Red pill or blue pill?
If you could take a pill that, with minimal side effects, could help you concentrate, make better decisions, work more efficiently, and be more creative, would you take it?
An advantage over your colleagues
It seems that many people would, as more and more students and workers are using prescription drugs, not to treat the condition they are prescribed for, but to enhance their performance in work or school.
“Smart drugs” or “study drugs” are prescribed for cognitive and neurological conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy, but some people without those conditions find them effective for increasing concentration and efficiency while studying or working.
The estimate that 20 percent of Ivy League students have tried “smart drugs” is probably conservative. The Financial Times reports that smart drugs are “becoming popular among city lawyers, bankers, and other professionals keen to gain a competitive advantage over colleagues.”
Enhancing creativity and focus
The most common smart drugs in past decades have been Adderall and Ritalin, both prescribed for ADHD. Recently, a narcolepsy drug called Modafinil has become popular. A study by Harvard Medical School and Oxford found that Modafinil, when administered to test subjects who do not have narcolepsy, enhances creativity and attention, and makes it easier to learn, plan, and make decisions. According to their research, Modafinil also has “vanishingly few side effects,” making it a relatively safe way to enhance cognitive performance.
In fact, the U.S. military is even experimenting with Modafinil to help soldiers stay away when they’ve been pushed to exhaustion.
Despite Modafinil’s relative safety, it’s still illegal to possess it in the United States without a prescription. Other smart drugs, such as Adderall and Ritalin, can cause problems, such as disrupting your sleep cycle. It can also be very dangerous to drink alcohol with some of these drugs, so if you are using them, think about skipping Happy Hour after work.
Is it ethical?
Besides the question of safety, the popularity of smart drugs also raises ethical concerns. We don’t like our athletes artificially enhancing their bodies with steroids and other drugs – is enhancing work place or student performance any different?
Many universities have addressed the issue in their academic integrity policies, and consider these drugs to be a form of cheating.
It’s hard to say what effect these drugs could have on the workplace. They could be a great way for under-performing employees to catch up. They might also reduce workplace stress by helping employees finish tasks more efficiently so that they can truly relax at the end of the day. On the other hand, employees on smart drugs could gain an unfair competitive edge, setting the bar artificially high, for workers without drugs, who must then scramble to catch up, or start popping pills themselves.
Are you, or your employees using smart drugs to enhance workplace performance?
Office Depot still open to buyers – just not you, Staples
(BUSINESS NEWS) This isn’t the first time the office giants have tried to combine, but Office Depot has some particular conditions if Staples wants to acquire them.
In Staples’ third attempt to take over Office Depot, its acquisition offer was rejected by the ODP Corporation, Office Depot’s parent company. On January 11, Staples sent a letter to Office Depot’s board of directors offering to buy “100% of the issued and outstanding common stock” from its office-supply rival. At $40 per share, the deal to acquire Office Depot is over $2 billion.
“Staples believes that its all-cash transaction is a compelling value proposition for ODP’s stockholders that offers a high degree of certainty and is superior to the intrinsic, standalone value of ODP,” wrote Stefan Kaluzny, on behalf of the Board of Directors of USR Parent, Inc (Staples).
In response to Staples’ offer, the ODP corporation issued its own letter. “The Board has unanimously concluded that there is a more compelling path forward to create value for ODP and its shareholders than the potential transaction described in your proposal,” wrote ODP Chairman Joseph Vassalluzzo.
Although Office Depot refused Staples’ proposal, the company said it’s willing to make other alternative deals. “We are open to combining our retail and consumer-facing e-commerce operations with Staples under the right set of circumstances and on mutually acceptable terms,” wrote Vassalluzzo.
In the letter, Office Depot said it is willing to consider a joint venture where both companies “would equally share the risks and benefits.” The company would also consider a partial-sale of its retail and consumer-facing e-commerce operations.
If Staples is willing to come to either of those agreements, they will still require regulatory approval. But, Office Depot says their options offer a less “regulatory risk” by pursuing a retail-only transaction. And, will “help maintain competitiveness against nontraditional retailers and optimize ongoing choices for consumers.”
In 1997 and 2016, the Federal Trade Commission blocked the two companies from merging. Who’s to say it won’t happen again, even with the changes Office Depot is telling Staples to make in its offer.
“What we do not plan to do, however, is engage in a transaction that, as history has shown, would likely result in a prolonged and expensive regulatory review process with no guarantee of success, without a commitment that Staples is willing to bear this risk through a customary “hell or high water” provision,” wrote Vassaluzzo.
Until Staples is willing to come to an agreement with Office Depot that doesn’t include a full takeover, ODP’s answer is a firm “no”.
Big retailers are opting for refunds instead of returns
(BUSINESS NEWS) Due to increased shipping costs, big companies like Amazon and Walmart are opting to give out a refund rather than accepting small items returned.
The holidays are over, and now some people are ready to return an item that didn’t quite work out or wasn’t on their Christmas list. Whatever the reason, some retailers are giving customers a refund and letting them keep the product, too.
When Vancouver, Washington resident, Lorie Anderson, tried returning makeup from Target and batteries from Walmart she had purchased online, the retailers told her she could keep or donate the products. “They were inexpensive, and it wouldn’t make much financial sense to return them by mail,” said Ms. Anderson, 38. “It’s a hassle to pack up the box and drop it at the post office or UPS. This was one less thing I had to worry about.”
Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc., and other companies are changing the way they handle returns this year, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The companies are using artificial intelligence (AI) to weigh the costs of processing physical returns versus just issuing a refund and having customers keep the item.
For instance, if it costs more to ship an inexpensive or larger item than it is to refund the purchase price, companies are giving customers a refund and telling them to keep the products also. Due to an increase in online shopping, it makes sense for companies to change how they manage returns.
Locus Robotics chief executive Rick Faulk told the Journal that the biggest expense when it comes to processing returns is shipping costs. “Returning to a store is significantly cheaper because the retailer can save the freight, which can run 15% to 20% of the cost,” Faulk said.
But, returning products to physical stores isn’t something a lot of people are wanting to do. According to the return processing firm Narvar, online returns increased by 70% in 2020. With people still hunkered down because of the pandemic, changing how to handle returns is a good thing for companies to consider to reduce shipping expenses.
While it might be nice to keep the makeup or batteries for free, don’t expect to return that new PS5 and get to keep it for free, too. According to WSJ, a Walmart spokesperson said the company lets someone keep a refunded item only if the company doesn’t plan on reselling it. And, besides taking the economic costs into consideration, the companies look at the customer’s purchase history as well.
Google workers have formed company’s first labor union
(BUSINESS NEWS) A number of Google employees have agreed to commit 1% of their salary to labor union dues to support employee activism and fight workplace discrimination.
On Monday morning, Google workers announced that they have formed a union with the support of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the largest communications and media labor union in the U.S.
The new union, Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) was organized in secret for about a year and formed to support employee activism, and fight discrimination and unfairness in the workplace.
“From fighting the ‘real names’ policy, to opposing Project Maven, to protesting the egregious, multi-million dollar payouts that have been given to executives who’ve committed sexual harassment, we’ve seen first-hand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively. Our new union provides a sustainable structure to ensure that our shared values as Alphabet employees are respected even after the headlines fade,” stated Program Manager Nicki Anselmo in a press release.
AWU is the first union in the company’s history, and it is open to all employees and contractors at any Alphabet company in the United States and Canada. The cost of membership is 1% of an employee’s total compensation, and the money collected will be used to fund the union organization.
In a response to the announcement, Google’s Director of People Operations, Kara Silverstein, said, “We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce. Of course, our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”
Unlike other labor unions, the AWU is considered a “Minority Union”. This means it doesn’t need formal recognition from the National Labor Relations Board. However, it also means Alphabet can’t be forced to meet the union’s demands until a majority of employees support it.
So far, the number of members in the union represents a very small portion of Google’s workforce, but it’s growing every day. When the news of the union was first announced on Monday, roughly 230 employees made up the union. Less than 24 hours later, there were 400 employees in the union, and now that number jumped to over 500 employees.
Unions among Silicon Valley’s tech giants are rare, but labor activism is slowly picking up speed, especially with more workers speaking out and organizing.
“The Alphabet Workers Union will be the structure that ensures Google workers can actively push for real changes at the company, from the kinds of contracts Google accepts to employee classification to wage and compensation issues. All issues relevant to Google as a workplace will be the purview of the union and its members,” stated the AWU in a press release.
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