New Year’s resolution: staying healthy the digital way

Nowadays, when we fall sick, we are not just patients anymore. Our journey through the healthcare system has been transformed into a customer experience. The digital transformation of the healthcare industry promises us longer lives of better quality. Let’s see exactly how we can turn feeling ill to feeling well, the digital way.

Prevention prevails

The most significant advancement of digitized healthcare is the shift to a focus on prevention instead of treatment. Digital technology empowers us, the patients, to take matters into our own hands. So that’s what we do, don’t we? We keep a plethora of apps on our phones for staying healthy as long as possible. There are apps to track our sleeping patterns, the nutritional values of foods, our heart rate, our gut health. We are proud of our scores in our favourite sport and can always rely on an app for motivation to move.

We also feel good because we are saving precious resources for the healthcare system. If apps motivate us to drink enough water, remind us to take vitamins, teach us to brush our teeth better, a lot of problems will never arise. That means more doctor and nurse time for those who really need it.

A faster way to diagnosis

But one day, the unimaginable happens. Despite all our efforts, we get sick or hurt or simply feel uncomfortable in our bodies. Thank goodness, Dr. Google is always there to help. After all, who wants to spend endless hours in waiting rooms? Even though we might be a little worried or even scared sometimes. But that’s when technology comes to the rescue: we can book an online consultation with a real live doctor! And it often turns out that we came to the wrong conclusion, not a professional diagnosis. Now we can have all kinds of remote tests done: blood, hair composition, DNA. Our doctor can provide us with a proper digital interpretation of those results. Or rerun the tests: growing computing power now makes bioinformatics, computational genomics, digital imaging possible and helps us get a diagnosis sooner. Digital analytics also suggest which treatment would be the most beneficial.

Digital treatment

In no time, we have a diagnosis and a treatment plan. Our busy doctors and nurses can now go and treat other patients while we set out on our journey of healing or simply improving our quality of life. In fact, digital healthcare saves the most resources in the treatment of chronic conditions. By replacing appointments and regular check-ups at surgeries and clinics, asthma, diabetes, or cardiac arrhythmia symptoms and medications can be treated remotely with the help of hardware and software. We can also save trips to the pharmacy: prescriptions are already being handled by several online pharmacies that ship the drugs to our doorsteps. Doctors now simply have the task of regularly checking the data provided by digital tools and only meet us in person when something out of the ordinary happens. That way they can put the pieces of the puzzle together better than when they see us only once every three months. And if we were still to find ourselves in an emergency and have to be taken to the hospital, at least we’ll be surrounded by numerous screens soothing us with their calming blue lights.

Written by Anikó Jóri-Molnár

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7 movies to watch if you are into translation

Translation and interpretation are not exactly the most action-packed professions but it does not mean that someone who practices these professions or the activity itself is never represented on the silver screen. In this blog entry we will take a look at the most famous examples where translation and/or interpretation is an essential element of the plot.

One of the earliest film representations of interpretation on screen is Charade (1963), where Audrey Hepburn plays a simultaneous interpreter who gets caught up in a murder mystery. The movie is a fun amalgam of a thriller and a screwball comedy, and while interpretation is not a vital element of the movie, in one scene we can see Hepburn’s Reggie working in an interpreter booth – then leaving in a hurry in the middle of a conference!

Stumbling on a conspiracy might be a surprising twist or perhaps the worst nightmare for an interpreter working for an international organisation. That is exactly what happens to Silvia Broom, played by Nicole Kidman in The Interpreter (2005). In this high-tension political thriller Silvia overhears the discussion of a plot to assassinate the leader of an African country and consequently has to run for her life. The movie is not only interesting because it was the first movie filmed inside the UN headquarters in New York, but also because it touches upon the ethical and moral issues an interpreter can face.

Translation activities often entail cultural mediation as well, and movies often highlight this aspect. One of the most famous examples for this trope is Lost in Translation, a bittersweet romantic comedy starring Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson. The film’s key theme is isolation, which is explored from several aspects, from the culture shock of Japan to the characters’ inability to engage with their lives. In addition, when Bill Murray’s Bob, an aging actor, is on the set to film an advertisement, the Japanese director delivers lengthy but enthusiastic directions in Japanese, but the interpreter only translates the absolutely minimum of information (“Look into the camera!”), because she fears she might offend the actor. The scene, while funny because of its awkwardness, further underlines the overall message of the film.

Spanglish (2004) also deals with intercultural relationships. In this movie, John (Adam Sandler) and Deborah (Téa Leoni) hire the poor Mexican Flor (Paz Vega) as the family’s housekeeper. Since Flor doesn’t speak English, her child Cristina facilitates communication between her and the family.

It is not surprising that sci-fi and fantasy movies also incorporate interpretation and translation as an important element in the plot. In The Mummy (1999), Evelyn Carnahan – played by Rachel Weisz – is an Egyptologist whose ability to understand the ancient Egyptian language both causes and resolves the calamities in the plot. Arrival (2016) is another important movie in this regard. In this film, when aliens visit the Earth a linguist (Amy Adams) is assigned to decipher their language. The movie showcases translation’s linguistic and diplomatic function and importance, while still managing to be an interesting and even fascinating motion picture.

Last but not least, a recent Hungarian film is the latest contribute to this theme. Barnabás Tóth’s short film, Susotázs (2018) chooses two interpreters as protagonists – though the footage actually shows simultaneous interpretation and not chuchotage – both trying to outdo each other in paying compliments to the woman listening to their interpretation. While their practice goes against all the written and unwritten rules of interpretation, the peculiarity of the situation and the twist at the end is a heart-warming experience.

Written by Zsolt Beke

Inclusive workplaces: Everybody is welcome!

In the fight against discrimination, companies are increasingly taking measures to create accepting cultures and foster diversity. It turns out that what is good for the human soul is good for the business, too.

Money and location have traditionally been the top reasons for people to change jobs. However, company culture has recently emerged as an umbrella term for all the other factors they consider or realize they should have considered when signing a new work contract.

As a part of that company culture, recent years have seen a rise in the awareness of being inclusive. When the working community values individual and group diversity and acts accordingly, it fulfils the criteria of an inclusive workplace. Sharing information equally, presenting equal opportunities and assigning similar responsibilities to everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or disability, are the most prominent examples.

But why is it important?

For an employee, the number one reason is human nature. They are predominantly hired for their professional capabilities, yet every employee has both the need to be accepted as a human being and to feel they belong in their (working) community. In practice, this includes being invited to lunch or birthday parties, having support during family emergencies, or merely experiencing no hidden rules of behaviour.

For a company, the inclusive nature of the workplace is a case for increased engagement and productivity. If workers feel accepted, they will be engaged in the company goals and want to give back. An engaged employee is also a productive employee: one survey finds businesses that care about engagement are 17% more productive than the others. Research from Deloitte states that inclusive workplaces are “twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets. Not to mention employee turnover.”

What if job candidates could know about the level of inclusivity in a workplace before they walk in on their first day? Well, they actually can. Now, with the availability of employer-rating sites such as Glassdoor, they can check reviews by former or current employees. They can also find out whether a company has made any top lists for inclusivity. It is also increasingly common to ask related questions at an interview.

The 2019 Diversity and Inclusion study of Glassdoor, however, found that half of the employees in the US, UK, France, and Germany think there’s still not enough inclusion in their workplaces. So here is your to-do list as an employer:

  • Train your leaders. Make them aware of everyday biases and give them the tools to overcome them.
  • Give equal access to resources. Whether it is about preparing for a meeting or applying for training or advancement, make sure everybody has the same amount of information and equal chances to succeed.
  • Promote diversity of thought. Create opportunities for everyone’s voice to be heard and value diverse opinions. Ensure that the workplace is a safe place to express concerns and set a good example.
  • Celebrate the differences. Find out which unique qualities and personalities contribute to a healthy working environment and give them credit for it.

By consistently applying the above guidelines, you will find that your company is becoming a pleasant place to work for everyone. It will create a sense of belonging and a reason for workers to go the extra mile for your business.

Written by Anikó Jóri-Molnár

Is the future of work remote?

I started as a journalist where flexibility was a given. With the aid of technology, work was only starting to become more flexible and (at least partly) remote work just about made sense. If you think about it, press conferences rarely happen in the editorial offices. On the other hand, deadlines ensured I had to burn the midnight oil at home at one point or the other.

So I can only embrace the fact that technology made it possible for other professions to break free from their offices, too. This movement dates back to the 1980s and IBM allowing their employees to work from home.

The internet then accelerated the trend so much that, according to a Swiss study from 2018, 70% of full-time employees globally worked remotely at least on one day of the week. So what can we expect in the long term? Is the future of work remote?

Of course, its supporters answer with a resounding yes. Owl Labs’ 2019 report that surveyed 1,200 US employees concluded that remote work makes people happier and more loyal to their employer, to the extent that these people are willing to work more hours, as a way of thanking their employer for a better work-life balance, less stress, and no commuting times.

Companies that support such a set-up also enjoy benefits: they see an increase in employee productivity as well as a decrease in overhead costs: as much as $10,000 per employee a year in terms of real estate costs. Furthermore, less stress and more commitment mean fewer sick days and lower recruiting costs for the employer.

But not everyone supports this remote working trend to the same extent. IBM was again the first to make headlines two years ago by calling tens of thousands of employees back to the office. Others, like Bank of America or Yahoo, have quickly followed suit. Their most important argument? Facilitating collaboration and innovation, the success factors of our current times. Less cited, but identifying performance with time spent in the office (see incompetent management) still remains a benchmark for some employers.

I also have my share of personal experience that echoes those concerns. I have seen people being confused or lost working from home or showing weaker work ethics. I have seen bosses who are essentially control freaks. These groups are bound to fail in remote working environments. So who’s guaranteed to succeed?

Successful remote workers share traits such as self-discipline, self-motivation, advanced (digital) communication skills, general tech-savviness, and the mental strength to cope with loneliness. They fit best in companies with a culture of inclusion and transparent policies of equal treatment. In workplaces where communication channels favour neither in-house nor remote employees. Where individual responsibility for your work is just as important a requirement as being a good team player.

After all, despite the occasional hiccoughs, remote working is here to stay, and it is still not too late for it to find its place in your workflows.

Written by Anikó Jóri-Molnár

Eco-friendly transportation: what are the options?

Greta Thunberg has crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a zero-carbon emissions boat to arrive at the UN climate summit in New York in order to direct attention to the atmospheric carbon pollution of planes. But what options do we have if we want to choose an eco-friendly form of transport in our daily life?

Generally speaking, public transport is the most efficient and greenest way of transport, as it can carry a large number of people with no significant time loss compared to cars – in some cases it can be even faster due to dedicated lanes and right-of-way tracks. Rail transport, including trains, trams and light rail/metros, is the winner in this category, as it is extremely energy-efficient and has a large capacity, but it requires a proper infrastructure. Buses have a slightly higher level of emissions of greenhouse gases but they are cheap, and require little modification to existing infrastructure (e.g. creation of bus lanes in the city centre) while providing the benefit of carrying a large number of travellers. A well-established public transport system can provide a real and most definitely a greener alternative for cars. Planes are more fuel intensive but their large capacity somewhat balances out this factor, and, while for large distances it is the most time-efficient mode of transportation, there are initiatives to choose buses or trains instead of planes for travel within the borders of a country or for short distance journeys.

While public transport is a great way to get around whether you are a tourist or on business, it is limited by its infrastructure (or the lack thereof), its timetable, or its capacity problems. Thus, there are times when we have to choose a mode of transport that gives us more freedom to move around.

Of course, one of the most immediate modes of transportation is walking – it has practically no environmental impact, it’s free of any infrastructural requirements, and it’s a healthy option. However, it’s a relatively slow form of transport and is mostly applicable for short distances. Bikes are as good for you as walking, with a bit more physical effort. And although it can cover longer distances, it’s not exactly the method one would choose to go to a meeting. Surprisingly, motorbikes can still be considered as an eco-friendly transport option, even though these can be dangerous in heavy traffic. Cars are considered to be the worst offender in this regard; carpooling and carsharing can mitigate their negative effects. There are several apps and initiatives that help people travelling in the same direction to share their cars and carpooling is seen by more and more companies as an efficient alternative for the transport of their employees, providing subsidies and other benefits in exchange.

There is a new trend on the rise: electric scooters provide a quick and fast option for short distance transport. However, there are some uncertainties around these. Their use is not properly regulated, in many places it is undecided about whether they can be used on pavements or only on the road/in bike lanes; and their proper placement is yet to be resolved – now people simply leave them when they get off them, which is not an appealing sight in the cityscape. There are some further environmental issues, for example with the recycling of their batteries or the fact that the scooters left on the streets are collected by cars.

Either way, transport affects the environment, and we cannot always use the most environmentally friendly option. But – as with other forms of environmental protection – being conscious and aware of the problems and trying our best to eliminate or overcome them is a huge step forward, while new technologies and infrastructural developments can also help our collective efforts to save our planet, while not giving up on effective transportation.

Written by Zsolt Beke

Interpretation in politics

In our present era of globalism, politics has also become a multifaceted domain that tries to overcome the language and political barriers between countries (e.g. the United Nations or the European Union) while, at the same time, it is constantly hindered by this. Therefore, language mediation is an intricate and delicate issue that covers many forms of communication, from private meetings to international conferences.

While political translation can also pose some challenges, it is interpretation where these abovementioned features are more immediate – mostly because, as the interpreter does not have the necessary timeframe to consider the cultural and contextual differences, the mediation has to happen promptly. As a consequence, an interpreter who wishes to work in the field of politics has to have many skills.

First of all, they have to be familiar with not just the subject matter of the event, but also its reception and appreciation in the political atmosphere of both the source and the target. They have to be aware of all the cultural issues that might surround the subject matter and the narrower and broader vocabulary that this entails. In addition, linguistic sensitivity is required. Figures of speech – like euphemisms, metaphors or intertextuality – are often used, and while one can prepare for such instances, e.g. if they receive the text of a speech or the outline of a presentation, comments and observations often arrive from out of the blue. Another situation to consider is the recognition of non-verbal codes where such simple gestures as nodding can have opposite meanings. The interpreter should also be knowledgeable about the diverse forms of interpretation (e.g. simultaneous, consecutive or chuchotage), as different settings and situations – maybe even at the same event – require different techniques. The final skill that is necessary – and I think it is among the most difficult aspects – is to interpret impartially. While of course, in theory, interpretation is perfectly devoid of personal matters, in a real situation it is quite a feat to continuously override one’s own bias and opinion.

A politician who speaks reliably and confidently in a given foreign language might deem their language knowledge solid enough to decide against using an interpreter. This might be a proper solution in events with an informal atmosphere or in smaller-scale discussions where the topic, the language used, and possibly the interlocutors, are familiar to the politician. However, in the case of larger conventions and symposia, an interpreter can support a politician in many ways. On the one hand to express him/herself without bearing the burden of the language barrier that is present even when someone is close to native level speaker; and, on the other hand, to understand the point of view of others without decoding the text by their own.

To sum up, interpretation in the political field is an area where the skilful nuances of the profession are amplified and emphasised, which requires endurance and a high level of cultural and linguistic sensitivity. On the other hand, a skilled interpreter can facilitate the exchange of ideas and can also overcome even the most demanding linguistic difficulties.

Written by Zsolt Beke

Chemical footprint: the next level in sustainability

Since 2012, when the concept of ecological footprints was born, we have been accustomed to hearing about our carbon emissions. However, the footprint family incorporates more than that, with the chemical footprint also being a part of it. What is that, and why should we care?

The chemical footprint is an indicator of how much “chemicals of high concern” (COHC) a company is using during production or is selling as a retailer. There are over 10,000 different chemicals used every day in the world, and by now, the connection between some of these and environmental or health damage is apparent.

So benchmarking and measurements, such as the Chemical Footprint Project, gives an overview of the efforts businesses make to commit to a more sustainable way of chemical use. The project evaluates companies in four areas: management strategy, chemical inventory, footprint measurement (as reduction goals), and public disclosure and verification.

Producers of chemicals are obvious targets for such expectations. On the other hand, businesses in different industries are also responsible for unwanted emissions. Manufacturers of clothing, including the likes of Adidas, C&A, Levi’s, or Puma, have already joined the voluntary initiative, the ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme, and committed to the zero discharge of dangerous substances. Production of building materials and furniture, cleaning supplies, medical devices, hardware, or toys are also called out. They should take part in monitoring their supply chains and help to minimise damage from chemicals — and do it all transparently.

Going downstream, non-industrial players such as smaller retailers and service providers can also put their two cents in. A hairdressing salon that sources products with only safe chemicals. A food delivery service that uses paper products instead of plastic. A school that cleans with green supplies. It is a new field to explore and being proactive in finding sustainable ways of doing business is crucial.

There are also measures you can take in your own household to reduce chemical damage. Using less of everything is the first step and one where a little goes a long way. From washing to cleaning and grooming, make educated choices about the products you use. There are guidelines to follow when reading product labels and looking for possibly harmful ingredients. You can also try and make products at home that contain only additives you trust. Cleaning promises especially good returns on your efforts if you make use of lemon, vinegar, and washing soda.

Individual efforts add up to a healthier environment, but country policies increasingly back this up. For example, chemical regulatory landscapes have been changing in national economies and even on a broader scale. In Europe, the emission of potentially hazardous chemicals amounts to 200 million tonnes a year with associated health damage, and 120 million tonnes that is possibly harming the environment. So, the EU is working on new measures to calculate the chemical footprint of products and businesses in its Member States. It uses data from REACH and EFSA, and communicates the findings to help consumers navigate the risks. Chemical management at all levels of the society is moving up the agenda and is triggering a set of measures that will, hopefully, make life healthier for generations to come.

Written by Anikó Jóri-Molnár

We are family ⁠— but are we business?

Families are the smallest units in our societies, but, if they engage in business, these units provide stable economic power based on personal relations. Let’s see whether this is a recipe for success!

Families that made business history

When mum and dad decide to open a little corner shop or cousins embark on a startup adventure developing software in a garage, they share this journey with many ventures. Family businesses are the backbone of the global economy, with two-thirds generating around 70-90% of global GDP, according to 2017 data from the Family Firm Institute.

Some of the newcomers will also share the humble beginnings with many top global enterprises of today. US discount chain Walmart, a steady leader of all business lists, was founded by the Walton brothers in 1945 and now has a revenue of USD 514bn. Europe is not far behind with Germany’s Volkswagen, of the Porsche and Piech families, with a revenue of EUR 235bn. Other well-known brands like Novartis, Dell or Aldi, also trace their origins back to families like Sandoz, Dell and Albrecht.

Some essential advice

When it comes to founding a new business, doing so with family members seems like a safe bet to ensure a high level of trust and commitment and achieve a lower level of costs. Some are even fascinated by the idea that their family name might someday become famous and make history.

That hasn’t changed with the coming of the startup age. Meanwhile, a family venture has always come with its specific challenges. But how do you avoid the pitfalls and make the venture a success?

  • Business is business: Set clear limits about where family life ends and business begins. Determine roles, communication, and pay according to market standards and not personal feelings. The best thing is to put everything in writing. Seeking outside advice might help in more problematic cases.
  • Define your family values and stick to them: PwC’s Family Business Survey says that clear values are the best way to overcome today’s challenges of digital disruption. A commitment to your values helps to focus your activities, navigate complex decision-making situations and wins the trust of your customers.
  • Plan for succession: If you have a vision of growth, you must plan for the times when decisions will not be made by you and your first partner(s) alone. Very few family businesses make it through the third generation, and the main reason for that is poor planning, according to EY and University of St. Gallen’s Family Business Index. A governance framework established early is a tool to prevent the breakdown of relationships and secure a stable background for future generations.

If you and your family members have equal understanding of your goals and how you want to achieve them, starting a business with family can be a good idea and the beginning of a rewarding journey.

Written by Anikó Jóri-Molnár

Climate leave – bringing “eco” into the workplace

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It has a major impact on every aspect of our existence, and we are yet to learn to what extent it will transform our daily lives, not to mention the environment that surrounds us. There are many negative effects of climate change: extreme heat and serious natural disasters pose new challenges for companies and employees alike.

When the damage is done

One of the first companies to respond to this challenge is the US tech company Fog Creek (now known as Glitch), which, following the increasingly violent storms of the hurricane season, decided to provide five days of paid leave to their employees in case weather conditions or emergency measures (e.g. evacuation) make it difficult or impossible for them to work. They explained their decision by emphasising that the safety of their workforce is of primary concern and these few days – which can be extended in the case of a state emergency – can help staff to ensure their own and their families’ safety.

While climate leave is a desirable step in order to lessen the negative impact of climate change on workers, it is only a sensible decision if it is part of a “green” work package that also facilitates the creation and maintenance of a sustainable and environmentally friendly office: the option of climate leave can be supplemented by providing platforms for remote working, allowing colleagues to work flexitime or encouraging the use of public transport and/or carpooling among colleagues.

A problem shared

Nicolas Vallat from Denmark has a different concept of Climate Leave: he believes climate leave should work in the same way as parental leave. You take time off work to do something that benefits everyone.

Inspired by a young Swedish woman, Bodil Palmberg, who recently quit a successful job to dedicate herself as a volunteer to promote the sharing economy and a more collaborative lifestyle which involves community gardens, swapping and sharing, gift circles, upcycling and so on, Nicolas prepared a simple one-page Climate Leave Agreement for his own boss. He initially asked for a three-month unpaid leave of absence. Unpaid because Nicolas saw this as his way of showing his commitment to the project. “I knew exactly what I would spend my time on while on leave: taking part in projects to create a more environment-friendly, collaborative economy,” he said.

The future beckons for employers who support their staff by allowing them to take time off from work on a daily, weekly or monthly basis in order to participate in social and environmental projects at a whole new level. This is something that gives both employer and employee a sense of recognition and fulfilment. And the biggest winner of all is our planet.

How to take your part in reducing food waste

How did we get from the post-war scarce food resources to dumping one-third of the production a year? The first world is wasted right now but is there a chance to make it better? Can we keep living a good life and still not lose so much?

Trashcan overload

According to United Nations estimates, about 1.3 billion tons, one-third of the total produced globally ends up in the trash. Do you know what’s even more shocking? That I am (and you are, too) responsible for more than 100 kilograms of food waste a year, while third-world citizens only throw away 6-11 kg.

Our carelessness is a result of both producing and buying more than necessary, as we mostly eliminated non-intentional waste during harvest, processing, and distribution. It doesn’t help that agricultural producers and retailers know we don’t like “ugly” veggies and expired dairy. Summer makes food go bad sooner and safety hysteria even worse – some of us already wonder if is it necessary though?

Awakening of groceries

Luckily, many organizations have already taken action. All along the food value chain, there are relevant initiatives that aim to tackle the problem of food waste and offer solutions for it.

Volunteers revive the tradition of gleaning, so collect produce that’s left on the site after harvest. They also collaborate with food banks for distribution.

Grocery stores are motivated by expensive waste management to support unsparing shopping. Supermarket chains like Rewe in Germany or Walmart in the US have long been donating to food banks.

Many stores collaborate with food-saving startups such as Olio from England, Instock from the Netherlands, Wasteless from Israel or Karma from Sweden for redistributing or merely cooking the leftovers. Others, like Tesco in the UK, is removing ‘best before’ labels claiming it makes its clients throw away still edible food.

Apps to the rescue

Nevertheless, the key to reducing waste even more is to change our behaviour. Luckily, hundreds of smart apps are available to support us in this mission. Here’s what you can do to reduce food waste:

  • Plan your meals and go shopping with a list. Say no to bulk offers and aim lower with the quantities of fresh produce. Apps: AnyList, Out of Milk, Avocadolist
  • Don’t buy food by the looks. “Ugly” veggies and fruits taste just as good. Apps: Hungry Harvest, Imperfect Produce
  • When it comes to takeaway, see if there are discounted offers in your area. Many restaurants or bakeries offer their remaining stock for a lower price at the end of the day.   Apps: TooGoodToGo, FoodOverFlow
  • Share what you cook too much of – give for takeaway or host neighbourhood dinners. Apps: Shmeal, Chachi’s, EatWith
  • Share what you have in excess – when you realize your pantry is full of stuff you’ll never use. Apps: NoWaste, Olio

Deep in our hearts, many of us know it’s not right to abuse the privilege of always having food on the table. Now let’s go for zero-waste shopping and cooking a meal to be shared!

Written by Anikó Jóri-Molnár