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How To Cut Down On Workplace Distractions

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Much has been written about the growing problem of the distracted employee who does not complete tasks in a time-effective or focused manner.

There are number of societal and workplace cultural factors at play, and the “problem” of employee distraction can also be reframed as an opportunity to improve employee engagement. For starters, let’s examine some of the reasons people get distracted in the workplace.

People get distracted because they feel bored, they feel disengaged…and often because internal workflow processes are cumbersome, burdensome, outdated, restrictive, inflexible, or otherwise simply do not fit the context they were designed for. They get distracted because their job requires too much multi-tasking, or because they are working longer hours and have external life concerns pressing on them.

Many are under-employed or focusing their time on tasks that others could do far more cost-effectively. Here are some tips for helping employees to sharpen their focus, and for using tech tool to reach performance and output goals.

Encourage them to “eat the frog”

Mark Twain famously said, “eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day.”

No matter how hard we try to distribute workloads so that our employees are focused on doing what they enjoy doing more often than not, at best we will only arrive at 80-90% (in a good environment). This means that 10-20% of the time, employees will necessarily be engaged in tasks that make them feel physically or emotionally drained.

These are your “eat the frog” tasks – and they different for every individual. Helping employees frame them this way brings a little levity to the situation – and research shows that people are less anxious and distracted when they get their frog-eating out of the way as the first task. They can then get down to the serious business of enjoying what they do for you.

Use process automation software to streamline work

It is highly likely that your employees are accessing some forms of software packages for e-mail, instant messaging, cloud sharing, calendars, to-do list, mind mapping, and other applications they can access from their desktop or phone. Many of these programs have built-in features that allow for prioritization of work.

More sophisticated versions of project management software, can even replicate high-level scheduling and work prioritization. There are also tools that replicate tasks specific to certain industries. There’s different software tools for invoicing, email marketing, data recovery and just about every other tedious task you can think of.

You should implement these if you have the bandwith. Your employees will be thankful.

Let them design the workflow

Many employees struggle with navigating business processes and systems that were designed for them to use – by someone who never did their job. Worse, they were not consulted in the design, or they inherited the system, or the process once worked but outlived its usefulness in its current form.

Tap into your greatest resource, and let your employees help you identify what should be fixed, and be part of the think tank that fixes it.

Let them switch between tasks to reduce fatigue

Mental, physical, and emotional fatigue are serious issues related to employee disengagement, stress, and burnout. There is evidence from the field of psychology that suggests that deliberate switching of tasks at a set time interval is a far superior strategy to randomly switching back and forth.

Your software platforms or other sophisticated tasklist apps can help you set intervals – 30 minutes on a critical report, 15 minutes to respond to urgent email, let phone go to voice and answer on the hour after a brief walk around the office. Then back to the report, and repeat until finished. Lacking an application, a phone alarm clock will suffice. Even better, if you have an employee assigned to a critical report, assign someone else to cover for them for their simpler tasks.

Otherwise, a person trying to write a report spends 2 minutes on the report, 5 minutes on a phone call, 15 minutes recovering their train of thought, 10 minutes on the report, 3 minutes on the phone, 10 minutes recovering train of thought, etc. Ask anyone who has ever written either a novel or a graduate thesis.

The first strategy may have the “disadvantage” of making people wait a half hour to have their phone call returned, but it will get returned. And the report will actually get written, too. Most importantly- the employee will feel in control of his or her situation and can calmly switch tasks, focusing on what is most important at the moment. Barring actual emergencies, which of course do happen, this is a far more productive strategy.

Let them have unstructured downtime

Employees are people, too. They need time to disengage, and recharge. Instead of policing internet usage for example, allow them to take a few minutes to watch a [suitable for work] video that will brighten their mood. Or take a walk with a camera. Or go to the gym at an odd hour. Or grab a cappuccino with their coworker to run an idea by them. You get the idea.

Unstructured downtime is not just good for business, it is good for human beings, too. Remember that employees only function well when they are healthy. Mental health matters for that, too. You need to give employees time to decompress to cut down on stress and anxiety, otherwise you lose them to mental health disability or another company.

Encourage employee collaboration

Allow employees to offer their expertise to others, and seek others to help think or work through something that is tricky stuck, innovative, boring, or otherwise perfectly suited to collaborative endeavors. Also ditch the “only work within your job description” mentality.

You might be surprised what someone whose hobby is photography, or video game design, or calligraphy- might contribute to your corporate culture and customer service. Providing good communication platforms for employees to find and share with each other is an instant productivity booster.

Encourage process feedback

Many times, something is not working for an employee – but the supervisor does not know about it because the employee does not feel encouraged to speak up about it. Or the supervisor does not communicate it to management. Or management does not take action, etc. Creating a culture conducive to process feedback is an effective way to improve employee focus – because those daily frustrations add up.

An employee is likely to continue giving his or her best if their concerns are listened to, acknowledged, and, most importantly, addressed. An easy way to facilitate this type of feedback is to build it into your business process management software function.


Design

How Artificial Intelligence is Changing The Art Industry

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At the end of last year, a work of art created by an algorithm was auctioned off for the first time ever. It was a painting and, though it was only expected to sell for around $10,000, it sold for a whopping $432,500, further cemented the growing interest in AI art. Artificial intelligence is undoubtedly changing the future of technology and business practices, but it’s making waves in the visual arts sector as well. AI artists are collaborating with machine learning technology to write novels, produce fine art, expand capabilities in the culinary arts, produce music, and even help with choreographed dances.

The idea of artificial intelligence creating art has been met with many divisive thoughts from creators, artists, and collectors alike. Who technically owns the art and should profit from its sale? Can a machine evoke the same creativity that human can? Will it ultimately replace artists? Auction house, Invaluable, explores the capabilities of AI art and answers these questions in their infographic below. You can see the full article here.


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CES

Kunpeng 920: Huawei Unveils World’s Highest-Performance ARM-based CPU

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Just in time for CES 2019, Chinese tech leader Huawei, strategically unveiled the Kunpeng 920, the industry’s highest-performing ARM-based processor. At Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China, Huawei released the impressive CPU, intended for handling applications like big data processing and distributed storage.

William Xu, Director of Huawei’s Board and Chief Strategy Marketing Officer, said during the press conference that “Huawei has continuously innovated in the computing domain in order to create customer value. We believe that, with the advent of an intelligent society, the computing market will see continuous growth in the future. Currently, the diversity of applications and data is driving heterogeneous computing requirements. Huawei has long partnered with Intel to make great achievements. Together we have contributed to the development of the ICT industry. Huawei and Intel will continue our long-term strategic partnerships and continue to innovate together.”

William Xu, Director of Huawei’s Board and Chief Strategy Marketing Officer (credit: Huawei)

Kunpeng 920: High-Performance ARM-based CPU

Huawei’s high standards of leading the industry are very clear with the release of the new Kunpeng 920.  The new CPU, similar to Huawei’s HiSilicon Kirin 980 (launched in October 2018), was  designed in-house and manufactured on a 7-nanometer processor. According to Huawei, the gain in performance between these two CPU’s emerges from a series of optimized branch prediction algorithms and an increased number of OP units, along with an improved memory subsystem architecture. The Kunpeng 920 provides both higher computing performance for data centers while decreasing overall power consumption. The Kunpeng 920 is packed with 64 cores, clocking an impressive 2.6GHZ, and paired with 8-channel DDR4 memory allows the Kunpeng 920 to score over 930 on the SPECint Benchmark, 25% higher than the industry benchmark.  For the sake of comparison, the previous industry leader was the Fujitsu 7-nanometer A64X. Beyond its speed is the CPU’s power efficiency, which performs 30% better than its competitors.

Kunpeng 920 performance (credit: Huawei)

In terms of system integration, the new CPU has increased with two 100G RoCE ports. Kunpeng 920 also supports PCIe Gen4 and CCIX interfaces, and provides 640 Gbps total bandwidth.  In addition, the single-slot speed is twice that of the incumbent offering, effectively improving the performance of storage and various accelerators.

TaiShan Series: Huawei’s ARM-based Server Built to Perform

To complement the Kunpeng 920, at today’s press conference Huawei also released its TaiShan series servers, powered by the company’s new CPU. Aimed at tackling three distinct issues, storage,  high-density, and balancing both requirements, the Taishan series designed three unique models. Powered by the Kunpeng 920, the TaiShan servers are built for big data, distributed storage, and ARM native application scenarios. These unique scenarios are ideal for the ARM architecture offering many advantages in many-core and performance per watt. The TaiShan series are ideal computing platforms for enterprises with high performance and low power consumption. Designed especially in big data scenarios, the TaiShan servers are tuned for optimal many-core high concurrency and resource scheduling to deliver a 20% computing performance boost.  

As Mr. Xu stated at the press conference, “The ARM industry is seeing a new development opportunity. The Kunpeng 920 CPU and TaiShan servers newly released by Huawei are primarily used in big data, distributed storage, and ARM native applications. We will work with global partners in the spirit of openness, collaboration, and shared success to drive the development of the ARM ecosystem and expand the computing space, and embrace a diversified computing era.”

TaiShan server (credit: Huawei

Open and Collaborative ARM Ecosystem is Geared for Mutual Success

For years, Huawei has continuously promoted industry cooperation and collaboration among its industry partners in terms of hardware, basic software, and applications. The company’s unique approach is predicated on the growing trend that an intelligent society, with all things connected, and sensing, is well underway. In light of these industry trends and application requirements, a new era of diversified computing is emerging. The ability to process multiple data types and scenarios are the driving force behind optimizing computing architecture.   

Summarizing the company’s vision of serving as an industry leader across all verticals, from telecommunications to servers to handsets, Mr. Xu noted that “With Kirin 980, Huawei has taken smartphones to a new level of intelligence. With products and services (e.g., Huawei Cloud) designed based on Ascend 310, Huawei enables inclusive AI for industries. Today, with Kunpeng 920, we are entering an era of diversified computing embodied by multiple cores and heterogeneity. Huawei has invested patiently and intensively in computing innovation to continuously make breakthroughs. We will work with our customers and partners to build a fully connected, intelligent world.”


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Computers

11 Important Cyber Security Tips That Will Help Seniors Protect Themselves From Hackers

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With the increasing impact of the digital world, an AgeUK study shows that senior citizens are making use of emerging technologies – in fact the number of over 75s using the internet in particular has doubled in the last five years.

Seniors are not only using the internet, but the majority of seniors also own smart phones, online shop and 50% of internet users aged 65-75 have a social media account. The main ways seniors tend to use the internet is to keep in touch with family abroad, for general browsing and for entertainment purposes.

Although seeing the older generation taking advantage of the latest trends and technologies shows the positive impact of these innovations on people of all ages, there are also many potential threats they need to be aware of when using the internet. Only 32% of seniors surveyed claimed they were confident using the internet safely, and 25% of over 75s stated that technology made them feel vulnerable. Seniors particularly need to be aware of how to use the internet safely as they appear to have a lack of confidence and awareness, making them prime targets for cyber criminals. 1 in 5 seniors also don’t have anti-virus software installed on their devices leaving them vulnerable.

This infographic created by Focus Training introduces simple yet effective ways seniors can safely use the internet and protect themselves from potential cyber attacks.

 


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