An unconsidered aspect of the coronavirus emergency, fighting burnout with teamwork and the effects of loneliness are among the themes in this week's must-read articles from the world of work.
#1. Has Brexit harmed the UK’s ability to attract talent?
Regular readers might be surprised at how long we’ve gone without mentioning the ‘B word’ but we do have to talk Brexit for a moment. The UK officially left the European Union last week and began negotiations on its future relationship with the trading bloc. The uncertainty remains for businesses, particularly SMEs and start-ups who rely on attracting talent from abroad.
The Adecco Group’s recently published Global Talent Competitive Index, in association with Insead and Google, shows the UK falling from 9th to 12th in terms of its ability to attract, retain and develop talent. However, London has climbed from 14th to 2nd. As Alex Fleming, President and Country Head for the Adecco Group in the UK and Ireland explains, while London has branded itself as a global city and continues to be a magnet for talent, the rest of the UK and smaller companies could struggle to hire the staff they need. Regardless of what happens next, however, businesses can mitigate some risk by upskilling and cross-skilling their current staff.
💡 In today’s world, the only thing certain is that nothing is certain. But investment in your employees and their skills is the best guarantee of being able to adjust to the fast-changing world.
#2. EU youth unemployment remains high
Still on the subject of the EU, unemployment figures for December contain good news and bad. They are the lowest for the Eurozone since 2008 and the lowest for the EU28 since 2000. However, youth unemployment remains stubbornly high, especially in Southern Europe. This is the most educated generation in history and yet around 15% remain unemployed, and that figure doubles in Spain. The levels are about the same as in December 2018.
As Euronews reports, there are several EU initiatives underway to address the problem, including the Youth Guarantee, which “aims to give every person under the age of 25 an offer of employment, further education or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving education”. However, that scheme has been criticised for focusing on internships and short-term contracts.
💡 Youth unemployment is a timebomb that can only be defused if the public and private sectors work together.
#3. Coronavirus: a health emergency that could change how we work
Another big story of the past week has been the outbreak of the coronavirus, which has spread rapidly across China – and the world. Clearly, the important story is the ongoing health crisis – and you can read about that here – but the disease is having serious economic effects, too. Companies are advising employees not to travel to China, and many businesses have closed to help prevent the virus spreading. Employees are working from home, where possible.
This has kickstarted what NDTV describes as the “world’s largest work-from-home experiment”. The SARS outbreak lasted more than six months between 2002 and 2003, when connectivity and remote working tools were less advanced than they are today. If the coronavirus lasts as long, it might lead to a significant shift in how much companies expect employees to work in a central location.
💡 By force of circumstances, humans are always able to adapt. The coronavirus may primarily be a health crisis, but it is also impacting our workplaces.
#4. Rising loneliness affects the workplace
One of the downsides of working from home, however, is that it leaves many people feeling isolated and lonely. This is already a significant problem in modern society. A new report, by health service firm Cigna, says that 60% of Americans consider themselves lonely. That’s up from 53% in 2018. Men and younger people are more likely to consider themselves lonely, and this affects the workplace.
Those who consider themselves lonely are more likely to miss work through illness or stress and more than twice as likely to think about quitting their job. Importantly, if we’re thinking about working from home, remote workers are more likely to feel alone than non-remote workers. Can a healthy workplace play a role in tackling loneliness? This could be an important reason to develop soft skills and resilience among workers.
💡 No one is immune to loneliness but those with good co-worker relationships and work-life balance are less likely to feel lonely. Our workplaces can play a positive role!
#5. Fighting burnout – as a team
And finally, what happens when teams fight burnout together? That’s what a group at professional services firm Ernst & Young set out to do. Each of the 40-person team agreed to support work behaviors that supported work-life balance, mental breaks and physical activity. The result was that employees were more productive and able to get their work done in fewer hours. The authors write, “Members of the client team they served were so impressed by the shifts that they eventually asked how they might join the experiment.” This is another example of how companies can boost wellbeing and performance, at the same time.
💡 Teamwork is not just a buzzword. In unity, we find strength, even when it comes to something as lonesome as burnout.