New ways of ‘being together apart’ can work for us and the planet long after coronavirus crisis passes



Oxfam/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Andrew Glover, RMIT University and Tania Lewis, RMIT University

Most major corporate, academic and other networking events have been cancelled because of the risks of spreading the coronavirus while travelling or at the events themselves. This flurry of cancellations has even spawned a literally titled website: https://www.isitcanceledyet.com/. But the changes in behaviour now being forced upon us might benefit the planet in the long term as we find and get used to other ways of holding meetings.

The COVID-19 pandemic is driving the development of these alternatives to physical travel and meetings much more strongly than climate change had to date. With many countries closing their borders, limiting domestic travel and imposing restrictions on large gatherings, few conferences are likely to proceed in the coming months of 2020.




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Old conference model is unsustainable

Traditional face-to-face conferences tend to be rather unsustainable affairs. Participants often fly from around the world to attend – usually accompanied by some carbon-intensive conference tourism along the way. For people who take just one long-haul flight per year, air travel is likely to be the single largest contributor to their carbon footprint.

If you make a long-haul flight to attend a meeting once a year that’s enough to greatly increase your carbon footprint.
Rommel Canlas/Shutterstock

The dramatic decline in conferences and other meetings is likely to contribute to a significant drop in carbon emissions from air travel in 2020.

Conferences and meetings have come to be regarded as important parts of professional life. They allow us to connect with people and ideas in our field, and can be opportunities to advance new knowledge.

But with so many of us effectively “grounded”, what are the alternatives to attending traditional conferences and meetings?

Digital conferencing on the rise

The use of digital conferencing platforms has skyrocketed in the past few weeks as more and more people work from home and travel is restricted.

Leading US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden even held a “virtual town hall” meeting recently as part of his campaign, although many users reported technical glitches and low-quality video plagued the experience.

Conferences are even taking place in virtual reality settings. These dedicated online conferencing environments are designed to mimic the venues conferences are often held in. These online events have large auditoriums, smaller “breakout rooms” and even socialising spaces to meet other participants through the use of digital avatars.

However, online conferencing need not be held in immersive 3D environments to be successful.

Exploring alternative formats

Most traditional conferences tend to be quite similar in format. They’re usually in a fixed location and run for two to five days. Presenters speak in front of live audiences on a fixed schedule.

Some digital conferences try to mimic this format, but others are trying to use the technology to open up the possibility for new types of event formats.

The “nearly carbon-neutral” conference model was initially developed to reduce the emissions associated with flying to conferences. Presentations are broadcast online over about two weeks. Participants can interact with presentations via accompanying text channels. The lectures and text messages are preserved online, creating an accessible archive.

Some events are being broadcast on the website Twitch. It’s a popular streaming platform where online gamers broadcast to – and interact with – surprisingly large audiences. This shows how conference organisers planning online events may need to look to communities who have been connecting and interacting “at a distance” long before any travel bans came into force.

The gaming community has led the way in developing mass meetings online.
Facebook

Do we even need video?

It’s common for conferences and other events to have Twitter “backchannels” where participants post short messages about their experiences of attending the event to a dedicated hashtag. People who are unable to attend can view these messages to get a sense of “being there”.

The “Twitter conference” has taken this a step further. The digital event just involves participants posting on a dedicated hashtag at a set point in time.

Events like this show conferences can be stripped down to what they are ultimately about: connecting with people and ideas that we’re interested in.

One size won’t fit all

It’s unlikely any one event format will suit every purpose. Organisers will need to be creative in how they schedule and plan events. They’ll have to consider what they want to accomplish and what types of participation they want to have.

Digital conferencing may even give less mobile groups – people with disabilities or caring responsibilities or who are averse to flying – an opportunity to attend events they might have been unable to take part in before.

Ultimately, the restrictions on air travel and social gatherings will force us to adapt to new ways of “being together apart”, both professionally and personally. We may not be able to share a conference space with our peers and collaborators, but we can still connect with them. We might even learn more about what type of travel is really necessary, with the invaluable benefit of reducing the pace of climate change.The Conversation

Andrew Glover, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, RMIT University and Tania Lewis, Co-Director of the Digital Ethnography Research Centre and Professor of Media and Communication, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Which jobs are most at risk from the coronavirus shutdown? 


Jeff Borland, University of Melbourne

The immediate impact of the coronavirus shutdown is striking in its magnitude, its speed and its concentration on a small set of industries.

My attempt to identify where the virus and the shutdown will have the biggest effect suggests that in February 2020 about 2.7 million workers were employed in the most exposed industries.

And while it won’t be possible to know for sure until April 16 when we get data from the Bureau of Statistics on the labour force in March, I believe it’s reasonable to think the jobs of about 900,000 are already under threat.

Which jobs are most at risk?

In the table below I list those whom I think are most at risk.

For one group of about 1.4 million workers – primarily in industries involving eating out, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and air travel – the loss of work is the inevitable result of government shutdowns.

February 2020,
ABS 6291.0.55.003

Another group, comprising about 900 thousand workers, are in retail trades (non-food) and personal services, where the effect on jobs is coming from consumers cutting spending apart from on essential items.

February 2020,
ABS 6291.0.55.003

Workers in both at-risk groups are predominantly young. More than half are under 35 years of age. Six out of seven are employees. About one in every seven is an owner/manager or works in a family business.

A slightly higher proportion are female than male. They are evenly split between full-time and part-time.

Some industries will grow

Some industries are seeing rapid increases in demand due to the coronavirus. They include the retail grocery trade and associated logistic services, and the supply of office essentials needed to work at home.

In a relatively short period there is also likely to be an increase in demand from the health care and health services industries.

Other areas where increased demand seems likely are the home delivery of goods bought online, cleaning services and services usually undertaken by volunteers and government agencies who are occupied dealing with COVID-19.

The total workforce will shrink

So far there has been little impact of the supply of workers, but it will happen.

It is beginning to occur as schools and childcare centres close and workers withdraw in order to care for their children, and it is accentuated by parents not wanting to risk outsourcing the task to grandparents.

In the coming weeks, there will be further hits to labour supply as illness from COVID-19 causes workers to need to take leave and other workers withdraw to provide care for family members who become ill.




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It is difficult to be precise about the magnitude of withdrawal from the labour market, but it is potentially large.

To start with, most of the impact is likely to come from withdrawal for caring or to avoid illness.

As an indication of the potential scale of withdrawal, in 2019 there were 1.21 million families with children aged from 0-9 years in which either a sole parent or both parents were in paid work.




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In 2016 there were 634,500 people aged 65 to 84 doing voluntary work.

Workers becoming ill might also have a substantial impact on labour supply.

Under a (hopefully pessimistic) scenario that COVID-19 continues its current rate of growth over the next three weeks, with those infected in the previous two weeks then unable to work, this would be about 67,500 persons out of work due to illness.

COVID-19 has already had a dramatic effect on employment – that much is evident from news images of queues at Centrelink.

Further impacts are almost certain in coming weeks.

February 2020,
ABS 6291.0.55.003

The scale and speed of what’s happening is creating the most serious labour market policy challenge of the post-war era.The Conversation

Jeff Borland, Professor of Economics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Click for urgent coronavirus update’: how working from home may be exposing us to cybercrime


Craig Valli, Edith Cowan University

Apart from the obvious health and economic impacts, the coronavirus also presents a major opportunity for cybercriminals.

As staff across sectors and university students shift to working and studying from home, large organisations are at increased risk of being targeted. With defences down, companies should go the extra mile to protect their business networks and employees at such a precarious time.

Reports suggest hackers are already exploiting remote workers, luring them into online scams masquerading as important information related to the pandemic.

On Friday, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Scamwatch reported that since January 1 it had received 94 reports of coronavirus-related scams, and this figure could rise.

As COVID-19 causes a spike in telework, teleheath and online education, cybercriminals have fewer hurdles to jump in gaining access to networks.

High-speed access theft

The National Broadband Network’s infrastructure has afforded many Australians access to higher-speed internet, compared with DSL connections. Unfortunately this also gives cybercriminals high-speed access to Australian homes, letting them rapidly extract personal and financial details from victims.

The shift to working from home means many people are using home computers, instead of more secure corporate-supplied devices. This provides criminals relatively easy access to corporate documents, trade secrets and financial information.




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Instead of attacking a corporation’s network, which would likely be secured with advanced cybersecurity countermeasures and tracking, they now simply have to locate and attack the employee’s home network. This means less chance of discovery.

Beware cryptolocker attacks

Cryptolocker-based attacks are an advanced cyberattack that can bypass many traditional countermeasures, including antivirus software. This is because they’re designed and built by advanced cybercriminals.

Most infections from a cryptolocker virus happen when people open unknown attachments, sent in malicious emails.

In some cases, the attack can be traced to nation state actors. One example is the infamous WannaCry cyberattack, which deployed malware (software designed to cause harm) that encrypted computers in more than 150 countries. The hackers, supposedly from North Korea, demanded cryptocurrency in exchange for unlocking them.

If an employee working from home accidentally activates cryptolocker malware while browsing the internet or reading an email, this could first take out the home network, then spread to the corporate network, and to other attached home networks.

This can happen if their device is connected to the workplace network via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This makes the home device an extension of the corporate network, and the virus can bypass any advanced barriers the corporate network may have.




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If devices are attached to a network that has been infected and not completely cleaned, the contaminant can rapidly spread again and again. In fact, a single device that isn’t cleaned properly can cause millions of dollars in damage. This happened during the 2016 Petya and NotPetya malware attack.

Encryption: not a cryptic concept

On the bright side, there are some steps organisations and employees can take to protect their digital assets from opportunistic criminal activity.

Encryption is a key weapon in this fight. This security method protects files and network communications by methodically “scrambling” the contents using an algorithm. The receiving party is given a key to unscramble, or “decrypt”, the information.

With remote work booming, encryption should be enabled for files on hard drives and USB sticks that contain sensitive information.

Enabling encryption on a Windows or Apple device is also simple. And don’t forget to backup your encryption keys when prompted onto a USB drive, and store them in a safe place such as a locked cabinet, or off site.

VPNs help close the loop

A VPN should be used at all times when connected to WiFi, even at home. This tool helps mask your online activity and location, by routing outgoing and incoming data through a secure “virtual tunnel” between your computer and the VPN server.

Existing WiFi access protocols (WEP, WPA, WPA2) are insecure when being used to transmit sensitive data. Without a VPN, cybercriminals can more easily intercept and retrieve data.

VPN is already functional in Windows and Apple devices. Most reputable antivirus internet protection suites incorporate them.

It’s also important that businesses and organisations encourage remote employees to use the best malware and antiviral protections on their home systems, even if this comes at the organisation’s expense.

Backup, backup, backup

People often backup their files on a home computer, personal phone or tablet. There is significant risk in doing this with corporate documents and sensitive digital files.

When working from home, sensitive material can be stored in a location unknown to the organisation. This could be a cloud location (such as iCloud, Google Cloud, or Dropbox), or via backup software the user owns or uses. Files stored in these locations may not protected under Australian laws.




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Businesses choosing to save files on the cloud, on an external hard drive or on a home computer need to identify backup regimes that fit the risk profile of their business. Essentially, if you don’t allow files to be saved on a computer’s hard drive at work, and use the cloud exclusively, the same level of protection should apply when working from home.

Appropriate backups must observed by all remote workers, along with standard cybersecurity measures such as firewall, encryption, VPN and antivirus software. Only then can we rely on some level of protection at a time when cybercriminals are desperate to profit.The Conversation

Craig Valli, Director of ECU Security Research Institute, Edith Cowan University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Working from home: what are your employer’s responsibilities, and what are yours?



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Robin Price, CQUniversity Australia and Linda Colley, CQUniversity Australia

So you’ve been asked to work from home.

Doing so usually requires changing aspects of your relationship with your employer. What it doesn’t change is that your relationship is based on mutual obligations. These remain exactly the same even though you work at home.




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Your employer’s duties, under both industrial relations and work health and safety laws, are to ensure you are able to work safely at home, and to cover reasonable expenses. Your obligation is to work if you want to be paid.

A safe workspace

In Australia, an employer has a legal duty of care for the health and safety of workers “so far as is reasonably practicable”. This duty is contained under the uniform work health and safety legislation of states and territories – see, for example, the Queensland legislation.

That duty of care extends to anywhere work is performed. If you are asked to work from home, your employer is responsible to ensure this does not pose a risk to your health and safety.




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Some organisations conduct formal inspections of homes before approving working-from-home arrangements. That may not be practical in current circumstances.

The next best option might be a virtual tour using virtual meeting software such as Google hangouts or Zoom. At a minimum, your employer should provide you with a health and safety checklist, specifying considerations such as:

  • a safe work space free from trip hazards (such as rugs and cables)
  • a broadly safe environment including an exit, smoke alarms and a first aid kit
  • appropriate lighting and ventilation
  • ergonomic requirements such as a desk large enough for tasks, phone and mouse within reach
  • a chair that adjusts to ensure your feet are flat on the floor
  • a computer screen positioned for your eyes to meet the top of the screen

Reimbursing expenses

Your employer’s primary responsibility under industrial relations law is to pay you for the work you do under applicable awards, enterprise agreements and contracts.

Your employer is also responsible for providing you with the appropriate resources for work to be carried out. These might include a computer with systems to access and protect work files, a headset, a webcam and virtual meeting software.




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There is an implied obligation also to reimburse you for expenses incurred while working at home, such as extra electricity or internet access.

This obligation may be spelled out in an enterprise agreement or a working-from-home policy, but not all organisations have codified entitlements. You may need to establish with your employer what costs will be reimbursed, what limits apply, and what approvals are required.

If your employer does not reimburse you for running costs – because the paperwork is arduous and the amount usually small – remember you can also claim work-related expenses, including the cost of a dedicated work area, as tax deductions. Claimable expenses are set out on the Australian Taxation Office’s website.

Employee responsibilities

In allowing you to work from home, your employer is demonstrating a degree of trust that past generations of managers would have found unacceptable. Your obligation is to do the right thing even without direct supervision, observing the same practices as normally expected by your employer.

All your usual employee responsibilities from the workplace continue to apply, such as obeying lawful directions and working to the best of your ability.

Much has been written on how best to work at home. There are some common themes. Get dressed for work, so that you feel “at work” and behave accordingly. Maintain a separate work space, so there is a clear delineation between work and leisure. Ensure you take breaks to maintain your health and well-being.




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Another aspect of well-being you will need to pay conscious attention to is minimising the psychological stress of isolation.

Working from home can be isolating in the best of times, and in the current situation this is arguably also an aspect of your employer’s duty of care. But this is something that cannot be easily codified and will require goodwill and negotiation. You and your employer may need to consider new routines for communication to ensure working at home is about physical distancing and social solidarity, not social isolation.The Conversation

Robin Price, Lecturer in Employment Relations and Human Resource Management, CQUniversity Australia and Linda Colley, Associate Professor HRM/IR, CQUniversity Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Get dressed and set goals: some routines not to break if coronavirus means you have to work from home



Shutterstock/Creative Lab

Paula Brough, Griffith University

The precautions taken by some employers over the coronavirus mean you may find yourself working from home, some for the first time.

For example, Telstra says it wants any Australian-based office staff who can work from home to do so until the end of the month “at a minimum”. Many other employers are encouraging their staff to do the same.

You might feel this is a chance to stay in pyjamas all day, graze your way through the kitchen cupboards, and balance work tasks with online shopping and social media entries.




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But that won’t help the work get done, and it won’t do much for your sense of well-being. So here are some useful strategies to help if you want to be productive and still feel connected to your workplace over what might be a long working-from-home period.

Work as normal

First prepare yourself for a normal working day. Get up as normal, shower, dress for a casual work day, brush your hair, look as normally presentable as you usually do.

This will put you in your normal work mindset. It will also help if you’re suddenly included in a work meeting via Skype, Zoom, Facetime or Google Hangouts.

Next the physical environment. If you can, have a dedicated work space in a quiet room. It’s really preferable not to work in bed or in your bedroom.

Try to set a desk at home as you would at work.
Flickr/Nenad Stojkovic, CC BY

Set up some desk space similar to your office space at work, aiming to replicate your real work space will also help you achieve that work mindset. Plus you want a neutral background behind you for that work video call.

Use software and apps to help you stay connected, such as Slack, Jabber or other similar tools.

Your household data usage will likely increase as you become home-bound. Boost your Wi-fi facilities if you need to – refer to the support offered by your telecom company or internet provider. Some are already offering free upgrades to customers.

Have a plan

Book in daily work meetings via video hook-ups to stay connected and plan work tasks (now you’ll be glad you got out of your PJs!).

You’ll likely still have as much work to do, so plan for a full work day and prioritise your tasks as usual. Make sure you know what is expected of you. Discuss your work tasks with your supervisor as you normally would, it’s important both you and they are clear about your daily work tasks and due dates.

If part of a team, then make sure you know what each member is working on and when their work is due, and follow this up by calls and emails. As always, tell your supervisor of any problems you experience with completing your work.

And remember it’s preferable to discuss any problems via a phone or video call, rather than multiple emails, to better clarify the issues involved.




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It’s also important to look after your psychological health, during what could become long periods of isolation. Your may feel a bit overwhelmed by the directive to work from home, and also anxious about the broader coronavirus situation.

Social contact is very important. If you’re used to having lunch or coffee with colleagues, plan a quick social phone or video call to each other at lunchtime or after you have finished a few hours of work. It’s really important to stay connected with your colleagues as usual and to make sure all feel supported.

Get some fresh air. If you can, have a daily walk to your local shop, or at least get outside in your garden or balcony. Hang out some washing, walk the dog, water a plant, pick some fresh veggies, just take a break from your desk and move around.

Call family, friends and colleagues to see how they’re doing. Stay socially connected.

Use video technology to stay socially connected with your work colleagues.
Shutterstock/RossHelen

That work/life balance

It’s also important to think through your work-home boundaries. We’ve become used to blurring these boundaries a little, which is often beneficial, helping us to manage our multiple demands.

But when your home and work are located in the same place, the boundary setting needs some consideration.




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Be aware of home demands interfering with your work. Don’t procrastinate work tasks by first doing some housework. Set yourself a target to complete a work task and when you’ve finished it then spend ten minutes doing the tidying.

Equally, don’t let work take over your home life – just because work is always there doesn’t mean you have to be. Finish about the time you normally would.

Walk away from your desk. Engage with your family and friends. A period of psychological recovery from work is vital to make sure you feel rested and productive for working from home tomorrow.The Conversation

Paula Brough, Professor and Director, Social & Organisational Psychology Research Unit, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Working at home to avoid coronavirus? This tech lets you (almost) replicate the office




Geoffrey Mann, RMIT University

Working from home is already so common it has its own acronym, and it’s about to get even more common still. Companies like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft are now advising employees to “WFH” to avoid exposure to the novel coronavirus.

But working from home can be a real challenge for employees who find themselves doing it for the first time. To address this concern, many employees are turning to digital solutions to help them interact with colleagues and stay productive away from the office.

Here are some tech options for three styles of work: formal meetings, informal discussions, and team projects. But none of them, as we shall see, is without drawbacks.




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Formal meetings

The first question on most people’s minds is how to conduct meetings with colleagues or clients. One of the most common answers is Zoom, a video communication platform that combines conferencing, online meetings, chat and mobile collaboration.

Zoom is widely used as an online substitute for formal meetings, and last week its share price surged by 12% in anticipation that cornavirus quarantines will see it adopted even more widely. Among the platform’s selling-points are its ease of use, and ability to stream presentations as well as host meetings.

But while digital solutions like Zoom offer useful way for colleagues to meet, they are arguably less satisfactory for interacting with customers. Research suggests that online meetings fail to deliver the same feelings of connection and empathy, compared with a face-to-face meeting.

Informal discussions

While video conferencing is useful for formal meetings, it is less appropriate for informal chats, brief queries or rapid status updates, such as “have you sent that invoice yet?”. This task is more suited to instant messaging platforms or group chat apps.

A common tactic is to use Facebook messenger, WhatsApp or gchat. But these can be distracting and intrusive, particularly at high volumes, causing workers to lose focus and concentration.

Many companies have instead adopted Slack and Microsoft Teams, which offer instant communication without the distraction of social media. IBM has reportedly adopted Slack for all of its 350,000 employees. And Slack has reportedly asked its own employees to work from home in response to the coronavirus outbreak, prompting wisecracks on social media about how they will stay in touch with one another.

But while these channels are great for zapping quick messages between team members, it can be hard to build real rapport. Research shows that being authentic, realistic and making time with colleagues is a more natural way to build effective work relationships, and this is hard to do purely online.

Team projects

So much for meetings and chats – what about actual project management? Two options already in widespread use are Google Drive and Microsoft One Drive, which allow people to upload documents to the cloud and collaborate on them in real time.

These two platforms have already become the industry standard for sharing documents. But (and you may be sensing a theme here), sometimes team discussions require face-to-face conversations or brainstorms, which can challenging to replicate in a purely online environment.




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There’s no doubt that the coronavirus has struck at a time when we have more digital options than ever before, giving a wider range of employees the opportunity to work from home with minimal disruption.

But it’s also undeniable that people still need face-to-face interactions for companies to function at their best. The likes of Zoom, Slack and Google Drive will likely see an uptick in use during the epidemic, but once it’s over they should be considered complementary solutions rather than substitutions.The Conversation

Geoffrey Mann, Sessional Lecturer, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

What employers need to know: the legal risk of asking staff to work in smokey air


Elizabeth Shi, RMIT University

Amid thick bushfire smoke in cities including Canberra and Melbourne, employers need to consider their legal obligations.

Some have directed their workers not to turn up in order to avoid to occupational health and safety risks. Among them is the Commonwealth department of home affairs which last week asked most of its staff to stay away from its Canberra headquarters for 48 hours.

Other employers want to know where they stand.



Each state and territory has its own occupational health and safety laws.
However most line up with the so-called Model Act, a federal act of parliament intended to harmonise state laws.

Under section 17 it imposes on employers a duty to, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure health and safety by eliminating or minimising risks.

This employer’s duty applies not only to its employees, but also to other types of workers including independent contractors.

Meaning of ‘reasonably practical”

Under the section 18 of the Model Act, “reasonably practicable” means

that which is, or was at a particular time, reasonably able to be done in relation to ensuring health and safety, taking into account and weighing up all relevant matters

By themselves, these words aren’t much of a guide, so the Act includes examples of “relevant matters”, among them:

  • the likelihood of a hazard or risk occurring

  • the degree of harm that might result

  • what the employer knows or ought reasonably know about the hazard or risk, and ways of eliminating or minimising hazard or risk

  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or reduce hazard or risk

  • the cost associated with available ways of eliminating or minimising the risk, including whether the cost is grossly disproportionate to the risk

Meaning of ‘likelihood’

Employers should make themselves aware of the risk of an air quality hazard.
This can be achieved by checking the most up to date air quality index in the location on an environment protection authority website:

NSW

Victoria

Queensland

South Australia

Western Australia

Tasmania

Northern Territory

Australian Capital Territory

Workers who work outdoors are more likely to be subject to harmful effects of bushfire smoke than indoor workers.

They are more likely to experience irritation to their airways, nose and eyes.

They might also experience low visibility which might make their work more dangerous.

The machines they operate could also be impacted by the smoke and dust in a way which would make operating them more dangerous.

Special measures should be taken to protect workers who work outdoors, such as providing them with face masks or rescheduling their work.

Smoke emissions from the Australian bushfires from 1 December 2019 to 4 January 2020.

Meaning of ‘degree of harm’

Asthma suffers might be at greater risk.

It is certainly arguable the likelihood of harm for indoor workers is much lower, especially if the air quality in their workplace is the same or even better than the air quality in their homes.

Employers should have up-to-date information about the health of their workers, especially those workers who have pre-existing conditions that might predispose them to harm from smoke.

Among these would be workers who have asthma or other respiratory disorders.

Special steps should be taken to protect them, taking into account their pre-existing conditions.

Meaning of ‘reasonably ought to know’

Employers should be checking up-to-date information on an environment protection authority website and on the website of Safe Work Australia which is the Commonwealth regulator for occupational health and safety laws.

It’s very likely law enforcers will presume the information on these websites constitute information the employer ought to have known in determining the appropriate action to take.

For example, it would be difficult for an employer to argue they didn’t know P2 rated face masks should be provided to workers when the Safe Work Australia website specifically mentions them as an appropriate way of eliminating or reducing air quality hazards.

Meaning of ‘availability of ways to reduce risk’

Safe Work Australia directs employers to have in place measures to manage the risks to health and safety of working outdoors when air quality is reduced, including:

  • working indoors (where possible)

  • rescheduling outdoor work until conditions improve

  • ensuring buildings and equipment are functioning correctly and have not been affected by dust or debris

  • cleaning dust and debris off outdoor surfaces

  • providing personal protective equipment such as eye protection and correctly fitted P2-rated face masks.

Meaning of ‘cost of minimising hazard’

The cost of elimination or minimising hazard will be higher for some measures than others.

For example, it might cost more to direct workers to stay home than to provide face masks.




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These costs need to be weighed up against the likelihood and degree of potential harm.

If the likelihood and degree of harm is high, it’s unlikely law enforcers will be particularly sympathetic to arguments about cost.The Conversation

Elizabeth Shi, Senior Lecturer, Graduate School of Business and Law, RMIT University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A life of long weekends is alluring, but the shorter working day may be more practical



The pressure to fit family and personal commitments into the few hours between getting home and bedtime is arguably the main source of stress today.
http://www.shutterstock.com

Anthony Veal, University of Technology Sydney

When Microsoft gave its 2,300 employees in Japan five Fridays off in a row, it found productivity jumped 40%.

When financial services company Perpetual Guardian in New Zealand trialled eight Fridays off in a row, its 240 staff reported feeling more committed, stimulated and empowered.


Perpetual Guardian trial outcomes, as measured by researchers from the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology.
4dayweek.com, CC BY-SA



Read more:
Working four-day weeks for five days’ pay? Research shows it pays off


Around the world there’s renewed interest in reducing the standard working week.
But a question arises. Is instituting the four-day week, while retaining the eight-hour workday, the best way to reduce working hours?

Arguably, retaining the five-day week but cutting the working day to seven or six hours is a better way to go.

Shorter days, then weeks

History highlights some of the differences between the two options.

At the height of the Industrial Revolution, in the 1850s, a 12-hour working day and a six-day working week – 72 hours in total – was common.

Mass campaigns, vigorously opposed by business owners, emerged to reduce the length of the working day, initially from 12 hours to ten, then to eight.

Building workers in Victoria, Australia, were among the first in the world to secure an eight-hour day, in 1856. For most workers in most countries, though, it did not become standard until the first decades of the 20th century.

Workers commemorate achieving an eight-hour workday in Melbourne, Australia, circa 1900, The eight-hour day was widespread in Victoria by 1860 and was commemorated with the gazetting in 1879 of a public holiday known as Labour Day.
www.wikimedia.org

The campaign for shorter working days was based largely on worker fatigue and health and safety concerns. But it was also argued that working men needed time to read and study, and would be better husbands, fathers and citizens.

Reducing the length of the working week from six days came later in the 20th century.

First it was reduced to five-and-a-half days, then to five, resulting in the creation of “the weekend”. This occurred in most of the industrialised world from the 1940s to 1960s. In Australia the 40-hour five-day working week became the law of the land in 1948. These changes occurred despite two world wars and the Great Depression.

Stalled campaign

In the 1970s, campaigns for reduced working hours ground to a halt in most industrialised countries.

As more women have joined the paid workforce, however, the total workload (paid and unpaid) for the average family increased. This led to concerns about “time squeeze” and overwork.

The issue has re-emerged over the past decade or so from a range of interests, including feminism and environmentalism.




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Back on the agenda

A key concern is still worker fatigue, both mental and physical. This is not just from paid work but also from the growing demands of family and social life in the 21st century. It arises on a daily, weekly, annual and lifetime basis.

We seek to recover from daily fatigue during sleep and daily leisure. Some residual fatigue nevertheless accumulates over the week, which we recover from over the weekend. Over longer periods we recover during public holidays (long weekends) and annual holidays and even, over a lifetime, during retirement.

So would we be better off working fewer hours a day or having a longer weekend?

Arguably it is the pressure to fit family and personal commitments into the few hours between getting home and bedtime that is the main source of today’s time-squeeze, particularly for families. This suggests the priority should be the shorter working day rather than the four-day week.




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Sociologist Cynthia Negrey is among those who suggest reducing the length of the workday, especially to mesh with children’s school days, as part of the feminist enterprise to alleviate the “sense of daily time famine” she writes about in her 2012 book, Work Time: Conflict, Control, and Change.

Historical cautions

It’s worth bearing in mind the historical fall in the working week from 72 to 40 hours was achieved at a rate of only about 3.5 hours a decade. The biggest single step – from six to five-and-half days – was a reduction of 8% in working hours. Moving to a six-hour day or a four-day week would involve a reduction of about 20% in one step. It therefore seems practical to campaign for this in a number of stages.

We should also treat with caution results of one-off, short-term, single-company experiments with the four-day week. These typically occur in organisations with leadership and work cultures willing and able to experiment with the concept. Employees are likely to see themselves as “special” and may be conscious of the need to make the experiment work. Painless economy-wide application cannot be taken for granted.The Conversation

Anthony Veal, Adjunct Professor, Business School, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Go home on time! Working long hours increases your chance of having a stroke



Is it time to cut back on overtime?
Annie Spratt

Libby Sander, Bond University

Australia is in the bottom third of OECD countries when it comes to working long hours, with 13% of us clocking up 50 hours or more a week in paid work.

These long hours are bad for our health. A new study from France has found that regularly working long days of ten hours or more increases our risk of having a stroke.

Other research has found that employees who work long work hours are likely to have poorer mental health and lower-quality sleep.

Long working hours have also been shown to increase likelihood of smoking, excessive drinking, and weight gain.




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Long hours are bad for our health

The effects of regular long work hours on our health are wide-ranging.

The new French study of more than 143 ,000 participants found those who worked ten or more hours a day for at least 50 days per year had a 29% greater risk of stroke.

The association showed no difference between men and women, but was stronger in white-collar workers under 50 years of age.

Another meta-analysis of more than 600,000 people, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, found similar effects. Employees working long hours (40-55 hours per week) have a higher risk of stroke compared with those working standard working hours (35-40 hours per week).

The association between long working hours and stroke was stronger among white-collar workers.
Bonneval Sebastien

Irregular work hours, or shift work, has also been associated with a range of negative health and well-being outcomes, including the disruption of our circadian rhythm, sleep, accident rates, mental health, and the risk of having a heart attack.




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And it’s not just the physical effects. Regularly working long hours results in poor work-life balance, leading to lower job satisfaction and performance, as well as lower satisfaction with life and relationships.

Why are we working more?

Although many countries have imposed statutory limits on the work week, worldwide around 22% of workers are working more than 48 hours a week. In Japan, long work hours are such a significant issue that karoshi – translated as “death by overwork” – is a legally recognised cause of death.

Concerns around automation, slow wage growth, and increasing underemployment are some of the reasons Australians are working longer. A 2018 study showed Australians worked around 3.2 billion hours in unpaid overtime.




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And work doesn’t end for many people when they leave the office. If they aren’t doing extra work at home, taking calls, or attending after-hours meetings online, working second jobs is increasingly becoming the norm. Many Australians now work additional jobs through the gig economy.

The influence of job control

Autonomy and “decision latitude” at work – that is, the level of control over how and when you perform your duties – is a contributing factor to the increased risk of health problems.

Low levels of decision latitude, as well as shift work, are associated with a greater risk of heart attacks and strokes. Individual control plays a significant role in human behaviour; the extent to which we believe we can control our environment considerably impacts our perceptions of and reactions to that environment.

Early psychology research, for example, showed that reactions to the administration of an electric shock were very much influenced by the perception of control the person had over the stimulus (even if they did not actually have control).

Workers who have little autonomy or control are more likely to experience health problems than those who have a high level of control.
NeONBRAND



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These findings were echoed in data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. It found that a lack of alignment between an individual’s preferences and their actual working hours resulted in lower reported levels of satisfaction and mental health. The results applied both to workers who worked long hours and to those who wanted more hours.

What can employers do?

Effective communication with employees is important. Employees may be unable to complete their work in standard hours, for example, as a result of having to spend excessive amounts of time in meetings.

Employers can take steps to implement policies to ensure that long work isn’t occurring regularly. The Australia Institute holds an annual Go Home on Time Day to encourage employees to achieve work-life balance. While this initiative raises awareness of work hours, going home on time should be the norm rather than the exception.




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Increasing employees’ input into their work schedule and hours can have positive effects on performance and well-being.

The design of the workplace to promote well-being is an important factor. Research on shift work has shown that enhancing the workplace by providing food, child care, health care, accessible transport, and recreational facilities can reduce the effects of shift work.

By improving conditions and benefits, employers can help ameliorate the negative health impact of shift work.
Asael Peña

Finally, implementing flexible work practices, where employees have some control over their schedule, to encourage work-life balance has been shown to have positive effects on well-being.

Such initiatives require ongoing support. Japan instituted Premium Friday, encouraging employees to go home at 3pm once a month. Initial results, however, showed that only 3.7% of employees took up the initiative. The low take-up can be attributed to a cultural norm of lengthy work days, and a collectivist mindset where employees worry about inconveniencing peers when they take time off.

Given the rise in concerns about future work, and workplace cultures where long hours are the norm, change may be slow in coming about, despite the negative health effects of long work hours.The Conversation

Libby Sander, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Bond Business School, Bond University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.