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Do you know how to spot the signs of burnout?

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People have been more likely to experience burnout of late, but do you know what the signs of burnout actually are?

Burnout has been a problem for many workers for years, but the last year and a half could give rise to more burnout than ever among the global workforce.

Unsurprisingly, frontline workers have been under severe pressure throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, but other workers are not immune from the effects of the pandemic.

One example is cybersecurity professionals, who had to deal with the security ramifications of a mass move to remote working as well as a dramatic acceleration of digital transformation and an onslaught of cyberattacks.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

But even just for the regular knowledge worker who had to move from the office to their homes due to the pandemic, the likelihood of burnout has increased.

A survey from earlier this year highlighted the level of overtime that workers in Ireland have been putting in since the start of the pandemic, with many remote workers finding it harder to disconnect.

However, it’s important not to conflate burnout with working long hours. While putting in continuous overtime can be a contributing factor to burnout, it doesn’t mean those who work within their designated hours are not in danger of suffering in the same way.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), burnout is an occupational phenomenon “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

And that stress does not only come from too many hours. So how do you recognise the signs of burnout?

Feeling disengaged with work

Cynicism or having a mental distance from your job is one of the dimensions mentioned by WHO as a clear sign of burnout.

What was once engaging and challenging for you is no longer motivating you. You might suddenly feel like you don’t care about the job you’re doing and this makes it harder to get up in the morning.

You might even feel completely disillusioned with the job to the point where you feel like you hate it even though you never felt like that before.

Physical symptoms

While burnout is not considered a medical condition, it can manifest with very physical symptoms.

Because burnout comes as a result of ongoing high-stress situations, your body will react by releasing cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone.

This puts your body under intense stress and when this is happening on a continuous basis, your body will essentially wear itself out, resulting in aching muscles, headaches and stomach problems, to name a few.

Exhaustion

Along with the physical symptoms that may be manifesting, the burnout you’re feeling is also most likely going to lead to intense exhaustion, both emotionally and physically.

Burnout can play havoc on a person’s sleep cycle, especially if that excess cortisol is keeping them awake late or waking them up with feelings of anxiety in the middle of the night.

However, even those who appear to have had an uninterrupted sleep can wake up feeling constantly drained or will find their energy levels depleting quickly throughout the day as a result of burnout. This reduction in energy is another key dimension of burnout according to WHO.

Reduced performance and productivity

WHO’s third dimension of burnout is “reduced professional efficacy”. This means that along with being exhausted and working through a really stressful time in work, you are also more likely to see your own job performance slipping.

You may find yourself procrastinating despite your increasingly rising to-do list and your cynicism and disengagement from the job is stopping you from even wanting to tackle it.

Another major sign of burnout is cognitive problems such as difficulty concentrating or struggling with remembering things. These cognitive issues along with your exhaustion are bound to have a ricochet effect on your performance.

Extreme emotions

Unsurprisingly, prolonged burnout and subsequent exposure to some or all of the above symptoms can wreak havoc on your emotional state.

Your defence systems are severely lowered, which means you’re more likely to feel overwhelmed, angry, bitter, upset or that you’re about to burst into tears at any moment.

You could find yourself lashing out unfairly or quick to frustration or anger at certain situations. These emotions will continue to be fuelled by an ongoing cycle of stress, exhaustion, disengagement and could lead to chronic burnout.

What to do

If any of the above sounds familiar, it’s important to first acknowledge the problem and stop yourself from thinking you’ll be fine if you just get through the next week/month/project.

If you’re suffering from burnout now, it’s only going to get worse, so the first step is to talk to your manager about how you’re feeling. Often, one of the best things you can do to start healing from burnout is to take some time off and engage in some self-care.

Self-care does not have to mean wellbeing retreats or yoga classes. It’s about re-engaging with your body and putting healthy habits back into your life while you take a mental break from work.

This means resetting your sleep patterns, making sure you take some time to exercise and eating reasonably healthy to give your body the best chance at building resilience.

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UK competition watchdog unveils advice for antivirus firms • The Register

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The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has unveiled compliance principles to curb locally some of the sharper auto-renewal practices of antivirus software firms.

The move follows the watchdog baring its teeth at McAfee and Norton over the issue of automatically renewing contracts.

The CMA took exception to auto-renewal contracts for antivirus software that customers in the UK signed up for and found difficult to cancel. Refunds and clearer pricing information (including making sure consumers were aware that year two could well end up considerably costlier than the first) were the order of the day.

Today’s principles build on that work, and are aimed at helping antivirus companies toe the line where UK consumer law is concerned. They are a bit more detailed than a simple “stop being horrid.”

The focus remains on auto-renewing contracts, where a customer signs up for a fixed period, then is charged again for subsequent periods. The CMA acknowledges that such arrangements are convenient, but they risk the consumer being locked into an agreement they no longer want or that they get stung with higher fees at renewal time.

While the principles are intended to be helpful, lurking in the background is consumer law and the threat of a potential trip to court for vendors stepping out of line.

First up comes a requirement to make sure customers are informed about auto-renewal, rather than hiding the detail in an End User Licence Agreement (EULA) or burying it in hard-to-read text through which a user must scroll.

Price claims must be “accurate” and “not mislead your customers” – so only show discounts against the normal price. It must also be possible to turn off the auto-renew easily, keep auto-renew turned off once it is off and, if on, make sure customers are reminded in good time that an auto-renew will happen.

Getting a refund must be easier and customers should be able to change their mind when auto-renewal happens. If the customer has stopped using the product, safeguards are needed around auto-renewal.

The last principle could pose a few challenges – how does a vendor become aware that a customer is not using its product? The suggestion from the CMA is to check if software updates are being received rather than simply charging users year after year.

The Register contacted McAfee and Norton for their thoughts on the principles, and will update should the companies respond. ®

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Grocery start-up Gorillas raises nearly $1bn in round led by Delivery Hero

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Just a few months after hitting unicorn status, Gorillas has raised another major round of funding from big-name investors.

German start-up Gorillas has raised nearly $1bn to expand its on-demand grocery delivery business.

The Series C funding round was led by Delivery Hero, the German food and grocery delivery giant that recently took a stake in Deliveroo.

Gorillas also received backing from existing investors including Coatue Management, DST Global and Tencent, as well as new investors G Squared, Alanda Capital, Macquarie Capital, MSA Capital and Thrive Capital.

The fresh funding comes just a few months after the company’s $290m Series B, which brought its valuation to more than $1bn.

Gorillas was founded in Berlin in 2020 by Kağan Sümer and Jörg Kattner, promising grocery deliveries in as little as 10 minutes.

It now operates more than 180 warehouses and has expanded to more than 55 cities in nine countries, including Amsterdam, London, Paris, Madrid, New York and Munich.

The company plans to use the latest funding for its next phase of development. This includes reinforcing its footprint in existing markets and investing in operations, technology and marketing.

“The size of today’s funding round by an extraordinary investment consortium underscores the tremendous market potential that lies ahead of us,” said Sümer, who is CEO of the start-up.

“With Delivery Hero, we have chosen a strong strategic support that is deeply rooted in the global delivery market, and is renowned for having unique experience in sustainably scaling a German company internationally.”

On-demand grocery delivery is a growing area in Europe that’s attracting investor attention.

Swedish start-up Kavall raised $5.8m in August, Czech player Rohlik hit unicorn status after its €100m Series C round in July, and Spain’s Glovo secured a €450m Series F round in April to expand in the grocery market.

Gorillas differentiates itself from other players in the market, such as Deliveroo, by employing its delivery drivers rather than relying on gig workers.

However, as the start-up has scaled rapidly over the past year, it has seen delivery workers protest over working conditions and pay, and been put under the spotlight for its treatment of employees.

Don’t miss out on the knowledge you need to succeed. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of need-to-know sci-tech news.

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ICO to step in after schools use facial recognition to speed up lunch queue | Facial recognition

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The Information Commissioner’s Office is to intervene over concerns about the use of facial recognition technology on pupils queueing for lunch in school canteens in the UK.

Nine schools in North Ayrshire began taking payments for school lunches this week by scanning the faces of their pupils, according to a report in the Financial Times. More schools are expected to follow.

The ICO, an independent body set up to uphold information rights in the UK, said it would be contacting North Ayrshire council about the move and urged a “less intrusive” approach where possible.

An ICO spokesperson said organisations using facial recognition technology must comply with data protection law before, during and after its use, adding: “Data protection law provides additional protections for children, and organisations need to carefully consider the necessity and proportionality of collecting biometric data before they do so.

“Organisations should consider using a different approach if the same goal can be achieved in a less intrusive manner. We are aware of the introduction, and will be making inquiries with North Ayrshire council.”

The company supplying the technology claimed it was more Covid-secure than other systems, as it was cashless and contactless, and sped up the lunch queue, cutting the time spent on each transaction to five seconds.

Other types of biometric systems, principally fingerprint scanners, have been used in schools in the UK for years, but campaigners say the use of facial recognition technology is unnecessary.

Silkie Carlo, the director of Big Brother Watch, told the Guardian the campaign group had written to schools using facial recognition systems, setting out their concerns and urging them to stop immediately.

“No child should have to go through border-style identity checks just to get a school meal,” she said. “We are supposed to live in a democracy, not a security state.

“This is highly sensitive, personal data that children should be taught to protect, not to give away on a whim. This biometrics company has refused to disclose who else children’s personal information could be shared with and there are some red flags here for us.”

The technology is being installed in schools in the UK by a company called CRB Cunninghams. David Swanston, its managing director, told the FT: “It’s the fastest way of recognising someone at the till. In a secondary school you have around about a 25-minute period to serve potentially 1,000 pupils. So we need fast throughput at the point of sale.”

Live facial recognition, technology that scans crowds to identify faces, has been challenged by civil rights campaigners because of concerns about consent. CRB Cunninghams said the system being installed in UK schools was different – parents had to give explicit consent and cameras check against encrypted faceprint templates stored on school servers.

A spokesperson for North Ayrshire council said its catering system contracts were coming to a natural end, allowing the introduction of new IT “which makes our service more efficient and enhances the pupil experience using innovative technology”.

They added: “Given the ongoing risks associated with Covid-19, the council is keen to have contactless identification as this provides a safer environment for both pupils and staff. Facial recognition has been assessed as the optimal solution that will meet all our requirements.”

The council said 97% of children or their parents had given consent for the new system.

A Scottish government spokesperson said that local authorities, as data controllers, had a duty to comply with general data protection regulations and that schools must by law adhere to strict guidelines on how they collect, store, record and share personal data.

Hayley Dunn, a business leadership specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “There would need to be strict privacy and data protection controls on any companies offering this technology.

“Leaders would also have legitimate concerns about the potential for cyber ransomware attacks and the importance of storing information securely, which they would need reassurances around before implementing any new technology.”

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