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Do You Answer Emails After Work? If So, You Should Be Getting Unlimited Vacation

By Travis Bradberry // Quartz // January 4, 2016

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This post originally appeared at LinkedIn. Follow the author here.

Since 2004, Netflix employees have taken as many vacation days as they’ve wanted. They have the freedom to decide when to show up for work, when to take time off, and how much time it will take them to get the job done. As far as I can tell, this hasn’t hurt Netflix one bit. Since instituting the policy, it’s grown its market cap to over $51 billion.

Just because there’s flexibility at Netflix doesn’t mean it lacks accountability. Employees have to keep their managers in the loop, and they’re expected to perform at a very high level. High performance is so ingrained into Netflix culture that they reward adequate performance with a generous severance package.

Netflix employees have unlimited vacation because no one is tracking their time. Instead of micromanaging how people get their jobs done, the leadership focuses only on what matters—results. They’ve found that giving people greater autonomy creates a more responsible culture. Without the distraction of stifling rules, employees are more focused and productive.

Why Traditional Vacation Had To Go

When Netflix still had your typical vacation policy...

There’s Now a Downloadable Chrome App to Eliminate 'Sorry' and 'I’m No Expert' From Email

By Aamna Mohdin // Quartz // December 31, 2015

Alexey Boldin/Shutterstock.com

Do you regularly use the words “just,” “sorry” and “I think” in your emails? You may be undermining yourself and the message you’re trying to send.

To help remove these words, a team at Cyrus Innovation created a new extension for Google’s Chrome browser called Just Not Sorry. The plugin, which works only with Gmail, underlines a number of self-deprecating words and phrases, such as “I’m no expert,” to make them look like spelling errors.

Write better emails.(Just Not Sorry)

Tami Reiss, CEO of Cyrus Innovation, came up with the idea during the League of Extraordinary Women brunch, where several women complained about their tendency to use these undermining words. Reiss notes in a blog post:

We had all inadvertently fallen prey to a cultural communication pattern that undermined our ideas. As entrepreneurial women, we run businesses and lead teams — why aren’t we writing with the confidence of their positions?

The extension was soon born. It allows users to hover over underlined words to better understand why they are undermining and hurting their message. An educational hint appears with explanatory quotes from a number of women, including leading economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett and writer Tara...

Attention, Would-Be Astronauts: NASA Now Accepting Online Applications

By Michael Tabb // Quartz // December 14, 2015

Eugene A. Cernan, Commander, Apollo 17 salutes the flag on the lunar surface during extravehicular activity on NASA's final lunar landing mission.
Eugene A. Cernan, Commander, Apollo 17 salutes the flag on the lunar surface during extravehicular activity on NASA's final lunar landing mission. // NASA

Prepare to travel to infinity and beyond—if you can make the cut.

NASA’s hiring a new class of astronauts, and as of today (Dec. 14), it’s accepting applications. Do you have what it takes? Watch the video to find out.

But be warned: Being selected doesn’t necessarily guarantee a ticket to space. There’s a two-year evaluation period in which candidates have to pass physical tests and master a variety of Russian language, robotics, and flight-training skills, among other requirements.

Those who make it, though, will enter an elite family tasked with expanding the world’s knowledge of the universe.

Did People Telework Before Computers?

By Vicky Gan // The Atlantic // December 3, 2015

A. and I. Kruk/Shutterstock.com

According to the latest Census numbers, 4.5 percent of Americans, or about 6.5 million people, are working from home most of the time. That’s up from 3.2 percent in 2000, and roughly double the proportion in 1980.

This uptick is new, conjuring images of freelancers hunched over laptops—but telecommuting isn’t. The concept of working away from the main office is much older than mobile technology; in fact, it predates the personal computer.

The founding document of telecommuting was a 1973 book called The Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff. Lead author Jack Nilles, a former NASA engineer, proposed telecommuting as an “alternative to transportation”—and an innovative answer to traffic, sprawl, and scarcity of nonrenewable resources.

Research for the book began in 1973, in the midst of a national energy crisis.

“Coincidentally, the OPEC oil embargo had begun and the object of our research seemed a little more pertinent nationally,” Nilles said.

Meanwhile, the Clean Air Act had just been passed in 1970. The term “gridlock” entered urban planning parlance, as headlines warned of an impending traffic apocalypse. For years, Americans drove to work in central business districts without a second thought about the environmental consequences. Now, the...

4 Ways To Foster Innovation in the Office, According to Google

By Tamara Friedrich // Quartz // December 2, 2015

A man walks past a building on the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif.
A man walks past a building on the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. // Jeff Chiu/AP

“How many golf balls could you fit in a school bus?” This is the kind of question Google and its big tech brethren were once known for asking would-be employees. The reasoning behind the technique seemed intuitive. Ask people odd questions, see how original and well analyzed their thought process was, and you’ll end up hiring creative high-performers.

The trouble is, Google has discovered that the strategy doesn’t actually predict people’s ability to do the job. Instead, it found that it’s best to ask structured questions related to what prospective employees will actually be doing—something that had been studied for many years by HR scholars.

Having learned its lesson, Google has since become a champion of evidence-based management, utilizing internal data through its People Analytics department (its version of HR) and built close relationships with academics. In an impressive move, Google is now paying it forward and trying to help other organizations through its new site re:Work, which aims to “make work better” by sharing management best practice.

The re:Work site, described as a repository of Google’s experience and case studies from other organizations, is still in its infancy. But there is...