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Why employees no longer believe in ‘your desk’

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Today’s employees believe that the traditional “working behind a desk” concept is outdated and that technology enables them to strike a balance between work and their personal life, writes ANJA VAN BEEK.

Today’s employees – especially younger people – expect to be able to strike a reasonable balance between the needs of their personal lives and their professional obligations. They believe in working hard, but they also understand that investing time in their health, hobbies, friends and family is important to leading a fulfilled and productive life.

According to the Sage Walk with Me Report, 41% of the young workforce believes that technology will make the concept of “your desk” outdated, that the workplace will have more virtual staff in the next 10 years.

Progressive HR departments are embracing this shift in the workplace as a positive trend – and are looking at ways that they can use work-life balance as a means to attract and retain the best talent. They understand that work-life balance isn’t just good for the employee – it is also good for business because it can lead to lower costs and enhanced productivity.

The indirect costs of an exhausted workforce include absenteeism, health costs, reduced company morale, poor employee retention, lower productivity and lapses in quality of employees’ work. The costs of constantly recruiting and training new employees to replace those who burn out or leave can be substantial. By contrast, where the workforce works sensible hours, the people are often more creative, motivated, productive and engaged.

HR has an important role to play here – by means of helping to facilitate a culture that focuses in performance and quality of output rather than on the number of hours that people spend at their desks.

Here are some ways HR can support these changes in work culture:

1.     Be there for employees

With mobile devices in every employee’s hands, many people fail to unplug from work, even over the weekends or when they are on leave. Be aware of employees who never log off and who don’t draw a clear line between home and work.

Watch for warning signs like frequent absenteeism or slipping productivity and work quality – these might indicate that an employee is working too hard rather than slacking off. Also ask managers to watch out for signs of burn-out among the members of their teams.

If necessary, make it a policy that employees don’t need to answer emails or their mobile phones outside work hours, unless it’s an emergency. Employee-assistance programmes or external resources can be considered to help employees who struggle to say no to pushy co-workers or who battle to manage their time.

2.     Introduce workplace flexibility

Flexible hours don’t suit every job or every organisation, but knowledge workers increasingly expect some leeway around where and when they work. Though traditional managers fear that people will be unproductive when they work from home some of the time, or have some freedom in choosing their hours, this needn’t be the case.

Getting it right is about putting the right policies, technology, processes and performance management structures in place. There are affordable cloud-based technology solutions that can assist. Collaboration software (that can track task progress), videoconferencing, and human resources apps can empower employees and give business peace of mind in terms of output. HR and managers will need to make an effort to measure output regularly to ensure no one is falling behind.

Where it isn’t possible for people to work flexible hours, companies can support employees in other ways. For example, many larger companies offer employees onsite gyms or childcare facilities, or arrange laundry collection for people who cannot get away from the office.

3.     Set the example

Leading by example is one of the best successful ways for HR to create a company culture that promotes an output-oriented culture and supports the principles of a healthy work-life balance. HR can encourage managers and business owners to set an example, by taking frequent breaks, by completing their tasks and by taking their allocated holiday breaks. HR can also offer work-life balance workshops and encourage community upliftment or philanthropic activities to encourage a sense of accomplishment that is not work related.

Closing words

Whether you’re a small business owner or an HR professional at a large organisation, you’ll understand that it takes hard work and sacrifice to turn a dream business idea into a way of life. It’s important to support the employees who are joining your enterprise on this journey and to help them lead balanced and healthy lives.

* Anja van Beek, Vice President for People (HR) at Sage International (Africa Australia, Middle East and Asia)

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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