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For flexible working to fly, we need to communication and consideration

Voice Of EU



‘The next year is going to be interesting’ says future of work expert Peter Cosgrove, who thinks flexible-working will only succeed with care and planning on all sides.

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Over the past year or more, there has been a wealth of surveys commissioned by plenty of diverse organisations from Royal London to Microsoft, all of which indicate that Irish people are embracing flexible working with gusto.

But what if Irish workers are setting themselves up for too much too soon? Silicon Republic spoke to Peter Cosgrove, managing director of Futurewise, a company that specialises in research and trends relating to the future of work, to ask his opinion on the issue.

According to Cosgrove, employers and employees alike would do well to remember that flexible working and remote working are very different beasts, and Irish people seem to conflate the two – which is understandable enough given that we are still in uncharted territory.

The key distinction between flexible working, which most people seem to be enthusiastic about and remote working, which can garner less enthusiasm from certain demographics, is that the pandemic necessitated only one. The other, flexible working, is something we as workers have largely come around to by ourselves, perhaps in part due to the massive workplace culture shock inflicted by Covid-19.

Positives and negatives

Cosgrove says the media has a role to play in the shift also: “What we’re hearing in the media now is ‘I’ll never go back to work; I’m loving this, working from home’,” he says, adding that the sudden buzz might be doing us a disservice as “managing people who work remotely is definitely quite different than managing people who work in the office full time,” so there are “some positives and some negatives,” he explains.

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In Cosgrove’s view, the positives of flexible working – “increased empathy” and “decreased bureaucracy” – are well high-lighted, but not enough people have realised the negatives just yet, which doesn’t augur well for the future.

“If you’re under a certain age, I certainly don’t think working from home works for you,” Cosgrove says, and there are other issues too: “It’s less innovative… people aren’t meeting each other, so it’s harder to build relationships and it really affects things like burnout.”

On the issue of burnout, “We used to have a defined time to go to work and leave work, and when you came home you had some decompression time when you actually move from your workspace to your home space, and now they’re all together it ends up quite difficult for people and they’re working longer or staring at the screen longer.”

Workplace culture

Whether or not a workplace can succeed at a flexible working model long-term really depends on culture, not policy, says Cosgrove.

“People are spending a huge amount of time in organisations looking at policies about ‘what are we going to do about the future, what are the policies going to be’, and I’d almost say that policies are irrelevant. It’s all about the culture of the organisation.”

“So, if you have a policy saying we’re going to let anyone work whenever they want, wherever they want, five days a week everyone might think ‘wow what an incredible organisation; isn’t that fantastic’ – and then the first day of October when you release this, all of the senior executives in your organisation go back to the office, five days a week. So, essentially what you’re saying is ‘we have a policy in place’ but the unwritten rule is ‘yeah, but if you’re serious you’re going to be in the office, five days a week,’ and that’s actually worse,” says Cosgrove.

He also adds that some workers in certain sectors, such as sales, need to meet their co-workers and clients to feel successful, whereas tech workers often do not need open-plan offices or distractions and prefer to work remotely. He says company employees should remember they are not freelancers and are “part of a collective.”

But no matter what sector someone works in the fundamental things they want from their boss do not change, Cosgrove believes.

“The things that people have wanted from an organisation have never changed… people want trust. They want empowerment. They want a place where they can learn and be respected.”

Employers need to do pilots

Cosgrove is cautiously optimistic about the future of flexible work. “I think the next year is going to be interesting and I’d say the number one thing employers need to do is pilots.”

And he adds that he is not at all against remote working if that’s what people want as part of the flexible future, although he thinks people should be aware of something called “distance bias,” which is when employers forget about their remote workers.

“There’s already been studies around when people are working flexibly or working from home or even on maternity leave or working away from head office, there’s something called distance bias where people forget about you; you’re less likely to get promoted or less likely to get the most interesting job, and often with an accidental unconscious bias because people forget you’re there.”

So, if flexible working is to succeed, “That’s something companies are really going to have to think about, and we’re going to have to be very careful about how we design working from home.”

As to how companies can do that, Cosgrove recommends they keep the lines of communication open to employees so both can navigate the change together. “I would say to all companies, your starting point has to be the PR and the communication around it; all organisations have a rumour factory at the moment… get in front of the message, tell people what you’re going to do even if you’re not sure what you’re going to do.”

All in all, Cosgrove thinks that, based on what he’s seen over the past few months, companies starting today have a fundamentally different way of working than they did before the pandemic.

“There is no question if you started a company today, I would absolutely have a remote first company, because you could design it that way. You wouldn’t start by buying a massive building and having that huge cost. You could put that cost into employees and maybe meeting four times a year in a really nice venue in place and fly everybody there because there’s a huge amount of capital that you didn’t put into a building,” he concludes.

No one-size fits all approach

Indeed Cosgrove could be right; a survey from March by employee experience management software company Qualtrics on the future of work found that the office could come to be seen as a “landing pad” for workers in years to come.

The survey of 4,000 people from around the world found that 70pc of managers preferred a hybrid-schedule, while 73pc of respondents said they wanted the choice to work remotely one or two days a week.

The company’s chief people officer Julia Anas said: “Right now, every company is undergoing an experience transformation. There is no one-size fits all approach. As companies work to rewrite their playbooks, those who take the time to understand and act on how people think and feel will be empowered to make the right decisions, at the right time, in the right way, and as a result will deliver differentiated experiences.”

And, as Cosgrove says: “It’s not about the environment, it’s about the work.” We will have to wait and see.

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South Korea sets reliability standards for Big Tech • The Register

Voice Of EU



South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has offered Big Tech some advice on how to make their services suitably resilient, and added an obligation to notify users – in Korean – when they fail.

The guidelines apply to Google, Meta (parent company of Facebook), Netflix, Naver, Kakao and Wavve. All have been told to improve their response to faults by beefing up preemptive error detection and verification systems, and create back up storage systems that enable quick content recovery.

The guidelines offer methods Big Tech can use to measure user loads, then plan accordingly to ensure their services remain available. Uptime requirements are not spelled out.

Big techs is already rather good at resilience. Google literally wrote the book on site reliability engineering.

The guidelines refer to legislation colloquially known as the “Netflix law” which requires major service outages be reported to the Ministry.

That law builds on another enacted in 2020 that made online content service providers responsible for the quality of their streaming services. It was put in place after a number of outages, including one where notifications of the problem were made on the offending company’s social media site – but only in English.

The new regulations follow South Korean telcos’ recent attempts to have platforms that guzzle their bandwidth pay for the privilege. Mobile carrier SK Broadband took legal action in October of this year, demanding Netflix pitch in some cash for the amount of bandwidth that streaming shows – such as Squid Game – consume.

In response, Netflix pointed at its own free content delivery network, Open Connect, which helps carriers to reduce traffic. Netflix then accused SK Broadband of trying to double up on profits by collecting fees from consumers and content providers at the same time.

For the record, Naver and Kakao pay carriers, while Apple TV+ and Disney+ have at the very least given lip service to the idea.

Korea isn’t the only place where telcos have noticed Big Tech taking up more than its fair share of bandwidth. The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (ETNO) published a letter from ten telco CEOs asking that larger platforms “contribute fairly to network costs”. ®

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Twitter acquires Slack competitor Quill to improve its messaging services

Voice Of EU



As part of the acquisition, Quill will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company.

Twitter has acquired the messaging platform Quill, seen as a potential competitor to Slack, in order to improve its messaging tools and services.

Quill announced that it will be shutting down at the end of the week as its team joins the social media company to continue its original goal “to make online communication more thoughtful, and more effective, for everyone”.

The purchase of Quill could be linked to Twitter’s new strategy to reduce its reliance on ad revenue and attract paying subscribers.

Twitter’s general manager for core tech, Nick Caldwell, described Quill as a “fresher, more deliberate way to communicate. We’re bringing their experience and creativity to Twitter as we work to make messaging tools like DMs a more useful and expressive way people can have conversations on the service”.

Users of Quill have until 11 December to export their team message history before the servers are fully shut down at 1pm PST (9pm Irish time). The announcement has instructions for users who wish to import their chat history into Slack and states that all active teams will be issued full refunds.

The team thanked its users and said: “We can’t wait to show you what we’ll be working on next.”

Quill was launched in February with the goal to remove the overwhelming aspects of other messaging services and give users a more deliberate and focused form of online chat.

In an online post, Quill creator Ludwig Pettersson said: “We started Quill to increase the quality of human communication. Excited to keep doing just that, at Twitter.”

The company became a potential competitor for Slack, which was bought by Salesforce at the end of 2020 for $27.7bn. The goal of that acquisition was to combine Salesforce’s CRM platform with Slack’s communications tools to create a unified service tailored to digital-led teams around the world.

Last week, Salesforce announced the promotion of Bret Taylor to vice-chair and co-CEO, just days after he was appointed independent chair of Twitter after CEO Jack Dorsey stepped down.

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Australians’ 2021 Google searches: Covid comes out on top with sport our favoured non-pandemic distraction | Google

Voice Of EU



The Covid-19 pandemic once again dominated internet searches in Australia this year, as lockdowns gripped the two largest states, and people sought vaccines.

Google has compiled data on the most popular search terms from the previous 12 months, which showed Covid’s dominance in Australia was challenged by people looking for an escape in sports. The NBA, AFL, cricket, NRL, football, Wimbledon and the Olympics took out the top spots for most searched sport in Australia in 2021.

The Covid situation in New South Wales dominated news-related searches, with the Delta outbreak forcing the state into the longest continuous lockdown in 2021. Victorians, having endured the most number of days in lockdown since the pandemic started, did not appear to seek out information about the Covid situation in their own state nearly as much, with “coronavirus Victoria” coming in fifth in news-related searches, even behind Queensland at number three.

For the second year in a row, people Googled “how to make face masks” more than any other DIY-related search. As residents in NSW, Victoria and the ACT endured extended lockdowns, at-home activities like making your own candles, playdough, paper planes, and chatterboxes soared.

As Australia’s vaccination “strollout” gathered pace in the second half of 2021, people searched how to get their vaccination certificates, how to book their Covid vaccination, how to link their Medicare to myGov, and how to enter the Million Dollar Vax campaign.

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The shocking disappearance of West Australian four-year-old Cleo Smith and the dramatic rescue over two weeks later was the second biggest news event searched on Google by Australians. The ongoing search for missing toddler William Tyrrell came in sixth.

The former federal attorney general Christian Porter’s name dominated Google search trends in the days leading up to a press conference where he outed himself as the unnamed minister in an ABC report about an alleged historical rape. He vehemently denies the allegations. In his now-settled defamation suit against the ABC, lawyers for Porter raised that after the report searches of his name “increased significantly and much more so than any other senior male cabinet members”.

The former minister, who announced last week he would not recontest his WA seat of Pearce at the 2022 federal election, appears eighth in the 2021 list of news-related searches.

Porter was the fourth most-searched person overall in Australia, behind Cleo Smith, Ash Barty, and William Tyrell. The new NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, came in sixth.

Bringing up the rear of news searches was the moment that shook Melbourne – literally – the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Victoria in September.

Interest in all things cryptocurrency was also reflected in Australian searches with cryptocurrency exchange Coinspot the ninth most searched term, and people searched how to buy Dogecoin.

Prince Philip was the most searched among those who died in 2021, followed by US woman Gabby Petito, and Australian entertainment giant Bert Newton.

Thanks to Jaden Smith and Britney Spears, people were searching for the meaning of the word “emancipated” more than any other word in 2021, followed by “insurrection” after the events at the US Capitol on 6 January, then it was “gaslighting”, Naidoc and NFT.

Despite emerging late in the year, Omicron came in sixth as people looked up the meaning of the latest Covid-19 variant of concern.

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