Working too hard? Go shopping

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nickel_and_dimed_1600_wht_6554The japanese government are worried about people working too hard and killing themselves from overwork, called karoshi, from which 200 people died last year.

Its chief spokesman Yoshihide Suga said Japan must “end long working hours so people can balance their lives with things like raising a child or taking care of the elderly“.

Almost 1 in 4 Japanese employees work over 50 hours a week compared to 1 in 8 in Britain and the US and 1 in 12 in France. On average Japanese workers take only half their paid holiday entitlement as taking time off is considered an “inconvenience to their colleagues”

So they’ve introduced Premium Friday. On the last Friday of each month employees will be encouraged to leave the office at 1500 and make an early start to the weekend.

The purpose is two-fold: to enable people to recover from working the longest working hours in the world and to give the retail sector a much-needed boost by encouraging people to go shopping. It’s been estimated that if everyone takes advantage of this it could generate £900 million extra consumer spending every month.

The Japan Business Federation (Kaidenren) is urging its 1300 members to take part and the Trade Minister has promised not to make any appointments on Premium Friday afternoons.

However Mitsubishi Electric is currently under investigation for allegedly forcing its staff to work excessive hours and it’s not known how many people will break the habits of a lifetime in a period of economic uncertainty and job insecurity.

Also people might just go home to rest or shop on Friday instead of Saturday. After all if they are cutting down their hours they won’t have the money they earn with overtime to spend will they?

Getting work-life balance right is never easy when people have to work long hours to maintain their standard of living.

Japan has the longest lived people in the world and also the most rapidly ageing society with a quarter of the population over 65. This is not without its problems.

Because of the declining birth-rate this proportion will increase to 40% by 20160.  However scientists have now declared that for healthy people old age should be classified as 75, not 65. 

So will the government delay pensions and extend people’s working lives? They probably will otherwise there will be no-one working and paying tax to support the elderly in future years.

Don’t call me hard-working – it’s sexist

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business_man_and_woman_1600_wht_5662A Cambridge don thinks calling women “hard-working” or “enthusiastic” is sexist.

Dame Athene Donald who is a master of Churchill College (isn’t that a bit sexist?) and a professor of experimental physics says references are often unintentionally written in a “gendered way” with academics more likely to describe women applying for research posts or fellowships as “hard-working” or “team players“.

She thinks this fails to communicate just how good female applicants are unlike when using words like “excellent“, “driven” or “outstanding” which apparently are often reserved for males.

She said “If letter writers just sit down and write the first adjectives that come into their heads to describe men and women, the words may be poles apart even if the subjects of the letters are indistinguishable in ability”.

Do you really mean that your star PhD student is hard-working and conscientious or was the message you wanted to convey that she was outstanding, goes the extra mile, and always exceeds your expectations about what is possible, demonstrating great originality en route? There is an enormous difference in the impact of the two descriptions“.

She believes that this clearly can lead to a significant detriment to the woman’s progression, even if without a sexist intent.

Stanford University analysed performance reviews in technology firms and found that women’s evaluations contained almost twice as much language about their communal or nurturing style using words such as “helpful” or “dedicated”.

Men’s reviews on the other hand contained twice as many references to their technical expertise and vision.

Why is this surprising? Do people like Dame Donald think men and women actually behave the same at work? Of course there is an overlap but there is enough research which shows that women respond to stress differently, are often better at soft skills than men, can improve teams, and may be more emotionally intelligent to boot.

Professor Donald suggested that people writing references should use a gender bias calculator website that highlights words in texts that may be received as gendered. She also calls for training for selection panels – something most organisations have been doing for decades (my colleague and I introduced this into an NHS Trust back in the 1990s). I think she means well if a little too PC but maybe a bit out of touch with the real world.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the centre for education at Buckingham University disagrees with her. He is quoted as saying “How do we know that academics using these words have unconscious bias? being a team player and hard worker are very important. It is perfectly possible that candidates do have these strengths and it is important that a referee is able to say so”

Common sense from one academic at least. And read what happened when a journalist investigated this issue for himself.

Being busy makes you look good

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business_go_huddle_500_wht_12067It’s the latest status symbol according to US business schools.

Bragging about your success by showing how much you can afford to relax doesn’t cut it anymore. You have to demonstrate “conspicuous consumption of time” to show how important you are.

Asking people to rate others’ status by reading Facebook accounts the researchers found that those people who said how busy they were rated higher than people leading a life of luxury. They were also considered more respectable.

The same results were found when people were asked to rate a fictitious person who worked either less than 7 hours a day or  more than ten. The hard-working version was rated higher on social standing.

So forget showing off your designer clothes and accessories. People don’t rate them any more particularly as they have become more affordable.

A note of caution: these results only seem to apply to the US. In the Italian version Giovanni was rated higher when he did less work. What does that tell you about the differences in work ethic?

Living too long and retiring too soon? Has anything changed in 2016?

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Has anything changed since I first posted this at the end of 2015?

ulearn2bu

elderly_man_holding_a_custom_text_sign_12871Sounds good to me. But then I thought I’d retire at about 55 and buy a cheap property in Portugal. Didn’t work out for me and I suspect it doesn’t work out for lots of people despite what Baroness Altmann the former pensions minister and tsar for elderly workers (until this year) might have believed.

She was worried that too many baby boomers are retiring too early and depriving the economy of their input.

She wanted to encourage more people to stay on in work and “not write themselves off”. 

I’m not sure that all of them are doing that. If you’ve been made redundant in your 50s it’s tough to get a job but even those who’ve retired by choice are probably looking after the grandchildren thus allowing their kids to work and contribute to the economy (at no cost to the government for childminding) or even looking after their aged…

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I’ve said it before, the NHS can’t afford to go on rewarding failure like this

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Following the shambles surrounding the disgraced CEO Katrina Percy – who eventually resigned from her overpaid, invented position along with her previous chairman, we now have yet another example.

Again a failing Trust, and again the NHS don’t seem to have the determination to deal with a highly paid CEO  who is not delivering.

03cdc52Miles Scott, the former CEO of St George’s University Hospital Trust which has been put into special measures, has walked into a new job on a fixed term secondment to health regulator NHS Improvement on a £220k salary.

He’d been at St George’s for five years (and CEO at Bradford prior to that) so plenty of experience at board level. But he failed to stop the trust being put into special measures by the Quality Care Commission this week.

Sir Mike Richards the chief inspector of hospitals said “I am disappointed that we have found a marked deterioration in the safety and quality of some of the trust’s services since we inspected two years ago, as well as in its overall governance and leadership.”

Worryingly we found that areas in which children and young people with mental health conditions were cared for had not been checked for ligature points and that half the medical staff working with children and young people had not completed level three safeguarding training”

Scott is reported to be “undertaking specific change management projects and providing additional support to the executive team” On £220k a year! Rather overpaid for that remit I think.

Can no-one see the irony of someone who led a deteriorating (in terms of safety standards, governance and leadership) NHS Hospital Trust for two years advising other trusts on how to raise standards? The same with Katrina Percy. What are they thinking of when they make these appointments? Do they think people will really take advice from them in the circumstances?

4982778To make matters worse at St George’s, according to a report in the Times ,his successor, Paula Vasco-Knight, who was the Chief Operating Officer at St George’s before Scott left last month, was suspended after less than two weeks in the job.

This followed serious financial allegations by her previous employer, Devon NHS Trust, that she defrauded them by abusing her position to bypass normal procurement arrangements and essentially siphoned off money to her husband’s company – which she has denied in court.

A statement by St George’s said: “As a result of serious allegations being made against her, Dr Paula Vasco-Knight has been suspended from her role as acting chief executive at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The allegations are financial in nature and relate to her work at a previous employer.

At one time Mrs Vasco-Knight was NHS England’s national lead on equality and diversity matters, was the first female BME Chief Executive in the NHS, received an honorary doctorate in Law from Exeter University and a  CBE in 2014 for her work on equality and diversity. So obviously ticking a lot of the right boxes.

However that passion for equality obviously didn’t extend to recruitment as she was accused of nepotism by two whistleblowers for giving her daughter’s boyfriend a job at Torbay Hospital for which she was criticised by an employment tribunal.

She tried to play the race card at the tribunal saying “On a personal level I found the allegations as nothing less than personal slander and I wonder if a white middle class male chief executive officer would have been treated with such disrespect.”

However that didn’t wash with the tribunal judge Nick Roper who ruled:”We find that there was a concerted effort by the South Devon Healthcare Trust to manipulate the investigation, accuse the claimants of malice, suppress the report and to mislead the other parties as to its contents, with the apparent aim of protecting Dr Vasco-Knight and Mrs Murphy against the force of the claimant’s allegations.

Mrs Murphy was a senior colleague in whom the whistle blowers confided who told them they would lose their jobs ‘through dirty means’ which left them feeling ‘bullied, threatened and intimidated’.

“This was completely contrary to the protection which they should have been offered under the Whistle Blowing guidelines.” said the judge. One of the whistleblowers returned to work, the other received £230,000 in compensation.

You don’t get the impression of a healthy culture under her leadership do you?

That event led to her suspension from the Trust and her eventual resignation. The official line was that she moved North for family reasons and for a time worked for East Lancashire NHS Trust as a management consultant, reportedly on £1,000 a day.

Her LinkedIn page, currently closed down, reportedly gave her roles as a “turnaround director/director of transformation” for Solitaire healthcare, where she says she had been since July 2014, and interim chief operating officer, a role she has held at St George’s since September 2015 where she worked under Miles Scott. So wasn’t she as culpable as him for the failures there? Why then appoint her?

Yet again we have a number of embarrassing failures of leadership or worse and the NHS seem incapable of dealing with them. No wonder the Taxpayers Alliance is up in arms. John O’Connell, the CEO, said “there is a worrying trend of impunity in the public sector where fat cat salaries don’t seem to reflect performance and nobody is held accountable for the failure to provide taxpayers with the services they pay for and expect.

“How can a Trust put in special measures possibly justify such a ludicrously large salary for its former chief executive and – bizarrely  – continue to pay him even after he’s taken on a new role elsewhere?

My point exactly. Why wasn’t he just sacked for poor performance? Why do we have this continuous revolving door of failed executives? Why are we still rewarding failure?

Culture of aspiration ………….and a culture of dependency, the difference between USA and UK

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Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

The other evening I was watching a Jamie Oliver programme about his road trip to America which he made a few years ago. In this particular episode he was in New York and set out to find out about the different kinds of food in the city with particular reference to immigrant communities and the food traditions they had brought with them.

In one section of the programme he met a man from Honduras who had come to America as an illegal immigrant but when an amnesty was offered to illegal immigrants in 1986 he applied and obtained American citizenship. Since then he has worked as a driver during the day and every evening cooks meals for over eighty homeless people (mainly from South America and usually illegals) which he then delivers in a van to the homeless people.

Jamie-Oliver-in-America-002.jpg

What seemed evident from this man was that he had gone…

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Dumbing down that smartphone

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ulearn2bu

icon_flow_smart_phone_loop_500_wht_9550Have we reached smartphone-peak?

Have we finally realised we need to unplug ourselves from endless apps and social media connections? No more anxiety from FOMO or FOBO?

The NoPhone might have been a prank by two Canadian entrepreneurs having a dig at the latest smartphone upgrade but now there is a real alternative: the Light Phone.

It’s the size of a credit card and can make calls and store 10 numbers and that’s it. Retro or what?

It will be launched in the US by two friends, Joe Hollier and Kaiwei Tang, who used to design Motorola phones (I loved my flip-top Motorola) but grew jaded with the constant pressure to come up with increasingly addictive and life-consuming apps.

If you believe the statistics – and I find these figures unbelievable and not sure of their source – we tap our phones on average 2,617 times a day…

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Strategy vs. Tactics

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Keirsey Blog

Photo Credit:  Copyright 2016, Election 2016, by DonkeyHotey, http://flic.kr/p/CHMwo1

How are they Different in their Leadership?

The first Presidential debate is coming up on September 26th. Political commentators are anticipating that this will be the most watched Presidential debate in U.S. history. There are many predictions, but It is impossible to know what the outcome will be. In this blog we’re not looking to speculate. What we will do, however, is provide an overview of how these two candidates differ in their leadership style. How do Artisan Promoters ESTP and Rational Masterminds INTJ differ on various significant factors which impact their leadership?


Strategic Leadership vs. Tactical Leadership

Definition:  “Strategy has to do with identifying the ways and means necessary and sufficient to achieve a well-defined goal… the most important thing to understand about the strategic intellect is that it is activated by errors found in complex systems. In other words, Rationals are…

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Meeting Maslow’s basic needs?

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Mike the Psych's Blog

The news that Ergo, a division of Munich Re the world’s biggest insurance company for other insurance companies, took over a company that organised an orgy in 2007 to reward its most successful sales people may have shocked many people at the time.

But you have to be impressed by the teutonic efficiency of it all.

The event was held at Gellert Baths in Budapest where 20 prostitutes were hired for the 100 participants. The women wore coloured armbands denoting their availability and whether they were hostesses, game for anything, or reserved for board members.

The men had to form an orderly queue of up to an hour to get into the 4-poster beds. After each interaction the prostitutes had their arm stamped. Not only could guests see at a glance which girls were more popular but the girls themselves could compare themselves with their peers and see which…

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Go greener for productivity

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call_center_cubicle_line_1600_wht_7147You may remember the days when workers in offices would surround themselves with memorabilia, family photos, fluffy animals and plants. Perhaps that’s still the case?

Back in the day, introducing open plan offices (bureaulandschaft), I found those habits seemed even more common when people had to adapt to pen plan offices (I even saw people growing tomatoes), as if they were trying to personalise their space and regain some control over their environment.

These days you’re lucky to have a desk and the work environment is more likely to be stripped down, and minimalist – perhaps barring the odd motivational poster.

Now researchers at Exeter University have confirmed yet again that having greenery around boosts productivity.

Plants not only boosted intellectual performance but also improved job satisfaction and sense of well-being” says psychologist Craig Knight who led the research.

The research was carried out in three companies in Finland.

Workers were asked to work in a bleak stripped down office doing various challenging tasks and their performance measured. Then one group was left to carry on in that space whilst another could choose plants to put around their desk. A third group had their offices “greened” with foliage provided by a Finnish firm called Naturvention which had sponsored the study.

The researchers found that even a few plants had as strong an effect as organised displays. What people appreciated was the chance to control their environment – a point I made earlier.

Knight said “there is a fashion for minimalist, monochrome styling which pleases managers because it gives them a sense of control. But in reality it crushes the human spirit and we can now measure that. Adding plants makes people happier and productive – but the real benefit comes from giving them autonomy“.

I’ve posted previously on the beneficial effects of greenery in our environment and how it helps reduce street and improve productivity and here’s more proof.

So not sure what the sponsor made of the results but here they are promoting their Naava walls.

Gig workers on the rise

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Teamwalking1You’ve no doubt seen them, those nomads wandering around with laptops or tablets, coffee shop warriors hogging that comfortable settee you had your eye on.

The new word for these freelancers is gig worker. Now when I get a gig I’m expected to take my guitar but that’s another story.

I wrote about the gig economy a year ago when the term had replaced portfolio working and was no longer just about consultants and trainers but about a whole range of people seeking flexibility and control over their work.

It seems that the trend is continuing with parents wanting to work around school hours at the same time as companies wanting more flexibility in managing their head count.

According to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-employed there are 1.6 million freelancers in the UK.

And according to a survey of knowledge workers by a software company just over half of them now work in virtual teams and most of those believe it is more effective than working face-to-face. In addition half of them would consider freelance work if it were offered to them.

The office is clearly becoming increasingly less important, and maybe less attractive due to the travel and daily hassles it can entail. Working from home is becomes more popular, perhaps in an effort to improve work-life balance, but is not for everyone. Whether it’s more productive is a different matter.

Matt Roberts, CEO at Touch Networks,  says “People want greater autonomy and a better work-life balance, while companies want consultation from people with diverse skill sets and experience“.

He says 40% of Americans will be self-employed by 2020 and he thinks the UK is heading the same way. Here there is a North-South divide with most freelancers based in the South East (22%), Greater London (21%), and South-West (12%),  areas, whereas there are only 1% of them in Northern Ireland.

What are they all doing? 

According to the Labour Force Survey 2015 the proportion of freelancers in different occupations is:

  • 68% of artistic, literary and media workers
  • 40% of those who work in sport and fitness
  • 35% of managers and proprietors
  • 32% of those who work in design occupations
  • 21% of therapists
  • 17% of health-care workers
  • 15% of business research & admin workers
  • 13% of IT workers
  • 12% of business & finance workers
  • 11% of engineers
  • 9% of functional management & directors
  • 9% of sales & marketing workers
  • 8% of teachers & those working in education
  • 8% of those working in public services

A year ago I wrote about people on zero-hour contracts and the gap between power workers and those on basic pay. This issue has not gone away with HMRC currently taking an interest in several companies which pay less than the minimum wage.