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Working briefs

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Preference for paper In this age of emerging digital technology, why is the use of paper still on the increase? And why, for that matter, are we still using paper at all? Experts have been predicting the paperless office for the past 30 years, yet recently published research indicates that the use of paper has increased, and that this increase is due to the introduction of new digital technology. In their book The myth of the paperless office, Richard Harper and Abigail Sellen suggest that the use of e-mail in the workplace can lead to a 40% increase in paper consumption - and this doesn't take into account the amount of paper used to print information from the internet. They conclude that people like and prefer working with paper. Indeed many activities are undertaken electronically but at some stage end up on paper because digital technology fails to take on the 'properties of paper'.

Closing the productivity gap A report from the Industrial Society, which previews the government's forthcoming review of workforce development, predicts that British business will face increasing government pressure to revise its 'winner takes all' approach to staff training. Andy Westwood, deputy director of policy, indicates in the report that political expediency created substantial no-go areas for Downing Street's performance and innovation unit. Despite this, he believes that industry scepticism about the review's ability to achieve worthwhile change is unjustified.

'This government is determined to snap firms out of their persistent low skills mindset, ' he asserts.

'Under-investment and underparticipation in workforce development is the primary cause of our low productivity. With the productivity gap high on the political agenda, employers can expect significant government intervention in workforce training in the near future.'

Shake hands with staff esteem Lack of recognition in the workplace prompts around two-thirds of employees to hand in their notice, suggests Michael Rose, director of the organisation Reward & Recognition. Speaking at the recent Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) annual conference, Rose said that a lack of effective recognition, as well as being costly to industry, represents a major cause of de-motivation.

'Recognising people's contributions boosts esteem, and helps build an environment of trust throughout the whole organisation. What's more, simple non-cash programmes can have a huge impact on motivation and retention at a very low cost.'

Recognition schemes must be flexible and provide a tangible and personalised way of saying thank you, he added. 'Generally speaking, reward is the pay and recognition is the handshake, and in most cases, the handshake is what makes people tick'.

Long weekends not a sick joke The widespread belief that workers extend their weekends by taking sick leave on Fridays and Mondays is misplaced, according to research conducted in Finland, and consequently strategies to reduce Monday and Friday sick leave 'are probably a waste of time'. The occupational and environmental medicine-based research looked at the absentee records of 27,541 full time staff, working in five Finnish towns between 1993 and 1997. Just under 3.5% of men and 5% of women were on sick leave during any one week, with older people tending to take more time off. The rates of sick leave were lowest on Mondays for both men and women, increasing towards Wednesday and remaining at the same level for the rest of the week.

This same pattern was found across all five towns, ages, occupations and income groups.

However, Monday absences were more common among men and younger employees, possibly as a result of weekend drinking.

'Although we found some evidence for the extended weekend absence - that is, probably not related to sickness - the proportion of days lost was marginal, ' the researchers concluded.

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