work

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).

Freeing Time

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/11/2022 - 6:20am in

Tags 

culture, culture, Time, work

I situate this whole phenomenon within a wider cultural obsession with transcending limitations and not being bound by our condition. There are these confrontations with limitations going on all over the place: in the environment, and in the supply chain crisis. We think we can live in these worlds of endless virtual space, but ultimately, we’re dependent on trucks bringing things. There are bottlenecks of physicality that work against the virtual world.

And then you think, when you see people exploring ways to just leave the planet and go somewhere else, that it feels like an attempt to avoid the truth of the matter....

Read More

Companies Are Helping Their Workers Commute Sustainably

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/10/2022 - 7:00pm in

Tags 

Economy, cars, work

Stephen O’Malley loves cycling so much that he not only rides his bike 10 miles to work, even in the depths of winter — he incentivizes his 163 employees to do the same.

O’Malley, based in Manchester, UK, is the CEO of Civic Engineers, a civil engineering firm that’s also a certified carbon-neutral company working towards eliminating all of its emissions by 2030. 

A big part of that effort is the company’s cycle-to-work scheme, which it introduced in 2015 as part of a broader UK government initiative to get more people out of cars. The program essentially allows employees to spread out the cost of a new bike over 12 months, saving them up to 40 percent as the payments come directly out of their salaries and aren’t taxed. It has been used by over 1.6 million commuters working for over 40,000 different employers since it was rolled out by the UK government in 1999.

Stephen O’Malley

Civic Engineers’ efforts, which have seen around a fifth of its employees across Glasgow, London and Leeds benefit from the cycle-to-work initiative, are part of a wider trend. For much of modern motoring history, free employee parking has come as a standard workplace perk — one that companies spend huge sums of money to provide. This has largely held even as cities have gotten increasingly serious about incentivizing people to drive less. Yet fees and restrictions on workplace parking are among the most effective tools we have for reducing car use. A recent study from the Lund University Centre for Sustainable Studies identified such measures as having the potential to reduce car commuting by up to 25 percent.

Now,  as companies strive to reach self-imposed carbon reduction goals,  and workers themselves demand that their employers become more environmentally minded, an array of corporate initiatives are taking shape to incentivize more sustainable commutes, and make free employee parking a relic of the past. 

Getting creative to cut carbon

O’Malley’s team at Civic Engineers save around 13 metric tons of carbon emissions annually by donning their lycra instead of reaching for their car keys.

“Our team are very focused on their carbon footprint as part of their values and the cycle-to-work scheme is an enabler for them to purchase a bike for their commute,” says O’Malley. “We know from our employee surveys that this is an important benefit to them.” 

This has proved true at, of all places, Lyft’s offices in San Francisco. In 2014, the ride-hailing company introduced a monthly fee of $260 for employee parking, and used 100 percent of the revenues it generated to subsidize more sustainable transportation costs for employees who didn’t drive to work. At first the program bombed. As it turned out, $260 was too big an ask, and Lyft headquarters found itself awash in empty parking spaces and accusations of unfair worker treatment. But when it reduced the fee to $150, the initiative took off: the number of employees who drove to work fell by double digits, and the non-drivers were happy with the program’s kickback for other modes of transportation.

A cyclist in San Francisco. Credit: Chris Frewin / Flickr

Other programs give commuters the choice between free parking at work or another benefit of equal value, like renting an apartment closer to a transit station. When the state of California did this in 1992, vehicle travel to work fell by 12 percent. 

In many cases, these changes aren’t being foisted on an unwilling workforce. According to a Deloitte report, two-thirds of organizations feel pressured by their employees to implement more policies that counteract climate change. An IBM survey revealed that 69 percent of the 14,000 workers polled were more likely to accept a job with an organization they consider to be environmentally sustainable — and to stay there. 

For those who have little choice but to drive, initiatives like the UK’s Electric Car Scheme are also taking the pressure off net-zero targets. Launched earlier this year, hundreds of companies have already signed up over 25,000 employees. The program is similar to the cycle-to-work initiative, in that tax-free salary deductions towards an EV can be spread out over time, saving up to 60 percent of the cost. Its carbon emissions reduction is already the equivalent of planting 100,000 trees.

Building in equity

The most frequent criticism leveled at such programs is their impact on lower-income workers. While the c-suite executives may be able to pay extra to keep driving to work, the critique goes, those below them are forced to adapt to “incentives” that essentially require them to commute more sustainably.

The UK’s cycle-to-work scheme in particular has attracted criticism for being unavailable to people on minimum wage, as the bike payments coming out of their salary would take them below a legally acceptable pay rate, prompting calls for the scheme to be reformed in a more inclusive way. What’s more, self-employed people, who represent more than 13 percent of the UK labor market, are ineligible. And because urban real estate is often the most expensive, lower-income employees are more likely to live further from transit options. 


Become a sustaining member today!

Join the Reasons to be Cheerful community by supporting our nonprofit publication and giving what you can.

To fill these gaps, worker shuttle services like Google’s famous employee buses are becoming more common across a range of industries. UK shuttle provider Kura certainly thinks there is a market to be built here. Kura estimates one 49-seater coach can take 31 low-occupancy cars off the road. 

Kura’s software uses postcode analyses to calculate optimal pickup points at public transit stops and residential hubs. These analyses are then converted into a published timetable, with routes created exclusively for its business customers. Companies using Kura shuttles include those transporting staff to and from shifts at factories and call centers. For example, at Spooner Industries, a UK manufacturer of commercial drying, baking and cooling equipment, staff save 88 miles on average per shared journey compared with individual commutes, Kura’s calculations confirm. 

“Alternatives to single-occupancy car use, such as shared transport, would not only help businesses meet their net-zero targets, but also increase their appeal to current and future employees through showcasing their sustainability efforts,” says Kura CEO Godfrey Ryan.

Shuttle services also give businesses the opportunity to employ more people who may not have another way to commute into work, Ryan adds, because they don’t have a car or live near a transit station, or both.

Crushed by negative news?

Sign up for the Reasons to be Cheerful newsletter.
[contact-form-7]

Extending financial incentives for green transport options beyond the corporate sector does look to be the most challenging aspect of these programs, but company and civic leaders are already recognizing this. Ukrainian refugees across the UK are being given free bikes to help them access training, volunteering and skills opportunities as well as attend English lessons and job interviews, and get to work once they’ve landed a job. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has also just requested that Transport for London, provider of the Tube underground train service, offer free travel to its lowest paid contract staff, which include security, catering and cleaning staff. 

Their gratitude may be due to the money saved more than environmental concerns, but either way, Kura’s Ryan says investing in sustainable staff transport subsidies will become non-negotiable for employers.

“It’s clear that in cities like London a lot of command-and-control employers have relied on their employees enduring the daily hell and high cost of the commute without any negative impact on staff satisfaction or retention rate,” he says. “This is now changing, as supporting, and even financing, a greener commute is now an important ingredient of any employer brand.”

The post Companies Are Helping Their Workers Commute Sustainably appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Caring, growth and choice

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/10/2022 - 6:51pm in

In any society, certain needs have to be catered for, either socially or privately. At a minumum, those unable to work, because they are too young, too old, or too sick have to be cared for. Of course, they can be cared for in ways that are better or worse for them, but caring there must be, and that is going to take someone’s time, labour, and money.

I’ve been thinking about these rather obvious facts over the past few days partly because a report came out showing how many people – mainly women – are being driven out of the the UK workforce by the need to care for relatives, given that the social care system is broken. At present, there are also a lot of people out of the UK labour market either because they can’t work due to COVID and its after-effects, or because the underfunded National Health Service has been shattered by the pandemic and they can’t get the treatment they need in a timely fashion for other health problems they have. If left languishing, the skills these people have will atrophy. Many of them will never work again.

At the same time, our soon-to-be-former Prime Minister has been pushing her “pro-growth” agenda, which largely consisted of tax cuts, and her now-former Home Secretary mocked the anti-growth coalition of “Guardian-reading, tofu-eating, wokerati”, of which I am proud to consider myself a member.

Their central assumption is that growth is best served by a low-tax economy and that public spending needs radical reduction, with the fat-cutting exercise of the last twelve years now to be extended to the bones. Well, I hope readers can see the problem. You don’t get growth by pursuing policies that effectively force people to give up productive work either through their own sickness, or in order to care for other people. If these needs are not met socially, they will be met privately, and, again, because it bears repeating, in ways that are disproportionately damaging to women.

But there’s also a part of me that wants to push back against this instrumentalization of care for the sake of growth. It may be true that the cutting agenda is incoherent and self-defeating because it ends up undermining the very economic growth it claims to promote insofar as many services are not most efficiently promoted by leaving citizens to fend for themselves. But the point of caring is to meet people’s needs rather than to boost the Gross National Product. I’d like people to have the option to rely on good publicly-supported social care rather than being forced to abandon work to look after the elderly relative who has just been discharged from hospital. But unlike these self-styled “libertarians” in the Tory party, I also care about freedom and choice. So if people choose, against the background of a reasonable set of options, to come out of the paid workforce in order to care for others, that’s also fine. I don’t want that possibility to be undermined by the national growth target.

Of course, there’s more to be said, not least about the incoherence of modern conservatism, which combines the view that everyone ought to be working hard in paid employment (ideally for low wages) with policies that end up driving people out of the workforce, but then also has periodic spasms of enthusiasm for “Eastern” models where families care for their elderly at home. Here, the patriarchal agenda is explicitly at work, either because they thought women should be in the home all along or as a rationalization of the effects of their other policies.

You may not want to pay for a “welfare state”, but the things the welfare state does will need to be done by someone, somewhere, at some time, using resources that come from somewhere.

The Wall Street Journal Resurrects Mandeville

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/09/2022 - 2:00am in

According to a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Phil Gramm and John Early, the problem is not that the wealthiest Americans have seen their fortunes dramatically explode. It is rather that the poorest Americans have too much! ...

Read More

Remote Work Is a Chance to Do Something Meaningful

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 01/09/2022 - 6:00pm in

Kay Bromley hadn’t done any volunteering since she worked in her local thrift store after high school. But when the IT specialist, now 34 and with two children, came across an opportunity to work remotely from Robinson Crusoe Island, 672 kilometers west of San Antonio, Chile, while also volunteering in the local community of 900 residents, her instincts urged her to go for it.

“I’m so used to working my office role and staying in my little career box, that I was really shocked with just how transferable my skills really are, especially when it came to improving some of the islanders’ knowledge,” reflects Bromley, who is based in Hastings, UK.

Along with 15 others, Bromley was selected by tech company Lenovo for its Work for Humankind initiative on Robinson Crusoe. The volunteers hailed from different countries and workplaces; they included sustainability analysts and strategists from Brazil and Germany, an animal welfare lecturer from Mexico, and a research scientist from the US. 

For eight weeks, the newly minted change-makers left behind their lawn mowers, shopping lists and Amazon deliveries to identify endangered seabirds and help local school kids connect to the internet, all while continuing to do their jobs — and collect their salaries — from back home. Bromley says she was “blown away” to get an opportunity to explore disconnectedness on a small island with minimal technology.

“The first thing that hits you, before you even arrive, is just how remote it is. You’re flying on a tiny eight-seater plane for two hours, and from about 20 minutes in, there’s no land in sight until you start catching glimpses of the island,” she recalls. “Even once you touch down, there’s still another 30-minute boat ride to actually reach the town.” 

Kay Bromley on Robinson Crusoe IslandKay Bromley, right, spent eight weeks volunteering, while working remotely, on Robinson Crusoe Island. Credit: Callum Thompson/Lenovo Work for Humankind

In a recent global study of 15,000 people across 10 markets, Lenovo found that 61 percent deemed giving back and making a positive impact on the local community they’re working from as “very important.” Meanwhile, in a recent Lonely Planet and Fiverr survey of 1,400 people, half of respondents said they had become “anywhere workers” over the past two years, and almost all planned to continue working remotely and traveling for at least another six months.

That data prompted Work for Humankind, and Lenovo isn’t the only company tapping into these shifts and creating innovative ways to combine remote work and volunteering. 

“There’s a growing global desire among knowledge workers across industries to work from anywhere, while doing good. Our research highlights the benefits of remote work that go beyond benefiting individuals in saving money and having a better work-life balance, as respondents also recognize the societal benefit,” says Emily Ketchen, a Lenovo vice president and chief marketing officer.

Crushed by negative news?

Sign up for the Reasons to be Cheerful newsletter.
[contact-form-7]

Search engine company Ecosia offers team members an opportunity to visit one of its partner tree nurseries for a week. (The company uses profits to fund tree planting around the world.) Assisting “tree teams” in monitoring the impact on the local environment and communities, participants typically use half the trip as work days, and cover half with annual leave. 

Meanwhile, Venture With Impact is a company that facilitates work-and-volunteer packages in Thailand, Colombia, Portugal and Mexico. A matchmaker of sorts, Venture pairs remote workers with nonprofit partners based on the former’s skills and the latter’s needs. They’ve “placed” people from all over the corporate world with experience in tech, marketing and business to support sectors such as health, education and human rights.

Collaborating for real impact

Combining remote work, travel and volunteering is a “great idea,” says Judy Kepher-Gona, founder of the consultancy Sustainable Travel and Tourism Agenda, but she worries that the trend could take off without appropriate guidelines and ruin communities. 

Kepher-Gona, who is based in Nairobi, Kenya, recently appeared in The Last Tourist, a documentary highlighting the negative impact of over-tourism as well as “voluntourism,” or tokenistic volunteer programs aimed largely at entertaining tourists.

“The risk is how do we manage touristification of new places frequented by remote workers. Worse still is the risk of gentrification. Volunteerism benefits places if the need of hosts is identified in advance and matched with volunteers. Otherwise it only satisfies the volunteer,” Kepher-Gona explains.

The biggest challenge, she elaborates, is how to make volunteering transformational, given the short amount of time some participants might stay in one locale. 

“‘Voluntourism’ is often about what tourists can give, not what the community needs,” says Kepher-Gona. “I don’t see how one staff member of an organization staying in a place for a few months can make any transformational impact unless their efforts are strategic, meaning they work within existing structures, institutions, policies and systems.”

Volunteers, she argues, largely don’t do this. “They often come with their own mind and their own programs, and rarely make an effort to understand the space and context in which they are operating.”

Kay Bromley in Work for HumankindIn the Work for Humankind initiative, Kay Bromley logged on to her day job in the mornings before volunteering over an extended lunch break. Credit: Callum Thompson/Lenovo Work for Humankind

Boundless Life co-founder Marcos Carvalho has seen The Last Tourist, and Kepher-Gona’s perspective echoes as the family-focused travel company is shaping a volunteering program. The idea is that guests work from abroad for extended periods, while their children take part in the Boundless Life education program. Carvalho and his team are currently considering how guests could teach their skills to refugees in the community. That could mean English lessons, or training in marketing or technology. 

Boundless Life currently offers live abroad arrangements in Portugal, Greece and Italy, with plans to expand next year. Carvalho first wants to understand how community needs can shape guest volunteering opportunities, rather than the other way around. 

“There’s a massive amount of voluntary work done by tourists that’s actually not adding value, and is traumatizing more than we can imagine. So we are currently identifying what the local needs are where we operate, and what trusted organizations we could support. Then we’ll develop volunteering activities around that,” says Carvalho.

For remote workers wanting to combine work, travel and volunteering, Rachel Dodds, a professor in the hospitality and tourism management department at Toronto Metropolitan University, recommends asking the following. 

“Does the organization make clear what arrangements it has with the destination and the specific organization you will be working with? What does the trip include? Does the organization make serious enquiries about your skills and contributions?” says Dodds, a sustainable travel author who also appeared in The Last Tourist.

Work, live, give back

Lenovo, Ketchen says, worked closely with local NGO Island Conservation to shape Work for Humankind. They sought to understand and meet the Robinson Crusoe community’s goals of becoming more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. Volunteer roles were determined by those aims, and the selection was coordinated with island leaders and Island Conservation.

“Even the length of stay was set out by the Robinson Crusoe Island community and Island Conservation as the ideal duration, marrying the ability to have a genuine impact on the community and environment, with the flexibility needed to make this opportunity appealing to the volunteer,” says Ketchen.

Robinson Crusoe IslandRobinson Crusoe Island. Credit: Callum Thompson/Lenovo Work for Humankind

Bromley, who has been a remote worker since 2018, estimates she spent around 40 percent of her time on the island volunteering. She worked her day job in the mornings from the Technology Hub, which Lenovo set up and kitted out with computers, office equipment and high-speed internet. She’d then move on to her volunteer projects across a late, extended lunch, and return to her work in the afternoons. 

Volunteer projects on the island included capturing and processing data on its flora and fauna, including endangered species such as the pink-footed sheerwater, as well as vulnerable tree species. Bromley loved trekking through the varied terrain. “They have everything from Mars-like, dusty desert to lush rainforest,” she says.

Bromley used her IT skills on other projects, such as working with the local school’s administration to improve both their internet access and skills, and creating an app for the islanders to share important information. She became the town’s go-to IT person, helping residents update Windows on their computers and fixing Bluetooth connections. 

pink-footed sheerwater seabirdA pink-footed sheerwater Credit: Shutterstock

The Work for Humankind partnership made a lasting impact, according to David Will, head of innovation at Island Conservation. Prior, the NGO’s staff would retrieve data manually from 70 cameras across the island by hiking long distances over steep terrain, placing the data on a hard drive, and sending it for processing and manual classification on mainland Chile on the bimonthly plane. The process took about four months. 

Work for Humankind was able to reduce this timeframe to weeks, says Will.

“We are now able to implement consistent data collection, develop manageable machine learning workflows turning camera photos into data, and provide real-time access to the data,” says Will. “We have now effectively overcome the barriers we previously faced without sufficient internet connectivity, and completely transformed the way our team works.”

Over the coming months, a local community-led team will use the combination of technology and quantitative modeling set out by Work for Humankind to shape a data-driven conservation strategy. After the volunteers departed, the Technology Hub assets — augmented reality smart glasses, virtual reality headsets, high-speed servers, education software, smart home devices — were moved to the local library for residents to use. While Lenovo has no plans right now to send more volunteers to Robinson Crusoe, or to anywhere else in the world, it is donating $100,000 for device maintenance, ongoing project support and continual internet access.

In a press release, Robinson Crusoe Mayor Pablo Manríquez Angulo said, “The volunteers from Work for Humankind have laid down the foundations now to really help a remote island community make a positive difference … it’s over to our community to continue making significant headway, armed with new skills and their passion enlightened.”

Inspired by her experience, Bromley says she’d “jump at the chance to do it again” and hopes more employers will create similar volunteering programs, in light of the rise of remote working. “Being able to make use of my skills and see a difference was just inspiring and something I’d probably never have considered doing before I took this opportunity,” she says. 

The post Remote Work Is a Chance to Do Something Meaningful appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Fighting Fire with Flerd

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 01/09/2022 - 3:45am in

Meet Cole Bush, the shepherdess battling fire season with goats and sheep. One morning last summer, Cole Bush was high up on a ridge in North Los Angeles County, shepherding her “flerd”—a mixed flock of sheep and herd of goat—from one paddock to another. Normally, this maneuver was routine; but something was wrong. When she turned around, in the distance far below, she spotted a hundred of her...

Source

Mother Knows Best

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 30/08/2022 - 11:15pm in

The anti-work novel gets a maternal twist.

When’s the Long Weekend? Whenever You Want

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 26/08/2022 - 6:00pm in

London-based entrepreneur Afsaneh Parvizi-Wayne plans to work on Good Friday next year — so she can take a day off to enjoy Persian New Year in March instead, a holiday that is more significant to her and her family.

Parvizi-Wayne, the founder of organic period product startup Freda, allows her entire team to swap national public holidays (called bank holidays in the UK) for an alternate day off of their choosing. Her assistant, Bea, from Brazil, likes to celebrate her name day, a common custom in countries across Europe and Latin America, so she’ll be working this August 29, even though it’s a summer bank holiday.

Recognizing the need to extend their diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) policies to all facets of the workplace, more companies in the UK that provide employees with public holidays off are now giving people the chance to take them at a time when it means more to them, rather than sticking to the government-prescribed calendar.

In the UK, there are usually eight public holiday days a year. Four of them — Good Friday, Easter Monday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day — link back to observing yearly milestones in the Christian calendar. Designating January 1 as New Year’s Day is largely a Western construct. The holiday is celebrated at different times across cultures.

“I am passionately against complying with most imposed and predetermined celebratory breaks. The assumption there is that we, as individual humans, with our own culture and personal heritage, should celebrate someone’s else’s ‘important’ days,” Parvizi-Wayne says. “True inclusion excludes no one and that’s true for public holidays.”

Nowruz table settingA table set for Nowruz (Persian New Year) Credit: Gabriele M. Reinhardt/Pixabay

Supplements brand Heights has several Jewish team members who have worked through a holiday in order to take time off for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in late September. Marketing agency Aqueous Digital has Hindu and Muslim staff who choose days off to fit their own religious and cultural days of note.

Standard public holidays simply just don’t work for everyone, argues Faye Mclean, people director at mattress company Eve Sleep.

“As part of our diversity, equality and inclusion values and commitment, we decided to tear up the rule book, do what we say and give people a choice when they want to take a UK public holiday,” says Mclean.

Crushed by negative news?

Sign up for the Reasons to be Cheerful newsletter.
[contact-form-7]

Jo North, people director at mobile network Giffgaff, echoes the need to incorporate DEI fully into workplace culture. “We believe giving our people the autonomy to choose their holidays and celebrations creates an equitable, fairer and more inclusive business that champions different ideas and perspectives,” she says. “We don’t all celebrate the same events, so why should we have to take the same holidays?”

That was the thinking for Manchester-based international crisis relief charity Human Appeal. When it emerged that this year, Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims of fasting, self-reflection and charitable acts, would coincide with Easter — a four-day weekend in the UK — the organization’s management thought it was time to think differently about its public holidays policy.

Human Appeal allowed its 170-strong workforce the choice of swapping the 2022 Easter holidays to extend their celebrations of Eid al-Fitr, the “Feast of Fast-Breaking” that marks the end of Ramadan and one of two major religious holidays in the Muslim calendar. Human Appeal already offers its staff — 70 percent of whom identify as Muslim — a day off for Eid. People who chose to work through Easter were able to get a five-day stretch for Eid in early May.

Ahmed OsmanAhmed Osman appreciated the chance to take more time off work for Eid al-Fitr.

For Human Appeal’s UK programs officer Ahmed Osman, the swap meant more time celebrating with family. “Shifting the holiday dates meant bigger plans could be made for outings and gatherings that would otherwise be impossible to fit in time-wise,” he says. “While some of my friends who work in other companies had the long weekend bank holiday, I found it refreshing to be able to focus on the lives we save with our work. It was hectic, but also a motivating and rewarding feeling. While a long Easter weekend would have been nice, being able to have more time off for Eid with my family at the end meant much more.”

Human Appeal is considering repeating the swap if Ramadan were to coincide again with UK public holidays, as it was even taken up by non-Muslim employees who chose to extend their vacation time later in the year.

“We had great feedback from the whole team about how the opportunity to make the switch was really appreciated,” says Osman.

The post When’s the Long Weekend? Whenever You Want appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Cartoon: Remote control

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/08/2022 - 9:50pm in

Tags 

Labor, work

I think there is some value to socializing with your colleagues in person, at least occasionally. But for many workers, there are practical reasons to avoid the expensive and time-wasting schlep to the cubicle farm.

Support these comics by joining the Sorensen Subscription Service! Also on Patreon.

Follow me on Twitter at @JenSorensen

Things we learn at school

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 27/12/2020 - 2:24pm in

For the last few years I have been working at a local supermarket. Because there are three of them within walking distance, and provided I don't specify which one it is, I believe I can talk about what it's like without violating any confidentiality agreements I may have made during the "yeah, whatever" signing-on-dotted-lines stage of the hiring process.

I was happy enough to do the job for a year or two, but then 2020 happened, so let's make that three or four.

As one of those people who push a trolley round the shop picking online orders, I'm basically paid to get in peoples' way. The maddening thing about it is that when I am in somebody's way, it's they who apologise. Stop saying sorry, people! You haven't done anything wrong!

There's the occasional exception to this rule, memorable for it's rarity. Recently an old fellow grunted "Can you move?", not even prefaced with "excuse me". (Witty response that came to me five minutes too late: "Can I move? You should see me on the dance floor, grandad!")

However by and large, the job is utterly uninteresting, if physically taxing, which comes as a relief to this middle-aged burnout case. If one has to choose, it's far better to punish your body than your psyche.

A while ago my GP asked how work was going, and I replied that over time, the range of things I've been asked to do has expanded. "Oh good," he said, "Intellectual stimulation. You need that."

He's a queer fish, my GP. He makes so much money from treating sneezes and sniffles, and the various diseases of suburban despair, that he's on holiday most of the time for tax reasons, drifting around the world in a little bubble of affluence. I don't think he's quite grasped how much intellectual stimulation is involved in any aspect of running a supermarket — or indeed in most jobs. Which is to say, none whatsoever.

There are points of interest to the experience, mainly derived from observing what various people bring to it. I've seen a lot of people come and go in a few years, which is not unusual down here near minimum wage.

On my trolley is a little computer which, when it's not malfuctioning, leads me about the supermarket by the nose like a pack animal, telling me what to get and where to get it. When you are new to the job, in the process of being broken in, it is emphasised that if you can't find something quickly you should "out of stock it" and move on. Of course the little computer is surveilling you and extracting performance metrics at all times, so speed is of the essence.

Eventually, you realise that the system's little database of stock is chronically incomplete and inaccurate, so you develop workarounds. You also work out that the people who stock the shelves are likewise evaluated by crude metrics, and that it's not in their interest to take care in their work if they will be punished for it, so (for example) a tin of tomatoes is a tin of tomatoes. Whether it's whole, diced, or crushed tomatoes is not a distinction they'll be rewarded for honouring; just get it all on the shelves as quickly as possible.

Once you've amassed a catalogue of all the managerially-imposed perverse incentives relevant to your task, you can start to reverse engineer from these a mental map of the ways that things will inevitably go wrong, and graduate from following a precisely wrong model of how the place works to a fuzzily right model.

The practical upshot of this is that, for example, you don't "out of stock" so often, yet you still get round the shop relatively quickly. Can't find something where your computer says it will be, though there's supposed to be plenty of in stock? Is the amount claimed to be in stock plausible, or likely an artifact of the periodic farcical charade known as "stocktake" (where every item gets counted, but as the item that is supposed to be in that position rather than the item it actually is)? Is it on special this week (in which case it is likely to be on prominent display somewhere else not know to the system, as it's not worth being too fussy about updating the location database week-by-week; that degree of accuracy is not easily measured, and is therefore not incentivised)? Have a look a couple of inches or feet away where there's another product with quite similar packaging. Peer right to the back of the shelf. Insert your arm, James-Herriot-style, up to the shoulder and have a good rummage. When your fingertips make contact with something, grab it, and give it a good yank, bloodying knuckles in the process. Aha! Beep it, bag it, move on…

Now none of that is intrinsically interesting. What is interesting is how long it takes for people to surmount the blind faith in the flawless way that things are supposed to work. Now after a few years, I believe I've identified a statistically significant age-related difference in the attitude that one brings to a new job, which generalises beyond this particular example. It can be summarised like so:

  • Teens/twenties: How does it work?
  • Thirties: How should it work?
  • Forties and older: In what ways is it f**ed up?

You'll be slower and less effective for longer the younger you are, and more likely to be leaned on (which in a deregulated workplace includes being given fewer and fewer hours) till you quit. There are exceptions of course. Personally, I was wandering about in a comically innocent daze until I was in my forties. But in general I've found that the strength of this childlike belief in a world which is pretty well ordered, by grownups who know what they're doing, is proportional to one's degree of, and temporal proximity to, formal education.

So it's not strictly age related. If you're on the sort of career track where you're enjoying "lifelong learning", then clearly reality is not for you. You've taken the blue pill. You're paid to push an arbitrary sort of accountability down the hierarchy by measuring the easily quantifiable, and your only worry is the smaller degree of whimsical discipline imposed from above by those even deeper in cloud cuckoo land.

There's an interesting body of academic work on this, which I'll write about when I get round to reading it. It basically all boils down to Goodhart's Law.

The general cause of the problem is a neoliberal shift from academic education, concerned primarily with how the world actually is, to vocational education which, whether the practitioners know it or not, is about how this or that group of people believe the world should be. In extreme cases, such as mainstream economics, there's no recognition of a possible distinction between the two, since we live in a Panglossian best of all possible worlds, and one can not only derive ought from is, but also go in the other direction. Fault therefore lies not in our systems, but in ourselves. Therefore, it makes sense to measure our virtues using the simple numerical targets of our broken systems: in a word, meritocracy.

My whole working life I've heard conversations among exasperated colleages that run something like "Why do they still not get it? What can we do with them?", often in rooms I've just entered which suddenly fall silent when I'm noticed. To be functional in a fantasy world is to be able to practice the doublethink necessary to insist that the system is fundamentally sound, while intuitively implementing baroque workarounds for the fact that it is fundamentally broken. This phenomenon is fractal, and scales up to the global level, which might give one pause as we "return to normal" in 2021.

I've no conclusion to this…

Pages