The Financial Services industry has received the dubious honour of being UK’s most stressed industry[i] In a sector driven by high performance, tighter regulation and constant change it is not surprising that this is increasing the pressure on employees. Nearly two-thirds of Financial Sector employees report that they are working longer hours than contracted, sometimes up to 30 hours more a week. Over half report that they feel they lack the time to do the job to their best of abilities and are troubled by job security[ii]. Fears about job security lead many people to feel they must put in longer hours at the office.
But longer hours do not increase performance or productivity. The added value in the finance sector relies on the applied knowledge and intellect of its people. Spending more hours does not improve the performance on intellectual tasks such as assessing the risks in a transaction or managing a challenging negotiation with a high-value customer. What does improve performance is having the headspace to apply focused and concentrated mental energy.
Information Overload and Technological Change
Our world has changed massively in the last 30 years, but our ways of working have not changed as rapidly. Two areas that have had a huge impact on our personal productivity are information and technology. The sheer volume of information is increasing exponentially, with the amount of information available doubling every 12 months[iii] and the amount of business email increasing by 25-20% annually[iv]. To keep up with all the information is impossible, but ways to manage the overload are possible.
Say the words technological change’ and we often think of new enterprise-wide systems. But our daily work is more impacted by the smartphone that sits by our side, almost permanently. On average we check our smartphone once every 12 minutes, over 80 times a day[v]. With a smartphone it is possible to be working 24/7. One in three people check their smartphone during the night, including work emails[vi]. Taming the smartphone will help improve productivity.
Focus to improve productivity
Focus and attention are rare commodities in the information smartphone era. Too often the workday is a constant rush of emails, meetings and jumping between small tasks. There isn’t the head space to think deeply about an issue, plan well or review. To improve personal productivity we need to have a work environment that gives the opportunity to work in an intense and focused manner on one value adding task at a time. This requires managing the information overload and smartphone technology.
Four ways you can give yourself the opportunity improve your personal productivity and performance are:
- Deal with Digital Distraction
It is surprising irresistible, and eventually addictive, to check every ping, beep and ring of your smartphone. It takes willpower to resist responding immediately to these alerts. Willpower takes your mental energy and focus away from the task you want to be working on. So take away the temptation, take control and turn off all your alerts. You decide when you want to respond to your emails or review your twitter feed.
- Single Task don’t Multi-task
Multi-tasking is a misleading phrase. Multi-tasking is not working on two or three tasks simultaneously, but quickly shifting attention from one task to another. Humans have limited capacity to process information. Multi-tasking has a negative impact on tasks that require concentration and problem solving. If the tasks are not important then you might get away with it e.g. watching TV while skim reading the newspaper. But if you want to be productive on some challenging work then you need to focus on one task at a time.
The fragmentation of your attention is also not very psychologically satisfying. It leaves you feeling like you haven’t achieved much by the end of your day as you’ve jumped from one task to another. Leaving tasks unfinished means they’re hanging in the back of your mind making it hard to relax or shift attention to the next task.
- Get into an intense concentration zone
Our attention spans are typically about 20-50 minutes. Like a muscle it can improve with training. Every day set aside one or two chunks of time (20-50 minutes) in your diary to do focused work on your value adding tasks.
Make sure you deal to your digital distraction first. Put your phone in airplane mode. Shut down the email on your PC. Then set the timer on your phone for somewhere between 20-50 minutes. Then focus on the task. At the end of the time, think about what you’ve achieve and feel that buzz of progress on an important task. Pure motivation.
- Set Boundaries
The technology gives the ability to be on 24/7 but it doesn’t mean you have to be. Setting boundaries between work and non-work restores your mental energy for work. Checking emails during the day and night leads to work always being on your mind. High performance on intellectually challenging tasks requires a refreshed brain. With work always on your mind then there is not the space to come back refreshed to a task, see it from a new angle or explore options.
Productivity in sectors like finance and banking is not about hours. Productivity is related to the people applying their knowledge and intellect to complex and challenging tasks. To perform well requires periods of intense focus and attention. This is hard to find in our current work environment of information overload and digital distraction. Create a personal work environment that allows you to perform to the best of your abilities while at work. Then get out of the office, switch off and take a break. Longer hours are not the answer to adding more value to your career or organisation.
U.S. inauguration turns poet Amanda Gorman into best seller
WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The president’s poet woke up a superstar on Thursday, after a powerful reading at the U.S. inauguration catapulted 22-year-old Amanda Gorman to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list.
Hours after Gorman’s electric performance at the swearing-in of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, her two books – neither out yet – topped Amazon.com’s sales list.
“I AM ON THE FLOOR MY BOOKS ARE #1 & #2 ON AMAZON AFTER 1 DAY!” Gorman, a Los Angeles resident, wrote on Twitter.
Gorman’s debut poetry collection ‘The Hill We Climb’ won top spot in the online retail giant’s sale charts, closely followed by her upcoming ‘Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem’.
While poetry’s popularity is on the up, it remains a niche market and the overnight adulation clearly caught Gorman short.
“Thank you so much to everyone for supporting me and my words. As Yeats put it: ‘For words alone are certain good: Sing, then’.”
Gorman, the youngest poet in U.S. history to mark the transition of presidential power, offered a hopeful vision for a deeply divided country in Wednesday’s rendition.
“Being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it,” Gorman said on the steps of the U.S. Capitol two weeks after a mob laid siege and following a year of global protests for racial justice.
“We will not march back to what was. We move to what shall be, a country that is bruised, but whole. Benevolent, but bold. Fierce and free.”
The performance stirred instant acclaim, with praise from across the country and political spectrum, from the Republican-backing Lincoln Project to former President Barack Obama.
“Wasn’t @TheAmandaGorman’s poem just stunning? She’s promised to run for president in 2036 and I for one can’t wait,” tweeted former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
A graduate of Harvard University, Gorman says she overcame a speech impediment in her youth and became the first U.S. National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017.
She has now joined the ranks of august inaugural poets such as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou.
Her social media reach boomed, with her tens of thousands of followers ballooning into a Twitter fan base of a million-plus.
“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise! Brava Brava, @TheAmandaGorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I,” tweeted TV host Oprah Winfrey.
Gorman’s books are both due out in September.
Third on Amazon’s best selling list was another picture book linked to politics and projecting hope: ‘Ambitious Girl’ by Vice-President Kamala Harris’ niece, Meena Harris.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
Why brands harnessing the power of digital are winning in this evolving business landscape
By Justin Pike, Founder and Chairman, MYPINPAD
Delivery of intuitive, secure, personalised, and frictionless user experiences has long been table stakes in digital commerce, well before the era of COVID-19. As businesses harness the revolutionary power of digital technologies, they have pursued large-scale change to adapt to evolving consumer preferences (some more successfully than others, but that’s a blog for another day). Digital transformation is a term we hear repeatedly, and it looks different for each organisation, but essentially, it’s about utilising technology and data to digitise, automate, innovate and improve processes and the customer experience across the entire business.
As I said, this was already well underway but then came 2020 and no industry escaped the disruption of the coronavirus outbreak, which has had an indelible impact on businesses performance, operations, and revenue. Regardless of whether the impact of COVID has been very positive or very challenging, it has forced organisations globally to re-evaluate and re-orient strategies to adapt.
As lockdowns and pandemic-related restrictions continue to change daily life, this raises the question of how we can balance a dramatic shift to digital and the benefits it brings, while ensuring business continuity and innovation both during and post-COVID, and protecting everyone against fraud?
Digital is an essential survival tool, and even more so in a COVID world
No one could have predicted the dramatic digital pivot that has taken place over this year. Indeed, within weeks of the COVID outbreak cash usage in the UK dropped by around 50%. Digital solutions including delivery applications, contactless payments, mobile commerce, online and mobile banking have become essential components of a touchless customer experience in the era of social distancing. It’s no longer just about an enhanced and superior customer experience, it’s also about health, safety and survival.
In store, businesses have benefited from contactless payments enabling faster throughput and reduced need for consumers to touch payment terminals (therefore requiring greater cleaning, which degrades the hardware much faster). Mastercard reported a 40% increase in contactless payments – including tap-to-pay and mobile pay – during the first quarter of the year as the global pandemic worsened. Digital has also become an essential sales channel for many B2C brands. Where brick and mortar stores have been required to close, digital commerce enables continuity of customer relationships and revenue. This channel also provides brands with rich customer data, which can be used to enhance and personalise the customer experience and typically results in greater levels of engagement and uplifts in revenue.
Industry forecasts estimate that worldwide spending on the technologies and services enabling digital transformation will reach GBP 1.8 trillion in 2023 – a clear indication that the process represents a long-term investment and a global commitment to digital-first strategy. The key point here is that digital brings significant benefits, and regardless of COVID, is here to stay.
The challenges that rapid digital transformation brings to businesses
Regardless of whether businesses are operating in developed or less-developed economies, these times of crisis have levelled the playing field in the sense that all businesses are facing similar issues. Access to products and supplies, maintaining customer relationships, accelerating sales for some and declining sales for others, health and hygiene are just a few of the unique challenges brought about by COVID.
Many businesses in physical environments have had to swiftly implement changes to significantly reduce safety risks for staff and customers, such as contactless payments, mobile ordering and delivery options. But with these changes come a host of other benefits of digitisation, such as faster transactions, and reduced human error at the point-of-sale.
The reliance on technology, however, can also expose organisations and consumers to certain vulnerabilities. In particular, the risks of fraud and cybercrime have dramatically increased since the onset of the pandemic as scammers have taken advantage of digital technologies to target both businesses and individuals.
As a McKinsey report illustrates, new levels of sophistication in the activities of fraudsters have placed more pressure on companies that have been previously slow to go digital, bringing “into sharp relief how vulnerable companies really are”, and damaging the financial health of small and large businesses. In fact, the Bottomline 2020 Business Payments Barometer reveals that only one in 10 small businesses across the UK report recovering more than 50% of losses due to fraud.
But take these stats with a grain of salt. While it is important to be aware of the risks and challenges this new business landscape brings, it’s equally as important to have a lens firmly across your own business, industry and audience, and to identify the changes you can make internally to mitigate risk as well as improve your customer experience. Where can you make some quick wins? Do you have the right skillsets internally to achieve what you need to achieve? What technology is out there that will enable your business goals? There are tech companies like MYPINPAD that are making huge strides in software development, which will transform businesses globally.
A digital world post-COVID
Almost a year in, the line between business success and failure remains fragile. However, an ongoing transition towards greater digitisation will be the difference between survival and the alternative.
There is a wide range of initiatives businesses can implement to weather this storm. If we look at the space MYPINPAD operates within, secure digital consumer authentication is crucial to the ongoing success and security of not only financial products but also identification and verification across a range of different industry verticals. Shifting the authentication of consumers securely onto mobile devices enables businesses to completely reshape their customer experiences. By bringing together a more seamless, frictionless customer experience, accessibility, privacy, security and access to consumer data, businesses are able to drive digital transformation across day-to-day activities.
Against this backdrop, software with stronger security standards continue to play an ever more vital role in supporting society, protecting consumers and businesses from the increase in risks that rapid digitisation brings. Already, merchants can deploy PIN on Mobile technology from companies like MYPINPAD, onto their smart devices to speed up the digitisation process many are now tackling.
Essentially, opening up universal payments and authentication methods that feel familiar, for both online and face-to-face transactions, will be key to opening up a world of possibilities when it comes to redefining how businesses engage with consumers.
Brexit responsible for food supply problems in Northern Ireland, Ireland says
LONDON (Reuters) – Food supply problems in Northern Ireland are due to Brexit because there are now a certain amount of checks on goods going between Britain and Northern Ireland, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.
British ministers have sought to play down the disruption of Brexit in recent days.
“The supermarket shelves were full before Christmas and there are some issues now in terms of supply chains and so that’s clearly a Brexit issue,” Coveney told ITV.
The Northern Irish protocol means there are “a certain amount of checks on goods coming from GB into Northern Ireland and that involves some disruption,” he said.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Tom Hogue)
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