How private is private communication in the workplace?

The European Court of Human Rights has recently considered the issue of whether employees have a right to privacy in terms of their private correspondence in the workplace.

In Barbulescu v Romania, the Grand Chamber of the ECHR overturned an earlier decision in relation to an employee’s right to privacy in the workplace.
Mr Bărbulescu, a Romanian national, lodged an application against Romania with the ECHR in terms of Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. He claimed that his employer’s decision to terminate his contract of employment in breach of his Article 8 right (respect for his private life and correspondence). Mr Bărbulescu claimed that the domestic courts in Romania had failed to comply with their obligation to protect his rights.
In 2016, the ECHR held that Mr Bărbulescu’s employer acted lawfully when it monitored his Yahoo messenger account. On appeal, the Grand Chamber reversed that decision.
The Grand Chamber held that workers have a right to respect for privacy in the workplace. It stated that where an employer seeks to monitor employee emails and messages, it should tell employees that their communications might be monitored. In the case of Mr Bărbulescu, even though he knew he was not permitted to use work computers for personal reasons, the employer did not inform him that it was monitoring his communications.
Interestingly, this is closely aligned with the South African legal position. In South Africa, the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act regulates the interception and monitoring of employee communication in the workplace.
Section 2 of RICA contains a general prohibition against intentional interception of any communication. Two notable exceptions to the general prohibition are (1) the employee consented to the interception, or (2) the interception was done for a general business purpose. Employers can readily ensure that they obtain the consent of the employees by inserting such a provision in an employment contract or into a well-drafted policy. It is simpler to rely on and prove prior consent than satisfying the requirements for the general business purpose exception.
Employers may be guilty of an offence and held liable to a fine of up to R 2 000 000, or even imprisonment for a period up to 10 years, if they breach the RICA prohibition on interception.
Getting employee consent before interceptions communication is not only the right thing to do to stay out of jail or avoid a hefty fine, but it will also assist in managing the employee relations climate. Employees who know that their communications are monitored and have consented to it being intercepted are less likely to feel aggrieved when their employer takes such steps. Employees should be expected to feel disgruntled when they labour under the misapprehension that their private emails are safe from employer scrutiny when, in fact, the employer intercepts or monitors them.

Tracy Robbins is an Associate, Employment & Compensation Practice at Baker McKenzie Johannesburg.

What will your job look like in five years’ time?

Blockchain technology is revolutionising the financial services industry, additive manufacturing is reengineering product development, and the first autonomous cars are due on the road by 2020.

Technology is driving disruption at great pace and it is also changing the way we work.

Working in a world of change    

Ricoh commissioned research by Coleman-Parkes that shows employees predict digital disruption and automation to be the biggest game-changers this year. Technological advances such as artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics are spawning new business models and roles. Rapid data analysis can help find insights which were previously unattainable in marketing and finance. Autonomous supply chains and intelligent warehouses in logistics can allocate stock to markets with most demand. Leading retailers are simultaneously replacing delivery vans with unmanned drones. There’s no denying that we’re in a world of change.
Employees believe that digital disruption has even more impact on the way we work compared with political or economic uncertainty. That’s why the concern for many people is whether or not their skills will still be relevant in five years’ time. But as many as 95% of employees included in the research, which included South Africa, see change as a positive occurrence. In fact, 61% want technology at work to help improve productivity, simplify processes and help them make more informed decisions. 

Technology takes centre-stage in the workplace

We can expect digital disruption to fundamentally impact the way we work in three distinct ways: 

1. How we collaborate

Connectivity is vital for innovation, especially as teams become increasingly global. Cognitive whiteboards enable teams across the world to build ideas together in the same virtual meeting. Bringing AI and voice recognition into the boardroom will improve our abilities to make better, informed decisions with greater speed. Similarly, video conferencing systems will be commonplace within the next few years. Speaking with a co-worker on the other side of the world will be as easy as leaning over your desk to speak with someone in the office. 

2. Making the mundane automatic

Already used by forward-thinking organisations, we can expect the automation of back-office processes to be standard in five years. Document-heavy workloads will move from being paper-based to more efficient and cost-effective electronic processing. This provides a clear overview of incoming and out-going funds. Users also have more time to focus on the core goals of the business. 

3. The use of mobile and on-demand services as second nature

Improving services for digitally-savvy employees and customers by blending ease-of-use with powerful technology is a top priority for many businesses in the coming year. With mobile devices becoming ever more ubiquitous, we’re seeing huge growth in applications that aim to simplify the user experience. Mobile printing, for example, enables employees to print from anywhere and any device to any printer. All this without the need to find a desktop or USB flash drive.
Success in five years’ time will require business leaders to have clear strategic thought to make the most of innovative new technology. Most importantly, they must push to give their employees the tools needed to be more flexible, efficient and creative with their time. Putting people at the centre of change will allow them to make the most of the opportunities digitisation creates.

Lauren Timmer-Somer is the head of Marketing and Technology Services at Ricoh SA.

What is the power of personal branding?

The 30 second elevator pitch, your next social media update, your LinkedIn profile, and the answer to the question ‘tell me about yourself’ are all opportunities to make a great first impression.

They are also ideal occasions to showcase your own personal brand.

What really surprises me is how many people never think of themselves as a brand. And those that have given this serious thought often wonder how to market themselves in a way that is authentic and founded in integrity.

The belief that personal branding is only relevant for celebrity personalities, politicians or high-profile captains of industry is a common and unproductive misconception. The fact is, we are all branded, whether we like it or not. In most cases, if you don’t take responsibility for your own brand and market yourself effectively, others will do it for you.

While we may intuitively understand the importance of maintaining a good reputation, many people underestimate the ways in which almost everything we do counts towards building a personal brand. The way you dress, how you treat people, the quality of your work, the people you associate with, how you handle difficult situations, and what you publish on social media platforms – these all matter a great deal and send the world a message about the kind of brand you are.

By adopting a simple change of mindset and attitude towards personal branding, irrespective of industry or chosen career path, can begin to develop, grow, and market themselves far more effectively. And the best place to start is by knowing yourself. This is the fundamental cornerstone to personal branding. Without this self-knowledge and awareness, there is no way you can build an authentic brand. It is only once you know who you are, your values, and what difference you want to make, that you can address how you will achieve your goals and pursue your purpose.

Drawing on years of experience, most successful personal brands all share one important feature – authenticity. Authentic personal brands are effective because they’re honest. Personal brands that are brave enough to be honest, even when they’ve made a mistake, stand out from the clutter and create an emotional connection. Which is why truly living what you say so incredibly important in personal branding and marketing.

Rather than being an intimidating prospect, the realisation that what your personal brand stands for is entirely your decision can be very empowering. People with successful personal brands understand the need to take responsibility for building their own brand rather than letting other people dictate it.

The next time someone says, ‘tell me about yourself’ think about how your story can create an emotional authentic connection and then seize the moment to define your brand before someone else does.

Donna Rachelson is the founder of Branding & Marketing YOU.

Why will work always fill up your time?

A behavioural phenomenon is the reason why people rarely finish jobs in less time allocated to them or have more money at the end of the month, even after a pay rise.

Many people will identify with the odd human propensity to simply fill up time and space available, especially in the workplace.

An example of this is moving from a smaller to a larger home and discovering that your big, new home is somehow filled with stuff after a while. We can see the same outcome when car parks or offices expand but end up just as packed as before.

It’s human nature to fill the time and space available to us. Our phones fill up with photos, our cupboards with clothes. This phenomenon is know as Parkinson’s Law. It states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

This principle was noticed by Professor Cyril Northcote Parkinson which was published in The Economist decades ago but it still relevant and its learnings can be applied to  the workplace today.

Parkinson noted that when it came to office work, there is little or no relationship between the work to be done and the size of the staff to which it may be assigned.

The reasons for this can be explained by the tendency for managers to want new subordinates and also to create work for those under them while these new workers generate work for each other. It has even been humorously referred to as a ‘chain of screaming’ where each person has someone below them to ‘dump’ on. It’s a common experience but that it creates bureaucracy and dysfunction in the workplace.

Protocols can be put in place to manage this dysfunction— for a while— but problems will start to resurface after a while and the organisation will become bloated once again. With extra people doing the same work, companies get bogged down in trivial issues and give disproportionate weight to trivial issues and process.

Parkinson’s Law therefore describes the factors that contribute to the growth of bureaucracy, the multiplication of work, and the escalation of frustration. The lesson is that specificity and boundaries create freedom and nourish creativity because they provide context and structure to our thinking.

Only by limiting the time and resources we allocate to tasks, will we be able to be more efficient and free up time and money for other work and pursuits.

Linda Trim is the Director at workplace specialists Giant Leap.

Why should companies innovate?

We are in the midst of a major technology revolution. Digital now dominates every sector of the economy – it is reshaping industries, disrupting businesses and introducing new operating models. It is also opening up new opportunities to create jobs and boost economic growth.

Businesses that are not ready for this revolution will struggle in the next seven years and beyond.

In January 2012, Eastman Kodak Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It marked the end of an era for one of the world’s greatest innovators, a company that played an important part in the lives of millions of people for more than 130 years through the famous “Kodak moment”. The change came swiftly. In a span of just seven years from 2005 to 2012 the company lost half its revenue as new digital technology wiped out its lucrative film business.

Kodak’s experience is not all that uncommon. Many businesses today are reluctant to take bold steps in the face of innovation, new trends or challenges. Soon, these businesses will be vulnerable to more forward-thinking and innovative competitors.

Digital is the new imperative and organisations who haven’t already made the shift have no time to lose. They must take hold of the opportunity to innovate today to ensure that they survive tomorrow. Those who “Seize the Now” and embrace innovation are most likely to ride the wave of digital disruption. They may even have the opportunity to lead in their industries.

Tomorrow’s winners are those businesses that constantly look for new ways to fuel growth, that welcome the agility that Cloud technologies bring, that embrace intelligent-enterprise capabilities, and strive to understand and deliver on customer expectations.  

Fuel for growth

Digital is driving convergence across a number of industries, enabling new competitors to enter, and forcing companies to redefine how they compete. At the same time, there is added pressure from active investors in various industries who have a higher expectation for profitability. Speed is the new normal and companies are determined to survive this perpetual state of uncertainty by becoming lean and agile enough to focus on aggressive, sustainable growth. The task may be great and the stakes high, but the path forward is clear: to grow, companies must proactively identify activities that drive value, take out costs that are not contributing to business goals and reinvest those savings into growth.

Journey to Cloud

Cloud is not the future. It’s already here, and more businesses are finding that the sooner they adopt Cloud technology, the better positioned they will be to compete in an increasingly brisk, aggressive marketplace. Companies that want to achieve the type of agility they need to succeed in today’s business climate, migrate to Cloud while embracing a robust ecosystem of Cloud solutions.

Intelligent enterprise

The next level of operational excellence will emerge from the latest gains in software intelligence. Business and technology leaders must now view software intelligence not as a pilot or a once-off project, but as an across-the-board functionality – one that will drive new levels of evolution and discovery, propelling innovation throughout the enterprise. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the many great examples.

Intelligent customer management life cycle

New research commissioned by Accenture Interactive in partnership with Forrester Consulting finds that most brands are falling short and customer expectations are outpacing experiences. Only seven per cent of brands are exceeding customer expectations and, even worse, 25 per cent don’t meet customer expectations at all. Customers’ expectations are forged by their experiences of leading brands across industries. They are brand and quality conscious‚ they seek out the latest trends but watch their budget‚ and look out for personalised as well as unique shopping experience. However, many companies are still failing to deliver on these expectations.

Businesses who are not ready for innovation – driven by digital disruption – will lose customers who are prepared for this modernisation; and companies that meet their needs first will gain a competitive advantage difficult for rivals to overcome.

A business that recognises the power of now, does not hesitate to innovate, take new technology on board and stay ahead of the competition. It is always primed and ready to leap ahead, leaving opponents in its wake.

It is time to choose your digital partner wisely. A partner that can deliver a sustainable business outcome.

Ntombi Mhangwani is the Africa Director for Integrated Marketing & Communications at Accenture.

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