Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Happiness leads to success, argues Raj Raghunathan, author and Professor of Marketing at The University of Texas, Austin.

Contrary to what many of us believe, being anxious actually undermines, rather than promotes, chances of success—particularly in creative or intellectual tasks. There is an important reason for this. When we feel stressed, a part of our brain’s capacity is occupied by the stress. The more stressed we feel, the more we are likely to be distracted by questions like, “Will I be able to complete this task on time?” and, “Will the output turn out to be as good as I would like it to be?”

Thus, we aren’t able to devote our brain’s full capacity to the task at hand when we feel stressed.
By contrast, when we feel relaxed or happy, a larger share of our brain’s capacity is available for the task at hand.

Being happy versus anxious promotes success in at least two other ways. First, you are likely to be able to work longer and harder when you feel happy—should the situation demand it. For example, happier employees take fewer sick days off. Second, you are likely to be a better team player when you are happy than when you are not. So, you are a better co-worker when you feel positive than when you don’t. 

Organizations appear to recognize these benefits of happiness, which is why happier employees earn higher wages than do their less happy counterparts.

Tobacco – a threat to development; kills 7 million every year!

Every year, on 31 May, WHO and partners mark World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), highlighting the health and additional risks associated with tobacco use, and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption.

The theme for World No Tobacco Day 2017 is "Tobacco – a threat to development."

About the campaign

It will demonstrate the threats that the tobacco industry poses to the sustainable development of all countries, including the health and economic well-being of their citizens.
It will propose measures that governments and the public should take to promote health and development by confronting the global tobacco crisis.

Facts about tobacco, tobacco control and the development goals

More than 7 million deaths from tobacco use every year, a figure that is predicted to grow to more than 8 million a year by 2030 without intensified action. Tobacco use is a threat to any person, regardless of gender, age, race, cultural or educational background. It brings suffering, disease, and death, impoverishing families and national economies.

Tobacco use costs national economies enormously through increased health-care costs and decreased productivity. It worsens health inequalities and exacerbates poverty, as the poorest people spend less on essentials such as food, education and health care. Some 80% of premature deaths from tobacco occur in low- or middle-income countries, which face increased challenges to achieving their development goals.

Tobacco growing requires large amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, which can be toxic and pollute water supplies. Each year, tobacco growing uses 4.3 million hectares of land, resulting in global deforestation between 2% and 4%. Tobacco manufacturing also produces over 2 million tonnes of solid waste.

The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) guides the global fight against the tobacco epidemic. The WHO FCTC is an international treaty with 180 Parties (179 countries and the European Union). Today, more than half the world’s countries, representing nearly 40% of the world’s population (2.8 billion people), have implemented at least one of the WHO FCTC’s most cost-effective measures to the highest level. An increasing number of countries are creating firewalls to ward off interference from the tobacco industry in government tobacco control policy.

Through increasing cigarette taxes worldwide by US$1, an extra US$190 billion could be raised for development. High tobacco taxes contribute to revenue generation for governments, reduce demand for tobacco, and offer an important revenue stream to finance development activities.

Goals of the World No Tobacco Day 2017 campaign

  • Highlight the links between the use of tobacco products, tobacco control and sustainable development.
  • Encourage countries to include tobacco control in their national responses to 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
  • Support Member States and civil society to combat tobacco industry interference in political processes, in turn leading to stronger national tobacco control action.
  • Encourage broader public and partner participation in national, regional and global efforts to develop and implement development strategies and plans and achieve goals that prioritize action on tobacco control.
  • Demonstrate how individuals can contribute to making a sustainable, tobacco-free world, either by committing to never taking up tobacco products, or by quitting the habit.
  • Tobacco control supports health and development

WHO is calling on countries to prioritize and accelerate tobacco control efforts as part of their responses to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

All countries benefit from successfully controlling the tobacco epidemic, above all by protecting their citizens from the harms of tobacco use and reducing its economic toll on national economies. The aim of the Sustainable Development Agenda, and its 17 global goals, is to ensure that "no one is left behind."

Tobacco control has been enshrined in the Sustainable Development Agenda (SDG). It is seen as one of the most effective means to help achieve SDG target 3.4 of a one-third reduction globally, by 2030, of premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease, cancers and chronic obstructed pulmonary disease. Strengthening implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco in all countries is an additional target to be met by governments developing national sustainable development responses.

Controlling tobacco helps achieve other global goals

In addition to saving lives and reducing health inequalities, comprehensive tobacco control contains the adverse environmental impact of tobacco growing, manufacturing, trade and consumption.

Tobacco control can break the cycle of poverty, contribute to ending hunger, promote sustainable agriculture and economic growth, and combat climate change. Increasing taxes on tobacco products can also be used to finance universal health coverage and other development programs of the government.

It is not only governments who can step up tobacco control efforts: people can contribute on an individual level to making a sustainable, tobacco-free world. People can commit to never take up tobacco products. Those who do use tobacco can quit the habit, or seek help in doing so, which will in turn protect their health as well as people exposed to second-hand smoke, including children, other family members and friends. Money not spent on tobacco can be, in turn, used for other essential uses, including the purchase of healthy food, healthcare and education.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

The future of wearables and their role in the workplace

Wearable technology has ceased to be a novelty and has now become part of everyday life for many users, and expanding its use into the enterprise is the next logical step.

The wearable technology startups that get attention make products a Silicon Valley executive or journalist might use -- fitness trackers, virtual-reality gaming headsets, jewelry that delivers text-message alerts. It's lifestyle stuff. But wearable development in the near future depends on more workaday equipment.

Call them work-wearables: computers worn on the body that help get the job done. Think smart glasses displays for manufacturing workers following complex assembly directions; voice-activated clip-on computers that help store clerks check inventories; or caps with sensors that make sure long-distance truckers aren't dozing off.

Google's Project Jacquard recently acknowledged the work-wearables market with a partnership to weave conductive yarn into uniforms made by Cintas.

Wearables have a strong future in the enterprise and have the potential to increase workplace efficiency, according to a new study from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The devices are a part of everyday life for many as the early adopter stage has passed and the industry is now entering the early mass market stage, according to Mike Pegler, a PwC partner.

Wearables will be considered mainstream once they pass the "turnaround test." This means that when someone forgets the device at home, they return to retrieve it. "When they pass, it means the device has risen to a point of providing sufficient value that you're willing to turn the car around. When it hasn't passed that test it's a novelty," Pegler said.

The adoption of wearable devices has more than doubled since PwC's 2014 survey. 49% of the 1,000 survey respondents say they own at least one device. This is up from 21% in 2014.

The PwC report, The Wearable Life: Connected Living in a Wearable World, stated: "By 2020, more than 75 million wearables will permeate the workplace, according to research firm Tractica. And Gartner research estimates that by 2018, 2 million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment."

Fitness device still rule, with 45% of respondents saying they own a fitness band. Among other wearable devices, 27% of respondents possess a smartwatch, 15% own smart glasses, 14% own a smart video or photo device and 12% wear smart clothing.

Wearables use in the workplace has clear benefits, with 49% of those surveyed saying that they believe wearable tech will increase workplace efficiency. And 37% said they expect their company to adopt the latest technology even if it doesn't directly influence their work.

Manufacturers should take note, however, that 67% of consumers said that employers should pay for their device. That presents an opportunity for those manufacturers who partner with corporations to provide health and fitness programs tied to a wearable device.

Price is still a major issue for many, and it's the top barrier to adoption. For 36% of respondents who don't own a device, affordability was a potential driver for a future purchase, according to the survey.

Lower priced devices are quickly arriving on the market, so the price barrier is likely to cease to be a major issue in the near future, with effective fitness devices as low as $22, Pegler said.

"There's a smartwatch from another Chinese company that's very well priced and offers a lot of functionalities. The increased competition will certainly continue to drive prices down," he said.

Privacy concerns still exist, since theoretically, an employer can track an employee's location, hours worked, breaks taken and their activity level. But only 25% of respondents said they would not trust any company with personal information associated with wearable technology.

"It was interesting that privacy concerns are certainly there. They're not as high on the list as I might suppose them to be," Pegler said.

"People wouldn't think twice in terms of locking their laptop and installing anti-virus software but have you ever heard of anyone ask for anti-virus software for a smartwatch or other wearable," Pegler said.

While employees could opt out of a corporate wellness program to avoid being monitored, there could eventually be a price to pay as those employees are perceived to be hiding something, according to the report.

"One could argue that a wearable today knows more about you than any device you've ever carried," Pegler said.

Companies are also putting themselves at risk of liability since that employee data is subject to data breaches.

"Not unlike the early days of laptops and smartphones, questions about security and privacy have yet to be resolved for wearables. As wearable technology becomes more ubiquitous in the workplace, transparency and employee education will go a long way toward resolving these issues," according to the report.

An interesting fact noted in the report was that parents are significantly more likely to own not just one, but multiple wearables, than non-parents. Among parents, 49% said they own multiple devices, compared to 24% of non-parents. And of those parents who took the survey, 62% own at least one device, compared to 41% of non-parents.

"The hypothesis is that there is some combination of both personal accountability to do everything I can to improve my health and remain in this important role I'm playing," Pegler said.

There is an untapped potential with parents, who are the ideal customer base for companies who work in that space and want to deliver the next killer app or something of significant value to drop the abandonment rate of wearables.

Dropping prices, new form factors and applications will all drive the wearables industry.

As more companies experiment with various technologies, the look of devices will continue to evolve as they've already gone from geeky and clunky to far more stylish.

The enterprise space will be an interesting area.We'll see more pilots in that space focused on efficiency. In the consumer world we'll see an increasing range of products in the future. As the capabilities for those devices increase, and for the companies that can create killer apps, there is huge opportunity.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Zuckerberg talks to Harvard Grads About the Technology Taking Jobs

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Harvard graduates that they need to help others find purpose in a world where machines are taking away some of the steady jobs and communities aren't as stable, leading to isolation and nationalism instead of people coming together globally to solve problems.

"When our parents graduated, purpose reliably came from your job, your church, your community," Zuckerberg, 33, said in a commencement speech. "But today, technology and automation are eliminating many jobs. Membership in a lot of communities has been declining. Many people feel disconnected and depressed, and are trying to fill a void in their lives."

The social network Zuckerberg started in his Harvard dorm room now has 1.94 billion users around the world, large enough for the CEO to feel pressure about its impact on society. Zuckerberg has spent this year traveling around the U.S. to understand what people feel about Facebook and how they form connections with each other, after the country's presidential election revealed deep divides.

Zuckerberg said that on his tour around the states, he met opioid addicts and others who had fallen on hard times with factory closings, who said they might not have suffered if they had something to do. Stress felt by many American communities will increase as tens of millions of jobs are replaced by automation, such as self-driving cars and trucks, Zuckerberg said. Without a sense of purpose, people will turn towards isolationism, nationalism and authoritarianism, instead of openness and global community, he said.

"There's pressure to turn inwards," Zuckerberg said. "This is the struggle of our time. This is not a battle of nations, it is a battle of ideas."

Unless people work together globally, they can't stop disease pandemics or climate change, he said.

"We have the potential to do so much more together," Zuckerberg said. He spoke of the achievements of previous generations, such as the moon landing and inventing the polio vaccine. "Now it's our generation's turn to do great things. Ideas don't come out fully formed, they only become clear as you work on them. You just need to get started."

He suggested stopping climate change by putting people to work manufacturing solar panels, curing disease by getting people to volunteer their health and genome data, and modernizing democracy so people can vote online.

Zuckerberg said that it will cost money to help society, and that people who are rich like him should pay. Zuckerberg, the world's fifth-richest person, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have a philanthropic foundation and have pledged to give away virtually all of their considerable wealth in Facebook shares.

He called for affordable childcare and health care that doesn't just come from an employer, and asked Harvard graduates to volunteer their time, not just their money, to people who don't have the same opportunity.

The Facebook founder, who dropped out of the university in 2004 to work full-time on the social network, is the youngest person to deliver a commencement speech at Harvard and was given an honorary degree for the effort.

Courtesy: Bloomberg News

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Cycling to a healthier world

Cyclists globally are much maligned by drivers who may never have thought about the many benefits they provide. In fact, cycling as a form of truly sustainable transport is increasingly the focus of attention by governments seeking solutions to multiple societal problems.

Recently, a study in the British Medical Journal of Sports Medicine showed that moderate exercise performed several times a week can protect against dementia and boost mental health, adding to what we already know about the many physical health benefits of exercise.

The potential benefits to us all of greater levels of commuter cycling are manifold and go well beyond health. Here are ten of the ways cyclists help everyone:

1) They help improve air quality. At a time when air quality and how it can be improved is increasingly a talking point, cycling offers a low cost, virtually emission-free solution that has been staring us in the face for years.

2) They help reduce congestion. Bicycles take up less space than motor vehicles, it’s as simple as that. So if there were more bikes and fewer cars congestion would drop. Besides, have you ever seen an ambulance held up by cycle traffic?

3) Research shows that exercise improves our health and makes us less prone to serious long-term health problems. It has also been shown that on average cyclists have the health of people ten years younger than them. As a result, cyclists help to reduce waiting times and the burden on the govt healthcare systems.

4) Cyclists boost the economy. For every £1 invested in cycling there is a return in the range of £5.10 to £10, according to a British govt study. It has also been shown that car journeys cost the economy six times more than journeys by bike and that gap is widening Both these impacts are due to the multiple societal costs of driving, such as the cost of poor health, the cost of congestion and so on.

5) Cycling boosts everyone’s quality of life. Studies have shown that where cycling and walking are the predominant modes of transport, people report a positive impact on their well-being.

6) Cyclists help to combat climate change. While walking is probably the only truly sustainable mode of transport, cycling comes a close second and allows us to cover greater distances than walking. While much debate surrounds the true impact of electric vehicles, it is increasingly clear that they are not actually the sustainable solution we require.

7) They improve road safety. While the safety in numbers effect for cyclists is well understood, it is not so clear what impact higher cycling numbers have on overall road safety. However, it appears that more people are killed and injured by motor vehicles than by cyclists even after correcting for the difference in road miles covered by the two. A 100kg cycle with rider travelling at 12mph just doesn’t have the same potential to cause harm as a 1,500kg vehicle travelling at 30mph

8) Cycling improves mental health. Cycling as a form of moderate exercise positively impacts cyclists’ mental health and there is now evidence to suggest that it can also reduce the impact of dementia.

9) Cyclists help lower the cost of car insurance. In advanced economies, most cyclists are also car owners and pay insurance accordingly. However, because they use their vehicles less frequently they present a lower insurance risk. Cyclists do not receive a reduction in their insurance bill as a result of this reduced risk. Consequently, they help to subsidise the insurance costs of other drivers assuming insurance companies seek to protect revenue.

10) They help reduce the tax burden for road maintenance. In the UK, motoring receipts from vehicle duty are considerably lower than the cost of road maintenance. Since most cyclists pay vehicle duty but place a lower burden on the road infrastructure, they contribute more than they take out and so subsidise the costs for other road users.

Cycling is increasingly seen as a solution capable of addressing multiple societal problems. It will take a shift in how the public thinks about how we travel and our relationship with vehicles, transport infrastructures, tax systems and each other before we start to realise that this has been obvious for some time. But if that happens, perhaps even the most ardent car lover might be prepared to give a second thought to what could be achieved if they just got on their bike.

Courtesy: Seamus Allison

Senior Lecturer, Nottingham Trent University

Article first appeared in The Conversation.