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Monday, March 13, 2020

News Round-up

Here are some recent international news items of interest.

In February, a survey in Great Britain, covering more than 1,600 people and conducted by the Work Life Balance Centre, Keele University, and the University of Sheffield, reported tired and worn out workers are making mistakes that cost money, compromise safety and put lives at risk. The survey listed a catalogue of mistakes made by frazzled employees, ranging from car crashes to medical errors. Julie Hurst, Director of the Work Life Balance Centre, said:
While the number of people admitting to making a mistake was small (11%) the consequences were chilling, including serious medical errors leading to patient deaths. We also had a number of road traffic accidents, incidents involving trains, and workers being contaminated with dangerous chemicals. One of the reasons we carry out the survey each year is to try to find some answers to the problems of poor work life balance and these results reinforce the importance of this work.
March 1st in Ireland was National Work Life Balance Day. The Minister for Labour Affairs, Tony Killeen, said that work life balance is of strategic importance to the efficient operation of the labour market, and is a key issue for competitiveness.
Appropriate work-life balance policies and practices will help us accommodate diversity, to manage the shift to knowledge-based and service occupations and facilitate lifelong learning and up-skilling.
Writing in "Bay Area Business Woman" in the USA, Barbara B. Adams lamented that four decades after the birth of the feminist movement, we are still struggling with the same issues of balancing career aspirations and family needs.

Her solution involves an organized push for public policy changes; a shift in thinking about children, elders, and social responsibility; and a personal strategy for what having a balanced life means. Pointing out that women represent more than 50 percent of the American population, she says this enormous force, with huge influence and power, should band together to demand long overdue policy changes.

In "Fortune" magazine, Ellen McGirt quotes leading consultant Clay Shirky on five tips for making your work day sane. They are:
  1. Give yourself a time-out. Devote an hour to uninterrupted thinking and planning every day.
  2. Show your technology who's boss. "Anyone who has his e-mail client notify him anytime an e-mail comes in has already lost."
  3. Keep your meetings rare. Surveys show most people find meetings a major time waster. Use them sparingly, keep to an agenda, start and end on time.
  4. Say no. Giving in to desperate colleagues or harried bosses is the quickest way to overload your schedule and muck up more important goals.
  5. Delete. Surveys show we waste 20 percent of our day on nonproductive activities. Cut out or delegate anything on your to-do list that doesn't have long-term consequences for your work.
Judith Timson in Canada's Globe and Mail commented
Increasingly, employees are demanding more out of their employers, their line of work, and themselves as they navigate the ever-changing waters of the modern working world. Add to that the fact that workers are also constantly being bombarded with new trends and buzzwords such as work-life balance and passion, and being pressured by the complications of family and child-care demands on their time-compressed lives, and it's no wonder that many people are confused about what to do next or where to go for career advice.
She thinks it's inevitable, explaining she hasn't talked to many people, especially young ambitious professionals, who feel they can say no to a heavy work load, even a workload that does cut into their private time, when they are on the way up. Still, she mentions an intriguing answer to the problem of irritating and useless e-mails:
There was a terrific piece recently on the CBC about a company that decided to ban e-mails between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m., the theory being that if you actually stopped the keeners from sitting at their computers until midnight firing off e-mails that made everyone else feel guilty and oppressed, you would create a more manageable workload.
On the same track, it seems British cellphone company Orange is encouraging workers to switch off their mobile phones. The company suggested bosses take the lead in telling staff to remember that mobile devices do have an off button. They also raise the issues of "digital rights" and how mobile devices can blur the line between an individual's private property and what belongs to their company. A company spokesperson said:
In the days of the always-on environment, it's sometimes necessary for employees to switch off, whether that means stepping aside from their work, or physically switching off [a mobile device] and restoring a bit of work-life balance.
How's that for an idea?
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