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Why is there so much confusion in the air around workplace ventilation?

Air we go again: Paul Flanagan of HVAC company Camfil discusses ventilation in the workplace as Ireland re-embarks on the return to workplaces.

As the return to workplaces and offices continues apace following the Government’s recent easing of Covid-related public health restrictions, Camfil’s Paul Flanagan has been busier than usual.

As managing director of the air filtration company’s Irish branch, Flanagan has been speaking to people all over the country about how important clean air is in maintaining workplace health and safety standards. Until now, he has mostly been dealing with teachers amid the reopening of schools.

The same day Flanagan spoke to SiliconRepublic.com, the Government published its Transitional Protocol document aimed at people who are returning to the workplace.

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The document contains general advice on reducing the spread of disease in workplaces by adhering to best practices around hand washing, respiratory hygiene, physical distancing and ventilation. It is not a hugely detailed document and it was published more than a week after the workplace reopening announcement was made.

On the subject of ventilation, the document recommends improving air quality in workplaces “through natural means (eg, opening a window) or by mechanical means eg HVAC systems,” used for heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

“The overall objective should be to increase the ventilation in the workspace wherever possible thereby improving the existing ventilation without impacting on the workers’/occupants’ comfort,” the protocol recommends.

It includes a link to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) website for more information on assessing ventilation in the workplace. The HSA’s advice echoes that already provided around the reopening of schools. It states that the “most suitable” air cleaning and filtration units are HEPA filters.

HEPA filters, or high efficiency particulate air filters, can remove at least 99.95pc of dust, pollen, mould, bacteria and other airborne particles. They can’t remove Covid-19 from the air fully, but can reduce risks and improve air quality if used correctly.

Air cleaning units with HEPA filters can be installed in any space similar to a local air conditioning device. However, the HSA warns that the units lose their efficacy if they haven’t been appropriately sized for the room and two smaller units in different locations in a room can be more effective than one larger unit. It’s also advised that HEPA filters should be introduced into workplaces only as “part of an overall assessment of the existing ventilation systems in place.”

These systems can be complicated to use and require proper training to operate and maintain, and Flanagan said a lot of people he has met with around the country don’t seem to be using them properly. He believes the Government should engage more with the private sector on the issue of ventilation in workplaces to make sure companies are using devices correctly and that they have certified HEPA filters.

Some specialised industries “are very up to speed on what the requirements of a certified and tested HEPA filter is for the specific industry they are in,” Flanagan added. These include people working in pharmaceutical and medical device companies, which already have in-built HVAC systems.

For ordinary offices, stand-alone air cleaners with HEPA filters are the next best thing, according to Flanagan, but only if used correctly. He reckons that, based on his recent visits to offices near Dublin’s IFSC, businesses with big budgets will “take the time” to understand how HEPA filters work because they “have the resources and they have facilities managers on these sites to ask the questions”.

According to Flanagan, many of the mistakes made around air filtration are down to budgetary and time constraints. In the case of schools, he said he has seen many principals not adhering to the advice published by the Department of Health because they don’t have the money. “And the same will probably happen in businesses now.”

Flanagan acknowledged that it can be difficult for people to gauge the efficacy of HEPA filters versus ordinary air purifiers that can be picked up cheaply in electrical goods shops. But he has seen that the proper management of ventilation in workplaces can make a huge difference in workers’ health.

Camfil worked with the Department of Agriculture when meat plants were impacted around the beginning of the pandemic. Flanagan said the team installed a system in one of the plants and claimed it has had “zero cases since”.

“So, I just feel that it’s very important for people returning from working from home now going back to the office, that if they do invest in air cleaners, that they understand the correct standards to follow and that they don’t go down the road of just looking at the cheap products.”

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Energize Your Property Value: The Surge In Demand For Home EV Charging Points

By Raza H. Qadri (ALI)

In a rapidly evolving real estate landscape, home electric vehicle (EV) charging points have emerged as a coveted feature. Here, we will explore the surge in demand for these charging stations and their potential to transform property value desirability.

Surge in Demand:

Estate agents are witnessing an unprecedented uptick in requests for properties equipped with EV charging points. Rightmove reports a staggering 592% increase in listings mentioning EV chargers since 2019. This summer, Jackson-Stops even incorporated EV charging points into their top-ten must-have property features for the first time.

Adding Value To Property:

Integrating electric vehicle (EV) charging points into residential properties has become a key factor in boosting their market value. According to insights from the National Association of Property Buyers, homes equipped with EV charging facilities can see an uptick in value ranging from £3,000 to £5,000. This trend aligns with the increasing demand for sustainable features in real estate. Rightmove’s Greener Homes report highlights a remarkable 40% surge in listings mentioning EV chargers in comparison to the previous year. Such statistics underscore the significance of these installations as a sought-after feature among buyers.

Beyond the potential increase in property value, homeowners can reap substantial benefits from dedicated EV charging points. These specialized units offer significantly faster charging speeds compared to standard three-pin plugs. With an output of 32 amps/7kw, a dedicated charger can provide up to 28 miles per hour of charging, a substantial improvement over the 9 miles offered by a standard plug.

Moreover, safety considerations play a pivotal role. Standard domestic sockets may not be designed for prolonged high-output usage, potentially leading to overheating and related wiring issues.

Therefore, the integration of a dedicated EV charging point not only adds tangible value to a property but also ensures a safer and more efficient charging experience for homeowners and their electric vehicles.

Benefits Beyond Convenience:

Dedicated charge points offer benefits beyond convenience. According to James McKemey from Pod Point, these units deliver significantly faster charging speeds compared to standard three-pin plugs. Safety considerations also come into play, as standard domestic sockets may not be built for prolonged high-output usage.

Cost-Efficiency:

Charging an EV at home proves more cost-effective than relying on public charging stations. Smart charging capabilities enable homeowners to take advantage of lower rates, typically offered during off-peak hours, such as at night.

Charger prices vary, ranging from approximately £300 to over £1,000, with installation costs potentially adding another £400 to £600.

Solar Integration:

Solar integration presents a game-changing opportunity for homeowners seeking both environmental sustainability and financial benefits. The global solar energy capacity reached an astounding 793 gigawatts (GW), illuminating the rapid adoption of this renewable energy source.

For homeowners, integrating solar panels with an electric vehicle (EV) charging point can lead to substantial savings. On average, a standard solar panel system costs around £6,000 to £7,000 per kWp (kilowatt peak), with the typical installation size being 4kWp. This equates to an initial investment of approximately £24,000 to £28,000.

However, the return on investment is impressive. Solar panels can generate roughly 3,200 kWh (kilowatt-hours) per year for a 4kWp system in the UK. With the average cost of electricity sitting at 16.1p per kWh, homeowners can save approximately £515 annually on energy bills.

Moreover, the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme allows homeowners to earn money by exporting excess electricity back to the grid. As of September 2021, the SEG offers rates ranging from 1.79p to 5.24p per kWh. Over the course of 20 years, a solar panel system can generate savings of over £10,000, demonstrating the substantial financial benefits of solar integration. This trend is expected to surge further as advancements in solar technology continue to drive down installation costs and boost energy production.

Regulations and Grants:

Regulations surrounding EV charging point installations vary, particularly for listed buildings, which require planning permission for wall-mounted units. However, for flat owners, renters, and landlords with off-street parking, there’s an opportunity to benefit from government grants.

These grants provide a substantial subsidy, offering £350 or covering 75% of the total installation cost, whichever is lower. This incentive has spurred a surge in installations, with a notable uptick in applications over the past year.

In fact, according to recent data, the number of approved grant applications for EV charging points has risen by an impressive 68% compared to the previous year. This demonstrates a growing recognition of the value and importance of these installations in both residential and rental properties.

Renting Out Your Charging Point:

Renting out your EV charging point also presents a compelling opportunity for homeowners to capitalize on the growing demand for electric vehicle infrastructure.

According to recent market trends, the number of registered electric vehicles worldwide surpassed 14 million in 2023, marking a significant milestone. With projections indicating an annual growth rate of 29% – 34% for the global electric vehicle market, the need for accessible charging solutions is set to skyrocket. In the UK alone, the number of electric vehicles on the road has tripled over the last three years, reaching over 857,000 at the end of 2023.

This surge in EV ownership underscores the potential market for homeowners looking to rent out their charging points. Platforms like JustPark and Co Charger facilitate this process by connecting drivers in need of charging with available charging stations.

By participating in this shared economy, homeowners not only contribute to the expansion of EV infrastructure but also stand to generate a supplementary income stream. This symbiotic relationship between EV owners and charging point hosts aligns with the broader shift towards sustainable transportation solutions.

WATCH: EV CHARGING & OPPORTUNITIES

Finally, we can conclude that the surge in demand for properties with EV charging points signals a shifting paradigm in real estate. With added convenience, cost-efficiency, and potential for monetization, these installations are poised to become a cornerstone of future property value and desirability.


We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— By Raza H. Qadri | Science, Technology & Business Contributor “THE VOICE OF EU

— For more information & news submissions: info@VoiceOfEU.com

— Anonymous news submissions: press@VoiceOfEU.com


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Business Transformation Expert Talks About Mass Layoffs

By Clint Bailey – ‘The Voice of EU’

By Clint Bailey – ‘The Voice of EU’


Raza H. Qadri (Ali), a Business Transformation expert and the Founder of Vibertron Technologies, a BizTech company, possesses extensive experience in the tech industry. Throughout his career, he has provided consulting services to both large corporations and SMEs undergoing significant restructuring initiatives.

In a recent interview with Voice of EU, Qadri highlighted the detrimental impact of mass layoffs on mid-career tech professionals and the businesses that implement such measures. He expressed his concern regarding the prevailing trend of widespread workforce reductions, suggesting that it represents a logical misstep.

“Considering the reputation of the tech industry for innovation, I had anticipated greater progress in recent developments. However, it appears that tech companies are regressing, particularly in their dismantling of established departments and structures that were intended to drive future growth.”

[Mass redundancies are] an outdated and traditional practice that most companies turn to as a first resort to create liquidity

Qadri says that most of the employees impacted by layoffs have “approximately 10-11 years of experience” and so are “not really junior staff that are easily replaced,” noting there would be “a loss of skills and knowledge in these companies.”

Additionally, he expresses concern regarding the potential loss of diversity at the technical and software engineering layer. Executives are increasingly focused on building and developing technology utilizing AI systems, which are known to possess biases due to limited training data.

Throughout his extensive experience working across various industries and regions, Qadri has observed that more than 70% of digital transformation initiatives either fall short or fail to achieve their intended outcomes. He emphasizes that one critical component, often overlooked, that can make or break digital transformation is the “people element.”

Emulating Technology & The Copycat Phenomenon

“In my view, the companies seem to be copying each other’s operations strategies” says Qadri. According to Qadri, these companies view the situation as an opportunity to streamline their workforce by letting go of the additional employees they had hired during the pandemic-induced surge. Many believed that the future would be dominated by virtual meetings and peripheral manufacturers would continue to experience significant profits.

However, in contrast to the significant revenue growth experienced by many companies during the global lockdowns, a notable trend has emerged. Numerous organizations have initiated large-scale job cuts.

According to data compiled by Layoffs.fyi, 693 technology businesses have already laid off 197,945 employees this year, with the year not even reaching its midpoint. This figure surpasses the 164,591 individuals laid off by 1,056 companies throughout the entirety of 2022.

Qadri quoted Henry Ford’s aphorism – “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it” – saying that mass redundancies were “an outdated and traditional practice that most companies turn to as a first resort to create liquidity.”

Shareholders, Profitability & Financial Performance Driving the Bottom Line

Qadri said: “The impact of layoffs on profitability may not be immediately evident, as increased expenses and significant severance packages (usually spanning 3-6 months) need to be accounted for in the short term. However, the dismantling of established departments and structures by tech companies is perceived as a regressive step. This approach reflects short-term thinking, lacking a focus on sustainable strategies for the digital future.”

Raza Qadri

Business Transformation Exec. Raza Qadri Talks About Mass Layoffs.

Qadri, who recently introduced a new remote work tech transformation algorithm MCiHT (Multi-Channel Integrated Hybrid Technologies) for Vibertron Consulting Solutions, notes that while companies are laying off people, they are investing billions in AI, IoT, and automation, citing the billions Microsoft has put into OpenAI so far.

In recent months, Microsoft announced its intention to reduce its workforce by 10,000 employees, which constitutes approximately 4% of the company’s total staff. This decision was prompted by Satya Nadella’s remarks highlighting the necessity for productivity enhancements. Microsoft is not the only company taking such measures; other prominent organizations like Salesforce, Amazon, Google, Meta, and several others are also trimming their workforce to align with the excess hiring made during the growth spurred by the COVID-19 lockdowns.

On the company’s most recent earnings call last month, Nadella noted: “During the pandemic, it was all about new workloads and scaling workloads. But pre-pandemic, there was a balance between optimizations and new workloads. So what we’re seeing now is the new workloads start in addition to highly intense optimization drive that we have.”

CFO Amy Hood then quickly responded to this, stating the company had “been through almost a year where that pivot that Satya talked about, from [here] we’re starting tons of new workloads, and we’ll call that the pandemic time, to this transition post, and we’re coming to really the anniversary of that starting. And so to talk to your point, we’re continuing to set optimization. But at some point, workloads just can’t be optimized much further.”

Not singling Microsoft out specifically, but speaking to the point of moves made by tech companies in a ‘maturity phase’. Qadri said, “Layoffs significantly impact this key performance indicator (KPI), despite the fact that these companies may possess substantial reserves. Such measures serve as a swift means to align with investor expectations and share prices, enabling them to quickly optimize their size and structure.”

Is It A Sustainable Approach?

During our conversation, we inquired with Qadri about the notable and unprecedented cuts that occurred at Twitter following Elon Musk’s involvement with the company.

He said: “I find it difficult to believe that only 30 percent of the organization was responsible for managing the entire structure. Even if that were the case, it would require considerable time to evaluate the existing structure, realign roles and responsibilities, and implement transformative measures to enhance efficiency.

The sudden loss of a significant portion of the workforce within a few weeks raises concerns, and I anticipate witnessing a restructuring of the top leadership with the arrival of the new CEO. Considering the online statements made by individuals like him, I am apprehensive about the values and direction that tech leaders of this nature promote.”

“Conversely, individuals whose skills are no longer retained by the tech industry now have opportunities to pursue financial independence and may choose not to revert to traditional roles within companies. Some are exploring avenues as independent contractors, leveraging their technical expertise to manage multiple full-time jobs enabled by remote work.”

Ultimately, the tech industry is “not really in a dire situation financially,” he says. While it “might have some loss of revenue [it is] not in the red yet. Layoffs should be last resort in truly bad financial situations, rather than first resort in slightly uncertain conditions.”

According to Qadri, one of the proposed solutions is for companies to resist the urge to follow the crowd and instead prioritize addressing the people element. By gaining support from investors and other stakeholders, companies can shift their focus towards long-term objectives rather than short-term gains. This entails establishing a robust ecosystem of internal and external stakeholders.


Photo credits: Vibertron.

Clint Bailey — Senior Business & Technology News Editor at ‘The Voice of EU’ & Co-Editor of EU-20 magazine.

Have a tip? Send him a DM at info@voiceofeu.com.


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Harnessing the Side-Hustle Wave: Navigating Rising Costs Through Online Selling

By Johnathan Elf


In recent times, a surge in online marketplace activity has been observed as individuals seek innovative ways to offset the escalating cost of living.

Platforms like Facebook Marketplace and eBay have witnessed a notable uptick in independent sellers, reflecting a growing trend in the gig economy.

Sarah Bryant, Head of Small Businesses at eBay UK, elucidates, “From the average individual seeking supplementary income to burgeoning side hustles evolving into full-fledged professions, online marketplaces are facilitating diverse entrepreneurial journeys“.

Navigating Rising Costs Through Online Selling

Navigating Rising Costs Through Online Selling

One such entrepreneur is Sami Cirant, an enterprising 23-year-old based in Easton, Bristol. Specializing in high-end trainers, or “sneakers”. Cirant stumbled upon this venture serendipitously when a pair of sneakers he purchased didn’t fit. Recognizing the potential, he swiftly turned to online platforms, selling his inventory within hours.

WATCH: 10 BEST PASSIVE BUSINESS IDEAS FOR 2023

Subsequently, he transitioned into full-time sneaker sales, a bold move he acknowledges as a calculated risk. With minimal overheads, courtesy of living at home and supportive parents, Cirant’s business model exemplifies the low-barrier entry into online selling.

Jade Oliver, the founder of Heavenly Homes and Gardens, offers another compelling narrative. What began as a means to finance her college law course burgeoned into a thriving business, transcending the realm of a mere side hustle. Operating from a quaint shop in Ross-on-Wye, Oliver curates an extensive collection of interior décor, catering to a diverse clientele across the UK. Her journey exemplifies the transformative potential of a side hustle, with meticulous planning and a fervent dedication to her craft.

Navigating the transition from a salaried position to entrepreneurship requires astute planning and due diligence. While uncertainties abound, Michelle Ovens, the founder of Small Business Britain, asserts that the confluence of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis has spurred a surge in entrepreneurial spirit.

Ovens emphasizes the importance of diversification, leveraging various online marketplaces, and seeking guidance from the robust small business community. Ultimately, a side hustle offers a viable avenue to augment income, making it a compelling solution amidst the challenges posed by rising costs.

The surge in online selling platforms has provided individuals with a dynamic means to confront the escalating cost of living. Entrepreneurs like Sami Cirant and Jade Oliver exemplify the transformative potential of side hustles when coupled with passion, dedication, and astute planning.

As the entrepreneurial landscape continues to evolve, harnessing the power of online marketplaces emerges as a viable strategy to navigate economic uncertainties.


We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— By Johnathan Elf, business contributor “THE VOICE OF EU

— For more information & news submissions: info@VoiceOfEU.com

— Anonymous news submissions: press@VoiceOfEU.com


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