Online-only services are predicted to leave some people behind

Partly because of the Covid pandemic lockdowns there has been a significant growth in online-only services covering everything from banking to restaurant menus.

According to a Wired article in the UK “the number of bank and building society branches fell by a third between 2012 and 2021.”

This is all very well for those who are comfortable with technology and mobile phones but there are worries that these developments will leave behind some particularly vulnerable groups in the community.

Not only this, but there are concerns, says Wired, that “the technology is often terrible”.

Having a basic broadband service and mobile internet is becoming a necessity. But what can people do if they live, say, in a rural location where the services are patchy?

Similarly, there are some groups such as pensioners or those on a low income who may not be able to afford these services, regardless of whether they are tch literate or not.

According to Wired “An estimated 2.9 billion people—37 percent of the world’s population—have never used the internet, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations’ IT agency”.

Clearly, there is a need for governments to set a basic level of service for all citizens regardless of income or access to technology.


SMEs are engines for growth

Recent research reveals that SMEs are major contributors to business and economic growth and therefore to job creation.

It is argued that successful SMEs often contribute to the success of other SMEs by partnering with, or outsourcing, some parts of their business, such as marketing, design and accountancy.

The effect has been most noticeable in retail, where two years of Covid lockdowns have forced more retailers online leading to an increase in online marketplaces from which to sell their goods.

But this has not meant the total death of physical retail outlets so much as to a change in their purposes and adapting to the changing needs of their consumers.

Partnerships, agility and collaboration are all part of helping SMEs to grow and to take others with them, ultimately for the benefit of all their stakeholders whether they are customers, staff or shareholders and investors.


Climate change action requires collaboration

Climate change action requires collaboration and partnerships of all kinds

The damage that has been done and continues to be done to the environment across the world is rarely out of the news, along with its consequences in affecting people’s lives.

But, according to an article in Wired, tackling and reversing the damage is going to require collaboration by all sorts of people, from individuals to scientists to businesses and governments.

It argues that social media and AI will have a significant part to play in both raising awareness and in action:

“AI models, including those that Microsoft is developing with research teams and academia, are revealing the perilous pace at which we are destroying our environment.”

It suggests that collaborations between the developed world and developing countries to share insights and come up with sustainable practices will be needed.

Sharing technology, will help to develop sustainable practices in everything from farming to forest conservation, not to mention government policies across the world.

With technology companies as key partners, it suggests, there is an opportunity to not only share best practice but for new businesses and production systems to develop for the better future of countries and their environments around the world.


Covid restrictions may have gone but the pandemic has not

Covid restrictions may have gone but the pandemic itself has not

The pressure on businesses is considerable as a result of the pandemic, supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine.

It has all meant rising costs and on top of that a shortage of employees to recruit.

So it is more than ever important to try to keep existing skilled staff.

One issue that may be affecting your business is the ongoing pandemic, where people are being advised to isolate for five days if they test positive.

But now that the rules on state-funded sick pay have returned to normal, this means that many will now only get two days’ sick pay as it only kicks in after three days.

While most businesses will undoubtedly still be doing everything they can to keep staff safe, they will still be faced with some off sick while the virus is still circulating.

Perhaps it is worth considering introducing some short-term financial help if your company does not have its own sick pay scheme?

Of course, all businesses are struggling with cost pressures but introducing something like this could signal to your employees that they are valued and that you understand their difficulties and may help you retain them.


Benefits of using a password manager?

What are the benefits of using a password manager?

Remembering an ever-growing number of passwords can be daunting and writing them down is a security no-no.

It is becoming ever more complex as nowadays we have to register for every online service we use and across multiple platforms.

Wired has researched the best password managers and come up with the suggestions for those it thinks are the best.

The results are here:


The success of remote working

The success of remote working is likely to change the traditional office HQ

Given the proof that remote working during the pandemic has been successful it is likely that businesses may rethink their current traditional ways of working.

It may also be that downsizing expensive office space will help to reduce overheads as costs of energy and supplies escalate.

According to an article in Wired, one innovation may well be the “digital HQ”.

It suggests that the office-based HQ could become a thing of the past: “We will develop digital HQs, which will improve productivity, foster innovation and help increase the diversity of company workforces.”

This could cut down on the number of journeys staff have to make to the HQ, cutting down on the number of meetings they are required to attend and this could also create a need for new roles to manage remote collaboration.

This will also emphasise the importance of using new digital tools and platforms to keep workers connected.

It may be that recruitment itself will change, with packages putting flexibility at the heart of the workers’ package of benefits.

It may also mean the end of a rigid five-day working week.

“Businesses that thrive in the next decade will be those that have embraced this bold reinvention.”


Back to the office or flexible working?

Back to the office or flexible working?

With the end to some of the Covid restrictions imminent many people who have been happily and productively working from home have been called back to their offices.

This is despite the fact that it has been proven that people could work responsibly—and often more efficiently—from home.

However, an analysis by Wired, has suggested that in the UK the legislation needed to protect employees in newer employment models such as hybrid and remote working is much in need of an update.

The article highlights some of the issues.

It says: “Currently, after 26 weeks of service with their employer, every employee has the right to make one flexible working request a year. Once a request has been made, if it’s rejected, the employee must wait a year before submitting a new request”.

It cites evidence that as many as 42% of working mothers, for example, are afraid of even requesting flexible working either because the request would be rejected or because they think it would adversely affect their employment chances.

“The majority (86 percent) have faced discrimination and disadvantage because of their flexible working arrangements.” It says.

There are currently eight grounds on which employers can reject requests for flexible working, most of them, according to the TUC, are too wide and too vague.

Then there are the problems with finding affordable childcare, which may effectively deter people from even taking a job.

These are just a few of the issues that need addressing by government if the newer flexible working arrangements are going to be workable.


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Why is the paperless society not yet a reality?

The use of the PC, cloud storage and other technological innovations has led many to predict that the future of the office and of society would be paperless.

Yet 40 years since the term was first coined this is still some way off.

There are many possible explanations for this.

Often people, perhaps rightly, do not trust technology and prefer a physical record or letter rather than an email which could be mis-directed or lost, a problem if it contains sensitive information.

For some, the increasing use of hacking and phishing scams suggests that many IT systems are still not sufficiently secure for the storage of sensitive data.

Similarly, if a system crashes many of us still feel safer if we can resort to a physical record of any important documents even if we have been careful to back up anything important externally.

In some cases, there are legal reasons for keeping physical documents, especially when they refer to sensitive health or personal information needed by various agencies, but also in business where there can be legal requirements for keeping documents for specified a minimum amount of time.

Nevertheless, as concerns about the environment and climate increase we are likely to see ever more pressure to minimise our use of paper and save trees.

On the other hand, it has been calculated that technology, accounts for a whopping 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions, very close to the amount produced by the airline industry.

Also, there is no denying that hardware and software can be cruelly expensive for new companies or individuals especially in developing parts of the world.

Scientists have also researched our ability to retain information based on the format by which it is delivered and here, again, it has been found that we remember far more information that we have read in printed form rather than on screen.

It seems, the move to a paperless society is a lot more complex than we think.


Avoid Staff Burnout!

Arguably a business’ employees are its greatest asset.

This has been recognised recently by companies like Bumble, Hootsuite, and Mozilla who have reportedly shut down for a week to give their staff a break.

The argument is that ensuring everybody has a week off at the same time means they won’t be returning to a flood of emails and work to catch up on as they would if only some were given time off while others continued working.

The last 18 months have been a stressful time for everyone with employees struggling to maintain productivity in the face of lockdowns, staff shortages, supply chain issues, remote working to name just a few.

Given that the availability of staff is predicted to be a continuing problem post-Brexit, therefore, it makes sense for employers to take care of those they have, to value them and to show it.

Protecting their physical and mental health and helping them to have a healthy work-life balance could make the difference between losing staff and keeping them.

There are other suggestions for ensuring staff are healthy and able to perform in this article.