day-care facilities on-site or close to their offices.
Mississauga, Ont., Canada
A Room With a View
As a consultant to software companies in Silicon Valley, I’ve been inside many companies, with Google my favorite. What I love is the constant availability of free food and drink near the airy and attractive workspaces. I also like the adjacent areas set up like living rooms for quiet group meetings. HP Labs, for example, also has enclosed atria and loggias that invite you to meet in beautifully landscaped outdoor areas.
San Carlos, Calif.
Just the Basics
I work at AT&T, and it would be nice if they could keep the vending machines fully stocked, because we don’t have a cafeteria. Bike lockers should also be added so that bike commuters don’t have to keep their bikes in their cubicles. Another welcome addition would be cellphone service; AT&T phones don’t work inside the building (though Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile do).
Merritt Island, Fla.
A Raise Would Suffice
The most my company offers are employee sports teams and an annual picnic. By the late ’90s, economic pressures were already starting to stress even the doughnut budget. Recently, Google had to raise its day-care charges, and you can read about the stress this has created for some parents.
Elaborate workplaces have no more of a positive impact on productivity than a raise. Just pay me the equivalent amount that the company spends on the workplace “environment” (beyond the basic comfort levels), and I guarantee the same level of productivity.