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  • The Next Employee Challenge: Loneliness in the Workplace

    This week, 17-21 June, is Loneliness Awareness Week. The concept, founded by the Marmalade Trust, started this week in 2017 to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of loneliness. The campaign aims to create a culture in which people can openly talk about feeling alone. Loneliness is a significant problem within many countries due to many factors: an isolated aged population, technology and increasingly fragmented family structures. But, there exists another concept of loneliness which is not often tackled — workplace loneliness. Loneliness is a relatively new epidemic affecting workers worldwide. Research published in the Perspectives on Psychological Sciences, reveals that loneliness can be as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In the UK alone, 9 million people (a fifth of the population) have expressed “always” or “often” feeling lonely. Lonelier workers perform poorly and feel less satisfied with their job, which costs employers more than £2.5 billion ($3.5 billion U.S.) in the UK alone. Human interaction is on the decline, and workers feel isolated from the organisation as well as their colleagues. Yet we give a blind eye to this hidden condition. Social isolation poses several mental, physical, and psychological hazards. Lonely workers tend to overthink and feel disconnected to the organisation. Such feelings are dangerous for the individual and often have negative consequences for organisations in terms of losses to both productivity and performance. However, there are several ways that companies and individuals can help to improve the situation by reducing loneliness within workplaces.

    Get An Infrastructure That Provides Privacy

    An open floor plan fosters interaction and introduces brightness. However, it has can cause disturbance and distractions to coworkers. For instance, an employee on her phone can cause disturbance to other employees. To overcome these types of intrusions, companies can put up cubicle walls to allow private spaces for employees. Additionally, these walls help in absorbing noises too.

    Encourage Social Interaction

    Encourage more social interaction at work. Companies can do this by having more events and activities. Ideally these will be informal, but even ‘Company Town Halls’ or ‘Internal Training Sessions’ introducing people to one another can go some way to reducing loneliness. However, best of all are fun social events out of the office allowing people to know each other on a more personal level. Create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing if their workload is beyond their capacity. Give team members outlets to discuss these issues: one-to-ones/ reviews, internal mentors and counsellors are great options. Similarly, team leads should not be afraid to bring up uncomfortable issues to discuss them through. If the company is able to, an external counselling service can also prove useful for team members to address such issues confidentially.   

    Leverage Technology

    Both in and out of the office, we are all hooked to our tech devices! Technology can both reduce and increase loneliness. In wider society, technology has proven very useful as a means of reducing loneliness for older population group. Similarly, technology may be used in companies to encourage more discussion: internal blogs, newsletters or forums can be a good place to meet others and express some concerns. Having music, in some circumstances, has also been proven to help general wellbeing. Background music also encourages interaction and talking, especially if there are interesting tunes being played or great topics being discussed.   Or, why not leave the technology behind altogether and create tech-free periods e.g. at lunch time, forcing the team to interact more with each other(?)

    Start Joining In

    Grab all opportunities to step away from your desk and indulge in a conversation with your coworkers. Instead of sending emails or text via Skype to the person sitting next to you, get up and talk to him or her. Don’t sit back and wait for invites. Instead, organize one yourself! It’s everyone’s responsibility to create a culture where team members feel engaged and are more productive. A right mix of work and leisure, such as social events can attain this. It will prevent loneliness, make people healthier and create an overall better company!
  • Racist: The ‘R’ word

    There’s been a recent ruling on a case related to racial discrimination that’s very interesting. As part of her induction training, Georges (the Claimant), went through some discrimination and diversity training. During the course of the training the trainer wrote a racial epithet on a flipchart. The word was then repeated thrice during the course of the training by other participants. Is that racist? And is saying a racist word acceptable for demonstration purposes? Well… the ruling upheld Georges’ claim agreeing that using the word so frequently had the “effect of creating a degrading and offensive environment”. The tribunal believed that the strategy used in the training was not only risky, but also insensitive. It’s ironic (and unfortunate) that a training programme focusing on diversity and inclusion and with well-meaning intentions will create the opposite effect. There have been a number of stories about famous people using racist terms/ language. This is not because they are racist, but because they feel they don’t harbour any racism themselves. They rationalise that they have a vari-ethnic friendship group or family whom they admire and therefore cannot possibly be racist. However, this doesn’t negate the discomfort those words have on people.
  • Australian and African Tech startups forge Blockchain-Powered partnerships

    Bitcoin can be considered as the “premiere” coin in the cryptocurrency world. The fact that it is the most popular coin makes it the de facto benchmark when talking about blockchain based digital currency. Although bitcoin and other altcoins still appear to have a long way to go before they can genuinely establish themselves as the mainstream mode of transaction. However, the technology behind them, blockchain, is proving useful in providing various alternative solutions across many types of industrial sectors.  

    How the Success of Bitcoin is driving the Startup Ecosystem.

    Bitcoin is opening up a new pathway in the world of technology. Bitcoin’s success has resulted in its steady inclusion in trading markets around the world. Online trading sites and mobile trading apps now allow traders to trade in contracts for difference (CFDs) while speculating on its price changes. Although Bitcoins can’t yet be bought on many trading markets, this is likely to change very soon as the price of Bitcoin has surged pass gold in the past year. Australian Startups are not left out of this Bitcoin revolution as they are now utilizing Bitcoin and its underlying technology in various ways to partner with upcoming African companies.

    The Australian-African Tech Startup Linkup

    We are getting to see more interest, deals and partnership in the Africa fintech ecosystem, especially from the Australian fintech companies. This could be due to the fact that both regions have seen a booming growth in their fintech ecosystem. Australia and Africa experienced a 396% and 376% (year-over-year) growth in vc-backing funding for fintech startups respectively in the past year. This is huge when compared to North America and Europe that experienced 43% and 24% respectively. In addition, the financial regulations in Africa which were formerly a significant deterrent for firms aspiring to enter the African market, are improving. The Australian government has also made a marked effort to improve on its strategic partnership with Africa. This was most notable when the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade created Australia-Africa Relations (AGAAR) in 2015. The Advisory Group’s aim, according AGAAR’s strategy is to capitalise on “Africa’s influence… [and] increasing regional and world-wide impact”. Many Australian Fintech companies are following AGAAR’s lead into the continent. Several are using blockchain technology to partner with their African counterparts. For example, Fintech Company like Power Ledger is combining blockchain technology and renewable solar energy to deliver P2P energy solutions. They already boast of presence in Europe, Southeast Asia, and North America and are seeking to expand further. They were present at both the Athletes, Conservationists, Technologists, Artists and Innovators (ACTAI) and Bitfury’s Annual Blockchain Summit in Morocco which took place last year. At the latter event, they spoke of how blockchain and bitcoin-based technology can contribute to the transformation of the African region and the world. Another example is the collaboration between ClickPesa, a Tanzanian fintech startup, and Novatti Group, a fintech and Telecom Company based in Australia. They facilitate cross-border transactions for Australian mining companies operating in Tanzania using an Australian Dollar utility token and the blockchain-based Stellar protocol that enables the transactions of crypto-to-fiat currency. ClickPesa, which is targeting East Africa, primarily Congo, Kenya, Uganda, and Malawi, carried out a trial transaction in conjunction with Novatti to test the AUD utility token as a form of new payment protocols. It will help facilitate a faster, cheaper and more transparent business transactions between companies as well as the government .

    Utilizing The Blockchain Technology for Developing Unique Tokens

    As mentioned earlier, the Stellar protocol used by ClickPesa and Novatti group is also used by other industries. Companies such as IBM and Quantoz, an IoT blockchain, company have also embraced the Stellar protocol. Startups such as SureRemit, a Nigeria Fintech company, make use of Stellar based blockchain technology to carry out various types of transactions such as mobile top-up, paying a utility bill, donating to a cause, etc. as well using the company tokens, which is inspired by Bitcoin. That is not all! The growing strength of blockchain technology is creating new and exciting partnerships in the fintech sector. Recently, NaturesCoin, which is an Australia based Startup Company, announced they are meeting with organizations in Ghana. The company stated its intention to partner with NGOs in Western Africa to establish its stablecoin economy plan. The company created a crypto coin connected to assets, which promote ecology, accountability, and sustainability for corporations. All these successful partnerships are creating momentum for a new set of Africans and Australian fintech companies aiming to collaborate on blockchain based fintech products and services and promoting a stable economic relationship between the two regions. As blockchain and bitcoin-based technology expand, so will the technology partnership among fintech companies. Many success stories are now prompting new set African and Australian fintech to explore partnership in blockchain-powered fintech products and services.
  • The Extrovert Premium

    Most people have taken a Myers-Briggs assessment: whether the professionally certified version or a free online session via a pop-up window. Many people proudly proclaim their ‘diagnosis’ on resumes, job profiles and even dating sites(!) What those mentioning the MB assessment might not realise is that they are subtling hinting and their earning potential. Studies have demonstrated that on every comparable pairs of MB personality types e.g. INTP v. ENTP; INTJ v. ENTJ etc. the extroverts (those personality types starting with ‘E’) outearn their introvert peers. Extroversion is a person’s propensity to enjoy/ prefer social interaction with no link to competency or intelligence. However, extroverts are paid more, favoured more for promotions, leadership roles and new projects. This bias was recently brought home during a spate of interviews. Twice the feedback given focussed on the candidate’s “shyness” or (perceived) “outgoing” character, even though the role was a typical office position. There are some reasons why introverts typically earn less; studies show they prefer roles that allow greater self-contemplation and tend to be less financially driven. However, when we have two people going for the same position, especially within leadership — an extrovert and an introvert — the extrovert is more likely to get the job. We are invertedly more willing to reward extroverts more, by virtue of nothing but their preference for social interactions. Extroverts aren’t in themselves better leaders, more skilled people or colleagues than introverts. But, we still pay them more. It is this additional payment and extroversion bias that I call the “extrovert premium”. Perhaps we should to be more mindful that we are hiring or promoting people for skills/ company contribution and not just their greater preference for being ‘chatty’.

     

     
  • Hedge Funds are Taking a Liking to Blockchain

    In the recent past, a new technology known as blockchain has taken the world by a storm, threatening to disrupt almost every industry, from healthcare to transport to finance. (more…)
  • 9 Unique Types of Days Off

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  • IMF Warns To Take Cryptocurrency Seriously

    IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde has urged international banks and financial regulators to start giving cryptocurrencies serious consideration. (more…)
  • Can IT Jobs Get Replaced by Robots?

    Can IT Jobs Get Replaced by Robots?
    For the last twenty years, high school and college advisors have been pushing students into the IT field as it has been a reliably growing job market. However, those numbers don’t seem to be holding quite as steady at this point. In the United States, IT job market prospects are expected to decrease through the end of the year following several devastating events, including hurricanes Harvey and Irma, wildfires, and the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Due to increased automation, Indian IT professionals are also facing a shrinking job market for the next several months. Senior IT professionals in India may even be facing layoffs. The overall job market in IT in India does remain positive, but this downward trending job market is the lowest it has been in India for many years and will cause shake-ups at major IT companies. Some IT professionals are hoping to quickly learn new cutting-edge technologies to keep themselves marketable as the IT job market shifts and changes. With each advance made in nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and robotics, the need for human workers is eliminated; for example, The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs study predicts a job loss of nearly 5 million by the year 2020. In order to remain competitive, those in the IT field will likely need to acquire new and more specialized skills. Robots won’t replace us (not yet anyway), but they may change the way graduates prepare themselves for a career in IT.
  • Matchpoint Technology Will Replace Your Remote Control

    Matchpoint Technology Might Replace Your Remote Control
    It’s only been a generation that we’ve been able to change our TV channels without getting up from our recliners. Wireless remote-control devices have changed our entertainment habits, but new Matchpoint technology is set to shift those habits again. (more…)
  • MasterCard to Suspend All Cryptocurrency Cards Outside of EEA

    MasterCard to Suspend All Cryptocurrency Cards Outside of EEA
    Following Visa, MasterCard has announced guidelines which would suspend all cryptocurrency debit cards which fall outside of the European Economic Area (EEA). (more…)

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