Not working…

Last week I was in Albania of all places. It was a good trip with dramatic mountains, wide beaches, and good food.

It did also, of course, also prompt a few other thoughts and observations.

Why do we work?

It is of course easy, no longer caught up in the rat race, to dream of staying on your holiday a bit longer… not returning to the office, selling up, and moving out to some exotic location to run a beach bar in flip flops and shades every day. Who hasn’t considered this and admittedly there does seem to be some collective madness in our current work pattern… work really hard, just to be able to save up, to go on holiday to not work for a couple of weeks.

Would doing something you enjoy, working a little less hard maybe, be more effective (mathematically speaking).  Ie working on something that you don’t need a break from…?

Now before I go and break out the hessian shirt, backpack, and travel pants from my 20s, there are of course other reasons to work hard and work hard at things that at first sight may not seem easy.

  • Learning new skills, for one – if we don’t stretch ourselves, it can be hard to master anything new, taking the easy path is great in the short term, long term it is easy to feel stuck.
  • Meeting new people – working together to achieve something beyond what you can do individually, build relationships, and expands your network, all of which can lead to new opportunities for all (a bit of adversity helps too, there is greater satisfaction in completing something hard than easy)
  • Passing on skills and knowledge to others – This I suspect depends on where you are in your career, however, helping others develop their skills and passing on knowledge has a certain sense of satisfaction – it is a legacy of sorts I suppose 😊

It is just always good to have a bit of perspective, something which can be difficult in the thick of it at work.  La Dolce Vita still beckons, although maybe I am just not quite ready for it just yet!

Are mobile phones helping or hindering society?

Looking at my fellow travellers, the one thing that struck me was just how much we are all enthralled by our mobile phones. At the airport, in the restaurant, by the pool, on the beach, everyone was living their lives through the devices in their pocket… as an example the security at the airport, took a break and came in for coffee at the café I was in.  They each sat in silence looking at their phones, rather than chatting with each other.

It seems we are increasingly inhabiting cyberspace, our default community is online rather than the people around us. Geographic boundaries seem to be constantly eroding, no matter where I am I can carry on as normal (the language barrier, maybe being one of the last borders to go – although even this is eroding). 

It is all something I could have done back at home in close proximity to cups of tea and chocolate biscuits.

There are of course advantages to this hyper-connectivity. Communicating with family back home, ordering that shopping for your return whilst on the beach, even making sure you have your boarding pass ready, but we are missing the world around us.   It does increasingly look like addictive type behaviour, not allowing us time to think, interact or be present with the world around us.

Admittedly I can be just as bad as everyone else, but it is something to think about and make some change, now I am back (after I have finished wordle of course!) – I may even read a book.

The allure of cheap

Modern low-cost airline travel can be frustrating, I mean we all like the headline rates for flights, only to discover that my the time you have added on luggage, priority boarding, and printing your boarding pass (because electronic ones are now taken at the airport), the cost of the flight has doubled, being close to the major airline you avoided booking with (and this before car parking, which can cost as much as the initial flight sometimes).

I suppose if you know the system and can work the process, there are some good deals out there.   For the rest of us, it leaves a bad experience.

In some ways, this is no different from the experience say of buying a car.  The base model looks cheap/reasonable but does not have any of the finishes or luxuries you really want – you end up paying more.  Or with software, the base price is good, but the features you need, require an extra fee.  Just like hotels, should pricing be room only, half board, full board, or all-inclusive!?

The big drawback with all-inclusive pricing is, despite giving certainty, customers may be tempted to think we can save money by looking at alternative providers with a lower headline cost (even though in reality it may be more).  

… you are ruled out of the running before the race has even started.

We should of course be focused on value.  This is something that is much harder to determine, and a bit of expert support and prior experience can go a long way to help.. with the multitude of choices this is not an easy challenge.

Rather than looking for value, our psychology it seems is dominated by cheap.

Just look at my low-cost airline experience – I dislike it, I grumble, I complain, I will say never again, but the siren song of cheap is strong and I know I will be flying with them again.

Have a good week everyone.

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On the road to somewhere

A week of holiday this week (so no video this week) and I have been sampling the delights of the North Wales countryside.

Despite some, what appeared to be near vertical footpaths, the weather held… it was a good break.

It also meant some spare time for a few observations too!

The roads

The roads in North Wales seem to be one of the few places in the UK where the words “ARAF, SLOW” really mean what they say and are mandatory no matter the speed limit posted.

To navigate anywhere near the posted limit you seemingly have to be a rally driver or maybe just a local… So apologies to everyone on the A458. The massive tailback was not in fact due to the rail strike, nor the school holiday traffic, it was just my driving.

The fuel price

Imagine my surprise, to find that the cost for petrol or diesel was over 10 pence per litre cheaper than back home too.

To be fair it was not all petrol/gas stations, but certainly, those that were independently owned (even those supplied by mainstream oil companies) seemed to follow this pattern.

After some research, it did not appear to be driven by tax, although maybe the cost of the premises could be a factor.

Some reports in the media seemed to also point to fuel pricing and the relative readiness for passing any reduction in oil prices to the consumer…. all very interesting.

Mind you I had to drive around for at least an extra hour at this point, to be able to empty my gas tank enough so I could fill it up cheaply… all to save some money! [joking of course].

Pre-pay or post-pay restaurants

An important question over lunch… why exactly are cafes pre-pay, whilst restaurants post-pay?

I always thought that this was due to politeness, with customers in restaurants being less likely to run off without paying… but, it turns out if you pay at the end, you are more likely to buy more… and, of course, it gives the owner the perfect signal to tell you to leave… the bill. All it not what it appears!

Maybe this is the reason fixed price is more popular than a daily rate in the business world… we all tend to like certainty, although deep down really like flexibility, if we can afford it!

The Consumer Duty

This week, of course, I also missed the final publication of the confirmed rules for a new consumer duty from the FCA. With 12 months to now implement (31 July 2023), the clock is now really ticking for the industry, and promise to [quote]

  • end rip-off charges and fees 
  • make it as easy to switch or cancel products as it was to take them out in the first place 
  • provide helpful and accessible customer support, not making people wait so long for an answer that they give up 
  • provide timely and clear information that people can understand about products and services so consumers can make good financial decisions, rather than burying key information in lengthy terms and conditions that few have the time to read 
  • provide products and services that are right for their customers  
  • focus on the real and diverse needs of their customers, including those in vulnerable circumstances, at every stage and in each interaction 

The measures, of course, were broadly trailed and welcomed, why would anyone disagree with the regulator exactly, but as ever the devil will be in the detail.

Certainly, the sections on cross-cutting rules, sludge practices, and evidencing outcomes are all interesting and still in the final guidance…. although admittedly it was hard to read halfway up a mountain by torch, so something to take a little longer look at this week…

I have no doubt there is still plenty to do, consider and process to transform. The starting signal has now been well and truly fired.

This being said, I am not sure the consumer duty will apply to restaurants or gas-stations mind you… although thinking about it… maybe it should.

Have a good week everyone.

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The Land of Make Believe

Being at a loose end over the weekend, I finally succumbed to purchasing the latest version of Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Maybe I was reliving my youth and fantasy parallel career, or simply that after 2 years of being stuck at home, a subliminal message from my subconscious, that I need to get out and about again… a good omen to a business trip in my near future maybe!

Either way, by Saturday afternoon I was high above the Alps, running my A320 down to Italy, hoping for that strange sense of satisfaction you get when you are actually able to land the thing.

The view, graphics of course, were simply stunning and a huge upgrade on the last version I had from around 2004.

Workplace simulation

As fun as this was it did also get me thinking about the role of immersive simulation in the workplace.

What I mean is, that if I (was younger &) fancied being a pilot, it is something that I could now realistically try and get a much more immersive, authentic experience, than I ever could 20 years ago.

It is plausible to try, and see if you like it, before fully committing to in-person training than ever before. (and understand the sheer volume of pre-flight checks, air traffic control, and navigation tasks needed as part of the job too).

Similar, if I want to be a racing driver, train driver, truck driver, bus driver or excavator driver these are all things I can try beforehand… even medical professionals and surgeons have simulators too.

But what about the collections professional or contact centre agent?

Now I know these are not going to make the next video game bestseller list.

In fact, it may not ever be more than even moderately interesting… but as a concept, virtual-like reality, giving potential employees a sense of what a role is, could be really powerful in helping them understand what is involved… to try before they start…

And, with the ability in a simulation to make as many mistakes as you like, it could really help with training too.

All of this leads to the potential for lower costs to hire, more committed employees, reduced attrition, and higher quality of work on the job… and the benefit may not only be one way!

Creating better jobs that fit

Being fully transparent on a role, and providing a realistic immersive experience, could also be highly instructive letting employers know what works and what does not…

Getting the data, can force robust thinking on role structure, office environment, and especially employee-customer interactions, something that can be difficult today. Having all this in a VR-type environment could really help.

This may make for better roles, and environments… all the more attractive to gain and retain staff…

Maybe there is a future in this metaverse thing after all…!

(… although given my subsequent rather bumpy landing in Bologna, just be glad I will be sitting in economy, heading off to a business meeting, rather than upfront behind the controls on the flight there!)

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