opinion

Work-life balance?

May 12, 2018

How many hours do you work usually daily? We are all workers whether we work in a plush carpetted office as executives and managers, in a hot and noisy assembly-plant as factory-hands or as house-wives at home. Why do we work? Why do we slug five or six days a week (or even more?) for eight or more hours at a stretch? The church has had quite a lot to say about work and especially, the rights of the workers. And when you get through the church jargon, you'll find statements on minimum wages for workers, needs for leisure and social benefits. It is the Book of Genesis which tell us that work is God's gift to human beings. God gave us the will, power and intelligence to "fill the earth and subdue it" and not just talk about seeing the wild beasts, the fruits and grains...  We are given the enormous task of shaping the earth, whether as machinist in a textile factory, or as clerk in court. The important message is: Work is for man (and woman) and not man (and woman) for work! Through work, man develops himself, his personality and his sense of self-worth. It is also through work that man produces goods and services contributing and participating in the development and society. In the encyclical Laborem Exercens (on human work), Pope John Paul II made it clear that there should be just remuneration for the work of an adult who is responsible for a family and this means enough money for the breadwinner to feed, clothe and maintain his partner and children, with provisions "for security for his future". I came across an Asian nation's legislators overwhelmingly approved a bill that reduces the maximum weekly work hours. South Korea is reducing its maximum working week from 68 hours to 52 hours in a bid to boost the country’s productivity and the number of children being born. But the average working week varies depending where you live in the world. So, which countries are “burning the midnight oil”? In March, South Korea's National Assembly passed a law that will give a substantial amount of its workforce a well-deserved break. It is the developed nation with the longest working hours, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The South Korean government also believes it could even increase the country's birth rate, which has decreased substantially in the last few decades. This new law will come into force in July 2018, although initially it will only apply to large companies before reaching smaller businesses. Despite opposition from the business community, the South Korean government believes the law is necessary to improve living standards, create more jobs and boost productivity Exceptions to the rule? The South Korean government also believes it could even increase the country's birth rate, which has decreased substantially in the last few decades. South Korea has currently longer working hours than any other developed country: an average 2,069 hours per year, per worker, according to 2016 data compiled by the OECD. The analysis covered 38 countries and showed that only Mexicans (2,225 hours/year) and Costa Ricans (2,212 hours/year) worked longer hours. South Koreans bucked a global trend: studies carried out by the International Labor Organization (ILO) show that lower and middle-income countries tend to work longer hours than their richer counterparts, thanks to a series of factors that range from the proportion of self-employed workers in the labour force to lower wages, job insecurity and cultural issues. Death by overwork is so prevalent in Japan that they have a word for it: Karoshi. But South Korea is not the only rich country to defy the odds. Japan has a problem with "death by overwork". In more specific terms, the word means employees dying either from stress-related ailments (heart attacks, strokes) or the ones who take their own lives because of the pressures of the job. The average of 1,713 hours worked per year in Japan is not among the highest in the OECD list, but beyond the number, there is the grim reality that the country has no legislation at all stipulating a maximum weekly hours limit and neither overtime limit. In the 2015-16 financial year, the government registered a record 1,456 karoshi cases. Workers’ rights groups claim that the actual figures could be many times higher due to under-reporting. Japan has a problem with "death by overwork", expressed not only by statistics but also the fact that the Japanese language has a word for this: karoshi. According to ILO's most recent figures, Asia is a continent where more people work the longest hours: most of the countries (32%) have no universal national limit for maximum weekly working hours and another 29% have high thresholds (60 weekly hours or more). And only 4% of the countries abide by the ILO recommendations and set the international labour standards of a maximum of 48 hours or fewer for the working week. In the Americas and the Caribbean, 34% of the nations have no universal weekly hours limit, the highest rate amongst regions. One of the countries without a limit is the United States. But it is in the Middle East where the legal limits are more open for long hours: eight out of 10 countries permit weekly working hours in excess of 60 hours per week. In Europe, on the other hand, all countries have maximum weekly hours, and only Belgium and Turkey have legal working hours of more than 48 hours.  But it is Africa that shows the greatest number of countries in which more than one of third of the labour force works over 48 hours per week. The rate in Tanzania, for instance, is 60%. Surveys have also identified cities in terms of average hours. In 2016, Swiss Bank UBS released an analysis of 71 cities that showed Hong Kong with an average of 50.1 weekly working hours, ahead of Mumbai (43.7), Mexico City (43.5), New Delhi (42.6) and Bangkok (42.1). Mexicans, apart from the longest hours, are also subjected to one of the meanest holiday regimes in the world: their legal minimum paid annual leave is less than 10 days, like in Nigeria, Japan and China, for example, while regional neighbours Brazil offer a minimum of between 20 to 23 days. It could be worse, though. In India, where there is no universal national limit for maximum working hours, workers do not have a guaranteed minimum amount of annual leave.   Lastly, let's find out where your work-life-balance is.  Email:doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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KILLING WORKPLACE

May 4, 2018

I have experienced it many times. I have written about it many times. Nothing changed yet. Of course not!  Fact is, nowadays, the modern workplace can inflict dangerous levels of stress on employees even more then decades ago. Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of "Dying for a Paycheck" , argues that these practices don’t help companies – and warns governments are ignoring an emerging public health crisis. Jeffrey Pfeffer is not the only one. Hundreds more followed Pfeffer's foot steps.  An Uber software engineer making a six-figure income killed himself in 2016, with his family blaming workplace stress. A 21-year-old Merrill Lynch intern collapsed and died in London after working 72 hours straight. When Arcelormittal closed a steel plant that it had taken over, a 56-year old employee died of a heart attack three weeks later. His family said it was the shock. And the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has reported that over half of the 550 million working days lost annually from absenteeism “are stress related”.  I apologize, but I am still waiting for Asian figures. In 2015, an analysis of almost 300 studies found that harmful workplace practices were as bad for mortality, and as likely to lead to a physician-diagnosed illness, as second-hand smoke, a known – and regulated – carcinogen. Harmful workplace practices include things like long working hours, work-family conflict, economic insecurity arising from job losses and not having regular or predictable work hours, an absence of job control and, in the US, not having health insurance. Your supervisor is more important to your health than your family doctor. That's not my quotation but by Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller. The workplace is making people sick and even killing them – and people should care. With rising health-care costs all over the world, the workplace has become an important public health problem. “According to the Mayo clinic, your supervisor is more important to your health than your family doctor,” Bob Chapman, CEO of the manufacturing firm Barry-Wehmiller, told the entire world. The World Economic Forum estimates that some three-quarters of health-care spending worldwide is for chronic disease and non-communicable diseases account for 63 percent of all deaths. Chronic disease comes from stress and the unhealthy behaviours such as smoking, drinking, taking drugs and overeating that stress induces. Numerous surveys show that the workplace is a leading cause of stress, and it is thus one important cause of the health care crisis. The aptly-named American Institute of Stress claims that workplace stress costs the American economy some $300bn each year. A paper I co-authored in a leading peer-reviewed journal estimated that there were 120,000 extra deaths annually in the US from harmful management practices, and that extra health-care costs were $190bn each year. That would make the workplace the fifth leading cause of death, worse than kidney disease or Alzheimer’s. In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive reported that 12.5 million working days were lost from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016-2017.  Work practices that are bad for people don’t even help the company. Very clear. But who cares? None of this is necessary, because the work practices that are bad for people don’t help the company, either. Long working hours are negatively related to per-hour productivity at the both the national and industry level.  Although it may seem counterintuitive, layoffs or redundancies do not improve organisational performance and often drive the best employees to leave, and because of direct costs such as severance and indirect costs such as losing people with strong relationships with customers, frequently do not even save money.  For decades research has shown that giving people more control over how and when they do their jobs increases motivation and engagement. Not surprisingly, stressed employees are more likely to quit – and turnover is expensive.  And systematic research demonstrates what ought to be obvious – sick, stressed employees aren’t as proficient or productive in their work as those that are healthier. Look into a mirror! Maybe you feel the same while reading this. Every indication is that work is getting worse. Job cuts, which used to occur only in tough economic times, are now routine. When 3G Capital combined food giants Heinz and Kraft, 20 percent of the workforce got the axe as the company consolidated manufacturing and removed overlapping functions. The “gig economy” means that economic insecurity is higher as people don’t know what their income will be from one week to the next. Scheduling software that permits retailers and other businesses such as hotels and restaurants to have only the people that analytics predict will be needed means that workers often face fluctuating incomes and don’t have much ability to arrange for coping with family responsibilities. Few leaders seem to understand that when people come to work for them, those individuals have placed their physical and psychological well-being in the leaders’ hands Most fundamentally, in the 1950s and 1960s CEOs saw their job as balancing their obligations to shareholders, customers, employees and the community – so-called “stakeholder capitalism”. Now shareholder interests dominate. Few leaders seem to understand that when people come to work for them, those individuals have placed their physical and psychological well-being in the leaders’ hands. But some leaders are taking this idea of stewardship seriously. Companies such as Patagonia, Collective Health, SAS Institute, Google, John Lewis Partnership – which is employee-owned – and Zillow provide a template of what might be different. As I said SOME leaders. Really only a very few. Not enough. I guess most leaders really don't care about their staffs. People get paid time off and are expected to use it. Managers don’t send e-mails or texts at all hours – people work, go home and have time to relax and refresh. The organisations offer accommodations so that people can have both a job and a family life. People are treated like adults and have control over what they do and how they do it to meet their job responsibilities, not micromanaged. Most importantly, the companies are led by individuals who take their obligations to their people seriously. SAS Institute has a chief health officer whose job is not just to control costs but also to ensure employees are as healthy as possible.  Bob Chapman recognises that everyone who comes to work at Barry-Wehmiller is “someone’s precious child” or family member. People need to choose their employer not just for salary and promotion opportunities but on the basis of whether the job will be good for their psychological and physical health. Business leaders should measure the health of their workforce, not just profits.  And governments concerned about the health-care cost crisis need to focus on the workplace, because workplace stress is clearly making people sick. None of this necessary – no one should be dying for a paycheck. Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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BEST WISHES AND GOODBYE

April 21, 2018

When letters were the only form of written correspondence, signing off was obvious. Actually I am still  adopting that old tradition. No matter, if it comes to letters or emails. It's just a matter of respect and education. If addressing a sir or madam, it was unambiguous. You concluded "yours faithfully". When writing to a specific person – for example, a Mr or (hey, ladies first!) – it was simple, your letter would always be signed off "yours sincerely". Only missives to family or close friends would ever finish with a "love from" or "with much love, yours". For many people, there's a weird status thing when it comes to the more blunt you are in emails. I'm asking myself, why? An email is just a letter - an online one ... . Sad to say,  the arrival of email has disrupted this etiquette, making the rules far less obvious. Indeed, for many of us there are no rules. A whole subculture of personalized email sign-offs has emerged everything from "TTFN" to "peace out". And of course, it’s not just what we say but why we say it. Neither in English nor in any other language. I get the same stuff in German written emails and even letters or text messages. "Emails have become the medium of business, leisure, family, love and everything,” says children’s author Michael Rosen. When we sign off emails, we try to give off the "right vibe", he adds. He says it’s all about how we want to come across to the recipient. "Thoughtful, grateful or just very, very busy?" Oh sure, we are all so very, very busy... . Some of the most successful business people are notoriously blunt in email communication – if they even bother with a sign-off at all. "There's a weird status thing when it comes to the more blunt you are in emails, the more you can be (blunt) because you're senior in the company," says author Emma Gannon, recalling the editor of a famous newspaper whose response to pitches was often just a curt "yep" or "nope". Although being succinct can convey a certain authority and status, it also communicates a dose of self-importance or arrogance. And we’ve all dealt with bosses who fire off email edicts of "is this done?" or "update me on that". Even if they are not so direct, many emailers like to convey a sense of being busy by using or adapting abbreviations. So "kind regards" becomes "KR", or "yours" may do away with pesky vowels to leave "yrs". Heaven forbid! "When someone signed off 'BR' for 'best regards', I just thought they were cold, brrr," says Gannon. And, in my opinion, sorry to say, I even don't reply anymore after receiving such correspondence. Oh sure, we are all busy, but there should be just a minimum of respect, if I communicate with someone. In business or personal. By letter, email or text message.  Many times, there are those who pare it down to the absolute minimum, signing off with simply their name or even just the initial letter of their forename. Others might omit a sign off altogether. While this may come across as peremptory or rude, at least it avoids misinterpretation. Nearly formal but not totally formal, but they're not as informal as 'CU in a MNT on bus OMW'.  Some people swing the other way and end their emails with an altogether friendlier tone. While most would consider that kisses have no place in a business environment, they often creep into emails – and sometimes from people the recipient has never even met. For some, an "x" at the end of an email is a friendly endnote; for others it is totally inappropriate. Even just calling someone by first name, is not the way how it should be in business. What’s clear is that some British terms used to end emails just do not translate well. A casual "cheers" is frequently used as a sign off on UK emails, but can be utterly perplexing for other nationalities. Not surprising when a hearty "cheers" also can be used for clinking glasses at the pub, or to thank a checkout person at the supermarket. Here we have to deal with British and American English. For author Michael Rosen, emails now occupy a halfway house between texts and letters. "The key thing is that emails aren't the same as letters. I position them in my mind as a sort of halfway place between texts and hard copy letters: nearly formal but not totally formal, but they're not as informal as 'CU in a MNT on bus OMW'," says Rosen. I strongly agree with him. And, he adds given their place in this ambiguous no-man’s land of communication, it follows that there will continue to be a whole raft of ways to say "goodbye". Best wishes and goodbye. Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn or visit my www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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THAT'S NOT A BAD IDEA

April 14, 2018

Very often - sometimes too often! - the thought is back! If we wake up in the morning (or even many times in the middle of the night), the thought is back. Sometimes, the thought will not let us sleep. The "act of thinking", the "reflection", the "opinion" or the "serious consideration", no matter, how we describe it - our memory and conscience is always with us as a permanent companion. We brood over unsettled problem. Sometimes, we bear unfair treatments, arrogance, ignorance, incompetent know-it-all-betters, and unbearable oddballs, who inexorable love to make our life a hell while living themselves a disorderly life. We would not like to be distracted, but we're toying with some good ideas how we could throw overboard all that "human garbage". What will come next is a matter of conjecture. Of course, I've got my ideas, but I'm not a mind reader. Too many trains of thought make us thoughtless and absent-minded -  especially in difficult and important daily life situations. Does waiting and/or sleeping solve our problems? Or is it just again in time? Our life's central idea should not be, that while waiting, time solves all our problems. Thoughts should intensify, condense and deepen plans follow by actions. It's good and helpful to carry thoughts in us all the time. Incomprehensible, or better unfinished and un-matured thoughts, no matter whether positive or negative, should be slept on, before tiredness outstrips us with supersonic speed. Sometimes, we feel that our thoughts and ideas can't be fulfilled with life. Where the heart is willing, it will find a thousand ways; but where the heart is weak, it will find a thousands excuses. If doubts begin to take roots, we should rouse from pink-tinted idealism or wear down and annihilate nightmares and erase and wipe out such thoughts and ideas. If our thoughts are good and have the chance to be fulfilled in action, especially if "the other side" is prepared and willing to step on to such a bridge of life, we might get a support and words of encouragement. And, if not? No action?  Maybe it is God's will to keep and protect us from a careless, rash, disadvantageous and uneasy action. Every new day gives us new inexhaustible possibilities to survive, to bear trials and to start a new beginning. We overlook and fail to notice many chances in lie through our sluggishness and laziness while thinking and dreaming of unequaled and unfulfilled ideas. And, my dear readers: As we all know - our time on earth is limited... . Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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WORRYING WOULDN'T HELP ...

April 7, 2018

Life is better than ever, so why does everybody seem to be unhappy? As regular reader of this column, you surely remember this topic which I already raised several times.  Whenever I hear people saying that things turned so bad nowadays, I think of my late LOLA, born in 1899 (!) into a really awful world in Germany and its surroundings. Also the so-called "Golden Twenties" between two World Wars have been everything but golden for her and my former relatives. Lola never complained, even during the sorrowful times in the former East German, the "German Democratic Republic". Lola reached the ripe old age of almost 86. We hardly count our blessings. We enjoy counting our crosses. Instead of gains, we count our losses. We don't have to do all that counting - computers do it for us. Information is easily had. Facebook to and fro, back and forth, there and back - how many posts and comments have been posted already with sadness, loneliness, boredom strikes, problems, worries ... . Just remember this: Opportunity doesn't just knock - it jiggles the door-knob. and "your social media online-friend" - the worrier, is with you day and night, at every corner, following your every step. Complaining and grumbling are good excuses, right? Is social media bad for us? Three billion people, around 40% of the world’s population, use online social media – and we’re spending an average of two hours every day sharing, liking, tweeting and updating on these platforms, according to some reports. That breaks down to around half a million tweets and Snapchat photos shared every minute. Stress, mood, anxiety, depression, sleep (or better non-sleep), self-esteem - Overall, social media’s effects on well-being are ambiguous, according to a paper written last year by researchers from the Netherlands. However, they suggested there is clearer evidence for the impact on one group of people: social media has a more negative effect on the well-being of those who are more socially isolated. Imagine, we have time and opportunities to do almost anything. So why haven't we done it? We have the freedom of bondage or restraint, every one of us in his or her very special unique way - but, we're still our old inferior selves. The job is boring. I don't get a good job. The house is an un-pleasend mixture of tidy and dirty things. It's a mess. I'm not in the mood to arrange my garden. I can't afford a gardener. That's life. How sad. No, it's not my fault; or course not. The whole world is an awful place filled with dreadful and horrible negativism. Yes, I confess, I'm also surrounded by many worriers who put their fears into me. Politicians, i.e., many times love to search for some grave alarm that will cause individuals to abandon their sperate concerns and act im concert, so that politicians can wield the baton. Calls to fatal struggles and fights are forever being sounded. The over-bearing person, who tyrannizes the weak, who wants to domineer and to bluster, is simply nothing else than a worrier, who claims to be a friend. But he isn't. Really not! The bullying of fellow citizens by means of dread and fright has been going on since Paleolithic times. The night wolf is eating the moon. Give me silver and I'll make him spit out. Well, when will we start counting our courage and not our fears, or enjoy instead of our woe? Worrying itself is pointless.Of course, no society has achieved perfectly rules of law, never-ending education or unique responsible governments. Let's seek out the worries but avoid the worriers, because they try to avoid liberty. If you are still worrying right now about something, try to read Jeremiah 29:10-14 or Revelation 21:1-8, just to mention these two. It works. Email me: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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WAR AGAINST INNOCENTS

April 2, 2018

No need to explain headlines and daily news! Killing in every part of the world is unceasing! Warriors go and fight prepared to kill and to be killed with no fear. In the forests, in the streets, a lot of them are found dead bodies spread-eagled. In the rivers and oceans, a lot of them are found floating if not eaten by the hungry sharkes.   But what about those innocent lives who are just victims of war atrocities? Are they prepared to die in such a horrible state? It is sickening to realize that those people are killed within just a flick of a finger by those war-oriented people. Moreoften, we can learn through media about numbers of people dead and injured caused by building and streets bombings, chemical poisonongs (!), and nuclear power testings. Killings - yes, there will be always killings! Because the Super Powers are in a race to put as many weapons as possible into their allies' hands. The Arm producers are urged and more encouraged to make more weapons and explosives. As the Great Powers never stop intervening in these small countries' affairs, there will be more casualties. Wouldn't it much  better for them to help the Third World countries economically than supplying them with weapons? How many more innocent lives shall we find scattered in the streets? How  many more of them will be seen floatingin the open seas with shattered bodies? And how many more young and old people will be buried innocently at the bottom of the sea leaving their loved-ones to suffer pain and extreme grief? War is hell and the world has had enough! When will stability prevail in this world? In one of my previous columns in this corner, several years ago, I asked "Cold War - Hot War?". It was the time, the Ukraine crisis began. Today, let's ask ourselves the same question. And? Homo sapiens - quo vadis?  Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, LinkdedIn or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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