The weird workplace

Go big or go home; Lights out, people; Rise of the robots; No time for a double double; Turn that frown upside down

Rise of the robots
LOS ANGELES — At least eight career fields are “ripe for disruption” in the next 10 or 20 years as robots and other forms of futuristic technology take over, according to a presentation by Amy Webb, founder of Webbmedia Group, in CNN coverage. The eight careers? Toll booth operators and cashiers, thanks to the rise of wearable technology and mobile payment systems; marketers, as tools allow brands to deliver messages to customers with precision accuracy; customer service, with new technologies such as predictive analytics; factory workers, in stealing more manufacturing jobs at a cheaper price; financial middle-men, with the underlying technology behind Bitcoin; journalists, as algorithms allow news outlets to automatically create stories; lawyers, with non-litigation ones being replaced by online form-based services; and phone workers, as many millennials don’t have landline phones. “There are a bunch of jobs that don’t really need to exist,” Webb said. “I don’t see our technological future as a dystopian one, I just see it as different.”

Go big or go home
PARIS — A large group of workers from China — 6,400 to be exact — enjoyed a free trip to Paris recently when their boss treated them to a holiday. The billionaire CEO of the Chinese conglomerate Tiens gave his best salespeople a vacation that started in the French capital and ended with a parade on the Côte d’Azur, according to the Associated Press. Li Jinyuan wanted to reward staff in celebrating his company’s 20th anniversary. Making the trip even more unique was the CEO’s desire to break a world record by spelling out a phrase in human bodies. The employees gathered on the coastal promenade in Nice, dressed in blue hats and T-shirts, to spell out the words “TIENS’ DREAM IS NICE IN THE CÔTE D’AZUR.” It’s estimated the trip cost somewhere between $17 and $26 million. 

Lights out, people
RIO DE JANEIRO — The high cost of overtime can be a problem for employers. But many employees are happy to put in the time if it means extra pay. That’s not acceptable for the debt-burdened Oi SA, a Brazilian telecom company, according to Reuters. As part of a rigorous cost-cutting program, the company is enforcing a strict 7 p.m. policy to switch off the air conditioning and the lights at its offices, leaving 17,000 employees sweltering in the dark if they stay after hours. The move is about power savings and cracking down on overtime, according to CEO Bayard Gontijo. “The first time we turned off the lights, people wanted to stay — they were trying to work with lighters. Now they realize: The lights are turned off because you guys have to do your work in the regular shift and then you have to leave.” The Brazilian constitution says employees should receive 50 per cent more pay when they work more than eight hours a day.   

No time for a double double
NEW PORT RICHEY, FLA. — Two hearse drivers found themselves in a sticky situation recently when they were caught grabbing a coffee and doughnut on the job, according to the Associated Press. Their big mistake? Leaving the curtains open in their vehicle so the coffin was clearly visible. Making the matter worse? The coffin was draped with the American flag as the body of 84-year-old Lt. Col. Jesse Coleman — a decorated soldier who served in Korea and Vietnam — was inside, on the way to his funeral from Veterans Funeral Care. A passerby spotted the hearse in the parking lot at a local Dunkin’ Donuts in Florida and sent a video and images of the hearse to a local veterans group, which posted them to Facebook. The two men were subsequently fired.

Turn that frown upside down
COPENHAGEN — Traffic wardens don’t exactly win popularity contests but Denmark is hoping to change that. Authorities in Copenhagen are asking the wardens to also act as tour guides, according to the Copenhagen Post. “We would like to give tourists an even better service when they visit Copenhagen,” said Thomas Jakobsen, head of the municipality’s culture and leisure management. “It should be easy for tourists to get the information they need, so we have asked traffic wardens to share their knowledge of the city and its attractions or just to help out lost tourists.” “Ask Me” badges are being given to 11 wardens to start, to make them more approachable, and more will be involved if the project is successful. “The attendants are a group of professionals who are not always greeted with smiles,” said Jes Øksnebjerg, managing director at Center Parkering. “So when there is a chance for a different type of citizen contact, employees respond positively.”

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