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

Voice Of EU



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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NFT trader OpenSea bans insider trading after employee rakes in profit | Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)

Voice Of EU



A non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace has introduced policies to ban insider trading, after an executive at the company was discovered to be buying artworks shortly before they were promoted on the site’s front page.

OpenSea, one of the leading sites for trading the digital assets, will now prevent team members buying or selling from featured collections and from using confidential information to trade NFTs. Neither practice was previously banned.

“Yesterday we learned that one of our employees purchased items that they knew were set to display on our front page before they appeared there publicly,” said Devin Finzer, the co-founder and chief executive of the site.

“This is incredibly disappointing. We want to be clear that this behaviour does not represent our values as a team. We are taking this very seriously and are conducting an immediate and thorough third-party review of this incident so that we have a full understanding of the facts and additional steps we need to take.”

NFTs are digital assets whose ownership is recorded and traced using a bitcoin-style blockchain. The NFT market boomed earlier this year as celebrities including Grimes, Andy Murray and Sir Tim Berners-Lee sold collectibles and artworks using the format. But the underlying technology has questionable utility, with some dismissing the field as a purely speculative bubble.

The insider trading came to light thanks to the public nature of the Ethereum blockchain, on which most NFT trades occur. Crypto traders noticed that an anonymous user was regularly buying items from the public marketplace shortly before they were promoted on the site’s front page, a prestigious slot that often brings significant interest from would-be buyers. The anonymous user would then sell the assets on, making vast sums in a matter of hours.

One trade, for instance, saw an artwork called Spectrum of a Ramenification Theory bought for about £600. It was then advertised on the front page and sold on for $4,000 a few hours later.

One Twitter user, ZuwuTV, linked the transactions to the public wallet of Nate Chastain, OpenSea’s head of product, demonstrating, using public records, that the profits from the trades were sent back to a wallet owned by Chastain.

While some, including ZuwuTV, described the process as “insider trading”, the loosely regulated market for NFTs has few restrictions on what participants can do. Some critics argue that even that terminology demonstrates that the sector is more about speculation than creativity.

“The fact that people are responding to this as insider trading shows that this is securities trading (or just gambling), not something designed to support artists,” said Anil Dash, the chief executive of the software company Glitch. “There are no similar public statements when artists get ripped off on the platform.

“If Etsy employees bought featured products from creators on their platform (or Patreon or Kickstarter workers backed new creators etc) that’d be great! Nobody would balk. Because they’d be supporting their goal,” Dash added.

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British home computer trailblazer dies aged 81 • The Register

Voice Of EU



Sir Clive Sinclair died on Thursday at home in London after a long illness, his family said today. He was 81.

The British entrepreneur is perhaps best known for launching the ZX range of 8-bit microcomputers, which helped bring computing, games, and programming into UK homes in the 1980s, at least. This included the ZX80, said to be the UK’s first mass-market home computer for under £100, the ZX81, and the trusty ZX Spectrum. A whole generation grew up in Britain mastering coding on these kinds of systems in their bedrooms.

And before all that, Sir Clive founded Sinclair Radionics, which produced amplifiers, calculators, and watches, and was a forerunner to his Spectrum-making Sinclair Research. The tech pioneer, who eventually sold his computing biz to Amstrad, was knighted during his computing heyday, in 1983.

“He was a rather amazing person,” his daughter, Belinda Sinclair, 57, told The Guardian this evening. “Of course, he was so clever and he was always interested in everything. My daughter and her husband are engineers so he’d be chatting engineering with them.”

Sir Clive is survived by Belinda, his sons, Crispin and Bartholomew, aged 55 and 52 respectively, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. ®

A full obit will follow on The Register.

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UN human rights chief raises concerns over AI privacy violations in report

Voice Of EU



‘AI tech can have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights.’

The UN’s human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called for a moratorium on the sale and use of artificial intelligence technology until safeguards are put in place to prevent potential human rights violations.

Bachelet made the appeal on Wednesday (15 September) to accompany a report released by the UN’s Human Rights Office, which analysed how AI systems affect people’s right to privacy. The violation of their privacy rights had knock-on impacts on other rights such as rights to health, education and freedom of movement, the report found.

“Artificial intelligence can be a force for good, helping societies overcome some of the great challenges of our times. But AI technologies can have negative, even catastrophic, effects if they are used without sufficient regard to how they affect people’s human rights,” Bachelet said.

“Artificial intelligence now reaches into almost every corner of our physical and mental lives and even emotional states,” Bachelet added.

Japanese multinational Fujitsu caused a stir when it announced plans to implement AI facial recognition technology to monitor employees’ concentration levels during meetings.

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The report was critical of justice systems which had made wrongful arrests because of flawed facial recognition tools. It appealed to countries to ban any AI tools which did not meet international human rights standards. A 2019 study from the UK found that 81pc of suspects flagged by the facial recognition technology used by London’s Metropolitan Police force were innocent.

Earlier this year, Canada banned Clearview’s AI facial recognition technology after the company violated Canadian privacy laws by collecting facial images of Canadians without their consent.

Bachelet also highlighted the report’s concerns on the future use of data once it has been collected and stored, calling it “one of the most urgent human rights questions we face.”

The UN’s report echoes previous appeals made by European data protection regulators.

The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) called for a ban on facial recognition in public places in June. They urged EU lawmakers to consider banning the use of such technology in public spaces, after the European Commission released its proposed regulations on the matter.

The EU’s proposed regulations did not recommend an outright ban. The commission instead emphasised the importance of creating “trustworthy AI.”

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