Workplace Stress: Employer’s Role

The World Health Organization considers stress as the health epidemic of the 21st century. Chronic and high levels of stress can lead to heart diseases, high blood pressure, weakened immune functions, impaired cognitive performance, and problems in metabolism, among others. Nearly half of the workforce report suffering moderate to severe stress at work, and this is alarming as it has tremendous and encompassing effect on individuals, families, and organizations.

Stress is one of the major causes of absenteeism and turnover in companies, costing American businesses up to $300 billion a year. Employees report difficulty focusing on tasks at work as a result of too much stress, while others point to stress as a reason behind errors and missed deadlines, trouble getting along with superiors and co-workers, tardiness, and missed work days. Needless to say, stress among employees is a serious problem, which warrants an employers’ attention and resources to form solutions. An employer must also ensure the job is well designed.

Employee assistance programs can aid in a company’s problem with workplace stress, as they enhance employee well-being and engagement. An organization that aims to stay competitive in this unpredictable economy must know the value of a decreased rate of employee turnover, as well as a reduced number of disability or stress claims. Here are three of the companies that have gone the extra mile in managing stress in the workplace:

  • Google. The search engine powerhouse, for starters, grants its employees flexible hours, volunteer time, and vacation time. Aside from this, employees also have access to a holistic wellness program that includes healthcare services, fitness centers, classes, and community bikes. Google also gives the employees opportunities to acquire personal and professional skills outside their job assignments through cooking classes, guitar lessons, and coding classes, to name a few. In addition, employees are also provided financial wellness resources such as access to financial advisors and financial planning services.
  • Microsoft. The company offers education and resources for smoking cessation, fitness training, and weight management, aside from funding employees’ gym memberships or fitness-related equipment. Microsoft also provides its employees and their spouses “Know Your Numbers” health screening events for diabetes, heart disease, cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. Its employee assistance program also provides personal and family counseling, stress management, and referrals for child and elder care.
  • Accenture. This business consultant company offers confidential support to employees for issues such as stress, substance abuse, anxiety, and depression. Employees also have access to healthcare providers 24/7 for any health-related question. Accenture’s wellness program encourages employees to set health goals and offer rewards for accomplishing them. Aside from this, the company also offers special rates and discounts in gyms and fitness centers.

Indeed, promoting health and wellness in the workplace can decrease workplace stress. The three organizations above have seen the value of such programs in keeping their employees healthy, productive and engaged. Here are other ways for employers to manage workplace stress:

  • On-site recreation and fitness centers
  • Wellness adventures
  • Naps
  • Yoga and meditation classes
  • Paramedical services, such as massages

Are you suffering from excessive stress at work? Contact us at Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.

Hogan Injury, an official partner of Neuts on content collaboration, represents Plaintiffs in personal injury claims and litigation related to third-party liability events (TPL).

None of the content on Hoganinjury.com is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information.

Workplace Robotics & Artificial Intelligence

Necessity is the mother of invention. Ever since humankind has started creating new things, the focus of their creation is to help them with the task that they need to perform. From vehicles to electricity, humans have created new technology to find ways to make their lives and work easier. The use of machines in the workplace is nothing new; however, with the advancements in technology these machines that used to do simple tasks are now capable of so much more. The invention of robotics and artificial intelligence has elevated these machines to be able to learn and think for themselves.

The primary goal of artificial intelligence is not to replace humans. Instead, they are meant to help humans automate functions and improve existing technologies, and as we progress through the years, we will see more robots and intelligent machines that will work alongside human beings to complete tasks. Many industries have already incorporated artificial intelligence or robotics into their workplace. The manufacturing industry already has AI taking over difficult, unsafe, and repetitive tasks that used to be done by humans. In this way, AI and robotics have helped lessen the probability of accidents causing injury and damages in the workplace.

As AI and robotics get integrated into the workplace, there will be times when an employee will have to interact with them to finish tasks, and because these technologies are not yet perfect, there may be issues that arise from the interaction that could lead to injury. At the moment, the law treats all machines as simple consumer products like everyday household items so unless the person interacting with the AI or robot acts negligently or recklessly, the manufacturer or owner are held liable for any of the damages.

You may also file a claim under workers’ compensation with your employer if ever you get into an accident involving a machine or robot in your workplace. However, since there are no specific laws or insurance in case of an AI or robotic malfunction, you will only be entitled to the standard damages that are associated with a workplace accident.

Here are some problems you may face when interacting with an AI or intelligent machine in the workplace:

1. Lack of proper training. – If your employer doesn’t provide you with the adequate training to handle or work alongside a robot or an intelligent machine, especially one that is more complex, this may lead to you suffering from an injury with your interaction with it. Proper training should be provided by employers to help employees adjust and interact with AI or intelligent machine properly.

2. Lack of safety precautions. – Employers should provide safety measures for their employees who interact with robots or intelligent machines in the workplace. Something as simple as signage can help prevent injuries caused by these technologies. An excellent example of this is putting a marker on the ground around an articulated arm robot to show the coverage of its reach; this will help employees to stay out of the area so that the robot would not hit them while it does its task.

The goal of AI and robotics is to help human beings move forward, and if we use these technologies the right way, they can be of great help.

Involved in a workplace accident? Contact us at Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.

Hogan Injury, an official partner of Neuts on content collaboration, represent Plaintiffs in personal injury claims and litigation related to third-party liability events (TPL).

None of the content on Hoganinjury.com is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information.

The Future of Work

Work has been as old as the history of man. It has undergone different transformations at different eras of human history. At each era, the nature, scope and composition of work had always depended on the knowledge and technological levels attained by man. In today’s world, we are faced with advanced level of technology that almost everything we earlier thought was impossible is now possible and being executed with super  technical dexterity and incredible simplicity.

Scientific fiction writers were inspired by the idea of automation. Science fiction is no longer fiction today as companies increasingly use robots on production lines or algorithms to optimize their logistics, manage inventory, and carry out other core business functions. Although the process of automation of processes dates back to centuries ago, the pace and scope have dramatically increased over the years. The pertinent questions usually asked are; how will workplace be affected by automation? What is the place of human employees? How does automation affect employment? What is the likely impact on productivity and efficiency in nations’ economies?

With the explosive revolution in robotics, data and analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, we are experiencing an advanced system of automation where machines outperform human beings in a wide range of work activities, including those that require cognitive capabilities. For example, some hospitals now regularly use automated systems for storing and dispensing medication in their pharmacies, eliminating human picking errors, and also have automated haul and transport for their clinical supplies. Such developments in areas of cognitive tasks abound such as financial-service transactions or route optimization for firms such as UPS. Now, activities that were adjudged to necessarily require human judgment and experience are being encroached into by artificial intelligence. According to a study by Mckinsey, it was observed that we are living in a new automation age in which robots and computers can not only perform a range of routine physical work activities better and more cheaply than humans, but are also increasingly capable of accomplishing activities that include cognitive capabilities. These include making tacit judgments, sensing emotion, or even driving.

Other arguments for automation include the fact that performance gains such as increased profit, increased throughput and productivity, improved safety, and higher quality, reduced variability, waste reduction, and higher customer satisfaction which sometimes exceed the benefits of labor substitution. Automated driving of cars and trucks could not only reduce the labor costs associated with drivers; it could also potentially improve safety (the vast majority of accidents on our highways are the result of driver errors) and fuel efficiency. Australian company Fastbrick Robotics has developed a robot,the Hadrian X, that can lay 1,000 standard bricks in one hour – a task that would take two human bricklayers the better part of a day or longer to complete.

Other practical benefits of automation abound in today’s companies’ operations. For instance, in a study conducted by Mckinsey, it is stated that “Rio Tinto has deployed automated haul trucks and drilling machines at its mines in Pilbara, Australia, and says it is seeing 10–20 percent increases in utilization there as a result. Google has applied artificial intelligence from its DeepMind machine learning to its own data justifys, cutting the amount of energy they use by 40 percent. In financial services, automation in the form of “straight-through processing,” where transaction workflows are digitized end-to-end, can increase the scalability of transaction throughput by 80 percent, while concurrently reducing errors by half. Safety is another area that could benefit from increased automation. For example, of the approximately 35,000 road death in the United States annually, about 94 percent are as a result of human error or choice.”

According to a study, The future that works, almost half the activities people are paid almost $16 trillion in wages to do in global economy have the potential to be automated by adopting currently demonstrated technology. The study also went ahead to estimate that automation could raise productivity growth by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually.

Data from the Robotics Industries Association (RIA), one of the largest robotic automation advocacy organizations in North America, reveals just how prevalent robots are likely to be in the workplace of tomorrow. During the first half of 2016 alone, North American robotics technology vendors sold 14,583 robots worth $817m to companies around the world. The RIA further estimates that more than 265,000 robots are currently deployed at factories across the country, placing the US third worldwide in terms of robotics deployments behind only China and Japan.

While much of what we have discussed so far are some of the existing and touted advantages often associated with the deployment of automation and robotics at workplace, there are arguments that seem to observe negative consequences of automation and robotics. Much of the current debate about automation has focused on the potential for mass unemployment. For instance, In a recent report, the World Economic Forum predicted that robotic automation will result in the net loss of more than five million jobs across fifteen developed countries by 2020, a conservative estimate. Another study, conducted by the International Labor Organization, states that as many as 137m workers across Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – approximately 56% of the total workforce of those countries – are at risk of displacement by robots, particularly workers in the garment manufacturing industry.

However, proponents of robotic automation routinely point to the fact that, for the most part, robots cannot service or program themselves – yet. In theory, this will create new, high-skilled jobs for technicians, programmers and other newly essential roles. However, it is observed that for every job created by robotic automation, several more will be eliminated entirely. At scale, this disruption will have a devastating impact on our workforce. One individual who understands this well is a world renowned expert in robotics technology Dr. Jing Bing Zhang, who is also a research director for global marketing intelligence firm IDC. He and his team studied how commercial robotics is likely to shape future’s workforce. In a study IDC’s FutureScape: Worldwide Robotics 2017 Predictions report, Zhang and his team reported thus “By 2018, the reports says, almost one-third of robotic deployments will be smarter, more efficient robots capable of collaborating with other robots and working safely alongside humans. By 2019, 30% or more of the world’s leading companies will employ a chief robotics officer, and several governments around the world will have drafted or implemented specific legislation surrounding robots and safety, security and privacy. By 2020, average salaries in the robotics sector will increase by at least 60% – yet more than one-third of the available jobs in robotics will remain vacant due to shortages of skilled workers”.

The arguments have always been that automation and robotics will affect human employment. However, what most experts argue is that workers might not necessarily be affected, it’s only skill set that might change. In that case modern employees need to retrain themselves to meet up with the new requirements that emerge at the workplace.

Zhang said automation and robotics will definitely impact lower-skilled people, which is unfortunate. “The only way for them to move up or adapt to this change is not to hope that the government will protect their jobs from technology, but look for ways to retrain themselves. No one can expect to do the same thing for life. That’s just not the case any more.”

Whatever it is, it seems the future of work is automation and robotics. Education, training and retraining seem the option for workforce to remain relevant in the scheme of things at workplace.

When IT meets the World Cup

It was the 37th minute of the Germany vs England match.

In the 2010 World Cup.

As the ball ricocheted towards Lampard, he controlled it swiftly and volleyed it in one motion.

The Keeper flailed his arms.

In vain.

The ball hit the crossbar went in and bounced out.

It was a goal!

Lampard wheeled around to celebrate.

Coach Capello pumped his fists in celebration.

Millions of English fans jumped up in celebration and waited for the whistle.

In vain.

It never came.

The Uruguayan Official Espinosa failed to spot it.

Television replays showed that the ball had clearly crossed the line. Ironically, the replays were available to everyone except to the people that mattered most – the players and referees. This was the pivotal moment in England’s World cup campaign of 2010 as Germany went on to win the match and knock them out of the tournament. There was collective outrage – Current England Fullback Kieran Tripper almost smashed his telly. Fabio Capello called the event the biggest disappointment of his career. There were renewed calls for the use of technology in football, specifically Goal Line Technology. These calls have been on for a long time, but FIFA didn’t budge. Indeed, former FIFA President Sepp Blatter strongly opposed the use of any form of technology in the beautiful game. "In my opinion as long as I am in charge I will make sure no technical help will be introduced," said Blatter. "We shall rely on human beings. We will ensure referees will always be improved. Linesmen have to feel and see the game."

Blatter said to use science to end the disputes caused by refereeing mistakes would destroy the emotion of the game. "Players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes and yes, sometimes referees make mistakes. But football is passion, football is emotion. Football has a human touch," he said.

However the Lampard incident and the outcry that followed caused Blatter to soften his stance on the use of Technology. He decided that referees would be given more assistance through Goal Line Technology (GLT) and Video Assistant Referee (VAR). Many things have happened since then. Fast forward to the 2018 world cup and hardly a match passes without the use of VAR and GLT. Although it has had its challenges, the use of these technologies has generally helped to improve the accuracy of refereeing and reduce the controversies associated with wrong calls

Video Assistant Referee (VAR) and Goal Line Technology (GLT)

VAR basically consists of a team of three people (the video referee, his assistant and the replay operator) in a video room with access to replays of match incidents. They assist the referees on the pitch on 4 match-defining moments - penalties, goals, mistaken identities and straight red cards. The referee can request for VAR assistance if he feels unsure of any of his decision on any of these incidents. Otherwise, the VAR team can only notify the referee when there is a clear and obvious error. In that case, the referee can either follow the VAR’s recommendation, review the incident himself on a monitor or stick with his decision.

In Goal Line Technology (GLT), the goalposts are surrounded with electromagnetic antennae. These transmit a signal to the referee’s watch as soon as the ball crosses the line. It is also complemented with about 6 cameras that shoot at 500 frames/sec to get various images of the ball on the touchline in controversial moments. After testing the GLT internally, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) an independent body authorised to decide and agree changes to the Laws of the Game, approved the use of the technology in 2012. FIFA then used it for the first time in a tournament at the 2012 Club World Cup. It was so successful that some of the big leagues began to use it. This was the beginning of the use of modern technology in the most watched game in the world.

Data analytics

Data analytics is also a useful technological addition to the beautiful game. Coaches now have access to data and analyse trends that will help them make insightful decisions. “It can open the coaches’ eyes to look for things the data is showing,” says Chris Anderson, the co-author of "The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Soccer is Wrong" And it does indeed.

There was a coach that told his players to stop taking shots outside the box because of the unfavourable conversion rate from previous statistics. Some prefer playing their corner kicks short instead of crossing it, after recent stats show that crossing the corners makes the attacking team vulnerable to counter attacks. They also check the best passing network between player pairs. Pundits and commentators also use stats to enlighten the audience on a players records/numbers.

Another useful technological innovation that FIFA rolled out  is the Electronic Performance and Tracking System). This system is useful for coaches and the others on the technical bench to know the current stats of their changes and make tactical changes.

Before the match, FIFA will give the two teams tablets that will display both the player performance stats, match footage and the medical stats in real time. According to Football Technology - FIFA, each team will be offered three tablets: one for the team analyst observing the final from the stand, another for the analyst on the team bench and the third one for the team’s medical staff. The tablets will have access to the match footage delivered with a 30-second delay along with the players’ positioning data collected by an optical tracking system, such as passing, pressing, speed, tackles and other in-game statistics. The medical team also has access to the device so that they can know useful stats like the heart-rate of a player.

The Media

A research by Statista shows that a total of 3.43 million people watched the 64 games of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil live in the stadium. However, the media helped amplify the outreach of the World Cup to the rest of the globe. From the developing countries to the Arctic circle, the World Cup was broadcast to every country, making it the most watched event in the planet. Approximately 3.2 billion people watched the last World Cup. That was 46.4% of the World Population!

Traditional Media giants also maximized the strength of their new media platforms in promoting the event. The BBC's chief technology and product officer Matthew Postgate, said in a statement shared with The Independent: “Alongside the BBC’s world-class TV and Radio coverage, record numbers of fans are using our digital services to follow the World Cup. Millions are watching the big matches on their connected TV at home, while millions more are sneaking a peak on their work laptop or cramming in some games on their commute”. Social media has also helped to promote conversations around football matches and events. The World Cup final match between Germany and Argentina broke social media records. According to CNN, it spurred 280 million interactions by 88 million people on Facebook. The match also inspired more than 618,000 tweets per minute, a new record for the site.

With advanced technology and greater spread of the internet, we can be sure of a record-breaking coverage, greater transparency, and analysis of the beautiful game. Hopefully the use of theses technologies would go beyond the 2018 World Cup and the Big leagues, and be available and affordable to developing countries with great passion for football.

As they say in Russia - Chempionat mira zdes'

Uzochukwu Joe-nkamuke is the Assistant Vice-President (Enterprise Solutions), Neuts Nigeria

Five Things to Consider in Improving Employee Retention

One of the biggest challenges any organization faces is keeping their employees, more so the good and deserving ones. When an employee leaves, the management is left with the task to look for a replacement within a short period, as well as the responsibility to manage its impact on the rest of the team. When a team member resigns, people notice; and inevitably, it will make the others think whether it would be high time for them to go, too. This is why effective employee retention must be high on the list of the management’s priorities. Here are a few things organizations can consider in forming a good employee retention strategy.

Employee Compensation

Today’s competitive labor market requires organizations to offer potential hires attractive compensation packages, which include the salaries, benefits, health plans, paid time off, retirement plans, and allowances, among others. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prescribes standards for wages and overtime pay. Every state has a workers’ compensation program that protects the interests of workers who are injured or become ill while at work, as well as their family and employers. Employers must make sure that their compensation package is, first and foremost, in line with the mandates of the law.

Work-Life Balance

Employees value a healthy work-life balance in the company they’re in. Burnout is one major reason for employees to quit, and sometimes it only takes some flexibility on the employer’s end to address this problem. If overtime is necessary, employers must make sure that they comply with the law-mandated overtime pay, and it will also help to give the employees the option to come in late the next day to ensure that they are able to recuperate. Some companies offer flexible schedules and options to work remotely.

Safe and Inclusive Environment

It is of utmost importance that employees feel that their work environment is free from discrimination and threats to their safety. Organizations must be vocal and transparent in their policies on sexual harassment, discrimination, and other sensitive issues in the workplace. Companies must also ensure that the workplace has effective security facilities and protocolsand is free from physical hazards.

Rewards and Recognition

Every employee wants to feel appreciated for the work that they do. Team leaders can make it a habit to allow an hour or two every end of the month to recognize those who went the extra mile, met or exceeded targets, and those who made a significant improvement in their performance. The rewards do not need to be expensive, as long as they send the message that the effort and ingenuity of the employee are much appreciated. Furthermore, implementing a rewards and recognition program is found to be effective in minimizing work-related stress.

Training and Development

Employers must also recognize the employees’ desire for growth and learning. As soon as the employees join the organization, the onboarding and orientation session becomes crucial in setting them up for success. For a week or two, they must be given a comprehensive overview as to the culture and goals of the company, as well as the opportunities that await them. It has been found that effective onboarding reduces turnover and increases retention. Aside from their key roles in the organization, they must also be given opportunities to broaden their skill set. Mentoring, coaching, and cross-training are some of the ways in which employees can develop their career within the organization. Companies must make sure that every employee is given these opportunities to keep them from feeling stagnated in their current role.

If you observe illegal and unethical practices at work and/or experience workplace discrimination and harassment, contact Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.

Hogan Injury, an official partner of Neuts on content collaboration, represent Plaintiffs in personal injury claims and litigation related to third-party liability events (TPL).

None of the content on Hoganinjury.com is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information.