In December 2013 an advertising copywriter in Indonesia was said to have ‘literally worked herself to death’ after her punishing work schedule left her totally exhausted.
The story of Mita Duran was told during a symposium organised by Altruth McDowell on work-life balance and well-being at the Division of Occupational Psychology conference in Nottingham.
This symposium looked at the impact technology is having on our lives, both positively and negatively and I’ll highlight some of the key points.
Firstly though it’s worthwhile pointing out that the enormous computing capability that we all carry around with us has bought manifest opportunities to work more collaboratively and flexibly than ever.
However, the blurring of the lines between work and home life means that the concept of “downtime” may have bitten the dust. We are all on call, potentially, all of the time. In the research carried out, people blamed the ‘culture’ of the team and the expectations of others. What became apparent is that we may be the ones who are primarily responsible. We all contribute to the team culture and by our apparent willingness to respond to emails at any time of the day we perpetuate the very thing we are criticising.
Even when people have drawn up agreements with family members not to do work emails whilst at home, it appears that many of us can’t resist taking a peek when no-one else is around.
Organisations tend not to have policies or guidance around this-it's assumed we should all know how to deal with it. Many people, in fact, assume that their colleagues deal with work-life conflict better than them which can lead to not wanting to admit the struggle they have controlling how much work they do in their leisure time.
Having said that, a one size fits all policy isn’t the solution, as each of us has our own preferred way of working. Instead we need a framework to help us decide what works for each individual. Above all, teams need to talk about this to establish a set of group norms, agreed and monitored by everybody.
To read more of Binna Kandola's blogs on diversity and and other related business psychology topics, click here.
Diversity is good for business: this is the mantra that's been accepted for many years now.
In fact, the research, when looked at fully, is more mixed than that.
Diversity has certainly been found to make a positive difference to a team's performance. It is the case, though, that there is also research to show that diversity makes no difference to a team's performance, and other research that shows it is actually detrimental to a team.
The negative, and even the neutral, findings don't seem to find their way into official reports, for fear that it may lead to people being unwilling to support diversity programmes. The unfortunate side effect of this is that we fail to use the research to ask a more interesting question: why is diversity good for performance in some situations and bad in others? The answer to this is inclusion, or a lack of it.Diversity and inclusion
Diversity is a fact of life in the UK that we can't run away from. The challenge we face now is how to create cultures in which everyone, irrespective of their background, feels fairly treated, valued and able to contribute to the achievement of organisational goals. Diversity and inclusion are linked, but they are also different. An organisation can be diverse but not inclusive, or inclusive but not diverse.
During my working life I have seen how the Civil Service has worked hard to be more representative of society. The task that many organisations now face is how to be more inclusive as well as being more diverse at senior levels.
Where people feel included they are more motivated, more engaged and, not surprisingly, more productive. There are also tremendous personal benefits, with people reporting higher levels of psychological wellbeing and feeling more resilient. In addition, where people feel a sense of inclusion they are more likely to feel able to speak up when they see things going on around them that they feel are wrong. So, inclusion not only leads to good outcomes, but a lack of inclusion is more likely to lead to poor outcomes.Bias awareness
If we are to achieve greater diversity and inclusion we need to be more open about the factors that get in the way.
The first is an acknowledgment that bias, both conscious and unconscious, is something everyone is prone to. We are all biased: the world is not divided into those who show bias and those who don't. It is, however, split between those who recognise they are biased and those who believe they are not. It is one of the biggest ironies that the latter group is likely to be the most biased. Acceptance that each of us is biased is probably the most important step anyone can take. Without this self-awareness, bias is always someone else's problem. Bias, especially in leaders, can then lead to the creation, or the maintenance, of a culture in which certain categories of people are less likely to have their voices heard, their opinions listened to and their capabilities acknowledged.
I have never seen diversity as simply being about achieving numerical goals. It is about achieving something more aspirational and inspiring: a culture in which people feel they have been treated fairly. This is easier said than done – but when is anything worth achieving easy?
This blog was written for the Civil Service and can be found on their Diversity & Inclusion Blog page.
Read the archive of Binna's blogs on the Personnel Today blog site for the popular TV series 'The Apprentice' and 'The Junior Apprentice'. Binna's insight into the behavior of the individuals competing in each series (2010 - 2013) to win the prize of working for Sir Alan Sugar and his reflections on management behavior and practice make an entertaining and fascinating read for all fans of these shows.
I was heartened by my resolution to give up national and international news, when I learned that doctors recommend this to people with depression. I was less pleased to discover that one way dictators maintain control is to deny people access to reliable news information.
To discover news about national events I am dependent on local news (papers, tv, radio) and the people around me. It has surprised me how little news, at a national or international level I learn about. In February there was the shock resignation, which came completely out of the blue even to true adherents, followed by the somewhat surprising choice of successor. Mark Robbins had been doing such a great job at Coventry City F.C that no-one thought he'd be leaving so soon. Yes, that was the big resignation where I live; I didn't find out about the Pope until four days later.
Celebrity news though filters down very quickly: Justin Bieber up to no good; Oscar Pistorious to even less good and the death of Margaret Thatcher. As for political and economic news - barely a peep, and what I do hear isn't necessarily reliable.
I heard via local radio that a vote on gay marriage was to take place. I had to ask friends and acquaintances what the outcome was but I gave up after the six people I asked gave me contradictory results (the score was 3 for the vote being passed and 3 against). I know I'm not following the news but are the rest of you people paying attention?
I've heard nothing on Europe (are we still in it?), the economy (do we still have one?) or the government (what is Nick Clegg for?).
The Boston bombings I've heard a lot about and I vaguely know that North Korea is up to something and that it would cause a nuclear war.
I have been going about my life unencumbered by any knowledge of what's going on in the world around me. Not knowing about the news seems to have made hardly any difference to my life at all primarily I suspect because I could never make any difference to events in any case. It's also showing me how London-centric the national media is. There seems to be an assumption that anything and everything that happens in London - be it Westminster or the City will be of interest to everyone else. Well, here's some news for you : it isn't.
“You haven’t heard about the siege in Algeria? But that’s a huge story.”
The reason I knew nothing about this news event was because of a New Year’s resolution: to give up national and international news. No TV or radio news, no newspapers, no news websites. Local news however is permitted. I am, or was, an avid consumer of news: Newspapers, the Six O’Clock news on TV, the Today show on radio, and a regular viewer of the news channels.
With all of the media outlets now available it is easy to think that the amount of news available to us has increased. To a certain extent that is true. Nevertheless a lot of what passes under the name of news is often commentary, speculation and opinion and much of it ill-informed. For example, the tragic slaying of the young people in Norway in 2011 was, so experts told us that evening, the work of Islamic terrorists. It was only the next morning that we learned the truth and it bore no relation to the speculation.
The daily newspaper I have read for the past forty years, is full of columnists who the editor seems to believe are as big or bigger than the news itself. The one advantage in having so many columnists is it makes the paper quicker to read, as I can skip over these pages.
Our Olympic summer was a wonderful time, and this was partly due to the fact that the news became dominated by sport. There was little other news and I realised I could get by fine without it. So for these reasons I resolved to give up news in 2013. It’s also an experiment however, to see how much national and international news filters down and what sort.
Quite a few friends and colleagues have expressed surprise and doubted it could be done. It has been remarkably straightforward avoiding new bulletins and programmes and I have cancelled my paper. I do pick up news in passing - a glimpse of a headline, seeing something on a TV screen - but apart from that my news blackout has been successful.
My initial observation is that, despite the accessibility of news everywhere, how little people actually discuss it. I had believed I’d be having many conversations where I’d be asked my view on something or overhearing people talking about a current pressing issue. In fact it’s happened only twice in a month – the Algerian siege was the first followed by a client mentioning that their CEO had been sacked. In the meantime, I’ve realised I have had more time on my hands to do other things; reading, trying out poetry, even talking to my family.
I will report back each month on my progress but to date it’s been quite liberating not having to think about Cameron, Milliband, and what’s his name nor having an endless line of commentators speculating on or interpreting events for me.
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