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Is a four-day workweek the solution for happier business post-pandemic?

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Young female workers back in the office during an informal meeting
30 UK-based companies are moving their employees to a four-day working week for a six-month trial - Photo: © Mimi Thian

No one would have dared to suggest it, prior to a pandemic that grounded employees at home and made companies learn new ways of keeping business as usual, with staff working remotely miles away from their empty offices.

But now that, over the past two years of mastering Slack and Zoom meetings, employees realised that commuting several hours just to sit in front of a computer or to answer a phone doesn’t necessarily equate to productivity, a shorter week is on the cards. 30 UK-based companies are moving their employees to a four-day working week in an attempt to boost productivity in the workplace this year.

The concept is known as the 100:80:100 model, where workers receive 100% of pay for 80% of their time, as long as they commit to 100% productivity.

Across the pond, other companies are also trying to reduce working days to increase staff retention, with Panasonic announcing a four-day workweek policy earlier this year and San Francisco-based checkout startup Bolt adopting a four-day workweek after conducting a trial in which executives improved productivity and work-life balance.

It is the latest development of the new normal, now that several countries have dropped national mandatory work from home rules. And almost 100 years since Henry Ford adopted a five-day workweek when, in 1926, when his factories stopped production on Saturdays and Sundays, the new move to make our workweek even shorter is certainly a welcomed one.

But how feasible it is to fit approximately 40 hours of work, the average weekly hours of many employees, in fewer days? And, most importantly: can it really make a difference?

For entrepreneur Baruch Labunski, CEO at digital marketing company Rank Secure, age and position within a company can play a vital role in whether a reduced week, on paper, might not turn out to be that reduced after all.

“Employees who are younger and motivated will likely like the idea, as it gives them an extra day off. That could mean more effective production. However, those a little older or senior-level employees may see it as a negative because they already work long hours and likely would still need to come in all five days. That could mean no benefits.”

Labunski also believes that logistics can be an issue preventing the success of a four-day week for many companies:

“The other issue that would be negative for some companies is keeping production lines going to keep up with orders as most employees move to the four-day workweek. It could end up costing the company more in overall employee pay as well as negatively affecting production. After all, the company must still contend with vendors and customers who may not be on a four-day workweek.”

It is logistics, indeed – and not old structured weekdays and how people split them in between work and private life – that will end up proving to be the biggest challenge for companies trying to implement a shorter week in 2022:

“A four day working week sounds excellent – for a full-time employee at least. For an employer, it comes with problems as it effectively increases the wage bill but for no obvious increase in output. It creates issues for roles where cover is required as there is one day less per employee available to be deployed. It also causes problems when the employer has part-time employees as do you then reduce their hours pro-rata? The only way I have seen a four-day work week work well is when a compressed working week is in place as the hours are still broadly the same. I have benefitted from this arrangement in the past myself and enjoyed having that extra day off each week while still performing my duties in a full-time capacity. Four longer days isn’t for everyone though and it wouldn’t work for employees with certain learning requirements or disabilities for example.” – says Sophie Milliken a recruitment and employability expert with over 15 years of recruitment experience and author of the book ‘From Learner to Earner’, a recruitment insider’s guide for students wanting to achieve graduate job success (Rethink Press, 2019).

In a new world where many of us have now got used to work from our home offices, often wearing clothes way more comfortable than any workplace’s dress code, it is no wonder companies are struggling to bring staff back to fill their offices from Monday to Friday. But can companies find out if a four-day work week will, realistically, positively impact productivity and staff happiness?

HR specialist Suki Sandhu

Suki Sandhu, from INvolve: Covid-19 and remote working showed us how quickly and effectively individuals can adapt to new working practices

UK-based HR specialist Suki Sandhu, founder of INvolve, a global network and consultancy enterprise championing diversity and inclusion in businesses, believes that data collection, when done properly and with transparency, can improve productivity and wellbeing in the work place.

“Many forward-thinking companies are already monitoring both productivity and wellbeing as key performance indicators, so it should be clear to see if the needle is moving. However, for those who aren’t, there are many advantages in understanding and connecting with different employee experiences, so finding new ways to collate key data is important. But it must be done correctly and openly. Tracking employees without consent or clear justification – especially through technology – is a dangerous trend which can be counter-productive to both productivity and happiness. Instead, it is important to engage employees with any data-collection process to outline both the reasons, and how the information they provide will help everyone in creating a better workplace.”

The four-day work trial in the UK is expected to last approximately six months and companies taking part are provided with support from experts, researchers, and academics. But before we can see any results, companies planning to replicate the work model already utilised by many companies in Japan should think it through, taking one step at a time to be able to cope with the potential downsides.

“Just like any major change, there will be an adjustment period. Some people define themselves through their work, it is part of their identity, so scaling back the time they dedicate to it may initially be challenging. However, Covid-19 and remote working showed us how quickly and effectively individuals can adapt to new working practices – if, and only if – they are adequately supported and championed by their employers. The fact is that productivity doesn’t necessarily suffer when work time is reduced to 4 days so the stress of not getting enough done should quickly subside and become business-as-usual.” – complements Suki Sandhu, from INvolve.

As we move forward into 2022 and beyond, maybe the solution to bring employees back to work is exactly that: to allow them to carry on working from their homes, even if just a day per week.

The pandemic may be coming to an end. But those Slack chats pinging on the corner of your PC and Zoom meetings with domestic sounds popping in the background are not over, yet.

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BT lands £70m IT services deal with South West Police

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Police woman standing next to a police car
Ten-year contract with Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police will see BT manage IT services for the two forces.

BT today announced it has secured a ten-year, £70m IT services deal with Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police. Together, the two police forces handle more than a million emergency and non-emergency calls and respond to more than 118,000 incidents of recorded crime each year. The new long-term agreement will strengthen the forces’ technology estates by creating a future-fit infrastructure to support more joined-up policing, with the potential to extend the contract to neighbouring forces in the South West region.

The managed service contract will underpin a range of the police’s information, technology, and communication demands, including field mobile, airwave vehicle and handheld connectivity for emergency services – alongside security and customer service desk applications.

It will see BT work with both police forces to support public contact and staff collaboration platforms, delivering efficiencies for 101 and 999 services, whilst improving intelligence gathering and data sharing for staff. Frontline officers will benefit from improved connectivity for devices such as mobile phones, body-worn cameras and vehicle radio systems, delivering benefits for local policing by giving officers access to critical real-time information.

BT will also assist the forces in staying compliant with security frameworks, supporting measures to strengthen their security protocols against external threats. Together, these services will support Devon & Cornwall Police and Dorset Police with their digital policing strategy and strengthen crime prevention efforts, whilst also delivering expected financial efficiencies.

More than 5,100 police officers and 3,500 police staff work within the two forces, and they employ more than 550 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and special constables. As part of the contract, BT has agreed to progress social value initiatives for both forces, implementing measures to improving transparency on the environmental impact of police activities in the South West.

“Efficient and resilient technology infrastructure is crucial to support the police in tackling both current and emerging threats – so we’re proud to have the back of South West police forces by delivering exactly that. This new managed service from BT will help future-proof connectivity in all areas of policing, from those on the frontline to behind-the-scenes support staff, helping them to protect the public and keep pace with the changing nature of crime,” says Ashish Gupta, Managing Director, Corporate and Public Sector at BT.

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12 steps to create inclusive presentations for any audience

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Encourage questions from the whole crowd. This fosters engagement from players who are not as confident or remote.

A varied work environment requires presentations that everyone can enjoy and learn from. And In today’s diverse and interconnected world, providing inclusive presentations is more important than ever, as they can ensure that all audience members, regardless of their backgrounds, abilities, or learning styles, can engage with and understand the content.

Besides aligning several levels of expertise and increase audience engagement, as everyone feels respected and able to participate fully, inclusive presentations also enhance productivity, as audience engagement, as everyone feels respected and able to participate fully in any setting.

Here experts at a presentation design agency share essential tips on how to build engaging presentations for all audiences, regardless of background, abilities, or learning styles. These inclusive habits can help you improve your communication skills and create a respectful, inclusive atmosphere.

Understand your audience

To provide an inclusive presentation, first understand your audience. This requires investigating your target audience’s age, culture, career, and any limitations. Understanding these elements enables you to personalize your presentation to meet their individual needs and experiences.

Customizing Content to Meet Different Needs

Tailor your content to your target audience’s demographics. Use inclusive language and avoid technical jargon unless everyone knows it. Consider your target audience’s cultural and educational backgrounds to avoid alienating them via content or delivery.

Knowing your audience enables you to provide a more informed and engaging presentation. This first step establishes the presence of your presenting style.

Making content accessible

Making your information accessible goes beyond words. Speak plainly and simply to individuals with diverse backgrounds and skill levels. Summarize complicated concepts and provide handouts or visual aids to supplement the spoken information. Make your papers screen reader accessible and provide various formats for visually challenged audience members.

Planning your content around these features can make your presentation more inclusive and maximize the event’s advantages for everyone.

Making Slides Accessible

The visual style of presentation slides determines their accessibility and efficacy. Learn how to make presentations that everyone can comprehend.

Visually Accessible Slide Design Tips

To help visually challenged folks, use high contrast text and backdrop colors. Black text on white, or vice versa, is simple to see.

Simple Designs: Avoid layouts that are distracting or confusing. Use white space around text and pictures in a tidy way.

Use big letters for easier reading from a distance. Headings should have a larger font size than body text, which should be 24 points.

Selecting fonts and colors

Color schemes: When choosing slide colors, keep color blindness in mind. Avoid hazardous color pairings like green and red.

Choose readable fonts. Sans-serif types like Arial and Helvetica are ideal for screen readability.

These features allow you to design presentations that are attractive and accessible to everyone in your audience, even those who have visual impairments.

Inclusive Language and Delivery

Using inclusive language and careful delivery makes everyone in the audience feel valued and involved. How to do this in presentations.

Language Matters in Inclusivity

Avoid jargon: Use clear, straightforward language that all audience members may comprehend. Avoid utilizing technical or industry-specific jargon unless it is explicitly explained or clarified in the presentation.

Use Gender-Neutral Language: To neutralize gender-specific phrases, use “they” instead of “he/she” and “team” instead of “guys”.

Cultural awareness: Cultural variations might affect how your message is perceived. Avoid using idioms and words that may lose significance between cultures.

Clear and Respectful Communication Methods

Clear, Moderate Speech: Maintain a moderate speaking tempo so that everyone can grasp the information, particularly those who process auditory information slowly.

Pause to emphasise: After making crucial statements, pause momentarily to ensure that your audience understands them. This increases understanding and accentuates the point.

Restate To help you remember crucial points, repeat them throughout the lecture.

Inclusive language and thoughtful delivery improve the accessibility of your presentation and make attendees feel appreciated.

Using various learning styles

Recognizing and engaging audiences’ learning styles improves presentation inclusiveness and effectiveness. How to Support Multiple Learning Styles:

Engaging Everyone with Your Delivery

Use a range of teaching strategies in your presentation to suit various learning styles. Use imagery, narrative, and interaction.

Polls, question periods, and small group discussions make presentations more appealing to interested students.

Notes and takeaways: Provide attendees with specific handouts for use during and after the presentation. This allows all students to study and review at their own speed.

Accepting these many learning styles can help your presentation be more inclusive, memorable, and powerful for everyone.

Tips for Inclusive Q&A

Facilitating an inclusive Q&A session engages audience members while making them feel heard and appreciated. Here are some tips for making your Q&A sessions more inclusive

Set Clear Guidelines: At the start of the Q&A session, establish clear expectations for question handling. To encourage involvement, ask polite, concise questions.

Ask questions utilizing an audience microphone if one is provided. This elevates their voice and ensures that the whole audience hears the query.

Always repeat the audience’s questions before responding. If some people did not hear the question, this will help them to comprehend it.

Encourage all attendees to participate.

Encourage questions from the whole crowd. This fosters engagement from players who are not as confident or remote.

Provide other questioning methods: Throughout the session, attendees may submit written or digital inquiries. Shy people or those who dread public speaking may benefit from this.

These ideas will improve the effectiveness and inclusivity of your Q&A sessions by enabling everyone to participate.

Use assistive technology

Assistive technology may help make presentations more accessible, enabling everyone to participate. Integrate these technologies effectively.

Feedback Collection and Use

Continuous progress demands feedback, especially for inclusive presentations. Discover how to gather and use feedback to make future presentations more interesting and accessible.

In today’s globalised society, presentations must reach and engage a wide range of audiences. This article’s eight phases, which range from audience knowledge and content production to assistive technology usage and feedback, provide a thorough approach to inclusive presentations. Presenters may utilize these techniques to make their message more accessible, resulting in a welcoming and polite environment. In order to accomplish ongoing progress and flexibility, input must be solicited and absorbed. Take the following measures to enhance your presenting abilities and promote inclusion in your professional community.

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Fred Olsen Cruise Lines awarded for beekeeping tour

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Fred Olsen Cruise Lines awarded for beekeeping tour
Georgina May, PR Executive, Tabi Winney, Destination Experience Assistant, Martin Lister, Head of Itinerary Product Development | Photo: Michael Newington Gray

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines have been awarded ‘Consumer Favourite for Excursions’ at the inaugural Sailawaze Excellence Awards 2024.

The cruise line received the award last night at a gala ceremony held in central London, attended and hosted by Patrick Grant, presenter of hit BBC show, The Great British Sewing Bee.

More than 150 entries were submitted across the award’s eight categories, which were then shortlisted by a panel of cruise line industry experts. The final shortlist was then voted for by consumers.

Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines’ rural beekeeping tour in Lithuania was highlighted by the award. This tour allows guests the opportunity to learn more about village life and the cultural significance of bees by visiting a family-run apiary to see how honey is produced, with the chance to sample various honeys and locally produced mead.

“We were incredibly proud to have received this award. It’s testament to all the work that our Destination Experience teams, both ashore and on board our fleet, put in to making each one of our guests’ excursions an incredible and unforgettable experience,” said Martin Lister, Head of Itinerary Product Development at Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. “We believe it’s all about the people and we believe that giving our guests the opportunity to connect with credible local people, who aren’t just providing information on a subject, but are passionate about sharing their personal stories and insights into their real lives, is the best way of engaging our guests and the communities that we visit”.

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