The Problem With Business English

The business world has changed.The tools we use have changed. The language we use has changed and even the business culture we use has changed. How businesses are financed and managed has undergone even more dynamic and aggressive change.

The vocabulary of Startup is new and in fitting with the disruption of the new business models, the gig economy and the potential unicorns. Old school is out. It is the same yet different.

Email’s are used but not as a primary way of communicating. Messaging apps fill that gap; the Slacks, the Yammers we send are a non-stop fluid communication stream. That doesn’t mean email is dead. Email is primarily used as a traceable, provable and traceable form of communication.

Notre Dame

In Notre Dame fire, echoes of the 1837 blaze that destroyed Russia’s Winter Palace

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On a cold December night, the symbol of Russia’s imperial prowess went up in flames. Wikimedia Commons

Paul W. Werth, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

In a city graced with remarkable architecture, the cathedral of Notre Dame may be Paris’ most striking edifice. So when it was engulfed by a fire that toppled its spire, it seemed as if more than a building had been scorched; the nation had lost a piece of its soul.

How can a country respond to witnessing the devastation of its most magnificent structure?

As I watched the images, I couldn’t help but think of a similar tragedy that took place in 19th-century Russia – a story I tell in a forthcoming book about how the year 1837 played a pivotal role in Russian history.

Like the people of France who are mourning the damage to Notre Dame, the Russians were rocked by the destruction of an iconic building. Their rebuilding effort might offer some inspiration for a French populace looking to pick up the pieces of their beloved cathedral.

A palace that symbolizes ‘all that is Russian’

On Dec. 17, 1837, a fire broke out at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Now the site of the famous State Hermitage Museum, back then it served as the primary residence of the czar and his family.

Standing in the heart of the Russian capital, with 60,000 square meters of floor space and 1,500 rooms, the Winter Palace was among the world’s grandest buildings. The Russian poet Vasilii Zhukovskii wrote that the palace was “the representation of all that is Russian, all that is ours, all that relates to the Fatherland.”

Originally completed in 1762, the palace had undergone a renovation just prior to the fire. Historians aren’t precisely sure how the fire started, but they do know that defects from the renovation allowed the flames to spread quickly through the palace’s attics. By evening the structure was completely ablaze, a spectacle visible from miles away.

Informed of the fire while at St. Petersburg’s Bolshoi Theatre, Czar Nicholas I rushed to the palace, only to learn that the building couldn’t be saved. The best the monarch and his personnel could do was salvage prized possessions and prevent the fire’s spread to the Hermitage, where the emperor’s art collection was housed.

By the morning of Dec. 19, only the structure’s skeleton remained and an unknown number of people had died. The ruined palace “stood sullenly like a warrior,” one witness observed, “powerful but covered with wounds and blackened by the smoke of unprecedented battle.”

“The northern capital has lost her greatest ornament,” a local newspaper lamented.

A blow to the ruling regime

For the czar and his regime, the fire presented a political challenge.

The palace – a symbol of autocratic monarchy in an age of revolution – was now in ruins. Might the swift destruction of the palace reflect the fragility of the czarist order?

An 1852 portrait of Czar Nicholas I by Franz Krüger. Hermitage Museum

As with Paris in 2019, people expressed disbelief. How was it possible that this magnificent edifice, this national symbol, could be consigned to such destruction? Nicholas himself fell into depression, haunted by even the whiff of smoke. There were murmurs that the conflagration was God’s punishment for the impieties of a secularizing age.

Fearing that Russia’s detractors would cast the fire as a blow to the regime’s clout, Nicholas’ allies quickly mobilized to shape the narrative in Russia and abroad. They wanted the country to appear united. And they certainly didn’t want despondency to become the story.

Shaped by these imperatives and especially concerns about the international response, the first full account of the fire was written in French by the poet Petr Viazemskii and published in Paris. A Russian translation appeared two months later.

That text and others painted a highly idealized picture of the response to the tragedy. The accounts noted that the emperor forcefully directed the fire’s containment, submitting finally and humbly to God’s will. The empress Alexandra exhibited pious fortitude. Soldiers were selfless in their fervor to save the imperial family’s possessions. The Russian people, viewing the palace as their “national patrimony,” felt the loss just as keenly as the czar. (An assault on his wine cellar, and the disappearance of 215 bottles, was glossed over.)

‘Zeal overcomes all’

To reverse the humiliation of the blaze, Nicholas set a nearly impossible goal: rebuild the palace within 15 months. And to erase any memory of the conflagration, he ordered that the restored palace look exactly as it had before.

Thousands of workers labored on an enormous construction site, blowing hot air from immense furnaces to speed the drying of interiors. Occasionally spurred by sips of vodka, they made rapid progress.

On the fire’s first anniversary, portions of the restored palace were illuminated from within to showcase the progress. And on Easter Night, March 25, 1839, Nicholas celebrated the resurrection not only of Jesus Christ, but of the Winter Palace.

Some 200,000 people visited the building that Easter Day, and 6,000 laborers received a medal inscribed with the words “Zeal overcomes all.”

Outwardly identical to the old version, the new palace featured more iron, brick and ceramic in its structures – and less wood. It now had central heating and running water. It was far less fire-prone than the original.

Joseph Ivanovich Charlemagne’s 1853 painting of the north facade of the restored Winter Palace. Wikimedia Commons

1837 and 2019

From what we know so far, Notre Dame hasn’t experienced the same level of destruction as the Winter Palace. Mercifully, nobody died. Nor has the blaze of 2019 produced the loss of culture sustained in last year’s fire at Brazil’s National Museum.

Still, the scope of the damage has been vast.

Only time will tell what’s in store for the cathedral. The challenges of reconstruction are great. But like Nicholas, French President Emmanuel Macron has promised swift repairs. Millions in donations have already poured in.

And if the Russian phoenix of 1839 is any indication, there is hope that a renewed Notre Dame will once again grace the banks of the Seine.

Paul W. Werth, Professor of History, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Work-life balance

Data show how American mothers balance work and family

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Many American mothers say part-time work would be ideal. Halfpoint/shutterstock.com

Alexandra Killewald, Harvard University and Xiaolin Zhuo, Harvard University

Almost 70% of American mothers with children under 18 work for pay.

But motherhood remains disruptive for many women’s work lives. American women earn almost 20% less per hour than their male peers, in part because women disproportionately take responsibility for raising children. Mothers often experience employment interruptions or reductions in work hours.

When it comes to understanding mothers’ long-term employment patterns, researchers know less. How common is it for mothers to persist working full-time throughout their child-rearing years? Which mothers are most likely to be absent from the labor market over the long term? What do employment patterns look like for mothers who fall in between these two extremes?

In a study published in February, we set out to answer such questions. Our research shows that American mothers combine work and family in diverse ways, depending upon their preferences for work, their ability to maintain employment and their need to provide financially for their families.

What employment patterns do mothers follow?

Using national survey data, we looked at common employment patterns for over 3,000 American mothers currently in their mid-50s to early 60s. For these older women, we examined their prime child-rearing years, from the birth of their first child to when that child turned 18.

Motherhood frequently disrupts employment. A year before the birth of their first child, about half of the women in our sample were employed full-time. By the time of the birth, only 20% were. Disruptions are not limited to new mothers: It takes over a decade for mothers’ full-time employment rate to return to 50%.

Using statistical methods, we identified five common patterns of maternal employment over the first 18 years after a first birth. At one extreme, nearly two-fifths of mothers followed a pattern of steady full-time employment. At the other extreme, one-fifth of mothers were almost completely disconnected from employment.

The remaining three groups of mothers – each about 15% of our sample – cannot be easily classified as long-term “career moms” or “stay-at-home moms.”

Two groups spend time out of the labor market while their children are young, then enter employment and ultimately start working full-time. They differ in their typical timing of transition to paid work. One group begins roughly when the first child is entering kindergarten, while the other doesn’t enter full-time work until approximately when the first child is entering junior high.

The last group follows a pattern of consistent part-time work. Like the mothers in the full-time group, they work consistently, but at fewer average hours per week.

Which mothers follow which work patterns?

Let’s look at characteristics of moms who are long-term full-time employed, part-time employed or out of the labor force.

Mothers who consistently work full-time tend to be those who need to. They are less likely to be married, and those who are married have husbands with lower average wages.

Mothers in this group also have resources that support their employment, specifically personal and family histories of employment. Compared to mothers in other groups, they worked more prior to becoming a mother and were more likely to grow up with a working mother. African American mothers are more likely than white mothers to consistently work full-time.

By contrast, mothers who don’t work for pay for most of their child-rearing years also worked less than other women before becoming mothers. For some women in this group, spending time out of the labor market either before or after having children may be a choice – on average, the mothers in this group have less egalitarian attitudes toward women’s roles than mothers in other groups. For other women, the challenges of finding and keeping a job may keep them out of the workforce; mothers in this group are also most likely to lack a high school degree.

Like the full-time group, the part-time working mothers were likely to have resources, like education and pre-maternity work experience, that supported their employment. What then, distinguishes this group from those who work full-time? Compared to the full-time group, they have fewer financial pressures to work for pay. Mothers with long-term part-time employment are on average relatively socially and economically advantaged. They tend to be married, white and older when they have their first child. They are not particularly traditional and even stand out for their low levels of religious attendance.

Do mothers get the type of employment they want?

American mothers balance employment and motherhood in many ways. In part, this reflects different preferences. But not all mothers can pursue their preferred employment pattern.

When mothers were asked what their “ideal” work situation would be in a 2012 Pew Research Center survey, the most common response was part-time work. Yet long-term part-time work is relatively uncommon for American mothers – only about 15% fall into this group.

Although it’s the most common preference, long-term part-time work is the reality only for a relatively advantaged minority. This shows that unequal experiences of motherhood and employment among American mothers reflect not only different preferences, but different financial pressures to work and unequal opportunities to secure employment.

Alexandra Killewald, Professor of Sociology, Harvard University and Xiaolin Zhuo, Doctoral Student in Sociology, Harvard University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

E Mail

Ten rules of email that will reduce your stress levels

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Shutterstock
Ricardo Twumasi, University of Manchester; Cary Cooper, University of Manchester, and Lina Siegl, University of Manchester

Email and smart phones can be stressful. Academics are calling this constant work connection “technostress”. Consequently, many European countries are now offering employees the “right to disconnect”.

The way email is used is complex, it cannot simply be labelled as “good” or “bad” and research shows that personality, the type of work people do and their goals can influence the way they react to email.

Good practice with email use is not just about limiting the amount of emails sent, but improving the quality of communication.

Here are ten tips to reduce the stress of email at work:

1. Get the subject line right

Use clear and actionable subject lines.

The subject line should communicate exactly what the email is about in six to ten words, to allow the recipient to prioritise the email without even opening it. On mobile devices, many people only see the first 30 characters of a subject line. So keep it short. But make it descriptive enough to give an idea of what the email is about from just the subject line.

2. Ask yourself: is email the right medium?

Are you in the same office? Could you go and speak to the person? Could you call? Often these other forms of communication can avoid the inefficient back and forth of emailing.

Instant messaging and video calling platforms like Slack and Skype could be more appropriate for quick internal back and forth messaging. Also, remember that most of the advice below applies to all types of electronic communication.

3. Don’t email out of office hours

Research shows that out-of-hours emails make it harder for people to recover from work stress.

Try and influence your company culture by avoiding sending or replying to emails outside your normal working hours.

Stop doing this. Shutterstock

Management should lead by example and avoid contacting their staff outside of their normal working hours. Some workplaces even switch off email access to employees out of hours. Consider implementing this while keeping a backup phone system for emergency contact only.

New research has also shown that just the expectation of 24-hour contact can negatively affect employee health.

4. Use the delay delivery option

Some people like integrating their work and family lives and often continue working from home during their off-job time. If you are one of these people, or if you work across time zones, consider using the delay delivery option so your emails do not send until the next working day and do not interfere with other people’s off-job time.

5. Keep it positive

Think about the quality of email communication. Not just the quantity. Changes to email use should also focus on the quality of what is being sent and take into consideration the emotional reaction of the recipient.

Research suggests that conflicts are far easier to escalate and messages to be misinterpreted when communicated via email. Therefore, if it is bad news, think back to rule #2: is email the right medium?

6. Try ‘no email Friday’

In order to shift company culture and get people thinking about other methods of communication than email, try a “no email Friday” on the first Friday of every month, or maybe even every week. This is an initiative suggested by experts from the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work, and is being used by businesses around the globe. Employees are encouraged to arrange face-to-face meetings or pick up the phone – or just get on top of the many emails they already have in their inbox on that day.

7. Make your preferences known

Research has shown that not only too much but also too little email can cause stress due to a mismatch between the communication preferences of different people. Some people may like being emailed and cope much better with high email traffic than other means of communication. For these people, reducing the amount of emails they receive may cause more stress than it alleviates.

So consider people’s individual differences and make yours known. Add your preferred contact preferences to your email signature whether it is email, text or instant messages or a phone call.

8. Consider a holiday ‘bounce back’

Having a backlog of emails that builds up over the week appears to be one of the most commonly mentioned sources of technostress for workers. Think about setting up a system where emails are bounced back to the sender when someone is on holiday, with an alternative contact email for urgent requests. This would let you come back to a manageable inbox.

9. Have a separate work phone

Make this the only mobile device you can access work emails on, which gives you the freedom to switch it off after work hours. Also consider turning off email “push” (this is where your email server sends each new email to your phone when it arrives at the server) and instead choose a regular schedule (such as once per hour) for emails to be delivered to your phone (this also increases battery life).

10. Avoid late night screen time

Research suggests that late night smart phone use reduces our ability to get to sleep and also leads to constant thoughts and stress about work. This in turn reduces your sleep quality. Make the bed a phone-free zone to improve your sleep hygiene.

Ricardo Twumasi, Lecturer in Organisational Psychology, University of Manchester; Cary Cooper, 50th Anniversary Professor of Organisational Psychology and Health, University of Manchester, and Lina Siegl, PhD Researcher, University of Manchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Have we forgotten how to talk to each other?

The dying art of conversation – has technology killed our ability to talk face-to-face?

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shutterstock
Melanie Chan, Leeds Beckett University

What with Facetime, Skype, Whatsapp and Snapchat, for many people, face-to-face conversation is used less and less often.

These apps allow us to converse with each other quickly and easily – overcoming distances, time zones and countries. We can even talk to virtual assistants such as Alexa, Cortana or Siri – commanding them to play our favourite songs, films, or tell us the weather forecast.

Often these ways of communicating reduce the need to speak to another human being. This has led to some of the conversational snippets of our daily lives now taking place mainly via technological devices. So no longer do we need to talk with shop assistants, receptionists, bus drivers or even coworkers, we simply engage with a screen to communicate whatever it is we want to say.

In fact, in these scenarios, we tend to only speak to other people when the digital technology does not operate successfully. For instance, human contact occurs when we call for an assistant to help us when an item is not recognised at the self-service checkout.

And when we have the ability to connect so quickly and easily with others using technological devices and software applications it is easy to start to overlook the value of face-to-face conversation. It seems easier to text someone rather than meet with them.

Bodily cues

My research into digital technologies indicates that phrases such as “word of mouth” or “keeping in touch” point to the importance of face-to-face conversation. Indeed, face-to-face conversation can strengthen social ties: with our neighbours, friends, work colleagues and other people we encounter during our day.

It acknowledges their existence, their humanness, in ways that instant messaging and texting do not. Face-to-face conversation is a rich experience that involves drawing on memories, making connections, making mental images, associations and choosing a response. Face-to-face conversation is also multisensory: it’s not just about sending or receiving pre-programmed trinkets such as likes, cartoon love hearts and grinning yellow emojis.

Quicker and easier, but are we losing the human touch? Shutterstock

When having a conversation using video you mainly see another person’s face only as a flat image on a screen. But when we have a face-to-face conversation in real life, we can look into someone’s eyes, reach out and touch them. We can also observe the other person’s body posture and the gestures they use when speaking – and interpret these accordingly. All these factors, contribute to the sensory intensity and depth of the face-to-face conversations we have in daily life.

Speaking to machines

Sherry Turkle, professor of social studies of science and technology, warns that when we first “speak through machines, [we] forget how essential face-to-face conversation is to our relationships, our creativity, and our capacity for empathy”. But then “we take a further step and speak not just through machines but to machines”.

In many ways, our everyday lives now involve a blend of face-to-face and technologically mediated forms of communication. But in my teaching and research I explain how digital forms of communication can supplement, rather than replace face-to-face conversation.

At the same time though, it is also important to acknowledge that some people value online communication because they can express themselves in ways they might find difficult through face-to-face conversation.

Look up from your phone

Gary Turk, is a spoken word poet whose poem Look Up illustrates what is at stake by becoming entranced by technological ways of communicating at the expense of connecting with others face-to-face.

Turk’s poem draws attention to the rich, sensory aspects of face-to-face communication, valuing bodily presence in relation to friendship, companionship and intimacy. The central idea running through Turk’s evocative poem is that screen-based devices consume our attention while distancing us from the bodily sense of being with others.

Ultimately the sound, touch, smell and observation of bodily cues we experience when having a face-to-face conversation cannot be fully replaced by our technological devices. Communicating and connecting with others through face-to-face discussion is valuable because it is not something that can be edited, paused or replayed.

So next time you’re deciding between human or machine at the supermarket checkout or whether to get up from your desk and walk to another office to talk to a colleague – rather than sending them an email – it might be worth following Turk’s advice and engaging with the human rather than the screen.The Conversation

Melanie Chan, Senior Lecturer, Media, Communication and Culture, Leeds Beckett University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Europe has changed UK food culture for the better – leaving could turn back the clock

Brexit: Europe has changed UK food culture for the better – leaving could turn back the clock

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Jamie Oliver has a penchant for pasta.
Scandic Hotels, CC BY-ND

Richard Tresidder, Sheffield Hallam University

When the UK joined the Common Market in 1974, the country’s restaurants had a total of 26 Michelin stars, the industry standard restaurant rating, in Britain. In 2019 there are 163, including five restaurants with three stars – the highest honour awarded. Is this a coincidence or has membership of the European Union enabled the development of the UK’s vibrant contemporary food scene?

Despite what John Cleese might think, food culture in the UK is booming – chefs are becoming becoming superstars and prime-time TV slots are full of cookery programmes, which are exported all over the world. What the quality of restaurants and the global profiles of its top chefs suggests about the UK in 2019 is that it is not only a nation of foodies – but that the country has become immersed into the food and drink culture of Europe.

European food and ingredients have become staple food choices for the British. The use of ingredients such as garlic, peppers, avocados, Parmesan cheese and all those other European ingredients that are now taken for granted are relatively new and were still rare in the 1990s. When I was growing up in rural Devon in the 1970s, olive oil was only really readily available in chemists as a cure for earache – now it is found in most food cupboards. And wine drinking has permeated through all social classes.

Spanish delicatessen in London’s Borough Market.
Paolo Paradiso via Shutterstock

So if Britain’s food is embedded in European culture, what will the impact of Brexit have on the restaurant industry in the UK? In order to answer this it’s necessary to identify how Britain’s ties to the EU have directly impacted upon UK restaurants.

Free movement of chefs

There has always been reciprocity in the hospitality industry, whereby chefs, sommeliers and maître ds, travel and work in other counties in order to develop their knowledge and skills. What is known in the industry as the “stage” is an important juncture in a chef’s evolution and training – and most UK-born Michelin-starred chefs have done one. Jason Atherton, who runs a suite of high-end restaurants around the country, undertook a stage at the three-star el Bulli in Spain, while Sat Bains, whose eponymous restaurant in Nottingham was named fourth-best in the world in 2018, undertook a stage at the three-star Le Jardin des Sens in France.

The immersion by chefs in European gastronomy means they have brought back techniques, ingredients and contacts that have contributed to the UK’s food scene becoming so rich and vibrant. The thriving food scene has also encouraged talented expatriates to invest in the UK restaurant industry and to choose the UK as a place to work.

The influx of European workers are not only attracted by the UK food scene, but also by the availability of varied employment opportunities in the hospitality sector. Employers have difficulty in filling vacancies, as there is a lack of qualified chefs in the UK. In 2017, People 1st (the sector skills council for hospitality and tourism) found that 25% of hospitality businesses had vacancies, 22% of which were for chefs. Many of these vacancies were reported as being hard to fill because there simply weren’t enough skilled applicants. In 2018, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, out of 330,000 chefs in the UK, 15% were EU immigrants. Of these, 28% were graduates and 22% of all new hires came from the EU.

What this demonstrates is that EU workers are key to the continued success of the UK restaurant industry. They are often portrayed as a source of cheap labour, but in fact are skilled, well-educated individuals who make a positive contribution to the sector. Even though many of the workers are highly skilled, wages remain low – so any move to place an income threshold of £30,000 to earn a visa will exclude the majority of EU hospitality workers. But without the labour provided by EU immigrants it is difficult to see how the sector can continue to thrive.

Free movement of ingredients

Great chefs rely on great ingredients, and seamless trade ensures that food arrives in Britain in the freshest possible state. Food items such as strawberries, peppers or chillies are delivered to supermarkets and restaurants throughout the year. Britain imports a huge amount of fresh produce from the EU – in fact, in terms of food security, through a lack of investment in farming over the past two or three decades, the UK is not and cannot be self-sufficient.

Heston Blumenthal’s ‘culinary journey’ at his restaurant The Fat Duck.
By First Class Photography via Shutterstock

The EU ensures that the UK can both import and export foodstuffs in an efficient manner, as there are no delays caused by custom checks or embargoes on products. Unless the UK remains part of the customs union, it is difficult to see how the cuisine to which they have become accustomed to can continue to enter the supply chain without disruption.

Many of the 163 Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK pride themselves on sourcing high-quality, seasonal local food. Many sustainable farming practices and conversion to organic forms of production have been supported by the EU’s accreditation of farming standards and subsidies. They also provide strict rules as to how products are grown, the pesticides used and the limitation of genetically modified processes. All of these standards are higher than touted new trade partners such as the US. The UK and EU over a period of 47 years have crafted a set of standards around production and food safety that is among the most stringent in the world.

This philosophy of quality has directly influenced the quality of the food, consumers and restaurants can access. As can be seen from a government briefing paper from January 2018, Brexit: Future UK Agricultural Policy , there is little detail around how food and agricultural policy will look post-Brexit.

But even if the UK’s agricultural sector can increase production and the variety of products grown, it currently relies on seasonal workers from the EU to harvest produce.

Back to cheap sausages?

The vibrant food culture in the UK depends on the EU to provide innovation, influence, skilled labour and products. This is reflected all the way from the shelves of Aldi and Lidl to the five UK three-star Michelin restaurants. If I am right in believing food and cuisine to be an expression of culture, then Britons are European. As the writer and social commentator Robin Leach stated before his death in 2018:

Whoever would have guessed that in the land of cheap sausages and mashed potatoes there could be such a change which would actually bring the French from Paris every weekend to invade Britain en masse to eat great food and drink great wine.

Perhaps Brexit will have a positive impact on British food culture and protect the future and integrity of the great British chip rather than being replaced by the insidious pommes frite. It will be interesting to see in the coming decade whether the number of Michelin-starred restaurants increases further. I suspect it won’t.The Conversation

Richard Tresidder, Reader in Hospitality Studies, Sheffield Hallam University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.