Industrial waste gets second life as fertilizer
Spent microbial mass (SMB), a plentiful and nutrient-rich waste material composed of bacteria, fungi, and plant cells, is being reviewed as a fertilizer. Recently, researchers examined how its application affected cornfields by comparing one treated with SMB to one that received normal fertilizer.
A plentiful alternative to fertilizers
The main question when evaluating a potential fertilizer is how effective it is. In the case of SMB, researchers found that fields treated with it and those treated with normal fertilizer had similar crop yields. One difference that stood out, however, was that SMB needed to be applied more often. Nevertheless, this isn’t a major concern. Industrial biotechnology produces a lot of SMB, so supply is unlikely to be a problem.
Lower environmental impact
One advantage of SMB over traditional fertilizers is that soil treated with the waste material shows much higher concentrations of carbon and organic matter. This isn’t the case for soil that’s been treated with regular fertilizer year after year. In fact, the overuse of fertilizers has been shown to deplete soil resources, making it increasingly difficult to meet production goals.
While more research is required, it seems that SMB could have a positive impact on food production and the planet.
Breathing break reduces stress
If your to-do list is running long and your stress levels are rising, you might want to start your day with a quick break. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true — just a few short minutes of breathing and mindfulness can help you set your stress aside and improve your focus and productivity when you attack your inbox.
Set a timer for five minutes. Start up some relaxing sounds or soft music if you like. Close your eyes, relax your shoulders, and take a few deep breaths from your belly, letting the air slowly rise up into your chest, all the way up to the top of your head. Inhale for four counts, hold for four counts, exhale for four counts, then hold for four counts before starting again. Focus on each count and how the air feels as it moves in and out of your body. Think about how your body feels through each breath, and if other thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them and let them go.
While you do this exercise, don’t worry about how well you’re doing it — just try to stay in the moment. When your timer goes off after five minutes, you can return to your tasks feeling refreshed and ready to tackle each challenge as it comes.
If a DIY quick meditation isn’t for you or if you prefer a guided experience, a number of meditation apps are available for iOS or Android. Try Headspace, Calm, Healthy Minds, or The Mindfulness App.
How to attract millennial employees
According to a survey by Deloitte, by 2025, 75 percent of the workforce will be made up of millennials. As an employer, you must learn this generation’s motivations, needs and expectations to attract, engage and keep them in your company. Here are five things to consider.
1. Highlight values. Millennials want to work for a company with values that align with theirs. For them, a job isn’t just about a paycheck. It’s very much about having a purpose and making a difference.
2. Create flexibility. Millennial candidates are looking for a job that offers a work-life balance. For example, they’ll prioritize companies that offer remote or hybrid work schedules.
3. Prioritize advancement. Career progression is a top priority for millennial workers. They’re much more likely to stay at a company if they feel upper management is invested in their careers. Ensure you have strategies and policies in place to facilitate career progression.
4. Offer continued learning opportunities. Millennials want to advance and learn new things to progress in their careers. They’ll seek out employers who can provide these opportunities. Investing in training and development can help catch and keep their attention.
5. Embrace technology. Technology is essential to the millennial workforce. Therefore, integrating popular technologies and platforms into your business can give you a decisive edge in attracting this generation.
Ensure your company continues to grow and thrive by appealing to millennial employees.
Keep your workspace organized and boost your productivity
A clean desk doesn’t just feel nice — it communicates professionalism, reduces stress, helps you keep track of your important tasks, and saves you the time you would have spent hunting for lost files and sticky notes. Try out these strategies to transform your workspace and your work life:
- Use a bulletin board to keep assorted papers from piling up on your desk. If it’s important enough to keep, pin it to the board, but if not, chuck it into the wastebasket.
- Try a hanging closet organizer with clear plastic pockets for shoes or other small items to store extra office supplies. Hang it on the wall or the back of your door, or if you work from home, just stick it in the closet.
- Utilize the space under your desk. A small cabinet or shelf under your desk could be a storage lifesaver.
- Use wall space. You can mount shelving, hooks for cables and headphones, or whiteboards for making notes. You can even buy wall-mounted organizers to stash your supplies or planters to brighten your space.
- Speaking of plants or other decorative items, try to minimize them on your desk. A nice plant stand or stylish wall-mounted shelves will give your office some color without sacrificing desk space.
- Create extra desk space with risers for laptops and monitors.
- Stash a few cleaning supplies within easy reach so you can quickly wipe away dust or clean up coffee rings.
6 blunders that can demotivate your employees
Engaged employees are more productive and creative and less likely to quit. However, demotivating management practices can make employees inefficient and start looking elsewhere for work. Here are six managerial mistakes to avoid.
1. Making too many rules. Organizations need rules, but unnecessary rules can make employees feel cramped and uncreative.
2. Overlooking accomplishments. When managers don’t recognize employee successes, workers become less motivated to exceed expectations.
3. Hiring and promoting the wrong people. Great employees want to work alongside other great workers. Hiring or promoting friends or underqualified employees demotivates those who work with them.
4. Treating everyone equally. Treating all employees equally shows top performers that they’ll be treated the same as underperformers, no matter how hard they work.
5. Breaking promises. Keeping your promise of awards, time off, or raises engenders trust. Reneging on commitments makes you look disrespectful and uncaring, creating an environment where accountability isn’t valued.
6. Tolerating poor performance. No one likes conflict, but when you fail to call out an employee for poor performance, you show the entire team that their underperformance has no consequences.
Engaging your employees and recognizing their worth is key to maximizing your organization’s performance.
Quiet hiring versus quiet firing
In a tight labor market, not only is it hard to find employees, but it’s also difficult to keep them engaged. Gallup has found that at least half of employees are emotionally disconnected from their jobs. Many of these folks do the bare minimum amount of work, and at least 18 percent of workers are actively disengaged, meaning they’re proactively undermining their company.
Disengaged employees can be a major drag on companies and their bottom line. That’s why some companies are pursuing quiet firing. This means the company makes the work environment a bit unpleasant in an effort to encourage disengaged workers to quit. Don’t like it here? Then find a new employer — or so the thinking goes.
Getting employees to quit, instead of flat-out firing them, may reduce costs. Severance packages, for example, can be rather expensive. Further, many companies aren’t exactly sure who the underperformers or disengaged folks are. Quiet firing could spur under-performers to self-identify.
Now, companies are upping the ante with quiet hiring. Instead of just encouraging some folks to quit, businesses are proactively identifying certain employees and then showering them with favoritism. Selecting and rewarding high performers is a business mainstay. However, with quiet hiring, favoritism is also part of an effort to push low-performing employees out. Often, these favored employees are shifted from position to position, working to address an organization’s most acute needs.
Companies aren’t the only stakeholders using “quiet” methods either. Many employees have also been quiet quitting. Essentially, they stop doing their job, perhaps expecting to get fired in the future, but instead of quitting, they continue cashing checks. Gallup believes that disengagement, in general, could be costing the global economy more than $8 trillion.
Tech layoffs explained: Is a once-hot sector on thin ice?
After expanding staff sizes for years, many tech companies have announced dramatic layoffs in recent months. What’s driving the downsizing? Certainly, the risk of an economic contraction fueled fears, but the cutbacks are more complex.
First, the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped the structure and makeup of the tech industry. As COVID closed borders and social distancing became the norm, reliance on digital services surged. Amazon, for example, saw sales spike and responded by expanding services like same-day delivery. Staffing was bolstered to develop and expand digital services and otherwise meet demand.
With the pandemic over, growth has moderated. Amazon saw revenues surge nearly 40 percent YOY in 2020, but growth stalled in 2022. Now, underperforming projects are on the chopping block. In November, Amazon laid off roughly 10,000 tech and corporate employees, according to cePro. In particular, the teams working on Alexa voice-activated devices saw steep cuts. Why? While many customers enjoy the services rendered, monetizing those services hasn’t been as profitable as hoped, with Amazon reportedly losing $10 billion on the devices, according to Macro Trends.
Further, with the Federal Reserve steadily raising interest rates in recent months, borrowing has become more expensive. Many large companies relied on cheap loans and easy access to funds to expand staff. With borrowing costs rising, underperforming projects and bloated tech staffs are much more expensive to maintain.
Employees are sometimes shifted to new roles within companies while underperforming services are cut. But with the labor market remaining tight through the end of 2022, many employers still want to hold onto talent. Further, Revelio Labs found that roughly 75 percent of laid-off tech workers found new jobs within three months.
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