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Are you in or out? Why remote work should be fully remote

Saltwater Consulting’s Allan Boyle explains why he believes hybrid working isn’t the happy medium employers think it is.

While the exit from the pandemic may not be linear, all indications are that we’re coming out of it.

As a result, two years of systems rapidly put in place to deal with the virus are now being examined in the cold light of day. Nowhere is this more evident than in the discussions around remote work.

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It’s a gross generalisation, but if the headlines are to be believed we have two camps.

A workforce, globally comprising a significant percentage of millennials and frontrunners of the Gen Z cohort, who’d like to continue working remotely and who are potentially wondering why it took until 2020 and a pandemic to get remote work accepted as a mainstream work practice.

Then, there’s a management level who’d like everyone back in the office.

It’s in this context that hybrid working has entered the lexicon, both as a term and as a concept. It seems like the best compromise, an option to keep everyone happy.

In actual fact, it’s the opposite.

Although no one is in a hurry to relive the past two years, they have provided a fascinating real-time example of the private and public spheres chafing against each other.

The concept of these opposing spheres dates from ancient Greece, but it was German sociologist Jürgen Habermas who wrote the key text on the subject in 1962, entitled ‘The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere’.

Broadly speaking, the public sphere would be political life, while the personal sphere is the arena of the family and home. It couldn’t be more obvious how these two have collided in the very recent past.

But, more than that, the move towards remote work has taught us something important about where work happens.

As the world went into lockdown in March 2020, technology greatly enabled many businesses to keep operations running with their staff working from home. And so, in a matter of days, the business case for remote work was proven.

Mass adoption of a remote working culture might have been a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. We know that although the idea of remote work was not completely foreign, the mainstream culture was that you commuted to an office to work.

But it’s at this crux point that we find the first problem with a half in/half out approach.

Management, as a whole, might like to believe that hybrid working meets employees in the middle. There may be a genuine desire to take progressive steps forward from a pre-Covid workplace.

Under different circumstances, it would be difficult to argue that hybrid working isn’t a step in the right direction compared to a pre-Covid workplace scenario.

There’s just one problem. The pre-Covid workplace no longer exists.

So while management might view offering flexibility now, at the stage we’re at in the pandemic life cycle, as a step forwards, employees definitely don’t. It’s a step backwards for them all the way. And not understanding this will come with some heavy costs.

Hybrid working lacks the benefits of remote work

Just as remote work is about way more than the physical location of your employee, so too do the benefits extend beyond saving on office space.

The benefits, among others, for employees include:

  • Improved work-life balance – saving time on commuting opens up many possibilities
  • More control over creating an environment that enables good work – open-plan offices don’t work for everyone
  • More options on where to live – the high rentals in many cities have impacted hugely on people’s lives, and being able to work remotely has opened up more options for where people can live and relieves financial pressure

For employers, the benefits include:

  • Increased productivity – a well-known Stanford University study showed a 13pc increase in productivity in employees when they worked remotely
  • Attracting talent – a Gallup poll found that 54pc of employees say they’d leave their job in favour of one that offers better flexibility, and organisations that ignore how employees want to work will lose out on attracting the staff they need
  • A widened talent pool – not needing to rely on the talent that lives in proximity to your office means that your talent pool naturally widens
  • Increased employee engagement and more loyalty – full-time remote employees report being happier in their roles 22pc more than employees who don’t work remotely, and remote employees are 13pc more likely than office-based employees to stay in their jobs for five years
  • And, as mentioned, saving on office space

There is also a key environmental benefit for not having staff travel into work every day. And sustainability is already becoming an essential consideration for how companies operate.

Hybrid working offers none of these advantages to employees or employers. Employees would still need to live within travel distance of an office, severely limiting the flexibility hybrid working is supposed to provide.

Fully distributed teams come with their own cultures

Culture does not happen exclusively within the walls of an office.

Fully distributed teams are happening now. And their cultures are growing with them, from onboarding to team events. Getting your entire organisation to meet once or twice a year in person for a week is still more cost-effective than paying for office space.

Of course, there are considerations to take into account with remote work. Not least from a cybersecurity point of view.

But when it comes to this new world of work, you’re either in or out. Get your staff back in the office on a wholesale basis or go fully remote. For the record, my money is on the latter.

But hybrid working? No.

By Allan Boyle

Allan Boyle is a business transformation specialist and the founder of Saltwater Consulting. He has over 22 years’ experience in information technology.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.

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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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