Working overtime is not a new concept. Employees in various industries do it often and in some cases it’s the norm. However, overworking employees is a risky proposition for organisations of all sizes.
For example, when IT departments are under-resourced and working long hours, they can understandably get burnt out, which affects their ability to address critical technology issues in a timely fashion. And according to latest research from Spiceworks, IT pros in EMEA work an average of 49 hours per week, much longer than the average work week. So why are IT pros working extra time and why should this be a warning sign for businesses?
What’s the problem?
Eighteen per cent of IT pros worldwide said they work more than 60 hours a week and 35 per cent said they work at least 50 hours. Add all those hours up and it works out to several weeks of full 24-hour days above and beyond a 40-hour work week over the course of a year. The fact that a significant proportion of IT pros work so many hours begs the question of why management lets this happen. And if businesses claimed ignorance before, now the harsh reality of everyday working life for an IT pro is out in the open.
And given the modern business’ reliance on technology, it’s even more important for management to recognise when IT pros are overworked and understaffed. Organisations are heavily dependent on their IT department to leap into action when things go wrong, but when they’re constantly fighting fires, IT pros have less time to be proactive about identifying and implementing new tech solutions to help companies become more efficient and save money in the long run.
Why are they working so late?
User issues. Anyone in IT can tell you that end user issues are time consuming and stressful, and now we have the data to prove it. The Spiceworks IT staffing survey shows that IT departments with more dedicated help desk technicians work fewer hours on average, and departments with fewer help desk staff tend to work more than 40 hours per week. It’s clear that the workload associated with fixing end user issues consumes a considerable amount of time for IT pros so adding support personnel can help free up time for all IT staff regardless of role.
However, smaller IT departments often lack the resources to employ dedicated help desk technicians and systems administrators, and as a result they tend to work longer hours. In fact, IT pros in small businesses worldwide with less than 100 employees work an average of 50 hours per week, and IT pros in medium-sized businesses with 100 to 499 employees work an average of 53 hours per week. This makes sense because some IT pros in small and midsized businesses may run a one-man shop managing more devices and user issues on their own, which can easily lead to a long work week.
So where possible, businesses can alleviate this burden by investing in more help desk technicians, which gives the rest of the IT department the chance to add value rather than just keep the lights on.
What sector is working the latest?
In terms of working patterns across different sectors, it’s clear that IT pros working in the public sector get a better deal. Those in education, government, and healthcare generally work fewer hours compared to other industries. Only 33 and 37 per cent of IT pros in government and education respectively work more than 40 hours per week. At the other end of the spectrum, construction and engineering has the highest percentage of IT staff doing overtime with 72 per cent of IT pross working more than 40 hours per week.
It’s no surprise that IT pros work incredibly hard and are often overworked. So how do businesses counteract this? There’s no magic formula to determine how many IT pros your company needs to ensure peak tech performance and adequate incident response times. However, the findings of the report provide a clear indication of when it might be time to employ more IT staff based on the numbers of hours worked per week, your industry and the types of IT pros employed.
Adidas and Parley for the Oceans, an organization dedicated to reducing plastic waste in oceans, have collaborated to create a 3D-printed shoe made out of recycled ocean plastic.
The shoe is just a prototype, but the goal is to demonstrate how the industry can "rethink design and help stop ocean plastic pollution," according to Adidas.
The prototype has an "upper" made of ocean plastic and a 3D-printed midsole of recycled polyester and gillnets, a type of fishing net.
Adidas has pledged to take other steps to reduce plastic pollution like phasing out the use of plastic bags in its retail stores. Adidas says this particular goal will be achieved by the end of the first quarter of 2016.
As The Verge pointed out, the shoe's design is based on the Adidas Futurecraft 3D, a 3D-printed shoe meant to show a potential future of on-demand shoe customization.
The NHS has partnered with dating app Tinder to raise awareness about organ donations.
The app is used to find people a good personality match but for the next fortnight it will also encourage users to become a donor. People who swipe on some pictures on the app will be encouraged to sign up to the NHS organ donor register. The NHS said that it wants more younger people to join its campaign.
In July, NHS Blood and Transplant reported that the number of people in the UK donating organs after death had fallen for the first time in more than a decade.
There are just under 7,000 people currently on the UK transplant waiting list and, in the last decade, more than 6,000 people across the UK have died while waiting for an operation.
Tinder has created bespoke profiles for some of its more high-profile members, including Olympic gold medallist Jade Jones MBE, Emmerdale's Gemma Oaten and Jamie Laing, who takes part in reality show Made in Chelsea.
The celebrities' Tinder profiles will feature The Wait logo to draw attention to the importance of organ donations. Users who swipe right will match with these profiles and receive a message that says: "If only it was that easy for those in need of a life-saving organ to find a match."
YouTube just released its annual video mashup that pays tribute to all the biggest viral moments and people of 2015.
You'll see Left Shark, a handful of Shia Labeouf "Just do it" copycats, and cameos by people like Heaven King and Bethany Mota. And people well-versed in internet culture and YouTube stars will recognize dozens of in-jokes and references that will fly right by those who aren't.
YouTube culture exec Kevin Allocca tells Business Insider that shooting for the ~7 minute piece took 21 days across multiple cities around the US and the world.
"The sets have this fun party atmosphere," he said. "Some of these [YouTube creators] are pretty huge stars who are busy with crazy schedules, so to have them in the same place is really fun."
Microsoft and Amazon are squaring up in Europe, competing to control the lucrative cloud storage market. Both companies have strong U.S. offerings and have made moves to build data centres in the U.K., Germany, Ireland, and other European countries.
The two giants both receive billions of dollars every year from cloud-based services that other companies — such as EasyJet, Slack, and Nokia — can then build on.
Research firm IDC predicts that the European market for online software services — made up of Software-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, and Platforms-as-a-Service — is valued at around $11 billion (£7.3 billion) annually.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is growing at a rapid rate, offering a more open-ended set of services. The company originally started offering pure computer storage — i.e. just storage, no add-ons — but this has since grown into a host of offerings that Amazon charges a fee for.
Microsoft's storage offering come from the opposite end of the spectrum: Only recently has the company started offering pure storage, instead looking to sell storage and services (such as Office 365) as a bundle to big companies.
"Microsoft comes from the top down," said Giorgio Nebuloni, a researcher for IDC who focuses on systems and infrastructure in Europe. "Amazon comes from the bottom up."
This difference — that Microsoft offers services on top of everything else while Amazon offers more control — is the key difference between the two companies, which have a combined market value of $761 billion (£508 billion).
The convergence point of the two platforms is here: Platforms-as-a-Service. It's where applications live online, including everything needed to develop them.
Essentially, PaaS is what Microsoft already does with Office 365 and Azure, its cloud-based storage option. Amazon has started moving closer to offering a PaaS service, predominantly because big businesses are already used to it and, once happy, can be locked-in for a long time.
"It’s the glue," said Nebuloni. "For us, it's a layer that includes all of the cloud services from development to deployment."
This convergence is nothing new for the U.S. but the battle has just arrived in the U.K. and other European countries.
To tackle the problems, the companies are taking two very different approaches:
Microsoft is looking for local partners — such as Deutsche Telekom in Germany — that it can create an agreement with to license certain technology back-and-forth. This, Nebuloni says, enables the company the freedom of remaining above certain things — like small-scale legal intricacies — and makes it more trustworthy for clients.
Amazon is taking the opposite approach, building out everything itself.
"Amazon's advantage is that you don't always have to pander to the local markets," said Nebuloni. "However, that's one of the reasons why, in France in particular, there is an advantage for Microsoft because they have a local partner."
Put simply: Microsoft is using local knowledge to aid its efforts while Amazon is working by itself.
"I think Amazon can control more of what they do," said Nebuloni. "In Europe, it's still an open question about whether doing everything on your own will win out in the end but the closer you go to enterprise the more regulated the data is and that's when it gets more complex."
Three of the largest PC manufacturers in Japan may be looking to join forces and merge operations. Japan's Nikkei news reported that Fujitsu, Toshiba and Vaio may combine their operations in a move that would create a single, dominant manufacturer that controls 30% of Japan's domestic PC market.
According to the report, each of the entities would have roughly equal control of the new company, and likely the Vaio name would survive the merger. Toshiba, Fujitsu and Vaio's leading shareholder, Japan Industrial Partners, would each have 30% ownership of the company.
The number of plastic bags taken home by shoppers at Tesco stores in England has dropped by almost 80% since a 5p levy was introduced, data suggests.
The government brought in the charge on 5 October to help reduce the amount of plastic waste. Tesco declined to say how many 5p bags had been bought but said it was down 78% on the month before the charge, the Daily Telegraph reports.
The chain is to give the proceeds from plastic bag sales to charity.
The number of carriers bags given out by seven major supermarkets in England rose by 200 million in 2014 to exceed 7.6 billion - the equivalent of 140 per person and amounting to 61,000 tonnes in total.
Tesco's market share suggests it is likely to have handed out in excess of two billion single-use bags in 2014.
'Vital step' The supermarket said it had also seen a 50% increase in the amount of shoppers opting for "bagless" online deliveries. Rebecca Shelley, Tesco's communications director, said the charge had "clearly had a huge impact" and the company was on target to donate £30m to charity over the year.
Image caption M&S said half the number of clothing bags had been used since the charge was introduced Marks and Spencer introduced a 5p charge on food carrier bags in 2008, which saw a reduction of 75% in usage and raised more than £10m for good causes.
A spokeswoman said since the legislation in October, the firm has seen a further reduction of 18% in usage.
"In clothing, since the legislation was introduced, we have seen a reduction of around 50% on clothing bags usage," she added.
England was the last part of the UK to adopt the 5p levy following successful schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The British Retail Consortium said the number of carrier bags now used by UK shoppers indicated there had been a significant reduction.
"Nevertheless, we must not let an obsessions with carrier bags get in the way of the wider and more important green goals on which retailers are working incredibly hard and making significant progress including reducing packaging, carbon emissions, food waste and waste to landfill," a spokesman said.
Environment Minister Rory Stewart told the Telegraph that reducing the number of carrier bags used "is a small but vital step in reducing plastic waste".
UK companies have started to realise how vulnerable they really are in the wake of numerous data breaches over the past few years, none more so than the recent hack of TalkTalk.
Customer data, business reputation and even high-level jobs are at risk from sophisticated hackers, and firms now understand the need to tighten security or face mass data theft and potential financial ruin.
But will this drive an influx of investment into cyber security? It took a number of successive breaches on our own shores before UK firms properly took note, according to a number of security experts, despite major breaches at the likes of the US Office of
Instead, it was the hack on mobile and internet provider TalkTalk which experts agree has left a lasting impression on business leaders in the UK.
"The TalkTalk data breach has certainly forced boardrooms to look at their cyber security strategy and question if they are properly equipped," Bharat Mistry, cyber security consultant at Trend Micro, told V3.
"When the CEO of TalkTalk had to face the media, it was distressing to see that she did not know the extent of the breach. She was unsure of what systems were breached, or the type and amount of data affected. The negative media coverage has been a big factor in companies looking at security, and no business wants to be the next TalkTalk."
Five arrests have been made since the hack in October that resulted in the loss of sensitive customer records, including names, addresses, email addresses and partial credit card details.
Focused minds David Emm, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, told V3 that the scale of the breach and the fall out has "definitely focused minds" at other firms.
"Companies now realise that the most worrying aspect of the TalkTalk case is that it didn't take much effort to breach its security," he said. "The consensus is that, while nobody can be 100 percent protected, nobody should be vulnerable to trivial and unsophisticated attacks."
Mark James, a security specialist at ESET, agreed that the breach at TalkTalk was a wake-up call for UK firms. "Companies large and small now realise that it is a very real threat and they need to take measures to protect themselves," he told V3.
"Often only when it hits the headlines do companies look and listen and make significant changes because most of the time these big companies are overseas. TalkTalk in the UK is a lot closer to home [but] making companies look at their security and procedures in case of a breach can only be a good thing."
Andy Herrington, head of cyber professional services at Fujitsu, also agreed with this assetment, nothing that the firm has had more conversation about security since the breach took place. "I can honestly say that since TalkTalk we have had more and higher level conversations at C-level. There's always some amount of finger pointing but they are not going to be an isolated case. It's very easy to point the finger but it's yet another company that has been damaged and that can't be good for any economy," he said at a roundtable event attended by V3. "People are thinking ‘I don't want to have to make those calls' and actually the conversation has changed for the better in the UK since TalkTalk. It was the catalyst that has changed [attitudes] and that's got to be a good thing."
Making the case for cyber investment One aspect of this rising threat of breaches is the realisation that the problem is no longer confined to the IT department and upper management must take an interest.
"Only when cyber security becomes a board-level issue will businesses be one step ahead of hackers," Richard Olver, EMEA vice president at security firm Tanium, told V3.
"The simplest questions are often the hardest to answer, which is why cyber security strategy has to permeate all business levels including, and especially, the board.
"How many companies can correctly answer ‘How many computers are on the network?', ‘What applications are running on my computers?', ‘What is the vulnerability and patch status across all my devices?'. Until they can, risk will prevail." Olver explained that hackers are not becoming more sophisticated but that weak business security strategies make it easier for criminals to get in.
Spend, but spend wisely So will UK firms now throw more money at cyber crime protection? "Major breaches generate motivation and excuses. Spending isn't the same thing as investment, and excuses don't prevent breaches," said Tim Erlin, director of security and product management at Tripwire. "There's little doubt that a significant breach affects security investment, and it's not always new product purchases. If you find yourself explaining why your organisation can't be the next TalkTalk, pause and examine whether you're making excuses or describing actual defences you have in place." Kaspersky's Emm mirrored this statement, saying that spending is important but that combating cyber crime is "not always about money". "The TalkTalk CEO said that the company didn't know what data was encrypted, and knowing information of this sort doesn't have a price in the way that purchasing and deploying hardware or software does. The key, therefore, is to have a risk assessment and strategy in place," he said. Indeed, given all the awareness that's now out there from the recent breaches, there is now no excuse for a company to claim that it was not prepared for a cyber hit, according to Fraser Kyne, principal systems engineer at Bromium. "The TalkTalk incident has been a wake-up call for people. But it's not the first. Certainly it will provide a clear message to chief execs that if something like this happens they can expect to be paraded in front of a voracious media - and they'd better have some good answers to some tough questions," he told V3. Fending off cyber crime is more important than ever for UK firms, and the hackers will not relent. Most recently, toy manufacturer VTech was hit with a breach that resulted in the loss of up to five million customer records. V3 heard last week from some leading security at major organisations about the most important steps to take to protect data, with most urging firms to focus on protecting their 'crown jewels', in order to minimise their risk.