Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Beware: Idle minds at work

Some time ago, I would tell a popular joke about 'fun' working in the UAE. We have three month holidays in a year....the whole month during Ramadhan, one month when the boss on vacation and another month when the staff/employee him/herself on vacation.

This joke still holds true for some fortunate people during the current downturn when job cuts, company bankcruptcies, countries into (technical) recessions are part of daily breaking news. They are still employed but nothing much to do except be in the office and pretending to work.

I know some friends who are physically in the office but their minds are somewhere else, mostly wandering in the cyberworld. They blog, facebook, email, SMS, youtube, picasaweb, Internet messenger and play games during working hours...

I have to admit that some times I do get bored in the office. I am a morning person, come early in the morning and will complete my tasks as soon as possible. I have some templates for certain tasks which can be recycled and reformatted into new 'products' which enable me to fast-track some assignments.

By the way, I love my current job and have fun with a lot of new challenges as well as new knowlegde and experience to enhance my professional career.

The below article By Marilyn Gardner, The Christian Science Monitor.

Nicole Haase would like to work harder than she does. But as a receptionist and payroll administrator for a manufacturing firm in Milwaukee, she finds limited opportunities to take on more duties.
“Work is slow. We’re a small company, so it’s not always easy to find other things to do,” Haase says.
To fill empty moments, she e-mails friends and works on freelance writing assignments. “The internet is my friend — anything to make the time pass,” she says, adding that the strain of having too little to do creates its own kind of burnout.

Pervasive problem
There’s a name for this kind of underemployment: boreout. In Boreout! Overcoming Workplace Demotivation, authors Philippe Rothlin and Peter Werder call it a pervasive problem.
Studies show that one third of workers in the United States do not have enough to do. Underchallenged employees spend more than two hours a day on personal matters.
Employers waste over $5,000 (Dh18,369) a year per worker on boreout.
The authors, business consultants in Europe, explain that boreout consists of three elements: being “understretched”, uncommitted and bored at the workplace.

Strategies to look busy
Many underutilised employees ask for more work after starting a new job, says Werder, of Zurich.
“But after one year, although they hate boreout, they stop asking because no one takes it seriously.” Aware that they cannot just sit at their desks and stare into space, many workers devise strategies to look busy.
That often involves technology. “Mobile phones, the internet and e-mail make it much easier to pretend to work,” Werder says.
For Haase, the road to boreout began after she graduated from college with degrees in journalism and Spanish. Saddled with student loans, she took her job two years ago.
“When I was hired, they saw my skill set and said they would use it,” she says.
“But I’m in my receptionist bubble and they’re not willing to let me try to do anything more.”
Megan Rothman, a marketing copywriter, describes herself as underchallenged.
“I took this position because I was told we would all wear many hats because we are a small, private company,” she says. But after she was hired, that never happened.
“I have asked to take on additional responsibilities or projects that may be outside the typical range of my job description. But my boss doesn’t seem to be willing to accommodate me,” Rothman says.

No work at the workplace
She divides her idle time between productive tasks, such as reading marketing blogs or doing writing exercises.
As unemployment rates soar, Haase, Rothman and others who feel underworked are quick to express appreciation for having a job.
At the same time, workplace specialists emphasise the importance of remaining committed and connected to their employer.
“These days, with the economy, it behooves people to notice their boredom and think about what they can add to their job,” says Daisy Swan, a career strategist in Los Angeles.
Werder advises employees struggling with boreout to ask: Is this really what I want to do? “Some people are in the wrong job, though not the wrong company,” he says.
A worker can also ask: Do my bosses know about my ability? Do they know I don’t have enough to do? Do I communicate what I want to do? Sometimes businesses have too many employees for the work available.
Swan offers another reason for underemployment. “A lot of people take shadow positions to what they would like,” she says.
“They love to play music but they work for a music distributor.” The task is to see if they can increase the music in another area of their life.
Other times, she adds, “maybe the boredom is a real message that you need to make a change”.
For those eager for greater challenges, Steve Bohler, director, Oxford Programme for Career Change in Cooperstown, New York, suggests a first step.
“Daydream,” he says. “Mentally get yourself out of your job. It’s a good chance to envision what your best possible solutions are.”
For employers concerned about boredom on the job, J.B. Bryant, a business consultant in Orrville, Ohio, offers this reminder: “People don’t want to be bored. Given the opportunity, they’ll be productive to their fullest ability.”

Pakistanis vs Indians killing each other on Dubai roads

The 2008 Dubai Police statistics has confirmed some interesting well-kown facts about certain nationalities driving skills and attitude on Dubai roads. Even with the fantastic road conditions and excellent vehicles, as well as more radars, Dubai is notorious for road accidents and deaths.

Indians and Pakistanis are two majority expatriate groups in the UAE. Therefore it is not surprising to see they are the biggest culprits and victims on the roads. Bangladeshis are catching up in the killed category.
Of course, amongst the other minority drivers, the locals or Emiratis are somehow, without prejudice, road menaces with their luxury and high-powered vehicles......keep themselves proud in the third position as killers and killed.

Speeding major cause of deaths on Dubai roads last year

Dubai Police statistics revealed that speeding remained the second biggest reason of road deaths in Dubai last year with 45 deaths out of the 294 from road accidents. Lack of consideration for road users was the top cause of road deaths.

According to police figures,
Pakistani drivers caused the maximum number of accidents for the second consecutive year in Dubai.
They were accused of causing 95 fatal accidents in 2008 compared to 83 in 2007.
This was followed by Indians who caused 63 fatal accidents last year, compared to 81 in 2007. Emiratis committed 42 accidents last year compared to 57 in 2007.

The number of people killed in road accidents reduced to 294 last year compared to 332 in 2007.

Indian expatriates topped the list of people killed in road accidents for the second consecutive year. Some 107 Indians were killed last year compared to 128 in 2007 followed by 56 Pakistanis killed last year compared to 57 the previous year. However, the number of Bangladeshis killed last year increased to 23 as compared to 16 in 2007.
There are more than 900,000 registered vehicles in Dubai while more than 1.3 million vehicles use the Dubai roads every day. Indians topped the list of population in Dubai followed by Pakistanis. Dubai has a population of 1.7 million.
Emirates Road remained the most dangerous road as 46 people were killed in accidents on this road compared to 67 the year before.

On the Shaikh Zayed Road, the number of road accidents fell by almost 50 per cent and some 24 people were killed last year compared to 54 in 2007.
Commenting on the reduced number of accidents in 2008, an official at the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said that improved road network, more cameras and strict policing have paid off. "Strict measures, increased fines for traffic violation" and awareness drives in coordination with the police have helped reduce accidents, he said.

Dubai vs Abu Dhabi - the race is more interesting

Been here for about a decade to see the frantic developments taking place in both cities/emirates.
The heat is on nowadays with the current downturn with a lot of rumours flying through the roof. Speculations and gossips are part of daily chats and conversations. Is Dubai really financially troubled? You have to read between the lines when browsing those reports in the local papers.
It seems, Abu Dhabi is having the last laugh after all.

Story on Pak Lah's visit to Dubai HERE.

Abu Dhabi profits from Dubai's downturn

Mohammed Alabbar, the head of Emaar and a member of the emirate's ruling council, wanted to set the record straight in a speech at the Dubai International Financial Centre. It was not a happy occasion.
A day earlier, the government of the UAE announced it would help merge and finance two struggling mortgage lenders, Amlak and Tamweel, a sign that the global financial crisis was snapping at the heels of the emirate's credit-fuelled boom.
'I will not mince words,' Alabbar told his audience in late November. 'I am here to state facts.'
Dubai, he said, was going through a 'healthy' correction to property prices. Yes, the emirate did owe about $10bn in sovereign debt, with an extra $70bn owed by 'affiliated companies,' but Alabbar said its $350bn in estimated assets would be more than capable of meeting these obligations. As for the rescue of Amlak and Tamweel, Alabbar said it was an example of how Dubai's economic advisory council would act in a timely and transparent manner under his leadership.
But even Alabbar could not mask the growing importance of Abu Dhabi, seat of the United Arab Emirates' federal government, when it came to Dubai's future. He underlined Dubai's 'proud identity' as part of the seven-member UAE, and said that countrywide measures to bolster the federation's financial system were a reminder of economic unity. 'We stand by our guarantees, as one country,' he said.
These words were a major turning point, according to Christopher Davidson, a British academic and author of several works on the UAE. For most of 2008, he said, Dubai's technocrats would have been flying the flag of autonomy, backing the emirate's past tendency to resist the centralizing, federalist urges of neighbouring Abu Dhabi.
But with the financial crisis squeezing credit flows and pushing foreign investors to withdraw to less risky climes, the power balance was now shifting to Abu Dhabi's healthier balance sheet and political clout.

Budget surplus
Abu Dhabi has built up a huge budget surplus over the years, thanks to its lucrative oil revenues, state-backed investment funds and its unwillingness to splash the kind of money that Dubai is prepared to spend.
Oil-starved Dubai relies more on international capital flows, leaving its balance sheet less able to withstand shocks to the financial system. The result is an expected deficit of $1.1bn this year, according to a Reuters interview with Dubai official Nasser al-Shaikh.
But this is not simply a rerun of the past year's credit crunch, with Abu Dhabi as the US Treasury bailing out Dubai's deregulated Wall Street. Don't expect part-nationalization of flagship firms any time soon.
The two emirates are more like rivals competing for global leadership on a number of different playing fields, from tourism to aerospace. That means Abu Dhabi's own growth plans could benefit from a slowdown in Dubai, while discreetly making sure that the fallout is contained.
'Abu Dhabi has been crowding into several spaces that Dubai is trying to command,' said Jim Krane, author of a forthcoming book on Dubai, The Story of the World's Fastest City. He described Abu Dhabi's launch of Etihad Airways in 2003 as a direct challenge to Dubai-based airline Emirates. 'Now, Abu Dhabi stands to gain if Dubai slips.'

Modest slowdown
And Dubai is slipping. Its double-digit economic growth is reportedly expected to fall by more than half to around 4%-6% this year, while Abu Dhabi is forecasting a more modest slowdown to around 7%.
Dubai's real estate sector, once the jewel in its crown, is unravelling at an alarming rate, with projects put on hold and companies cutting jobs.
Earlier this month, Britain's Casa Dubai, which specialized in selling Dubai property to British consumers, went into liquidation after admitting that it had made 'virtually nothing' in sales since August. In a statement on its website, the company even said a major developer had gone on the run from the police with GBP500,000 worth of clients' money.
Not everyone believes this spells doom for Dubai. HSBC economist Simon Williams told Forbes that the quality of the emirate's service sector was unequalled in the region, and that Abu Dhabi would not necessarily take its place as a result of the slump. 'Growth will be stronger in Abu Dhabi this year,' he said, 'but anyone doing business in the UAE has always recognized that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are very different places.'
Abu Dhabi's reliance on oil revenues is also a problem, with oil prices down more than 70% since their summer peak of $147.50 a barrel last year. But the emirate's wide-ranging development plan is paving the way for something more long-lasting, with investment in energy, technology and even intellectual capital, symbolized by the opening of satellite campuses for New York University and Paris' Sorbonne, quietly balancing out the more obvious big hotels and golf courses.
'The economy Abu Dhabi is building is recession-proof,' said Davidson. 'Yes, it does have tourism, yes, it does have real estate, but these are not central pillars of the new economy. These are icing on the cake.'