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How ‘Presenteeism’ breaks employees

By CHRIS BUCHANAN, client solutions director for Dell Technologies South Africa

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You could say I’m from the old school. When I first started working in an office, employees had to be seen. A visible employee was a productive employee and slackers weren’t at their desks. This informed my management style when I was put in charge of other people and it made sense. But things often make sense when you don’t know better.

Fast forward to a few years ago and my views have changed. Laptops and BlackBerries let employees take their work with them and even rudimentary internet such as a GSM or 3G connection was not a barrier working where you wanted to. Today this approach to work is seen as the norm and the way to create a vibrant, attractive workplace for talented employees.

Such a workplace is established with the help of modern devices and services. But there is an emerging problem that could damage those efforts. Employees are trying to be seen more than ever before, a trend called Presenteeism.

Presenteeism is the opposite of absenteeism, which sounds great but it isn’t. Presenteeism is when someone shows up at the office with a cold when they should be at home in bed. It’s behind the heroic work hours and deadlines that so many teams deal with and it reinforces the problem with my above-mentioned old school approach: visibility and productivity are not the same and the former can be counterproductive to the latter.

Mavis sniffling at her desk is not doing her best work and likely distracting others as well, maybe even infecting them. Yet can we blame her? She’s feeling the pressure of a demanding, always-on workplace and wants to be a good employee.

Presenteeism is on the rise. A new survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK found that 83% of respondents observed presenteeism and 25% said the problem is getting worse.

I frequently advocate for a modern workplace, where the four personas – desk-centric, corridor warriors, on-the-go pros and remote workers – are each catered for with the right devices, services and management support. But we have to be careful not to drive these purely as a productivity exercise. Productivity is important, but people are fragile. Creating a superhuman expectation leads to problems, often exacerbated by our connected cultures. Whatsapp messages can reach us at any hour, demanding emails can find us on holiday, last-minute requirements haunt us while sitting in bed.

These are not good attributes. They create burnout and erode morale. A modern workplace needs modern attitudes around respecting employees and not abusing flexible technologies.

Here are some points to consider:

  • Do your employees hit ‘reply all’ merely to show accountability? Do you have policies to indicate when they can trim that recipient list?
  • Instant messaging like Whatsapp is great, but has many limitations. Do your managers think they can send messages at any time? is the content appropriate?
  • Do you allow your people to show they can do their jobs or does your culture encourage helicopter management?
  • Have you looked at your processes, improving cumbersome ones? Are you listening to your employees suggestions to make them more efficient?
  • Are your employees made aware of mindfulness around tasks? Or do they approach tasks as “tick box” exercises?

I have adjusted my perspective from a few years ago, nowadays a week or two may pass without me seeing my direct reports. However, the real challenge has been finding a way to address the points mentioned above. Modern devices and services have made it easy for employees to work everywhere, but the unintended consequence is that they work all the time as well – and eventually regard that as the status quo. This can undermine attempts to improve their capabilities and choices.

Establishing good work/life balance opportunities is very important, particularly if you wish to attract and retain the best talent. Technology and connectivity have helped make this a reality: employees able to hit their deadline and still pick the kids up from school. It’s a far cry and major improvement over the dreaded ‘be seen to be promoted’ days.

But without looking at your culture, those technologies become traps. People feel the pressure to keep performing, even at the cost of their health. That ultimately is a cost to your business.

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Car buyers to start abandoning fuel-power by 2025

Car buyers in the United States and Europe expect electric vehicles to become a viable alternative to fuel-powered cars in the next five years.

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A new report outlining consumer expectations of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and their viability as replacements for traditional fuel-powered cars or internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles suggests a massive shift beginning in 2025.

The conclusion emerges from a report by human behaviour and analytics firm Escalent, entitled The Future of BEV: How to Capture the Hearts and Minds of Consumers. It reveals the intent of many consumers in the United States and Europe to abandon ICE vehicles altogether, citing the improved infrastructure and range of BEVs.

The Future of BEV gives auto and mobility manufacturers a strategic view of the benefits of their products in the eyes of consumers and highlights the areas of opportunity for automakers to push the innovation boundaries of BEVs to spur broad adoption of the technology.

“While most buyers don’t plan to choose BEVs over gasoline-powered cars within the next five years, consumers have told us there is a clear intention to take BEVs seriously in the five years that follow,” says Mark Carpenter, joint managing director of Escalent’s UK office. “However, manufacturers will need to tap into the emotional value of BEVs rather than just the rational and functional aspects to seize on that intent and inspire broader consumer adoption.”

The study demonstrates a significant shift in consumers’ expectations that BEVs will become viable alternatives to—and competitors with—ICE vehicles over the coming decade. Though 70% of Americans plan to buy a gasoline-powered car within the next year, just 37% expect to make that same purchase in five to ten years. Similarly, while 50% of European consumers favour buying vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel in the near-term, that figure drops to just 23% in five to ten years.

At the same time, consumers on both sides of the Atlantic see BEV adoption rising to 36% in Europe and 16% in the US, with respondents also indicating intent to purchase hybrids and hydrogen-powered cars.

Infrastructure clearly continues to be one of the biggest barriers to adoption. While some work is being done in Europe as well as in the US, the data show there is a significant need for some players to take ownership if manufacturers want to move the needle on BEV adoption.

US and European consumers have stark differences in opinion as to which entities they believe are primarily responsible for providing BEV charging stations. American consumers consider carmakers (45%) the primary party responsible, followed by fuel companies, local government/transport authorities, and the national government in fourth. On the other hand, European consumers view the national government (29%) as the primary party responsible for providing BEV infrastructure, followed by carmakers, local government/transport authorities and fuel companies.

For a full copy of the report, visit https://landing.escalent.co/download-the-future-of-bev.

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New cell phone to help with dementia and memory loss

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A new cell phone that takes simplicity to the extreme is designed to address the unique needs of people with dementia and other forms of memory loss. The RAZ Memory Cell Phone, developed by RAZ Mobility, a provider of mobile assistive technology, was launched this week. The handset is also well-suited for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer’s dementia, with one in ten people over the age of 65 diagnosed with the disease. The number of people with dementia is expected to increase rapidly as the proportion of the population 65 and older increases. The American Psychiatric Association reports that approximately one percent of the population has an intellectual disability.

The RAZ Memory Cell Phone consists of one primary screen, and one screen only. It is always on and includes pictures and names of up to six contacts and a button to call 911. That’s it! There are no applications or settings to cause confusion. No notifications or operating system updates. No distractions. Users can simply tap and hold the picture of the person they wish to call.

Caregivers manage the RAZ Memory Cell Phone through a simple online portal. The portal is used to create and edit the contacts, track the location of the phone/user and select certain options, such as the option to restrict incoming calls to people in the user’s contacts, thereby avoiding unwanted calls such as predatory robocalls.

The RAZ Memory Cell Phone can now be ordered at https://www.razmobility.com/solutions/memory-cellphone/.

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