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10/19/2015

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A good article on choice and maybe indirectly on choice architecture - which inspires to relate a funny story.

Many years ago, as part of my undergraduate studies, I had a brief internship-like experience at a local mental health institution, working with patients with very mild disorders. One of my jobs was to ask the patients what they would like for lunch - which I dutifully attempted without much luck, in terms of actionable responses from the patients, when I recited them the menu choices for the day. The attendant who was supervising me took me aside and gave me some good advise, (which has continued to serve me well to this day) - which was, "don't give confused people a choice". Consequently, my choice architecture approach with the patients going forward was more along the lines of, "for lunch today, would you like macaroni and cheese or macaroni and cheese" - which always resulted in a thoroughly actionable response.

Again, this advice has served me well over the last +30 years, since I've found this approach works equally well for the mentally disturbed as it does for senior executives. A semi-serious and true story, the moral of which is, that too many choices aren't always a good thing (especially for confused people).

Excellent observations here from both Jacque and Chris! I think...

Experts say that people seem to deal effectively with up to 5 choice options --- but after that . . .forget it! I don't think I would give senior executives that many . . maybe 2????

Best combo seems to be one really bad, one terribly costly and the one you want, as I recall. And you NEVER ask a question to which you don't want a yes or no answer. Lawyers never ask courtroom questions unless they already know the answer.

I just read a "being minimalist" blog about the "capsule wardrobe" movement. The point being the same as above, to alleviate the number of decisions and to save your brain power for more important decisions. Fewer choices about what to wear in the morning makes for happy people! Then if you read the comments...some folks were on board and agreed, saying they have been doing it for years, with either just a few colors and options or sometimes even the same thing every day. Others would rather die than wear the same thing everyday. In between were the ones who said, it doesn't have to be cheap or boring, just limit the size of your wardrobe to keep it simple. Bottom line, you can't please everyone's varying styles and personalities with one method or one policy.

Key take away for me on paid time off is to keep it flexible for the various needs of your many different employees. It is more about the use of the time for any reason.

Do you need people to plan ahead? Of course when at all possible, they should be encouraged to plan ahead. No matter how much time is in the bank, you do have to track it so you know if there is abuse. Limits are probably a good standard to provide a guideline but can be high. In addition it should be use it or lose it, not at year end but up to a flat amount so the time does not keep accruing indefinitely for those who don't use it. And depending on your state, you would want to set the limit appropriate to the level you wish to pay out. An unlimited time policy does have that perk, with no balance accruing, there is no liability to pay out a balance when an employee leaves. Perhaps someone in finance came up with this idea?

Some plans prefer to keep holidays separate as well to confirm holiday benefits...and now we may need to keep sick time separate again...but the personal time off needs will be as unique as your employees.

Some will want minimal time, some will want to go wild, but all will need oversight.

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