Workers in Open Plan Offices are ‘More Active’

Workers in Open Plan Offices are ‘More Active’
Workers in open-plan offices are more active and less stressed than those with desks in cubicles or private offices, research suggests. This could be because they make the effort to find privacy to talk away from their desk, the researchers said.

The US study used chest sensors to track movement and heart rate in hundreds of people in different buildings over three days. The potential health benefits should not be ignored, they said. But they said the study was observational only and factors like location of stairs and lifts could be at play too.

The University of Arizona study, published in Occupational & Environmental Medicine, claims to be the first to measure activity and stress in office workers, rather than asking them in a survey.

It said office workers tended to be a sedentary group compared to other workers, making them more likely to have health issues, including heart problems, tiredness and low mood.

Being less active during working hours has also been linked to greater feelings of stress.

In the study of 231 office workers in government buildings in the US, those in open-plan offices – with no partitions between desks – clocked up 32% more physical activity than workers in private offices and 20% more than those in cubicles. And those who were more active had 14% lower levels of stress outside the office compared to those who were less active.

Participants in the study also answered questions about their current mood every hour on their smartphones during work time. Older office workers were more likely to have higher stress levels. The most stressed people at work were also those who were highly stressed at home too. On the whole, men were more active than women.

Esther Sternberg, study author and professor at University of Arizona College of Medicine, said: “We all know we should be increasing our activity but no matter how we try to encourage people to engage in healthy behaviour, it doesn’t work for long. “So changing office design to encourage healthy behaviour is a passive way of getting people to be more active.”

Although people tend to like individual offices or cubicles more because they are more private, the researchers found open plan offices could have other benefits, such as better communication, more impromptu conversations and increased awareness of colleagues.

The researchers said other design features could also affect activity levels – such as how people circulate in their offices, where meeting spaces are located and how accessible stairs and lifts are.

Is it the End of the 9 to 5 Working Day?

Is it the End of the 9 to 5 Working Day?
Traditional workplace hours of 9am to 5pm are now only the norm for a minority of workers, research suggests. Just 6% of people in the UK now work such hours, a YouGov survey found. Almost half of people worked flexibly with arrangements such as job sharing or compressed hours, allowing them to juggle other commitments, it found.

Anna Whitehouse, a campaigner whose own flexible working request was refused by her employer, said there were still misconceptions about such arrangements.

In her case, her employer refused her request for 15 minutes flexibility at the start and end of each day to enable her to drop off and pick up her children from nursery.

Mrs Whitehouse, an author and blogger known as Mrs Pukka, said the refusal prompted her to resign and blog about the experience. “My background is as a journalist so I just started writing. I’m not a campaigner or an activist, but I had a moment of frustration and went with it.”

Since then she has started the Flex Appeal, aimed at convincing firms to trial flexible working and also to make people aware of their right to request flexible working. “It’s not about parents, it’s about people. There’s so much research out there showing working flexibly is better for mental health and for productivity,” she said.

Polling firm YouGov surveyed over 4,000 adults for the survey, which was sponsored by fast-food chain McDonald’s.

The study found most full-time workers would like to start work at 8am and finish by 4pm, hours chosen by 37% of those surveyed. The second most popular choice was 7am to 3pm, chosen by 21% of those surveyed.

It found flexibility was important to people of all ages and life stages, including parents and students, for example. Those who did work flexibly said it improved their motivation and encouraged them to stay in a job for longer.

Peter Cheese, chief executive of HR industry body the CIPD, said organisations willing to offer flexible working would attract a higher number of applicants. But he said more firms needed to step up: “Uptake of flexible working is still low and most jobs are not advertised as being open to different working arrangements,” he said.

 

Royal Mail Fined Record £50m by Ofcom

Royal Mail Fined Record £50m by Ofcom
Ofcom has fined Royal Mail a record £50m for breaching competition law. The fine is for its actions in 2014 when Whistl, which was then known as TNT, was trying to become its first competitor in wholesale mail delivery.

The regulator’s investigation, which followed a complaint by Whistl, said Royal Mail had abused its dominant market position and discriminated against the company. Whistl is seeking damages, but Royal Mail said it will challenge the fine.

Ofcom’s investigation found that Royal Mail price rises in 2014 meant any of its wholesale customers such as Whistl that wanted to compete with it would have to pay higher prices in the remaining areas where it used Royal Mail for delivery.

Ofcom’s investigation found that Royal Mail’s actions amounted to “anti-competitive discrimination against customers, such as Whistl, who sought to deliver bulk mail”.

Jonathan Oxley, Ofcom’s competition director, said: “Royal Mail broke the law by abusing its dominant position in bulk mail delivery.

“All companies must play by the rules. Royal Mail’s behaviour was unacceptable, and it denied postal users the potential benefits that come from effective competition.”

Royal Mail said it was “very disappointed” by Ofcom’s decision and “strongly refutes any suggestion” that it had breached the Competition Act, adding: “The decision is without merit and fundamentally flawed.”

Young Workers ‘Aware of Pension Reality’

Young Workers ‘Aware of Pension Reality’
Young workers are pessimistic about their retirement prospects but are keen to make preparations to make the most of the situation, a report indicates. UK employees are among the most pessimistic in the world about their retirement finances, according to asset managers State Street.

Its survey suggested that fewer than one in 10 young workers felt financially prepared for retirement. A similar proportion thought they would be able to retire when they wanted to.

“People are interested in securing their financial future and are willing to make changes to their spending habits to make this happen,” said Nigel Aston of State Street Global Advisors in the report. “They are also realistic about their income expectations in retirement. We must use this positivity to make it as easy as possible for individuals to understand their options.”

The survey, of nearly 10,000 people globally, suggested that employees in the UK expected their retirement income to be half of their earnings in work. However, only 6% of young workers asked thought they would be able to afford the lifestyle they wanted in retirement.

This was a far more pessimistic result than their counterparts in the US, where 23% thought they would be in a financial position to live the life they wanted in retirement, as well as Germany (18%), Australia (15%), and Italy (10%).

State Street suggested that the pensions industry needed to do more to help people understand whether they were on track to meet their income expectations in retirement. This was particularly the case as pensions shift from guaranteed pay outs based on someone’s salary to invested pension pots.

The report comes shortly after a separate review suggested women faced a “glaring” gender pension gap owing to career breaks to raise children and lower pay.

Young women aged in their late 20s or early 30s faced an 11% smaller pension pot than men by the time they retired, Fidelity International said. It, too, said that the industry had failed to engage these workers, with the use of jargon a particular issue.

British Gas Increases Prices

British Gas Increases Energy Prices
British Gas is to increase prices for 3.5 million customers, its parent company Centrica has announced. The 3.8% increase in its standard variable tariff (SVT) from 1 October means the average bill will rise by £44, taking it to £1,205 a year.

This is the second increase this year, but Centrica said wholesale energy prices had risen since the last time.

The SVT was withdrawn for new customers in March and 2.4 million customers on fixed rates are unaffected. The company, the biggest energy supplier in the UK, said its average bill was still “just below” the average of other large energy suppliers.

“We understand that any price increase adds extra pressure on customers’ household bills. However, this reflects the sharp rise in wholesale energy costs,” said Mark Hodges, chief executive of Centrica’s consumer arm. Other companies had also increased their prices since April, he said.

He added that Ofgem had also announced it was raising its pre-payment meter cap – which protects vulnerable customers – from October.

The company said that until now, it had protected customers from price rises in the wholesale energy market, because it buys its supplies in advance.

Mr Hodges said British Gas was trying to focus on putting customers on fixed-price deals rather than the SVT.

While the company has 3.5 million customers on the SVT, this is down from 4.3 million at the start of the year. Customers who do not pick a new tariff when they come off fixed-rate deals are now put on its new temporary tariff, which will be priced at £1,180 from 1 October.

In July, the company said it had lost 340,000 customer accounts in the first half of the year.

Fake News ‘Crowding Out’ Real News

Fake News ‘Crowding Out’ Real News, MPs
The volume of disinformation on the internet is growing so big that it is starting to crowd out real news, the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman has said. Tory MP Damian Collins said people struggle to identify “fake news”.

MPs in their committee report said the issue threatens democracy and called for tougher social network regulation.

The government said it plans to introduce a requirement for electoral adverts to have a “digital imprint”. This would mean that all political communications carried online would need to clearly identify who they were published by.

Labour said the government “needs to wake up to the new challenges we face and finally update electoral laws”.

The report follows the Cambridge Analytica data scandal earlier this year.

The London-based data analytics firms and tech giant Facebook were at the centre of a dispute over the harvesting and use of personal data – and whether it was used to influence the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election or the UK Brexit referendum.

Both firms deny any wrongdoing.

Arron Banks, the businessman who was the chief backer of the unofficial Leave.EU campaign, donating millions of pounds, was criticised for misleading the committee about his business dealings with Russia and for failing to demonstrate the source of the money.

MPs also considered evidence from around the world of how elections could be manipulated and heard how Russian agencies worked to influence votes by running adverts on Facebook.

Mr Collins told the BBC this had happened without the knowledge of the social network.

“That’s why we feel that this is now a threat to our democracy,” he said.

“If these tools that are so powerful, that can reach millions and millions of people all around the world at the touch of a button, if they can be effectively used to spread disinformation without the source of that information ever being revealed, as appears to be the case here, then that is a threat we have to confront.”

He made clear the term “fake news” as used by figures like US President Donald Trump is different to the “concerted campaigns of disinformation” in which people or agencies deliberately spread false stories.

Using an Independent Insurance Broker

Benefits to Using an Independent Insurance Broker
Finding an insurance policy that provides you’re with all the cover you need for a reasonable price can begin to feel like a minefield when you start to browse through the various deals available. No matter what you want to purchase insurance cover for there are so many varying levels of cover and types of policy on offer that it is easy to get confused and end up spending hours comparing quotes trying to work out which company offers the best overall value for money, so many people prefer to use the services of professional insurance brokers such as Weir Insurance to help them find the best possible deal.

Being able to get a knowledgeable and impartial opinion from an expert working within the industry to help you make sure that you have the correct type of policy and the level of cover you need can be a real advantage, especially if you are looking for business insurance or need specialist insurance for something a bit more complicated.  They have spent over forty years helping their clients to make sure they have the insurance that is right for them so they are true experts within the industry so whether you are a commercial or personal client you can be sure they will be able to help you get the cover you need for the best possible price.

At Weir insurance they aim to provide every client they have with a flexible and individual service so you can be sure that they will help you to find a policy that is completely tailored to your needs no matter what your circumstances.  Whether you are looking to insure your car, home, business or something else completely with excellent working links across the industry you can be certain that they will be able to assess exactly what type of cover you require and know where to look for the best value insurance policies that are most suited to your requirements.

With a dedicated and friendly team on hand to guide you through the process and keep you informed at every stage you can be certain that you won’t have any nasty surprises if you do ever need to make a claim.  Before you agree to any new contracts an advisor will fully discuss all the details with you and explain anything you are unclear about including any jargon, and be more than happy to answer any questions or queries you may have.

They will also be happy to show you alternative policies and discuss the various benefits of different types of cover if you aren’t completely happy with the first offer you are made. If you do ever need to make a claim, or when it’s time to renew Weir Insurance will also be happy to make sure that you have all the help and support you need.

So if you are looking for insurance or want to renew an existing cover why not get in touch with Weir Insurance, as true experts within the industry they have a reputation for providing and excellent and reliable service to all their clients commercial and personal alike.  So regardless of what you need to insure as providers of specialist insurance services across the board you can be certain that they will be able to get the cover you need.

For further information please call one of our experienced insurance team today on 01670 365533 or visit the Weir Insurance brokers website. We have been helping our clients’ with their insurance needs since 1972. We talk to you about your requirements, work with you to figure out what cover you need (and what cover you don’t) and then use our relationship with dozens of insurers to find the best solution for you.

Looking for that Executive Search Position

Looking for that Executive Search Position

Finding interesting and relevant roles within management can often prove really difficult in UK cities such as Leeds, Manchester, London and the like. However, there are so many different methods available to recruitment companies to advertise their executive vacancies and such a broad range of websites online advertising jobs that this will help your job search.

Executive Search

Spending hours searching for jobs and trawling through job advertisements can be disheartening, especially as online often many vacancies will be outdated, offer unrealistic work at home opportunities or other adverts that aren’t relevant to your search.

A lot of people have found a way round this is to sign up with a recruitment agency offering specific regional search opportunities such as Executive Search Leeds or Executive Search Positions wherever, so they get to hear about job openings they may be interested in as soon as they become available.

When you are working at middle or senior management level competition when applying for new roles is fierce and being recommended by a well-respected recruitment agency is an excellent way to make a really good first impression, especially if you have done well in previous roles you have undertaken for them.  So undertaking several short term contracts using a recruitment agency offering Executive Search Yorkshire can be a really good way to boost your CV and widen your skills set across your chosen industry and help you career really start to move in the right direction.

Working with an agency offering executive search is an excellent way to get more flexibility within your working life so if you have other commitments but still want to continue working or a looking to get more experience across your chosen field being able to take advantage of short term contracts that will often come up be the perfect solution.

If you are looking for something more permanent a reputable agency will also get plenty of permanent full and part time positions as well so you can be sure that no matter what type of employment terms you are looking for they will be able to help you find a role that is perfectly suited to your requirements.

A good agency that offers executive search will always build strong working links with all their clients and ensure that they are trusted to provide talented individuals that have the skill set required for the role sometimes at short notice so they will often be the first place a company calls when a new opportunity arises within their organisation.  If you are looking for work this can be a real advantage as you will often be among the first to apply if an interview is required, and as the agency will be able to forward all your details and required documents the application process is made simple and straight forward as well.

So no matter what type of industry you work within if you feel it’s time to take a step up the ladder to just want a change why not pas your details to an agency offering executive recruitment services and see what interim management roles they are able to offer you?

Once you have completed the initial registration process you may find you are pleasantly surprised with some of the employment offers you receive! Whether you are looking for full time, part time, temporary or permanent work they could help you find a role that is suitable for you much more quickly and easily that you may first think!

With the benefits including being among the first to hear about exciting new vacancies, a shorter application process and many roles having an immediate or short start date you could be working in a job that you really love far soon that you may first think.

World Cup Fails to Lift UK Retail Sales

World Cup Fails to Lift UK Retail Sales
The hunger for barbeques and World Cup-fever failed to lift retail sales in June as shoppers stayed away from the High Street. The Office for National Statistics said sales fell 0.5% between May and June, below expectations of a 0.2% rise.

The pound fell against the dollar in response, dipping below $1.30.

ONS senior statistician Rhian Murphy said: “Consumers stayed away from stores and instead enjoyed the World Cup and the heatwave.”

Keith Richardson, managing director retail sector at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “While the World Cup definitely got shoppers spending, these figures don’t cover the sudden rush of optimism that came with England’s progress beyond the initial group stage.”

“What they do show is how challenging the retail sector is at the moment. Even the longest heatwave that many shoppers can remember hasn’t been enough to persuade consumers to really open their wallets.”

In the year to June, retail sales rose by 2.9%, although that was a slowdown from the 4.1% annual increase recorded in May. However, in the April-to-June quarter retail sales increased by 2.1% – the biggest quarterly rise in 14 years.

Sports Direct Profits Fall

Sports Direct Profits Fall
Sports Direct has reported a sharp drop in annual profits, in part due to its exposure to struggling department store chain Debenhams. Pre-tax profits fell to £77.5m in the year to 29 April, down from £281.6m the year before. The drop was partly due to a £85.4m hit the retailer took on the value of its near-30% stake in Debenhams.

Sports Direct – which is run by founder Mike Ashley – said its UK sales were down 2% over the year to £2.2bn. However, total group revenues rose 3.5% to £3.4bn helped by an increase in sales from outside Europe.

Shares in the retailer fell by 11% at one point, before recovering slightly to stand 7% lower.

Sports Direct – which was founded by chief executive Mike Ashley – began building up its stake in Debenhams in 2017. It currently holds a 29.7% stake in the department store chain – just short of the 30% threshold that would force it to make a takeover bid.

However, Debenhams is struggling, and has issued three profit warnings so far this year. The chain is undergoing a turnaround plan designed to cut costs and boost sales, but its chief executive Sergio Bucher has said the UK retail sector is facing “exceptionally difficult times”.

In addition to its stake in Debenhams, Sports Direct also owns an 11% stake in House of Fraser, which recently announced a major restructuring.

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Sports Direct’s head of strategic investments, Liam Rowley, said “We hope House of Fraser will come out stronger from the restructure.” Mr Rowley also told the programme that “retailers need to work together”, otherwise “Amazon’s going to eat your lunch”.

As well as the impact of the Debenhams stake, the sharp fall in Sports Direct’s profits was also partly due to the previous year’s figure being boosted by income from the sale of the Dunlop brand.

Stripping out these factors, underlying pre-tax profits rose to £152.9m from £113.7m the year before.