What we’ve been reading: Networking, Murakami and employee surveillance

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Welcome to What We've Been Reading, the AccountingWEB editors’ weekly round up of the stories that have caught their attention.

Whether you’re after reading material for the Accountex trek home or just something to pass the time over what looks to be a damp bank holiday weekend, this week’s WWBR (as the cool kids are calling it) has you covered.

Appropriately as we’re in the middle of event season, Valme gets to grips with networking, while Richard glances his suspicious eye over the murky world of workplace surveillance. And in her WWBR debut, we’re joined by our Sift towers brethren, Melissa Tredinnick who works on the PracticeWEB editorial team.

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Valme: Go ahead, skip that networking event

Valme Claro

Networking events sound like a good idea. But are they? Chances are you’ve recently been to one of them hoping you’ll make powerful new connections and gain useful contacts. Now, think about it, how many people did you meet that you kept in contact with and that you think will help your career in the future? Can you confidently say you made any valuable connections?

The reality is that people usually end up chatting with acquaintances and other people they already know or, at best, talking to people who are similar to them, so it seems that networking events are doomed from the start. But there is a solution: don’t just meet new people over drinks.

Instead, the best way to forge valuable relationships with diverse people is to participate in high-stake activities, such as working on a project, taking up a hobby, participating in charitable activities, playing in an amateur sports league or any other activity that requires a team to accomplish a goal.

It’s only when the stakes are higher, the author of the article argues, that “we end up needing more than what existing contacts and similar-seeming people can provide”.

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Melissa: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami


I’ll have to begin by admitting that I’m only around 10 hours into this 46-hour audiobook so far, and as you might expect of a surreal dystopian romance, I’m not sure exactly where to start with explaining it.

In fact, considering Murakami set out to make “this simple story as long and complicated as possible”, this probably goes to show that he’s achieved his goal.
In a way, the story is fairly simple. Two characters meet, part, and look for each other.

The novel alternates between the narratives of this man and woman, who are each entangled in different conspiracies – one of literary fraud, the other a series of vengeful assassinations. Meanwhile, each encounters clues surrounding the existence of mysterious cults and parallel universes.

1Q84 makes reference to Orwell’s famous novel (the letter Q punning on the Japanese word for 9, pronounced “kyuu”) but the dystopian elements aren’t obvious at first. Instead, a sense of unease builds gradually as the characters have to question the nature of the world they inhabit.

The complicated plot doesn’t make a difficult read, though, and taken a couple of chapters at a time, it’s easy to get absorbed in this other, subtly strange world.

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Richard: Employers are monitoring computers, toilet breaks – even emotions. Is your boss watching you?

Richard Hattersley

Are your passive aggressive side-glances no longer doing the trick? Well, that member of staff – and let’s face it, every office has one – who has their eyes constantly glued to social media as work piles up or gossips in the kitchen about their love life could be subjected to a more intrusive form of workplace monitoring than the occasional tut that inevitably falls on deaf ears.

Tech companies from China to California are using more and more prying ways to supervise staff. Workers are being quite literally buzzed into action. Take Amazon, for example; the online retail giant has devised a wristband that not only tracks workers but to further drive productivity, it buzzes the wearer if they reached for the wrong item.

Elsewhere, everything from an employee’s web usage to their voices (the tone and how long they speak) are scrutinised via some rather dubious HR surveillance policies.

For the meanwhile, though, you’ll have to settle with a disapproving cough or eye squint. That’s unless UK companies go the same way as Three Square Market, an American company that implanted a chip the size of a grain of rice under the skin of volunteering employees. Yep, they volunteered.

So far the company has chipped 72 out of the 90 people that work in the company’s headquarters. The reason being, according to the company’s CEO, is that millennials “think it’s cool”.

Imagine that conversation in your office. I think they’d stick with that overbearing side-glance.

Now it is your turn. What have YOU been reading? We'd love to know. Comment below with your cream of the literary crop. 

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26th May 2018 00:12

I love Murakami, although I've not read this one yet. Next on my reading list!

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