Business Briefs: 5 Traits of a Toxic Office, Content Marketing Primer & When Robots are Better Than People

Welcome to Business Briefs! The world of academic publications features fascinating findings from real-world experiments in business and the marketplace. Here are some key takeaways and applicable nuggets of knowledge that may be helpful for your business.

What Exactly Makes an Office Toxic?

You know what the #1 reason for leaving a workplace was last year? A toxic environment. In fact, toxic environments are bigger factors for job-hopping than compensation. So, it might be helpful to know the answer to this question:

What exactly makes an office “toxic”?

After all, it’s one thing to say a place is “toxic,” but “toxic” can describe a lot of different things. The team at MIT’s Sloan Review looked at 1.3 million Glassdoor reviews for U.S. companies. In particular, it looked at negative comments, and correlated those with low scores for company culture. Based on its text analysis, here are the top five distinguishing features of toxic culture, in order of mentions:

  1. Employees feel disrespected; a lack of consideration or sense of dignity
  2. The environment feels non-inclusive based on factors such as race and age as well as factors such as cronyism
  3. The environment is unethical and dishonest
  4. The workplace is cut-throat
  5. Colleagues or leaders are abusive and hostile

All good things to avoid for employee retention.

Read more here

Why Every Leader Needs to Worry About Toxic Culture – Donald Sull, Charles Sull, William Cipolli, & Caio Brighenti, MIT Sloan Review

Content Marketing Primer

Content marketing has been emerging as a promising tool for businesses. In a nutshell, content marketing is when a business attracts attention through its website content. That is, in addition to providing a good or service, it provides free knowledge online. 

What do we know about content marketing effectiveness? That’s a good question. A recent literature review found 32 studies on content marketing. Based on the literature, it looks like:

  1. Content marketing can build relationships with consumers
  2. It can help establish a businesses expertise in a field
  3. It can enhance exposure and brand loyalty
  4. It can help drive sales, especially when the content promotes information and transparency

As for what particular features in content marketing create these outcomes, that’s underdetermined. It depends on the product and the customer and whether the product is interesting to the customer. And that sort of thing is highly variable. 

Read more here

A Scoping Review of the Effect of Content Marketing on Online Consumer Behavior – Charmaine du Plessis, Sage Open

Sometimes Robots > People

We know we should move more, but the 21st century office was truly designed for inactivity. You don’t even need to walk down the hall for a meeting. It comes to you through your computer screen.

Robots can fix that. 

Consider this experiment: 18 participants were recruited for a study. In the study, the participants were monitored for sedentary office time. When excessive sedentary time was observed, a trolley robot approached the participant, and invited the participant, via a screen message, to participate in an activity, such as walking down the hall to return a book. Then the robot rolled down the hall with the participant, communicating additional useful physical activity advice. 

The participants were also exposed to a human, who did the same thing as the robot. Invited them to do an activity, and offered additional physical activity advice. 

15 out of 18 liked the robot better. 

Read more here

Effects of Social Robotics in Promoting Physical Activity in the Shared Workspace – Xipei Ren, Zhifan Guo, Aobo Huang, Yuying Li, Xinyi Xu & Xiaoyu Zhang, Sustainability