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Employee wellbeing needs to be at the top of the corporate agenda

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As we consider the future of work in a post-Covid world, employee wellbeing needs to be at the top of the agenda and policies must be updated.

Employers in Ireland are now two weeks away from the planned date of office reopenings, although as I have mentioned before, opening the office on 20 September is not a requirement and employers should ensure they and their staff are ready before rushing back.

One of the most important considerations for this is around employee wellbeing. This has always been important for staff retention, engagement and productivity, but the last 18 months have compounded the need for managers to take care of their employees.

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After all, working through a pandemic that required many of us to upend our lives and the way we work while simultaneously worrying about the health implications of the virus itself is bound to have long-lasting effects.

In fact, according to a CSO survey from earlier this year, almost 60pc of people said their mental health had suffered significantly during the pandemic

Along with the disruption to our daily lives caused by pandemic-related restrictions, there is the added feeling of isolation and being disjointed from our colleagues during our working day.

Add to this statistics around burnout and a struggle to switch off while working remotely, along with the stress that comes with working in an unsuitable home environment, and it’s no wonder employees’ mental health has been so badly affected.

It is often these final two points that are specifically connected to remote working that office fans might use as a reason to bring people back to offices.

‘Senior management showing empathy will build trust’

However, before we assume that gathering a group of employees in a room will solve the workforce’s wellbeing problems, it’s important to really think about what they need and want and consider fixing this from the ground up in the form of updated workplace wellbeing policies.

Craig Bulow is the founder of Corporate Away Days, a corporate wellbeing events company based in the UK that also designs wellbeing policies for companies.

He said employee wellbeing needs to be at the top of the corporate agenda. “For staff to have a good work-life balance, organisations need to demonstrate an understanding of all the issues including feelings of isolation,” he said.

“Senior management showing empathy will build trust, enabling team members to raise issues if they are finding the balance hard to achieve. Empathy from leaders will also help build teams resilience, boost morale, inspire the workforce and get your people onside as we navigate this time of transition and for the future.”

While face-to-face interactions and opportunities to collaborate will be important in the new world of work, there is no denying that remote working in some form is here to stay, with many companies planning a remote-first future.

So, what do employers need to bear in mind to ensure their employees stay well at work?

“In specific terms, it is important for employers to implement and encourage cut-off times particularly when people are working from home,” said Bulow.

“As new ways of working are introduced, for example two or three days working from home, there will be an increased need to be connected with our teams. Demonstrating an understanding of what people are going through, with a purpose-filled wellbeing plan high on the list, one that promotes inspirational ideas, fun and engagement, will prove hugely beneficial to the health of the workforce and success of the company.”

In terms of reopening offices, it’s essential that companies think about employees who might be feeling apprehensive or anxious about returning to the office. This was a concern flagged by CIPD Ireland before the planned return to work was announced.

Bulow added that there will be other challenges when it comes to employee wellbeing and returning to the office.

“Depending on the type of business you are in, there may be fewer people and more staff rotation, which raises the question – are the right people going to be around to meet deadlines and make decisions? Staffing levels will need to be monitored carefully and some policies and procedures will need updating,” he said.

“Other questions to address will be how to support much needed spontaneity, innovation and creativity? And how can we foster the ability to bounce ideas off each other and share those ideas in the moment?”

Creating wellbeing-focused gatherings

Before office fans run away with the idea that a simple forced return to the office will bring back a world of brainstorming and so-called ‘water-cooler moments’, Bulow said the new world of hybrid working actually lends itself well to a different way to bring employees together.

If a company’s team is happy, willing and able to do the majority of their work remotely, then there are far more effective and engaging ways to bring them together, such as bringing them to a neutral environment.

“Being surrounded by nature has huge benefits towards our overall wellbeing, spending time with our colleagues in nature with a wellbeing-focused event or activity will work wonders for boosting morale and create the right environment to connect,” said Bulow.

“Being with our teams in a neutral relaxed and social atmosphere will naturally create conversation and build trust. When the atmosphere is relaxed, face-to-face communication will flow, helping to foster those lost relationships and rebuild connections with our colleagues.”

Additional policy plans

Outside of planned social events, employee wellbeing policies need to be updated to accommodate every type of worker.

This means regular check-ins for remote workers to avoid feelings of isolation, while those who have returned to the office need to be allowed time to adjust.

Remember, just because there’s a return to the office, it does not mean every in-office policy was fit for purpose before the pandemic.

Bulow added that when reviewing wellbeing policies, employers should bring in or strengthen healthy lifestyle initiatives across the business “by promoting sleep, diet and exercise with rewards and incentives for doing so”.

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Older people using TikTok to defy ageist stereotypes, research finds | TikTok

Voice Of EU



Older TikTok users are using the online platform, regarded as the virtual playground of teenagers, to defy ageist stereotypes of elderly people as technophobic and frail.

Research has found increasing numbers of accounts belonging to users aged 60 and older with millions of followers. Using the platform to showcase their energy and vibrancy, these TikTok elders are rewriting expectations around how older people should behave both on and off social media.

“These TikTok elders have become successful content creators in a powerful counter-cultural phenomenon in which older persons actually contest the stereotypes of old age by embracing or even celebrating their aged status,” said Dr Reuben Ng, the author of the paper Not Too Old for TikTok: How Older Adults are Reframing Ageing, and an assistant professor at Yale University.

Interestingly, said Ng, most TikTok elders are women who “fiercely resist common stereotypes of older women as passive, mild-mannered and weak, instead opting to present themselves as fierce or even foul-mouthed,” he said.

The immense reach that these older TikTok users have means they have the potential to transform negative age stereotypes that proliferate on social media.

“There is considerable evidence that ageist stereotypes preponderate among the young on social media,” said Ng. These prejudices reached an all-time high during the Covid pandemic, during which the deadly virus was labelled a “Boomer remover”.

“The strength of anti-age prejudices means the participation of older adults in social media is vital in ensuring that such ageist ideas are not left unchallenged,” said Ng, whose paper is to be published in the Gerontologist journal.

The paper looked at 1,382 videos posted by TikTok users who were aged 60 or older and had between 100,000 and 5.3 million followers. In total, their videos, all of which explicitly discussed their age, had been viewed more than 3.5bn times.

Ng found that 71% of these videos – including those from accounts such as grandadjoe1933, who has 5.3 million followers, and dolly_broadway, who has 2.4 million followers – were used to defy age stereotypes. A recurring motif was the “glamma”, a portmanteau combining “glamorous” and “grandma”, with videos including those of a 70-year-old woman joyfully parading around the streets in a midriff-bearing top.

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Almost one in five of the videos analysed made light of age-related vulnerabilities, and one in 10 called out ageism among both younger people and their own contemporaries. Other videos positioned older users as superior to younger people. “I may be 86 but I can still drink more than you lightweights” says one clip. “I may be 86 but I can still twerk better than you,” says another, showing an octogenarian leaping up from a fall down the stairs with a twerk.

Analysis by the Pew Research Centre has found a remarkable uptake of technology by older Americans during recent years: in 2000, 14% of people aged 65-plus were internet users; in 2019, it was 73%. Only half of adults owned smartphones in 2014, 81% of those aged 60 to 69 have them today.

Emma Twyning, the director of communications at the Centre for Ageing Better said: “We need to see much more diverse portrayals if we are to truly shift attitudes and cast off negative perceptions of growing older. Social media is the perfect platform to do this and to call out ageism more generally.”

Stuart Lewis, the chief executive of Rest Less, said TikTok was the ideal platform for midlife influencers to take to the stage and defy ageist stereotypes. “Creators are encouraged to be original, raw and unedited – making it the ideal soapbox on which to stand if you want a space to debunk stereotypes and be your uncensored self,” he said.

Prof Fiona Gillison, from the Healthy Later Living Network at the University of Bath, who is leading work on challenging stereotypes about ageing, said the study was important. But she added: “There is a balance to be struck in challenging stereotypes about ageing while also accepting that it is OK to want different things from younger people as we grow older, and accepting that our interests and abilities may change.”

Ultimately, she said, people need to “take the stigma out of needing adjustments as we age while also challenging assumptions that can accompany these. For example that having a hearing aid somehow implies that we are ‘fragile’ or ‘infirm’ in other ways.”

The older users showcasing their energy and vibrancy


The 88-year-old Staffordshire man is TikTok’s wealthiest “granfluencer”, his videos apparently earning him about £134,000 a year. Grandad Joe has won 5.4 million followers and 156.7 million likes for videos including one of him giggling after his youngest granddaughter gives his grown-up daughter “attitude just like she gave me [when she was younger]”.

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92-year-old Grandmother Droniak went viral, reaching 4.2 million followers, after laying down rules for her funeral including “Cry, but not too much,” “Bertha isn’t invited” and “Get drunk afterwards”.

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Grandmaann2 lures viewers to her account with the strapline “I’m old so follow before I die”. Two million people couldn’t resist, and to date they have given her lip-syncs and comedy skits 63.5m likes.

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Jenny Krupa, 87, has won 2 million followers and 93m likes since a 2019 video accidentally posted by her grandson, Skylar Krupa, titled “Perks of being old” reached 1,000 views in about 15 minutes.

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The latest video for her 1 million followers shows 89-year-old Dolores Paolino dressing up in a Marilyn Monroe-type dress and telling Kim Kardashian she looks better in it than her.

Other videos show the grandmother from south Philadelphia wearing sequined jumpsuits and swigging from a bottle on her birthday, and pushing ice-cream cones into her grandchildren’s face.

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Monero-mining botnet targets Windows, Linux web servers • The Register

Voice Of EU



The latest variant of the Sysrv botnet malware is menacing Windows and Linux systems with an expanded list of vulnerabilities to exploit, according to Microsoft.

The strain, which Microsoft’s Security Intelligence team calls Sysrv-K, scans the internet for web servers that have security holes, such as path traversal, remote file disclosure, and arbitrary file download bugs, that can be exploited to infect the machines.

The vulnerabilities, all of which have patches available, include flaws in WordPress plugins such as the recently uncovered remote code execution hole in the Spring Cloud Gateway software tracked as CVE-2022-22947 that Uncle Sam’s CISA warned of this week.

Once running on a compromised system, Sysrv-K deploys a Monero cryptocurrency miner, which will siphon compute resources from the system to generate digicash. It can also rifle through WordPress files on compromised machines to take control of web server software, and use Telegram as a communications channel, Microsoft warned.

“A new behavior observed in Sysrv-K is that it scans for WordPress configuration files and their backups to retrieve database credentials, which it uses to gain control of the web server,” the Microsofties wrote in a series of tweets. “Sysvr-K has updated communication capabilities, including the ability to use a Telegram bot.”

Sysrv-K, like previous variants, also scans for SSH keys, IP addresses, and host names on infected machines so that it can use this information to spread via SSH connections. The researchers warned that these invaded systems can be rolled into a remote-controlled botnet relatively easily.

“We highly recommend organizations to secure internet-facing systems, including timely application of security updates and building credential hygiene,” they wrote, adding that their Microsoft Defender for Endpoint, natch, detects both Sysrv-K and older variants as well as related behavior and payloads.

A quick study

Sysrv was spotted in December 2020, and has evolved rapidly since. In a blog post in the fall, Dorka Palotay, senior threat researcher with cybersecurity vendor Cujo AI, noted that the worm and cryptominer malware has undergone several iterations.

One way that it stood out was the use of the Go programming language, which brings with it easy cross-compilation capabilities – it has a single code base that can output executables for disparate architectures – and its large file size makes the binaries a pain to reverse engineer, Palotay wrote.

“At its core, Sysrv is a worm and a cryptocurrency miner,” she wrote. “The two modules were in separate files in its early versions, but its developers have since combined the two. The worm module simply initiates port scans against random IPs to find vulnerable Tomcat, WebLogic, and MySQL services and tries to infiltrate the servers with a hard-coded password dictionary attack.”

As the botnet evolved, more exploit code was added to enhance its worm capabilities. The malware starts with a simple script file that deploys modules of exploits against potentially vulnerable targets.

“People used to say that Linux was free from malware,” Palotay wrote. “Well, not only was it not true for the past 25 years, but we now live in an age where Linux is as promising a target for threat actors as some Windows endpoints due to its widespread usage as an operating system across many organizations. And, even more importantly, it serves as the OS for popular Internet-of-Things devices.”

She listed more than two dozen Sysrv exploits that are useful against a range of software suites, including Jboss, Adobe ColdFusion, Atlassian Confluence and Jira, various Apache tools, and Oracle WebLogic.

“Sysrv included a small set of exploits in its initial campaigns. Over time, as it was developed and transformed, Sysrv continually incorporated new exploits to spread more effectively,” Palotay wrote.

“Interestingly, we not only saw exploits being added to the code, but also some specific exploits undergoing several development stages. Sysrv’s developers updated some functions in multiple samples until they either reached a satisfying result or simply got rid of them. Some exploits were used only in one or two samples, while others proved useful and stuck around.” ®

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Galway’s Vivasure Medical raises €22m for its intravascular patch tech

Voice Of EU



The funding round was led by an unnamed multinational, which has the option to buy Vivasure upon reaching ‘certain milestones’.

Vivasure Medical, a medtech company based in Galway, has raised €22m to help fund the clinical development and regulatory approval of its percutaneous vessel closure technology.

The company has built a device called PerQseal, which it pitches as the first sutureless and fully absorbable synthetic implant for large-bore arterial vessel punctures, available to physicians across Europe for use in endovascular procedures.

Future Human

Its proprietary bioabsorbable intravascular patch seals blood vessels from the inside, returning the artery or vein to its natural state without leaving behind the remains of any materials such as collagen, metal implants or sutures commonly used in other closure methods.

The fresh investment was led by an unnamed multinational strategic corporation. The financing includes the option to buy Vivasure Medical when it reaches “certain milestones”.

Existing investors Fountain Healthcare Partners, Orchestra BioMed, LSP Health Economics Fund, Panakès Partners and Evonik Venture Capital also participated in this round.

Vivasure, which has been previously backed by the European Innovation Council, said this is just the first part of a Series D round that could to raise up to €52m in total.

“As minimally invasive approaches have become the standard of care for cardiovascular procedures, conventional vessel closure techniques have proven to prolong recovery and lead to bleeding complications for patients,” said Vivasure CEO Andrew Glass.

“We are encouraged by early clinical progress from leading heart centres participating in studies currently underway for PerQseal+ and PerQseal Blue, and we look forward to initiating a US pivotal study for PerQseal+ later this year that will support our submission to the FDA.”

While PerQseal and PerQseal+ are medical devices for arterial closure, PerQseal Blue is for venous closure. The financing will help fund the clinical development and regulatory approval of all three devices in the US and Europe.

“While tremendous progress has been made for minimally invasive structural heart procedures, vascular issues related to the closure of the procedure remain the most common complication of these interventions,” said Azeem Latib, MD and director of interventional cardiology at Montefiore Health System.

“The novel PerQseal technology is designed to address these shortcomings and has tremendous potential to improve patient outcomes and enhance procedure efficiency.”

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