Published on: 10 Sep 2017
The Journal of Consumer Research published the results of five experiments into how the level of background noise can impact on performance when someone is working on creative tasks.
The results are interesting and in simple terms found that a moderate level of ambient noise is better for enhancing performance on creative tasks than both low levels and high levels of ambient noise.
Or put another way, people are more likely to be able to work creatively if there is a medium level of ambient noise compared to where there is silence or loud noise in the background.
So, what lessons can we learn from this if we’re studying?
Whilst the optimum situation and level of background noise is very much a personal preference the science behind it could indicate that we should head somewhere with a mid level background noise.
Now, where could we find such a place?
Well, the local pub around the corner has a great mid level background noise as far as I’m concerned but there are some liquid distractions that will harm studying.
What about a coffee shop or cafe? Again, there would be some great mid levels of background noise but you’ve got to get there and what happens if you don’t find a seat. All of this will dig into your valuable study time.
Well, up step the fantastic website coffitivity.com which enables you to play background coffeeshop noise on your computer whilst you’re studying.
You can’t order a Cafe Latte or Cappuccino but in my opinion it’s a great tool for those who like to study with a non intrusive background noise.
It’s also excellent for people who don’t have any friends to go to the coffee shop with.
Published on: 22 May 2017
Do you wish you had a better memory? Perhaps you do but you can’t remember whether or not you do.
If this is the case then help may be at hand.
University researchers have recently suggested a simple technique which could improve your memory.
Dr Mark Moss from Northumbria University led a research study which found that students studying in a room with the smell of the herb rosemary (in the form of essential oils) achieved 5% to 7% better memory results than students undertaking similar studying in a room without the smell of rosemary.
Dr Moss reported that the sense of smell in humans is highly sensitive and sends messages to the brain which can set off reactions and responses.
In the case of rosemary, the smell could well result in a better memory.
This view isn’t new though as ancient Greek students used to wear garlands of rosemary in their exams and Ophelia, the young noblewoman in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet said “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”
So, in conclusion, the next time you are studying hard for an exam it may be an idea to buy some rosemary essential oils to help your memory.
That is of course, if you can remember to buy some in the first place…
(Details of some of the work done by Northumbria University can be found here).
Published on: 18 Apr 2017
Picture the scene – you’re the senior auditing partner of KPMG in America with more than 30 years of experience serving some of KPMG’s most prestigious clients. There are over 9,000 KPMG people in the US who look up to you as the boss.
You receive some leaked information about which of your audits the US audit watchdog is going to examine as part of their annual inspection of how well KPMG perform audits.
(a) Disclose this unethical breach immediately, or
(b) Try to keep things quiet and make sure that the audit files of the audits selected are perfect?
Unfortunately for Scott Marcello, the (now ex) head of KPMG’s audit practice in America, he didn’t choose option (a).
The background to the issue is that every year the US audit regulator, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) selects a sample of audits to inspect and ensure they have been performed properly.
A former employee of the PCAOB had joined KPMG. A friend of his who was still working at the PCAOB tipped him off about which audits would be selected for inspection this year.
The confidential information was then passed up the KPMG hierarchy until it reached Mr Marcello.
We can only guess what Mr Marcello and 4 other KPMG partners were planning on doing with the leaked information but one thing was for sure and that was they didn’t disclose the leak.
Whilst the 5 partners clearly weren’t very ethical, KPMG as an organisation acted quickly once they found out about it.
The 5 partners were fired and Lynne Doughtie, the chairwoman and chief executive of KPMG was quoted as saying “KPMG has zero tolerance for such unethical behaviour. Quality and integrity are the cornerstone of all we do and that includes operating with the utmost respect and regard for the regulatory process. We are taking additional steps to ensure that such a situation should not happen again”.
The PCOAB publish the results of their inspections and the previous results of the KPMG inspections perhaps give a reason for why Mr Marcello was keen for any help, whether it was ethical or unethical.
In 2014 and 2015, KPMG had more deficiencies in their audits than any of the other Big 4 in America.
38% of their inspected audits in 2015 were found to be deficient whilst in 2014, 54% were found to be deficient.
Published on: 18 Mar 2017
That’s an interesting question and unless you’re a modelling agency then the answer for most jobs should be that looks aren’t important and it’s the ability to do the job that counts.
Research from Aarhus University in Denmark though has raised some interesting observations which could have an impact on fast food restaurants.
The study found that women were more likely to order healthy options such as salad instead of unhealthy options such as chips when they were in the company of a good-looking man. The research found that a woman was more likely to go for low calorie items when they were with a handsome man.
This healthy eating wasn’t present though when a women was eating with a good-looking woman.
Men on the other hand, tended to spend more on expensive food and drink when they were with an attractive woman.
Whilst we can probably guess that a woman doesn’t want to be seen as somebody who could eat a whole restaurant on a date and a man wants to be seen as wealthy and able to afford expensive food, Tobias Otterbring, the author of the study puts it nicely when he says “this research reveals how, why, and when appearance induced mate attraction leads to sex-specific consumption preferences for various food and beverages.”
He went on to say that “the most valued characteristics men seek in a female mate are beauty and health, whereas status and wealth are the top priorities for women.”
He also said that the study findings suggested that fast food chains should consider whether to employ good-looking men in case it encouraged women to look elsewhere for healthy options.
Somehow though, I can’t see many fast food restaurants saying that “good-looking men should not apply” in their job adverts.
Published on: 04 Mar 2017
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that people get sick. In the winter months especially, there can be a lot of cold and flu bugs going around.
But what percentage of working hours do you think are lost to sickness?
The ONS (Office of National statistics) in the UK has just released details of the number of sick days in 2016. The number of hours lost to sickness as a percentage of working hours was 1.9% or to put it another way, about 137 million working days were lost due to illness in the UK last year.
This may sound a lot but of the number of sick days taken has fallen over the last few years. Last year the average number of sick days per worker was 4.3 whereas when records began in 1993 it was 7.2 days per worker.
It looks like the fall in sick days could be down to a number of factors.
The economic downturn in the late 2000’s arguably caused people to “struggle on” through an illness rather than risk losing their job. Companies are also more flexible nowadays when it comes to letting people work from home. If someone isn’t feeling 100%, a lot of employers will let them work from home and even if they are not up to full speed at least they will be doing some work.
The details also show that there’s a difference between the public sector and the private sector. The percentage absenteeism in the public sector is 2.9% compared to 1.7% in the private sector.
The most common reasons for missing work last year included minor illnesses such as colds (25%), musculoskeletal problems such as back ache (22%), mental health problems including stress and depression (11.5%), stomach upsets (6.6%) and headaches and migraines (3.4%).
Published on: 28 Feb 2017
It’s a busy time for new parents when a baby comes along. Lots of employers give maternity and paternity leave for the new mums and dads but what about when your “baby” has 4 legs and a waggy tail?
Artisan Brewers BrewDog are a Scottish beer company who are very successful and sell their craft beers around the world.
They are also pretty unusual. They have grown from having two staff and two investors in 2007 to a current global team of in excess of 500. It has broken crowdfunding records with more than 32,000 shareholders.
More recently though, they became the first major company to offer their employees a week off if they get a new puppy. This will enable the humans to bond with their new pets without worrying that their work will suffer.
Founders James Watt and Martin Dickie, who themselves founded the company with their dog Bracken, said in a company statement that ‘Yes, having dogs in our offices makes everyone else more chilled and relaxed – but we know only too well that having a new arrival – whether a mewling pup or unsettled rescue dog – can be stressful for human and hound both.
‘So we are becoming the first in our industry to give our staff help to settle a new furry family member into their home,’
If any employees are thinking of getting a new puppy, then they won’t be the first in the company with a dog.
As well as providing time off for new dog owners, BrewDog also allow their employees to take their pet dogs into the office and there are currently over 50 employees at their head office alone who take their dogs to the office every day.
Published on: 03 Feb 2017
Does your weight affect the amount of money you earn?
That’s an interesting question and researchers from the universities of Strathclyde in Glasgow and Potsdam in Germany have come up with a potential answer.
They analysed data from nearly 15,000 working men and found that men within that the recommended Body Mass Index (BMI) health range earnt more than those who were outside of the range.
Individuals who were underweight on the body mass index were found to earn 8% less than those who were in the top end of the healthy bracket. They found that the effect was more prominent in manual jobs where no doubt the extra strength of the guys in the healthy weight bracket helped increase their earnings.
What was perhaps surprising though was that there was also a difference in earnings in white-collar office jobs. They found that in the more middle-class occupations the rewards peaked at a BMI of around 21.
It wasn’t just men who were impacted though. The study also looked at the weight and earnings of 15,000 German women and found that the slimmest earnt the most and the obese the least.
Jonny Gifford, of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development was quoted in the press as saying “it is depressing that, in this day and age, looks are in any way a factor in how much people are paid”.
I have to agree with him as organisations should employ people on the basis of their abilities as opposed to how heavy they weigh.
Anyway, best dash as I’ve got a packet of biscuits to finish…
Published on: 21 Dec 2016
Anyone that has studied hard for their exams will almost certainly at one time or another utilised the services of a strong coffee.
Whilst desperately trying to cram that last bit of knowledge into your brain before the exams there is often a temptation to grab a strong coffee late in the night to keep your mind awake.
For years students around the world have been utilising the caffeine in coffee to help get that extra mark or two.
Coffee is said to originate from East Africa where legend has it that a 9th century Ethiopian goat herder by the name of
Starbucks Kaldi noticed that after his goats had ate some coffee beans they started bouncing around like teenagers at the local disco.
This started the journey of coffee and associated caffeine hits so loved by students around the world.
Over in Thailand though a new type of coffee has just been put on sale which has, how can I put it, but a pretty unusual processing method.
The key staff involved in the processing function are also unusual as they have massive heads and bodies, weigh on average 4,000 kg and are grey in colour.
Yes, that’s right. The key team members involved in processing coffee are 20 Thai elephants.
The new brew of coffee is “processed” by getting the elephants to eat some coffee beans and then stepping back (in fact stepping way back) and letting the natural digestive juices in their stomachs do the job of “processing” the beans before they are deposited naturally on the ground a day later.
The beans are then handpicked out of the elephant dung by people who probably don’t bite their nails before being dried and then ground into coffee.
The finished coffee is said to have a
slight pooey taste smooth flavour without the bitterness of normal coffee and is some of the most expensive coffee in the world selling for nearly £150 per kilo.
It’s certainly an unusual production technique but it’s also for a good cause as 8% of the sales revenue goes towards the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, a refuge for rescued elephants in Thailand.
We’re now heading off on our Christmas holidays and will be back blogging in January.
Thank you to all of you that have read our blog during 2016 and have a great holiday season!
Published on: 01 Dec 2016
“Don’t worry, it’s secured with cheese” isn’t the most common phrase you hear when discussing the bond markets but a €6 million bond issue may well change that.
When a company issues a bond, the investor is lending money to that company in exchange for the bond. When the bond matures the company will repay the money that was lent (together with interest).
If you put yourself in the shoes of the investor, then what type of company would you invest in?
The chances are that you would be looking for large, well established and financially secure companies to invest in. That means that smaller companies generally find it challenging to raise funds via bonds.
An Italian cheese manufacturer has found a novel way around this problem.
4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia is a relatively small Modena based cooperative firm which produces 75,000 wheels of Parmigiano cheese annually (nearly 2% of the world production of the famous cheese). It has issued a €6 million bond offering an annual yield of 5% with the capital being repaid in 5 annual amounts starting in 2018 and ending in 2022. The funds raised will be used to support their commercial expansion plans.
The interesting thing about the bond issue though is that it is secured by Parmigiano cheese worth 120% of the bond value. This means that if the company fails to repay the money the investors can get Parmigiano cheese from the company.
€7.2 million worth of cheese – that’s a lot of cheese! Let’s hope the bond matures nicely without any problems.
Published on: 08 Nov 2016
Are you lazy? Do you know anyone who is lazy?
Whilst a lot of you won’t admit to being lazy (and I’m sure most of you aren’t in fact lazy!), some of you will know somebody who you feel is lazy.
Is it such a bad thing to be lazy though?
Perhaps not, as according to a study by scientists from Florida Gulf Coast University laziness could correlate with high intelligence.
The study found that people with a high IQ rarely got bored. As a result, they spent more time lost in thought. On the other hand, the study suggested that less intelligent people were more likely to be prone to boredom and consequently were more likely to do more physical activity.
The researchers worked with 2 types of students. The first group expressed a strong desire to think a lot whilst the second group were keen to avoid doing things which were mentally taxing.
The participants were then fitted with fitness trackers which monitored how much they exercised over a 7 day period. The study found that people who thought a lot were much less active than those individuals who avoided high-level thinking. Interestingly, this discrepancy in levels of activity only happened during the week and there was no difference during the weekend.
Before any of the lazy people out there start claiming that they are more intelligent, it’s worth noting that the sample size of the test was small and further tests will be needed to prove the correlation.