Op-Ed:

More Than a Birthday Cupcake and Reader’s Favorites

By Mindy Ran, Editor-in-Chief

The Habtic Standard entered my life during those hot, sunny, dark, dark days of the first COVID lockdown, almost a year to the day now. At a moment when all of life had seemed to slow to less than a crawl, a shiny open door appeared that read ‘new challenge’, and I walked through…

Crossing the aisle, so to speak, from working on human rights and social justice issues with NGOs to a corporate magazine required quite an education. I quickly learned that the all-singing, all-dancing bright lights of the employee health and wellbeing industry often offered nothing deeper than a birthday cupcake.

And so, the basic working tenets of The Habtic Standard were created: we wanted to speak to corporate decision-makers, but with the focus on employee health and wellbeing at a real-world level, we don’t dumb-down, we don’t shy away from the difficult or uncomfortable and we uphold high blind-review and journalistic standards.

Which makes us, depending on your perspective, either an odd duck or a unique voice in the world of corporate publications. Or both.

And not a single bit of that would be possible without the support of an incredibly talented and dedicated team.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure (yet) of perusing the colophon or our reviewers’ index, allow me to offer you a glimpse behind the wizard’s curtain and give our production team a bit of the credit they deserve. From my right-hand man, an excellent organizer (at least of me) and brilliant researcher, Pranay Parsuram, to Balou de Joode on Social Media, the most excellent David Slack and his team on Art, Lion Timmers’ team on Web, a varied and diverse group of Reviewers and our talented copyeditors, Sarah Kovac and Jay McLellan-Verhoeven.

And of course, none of that work would be possible without the key to any publication: our hugely talented, insightful and brilliant authors. We have been absolutely privileged to publish some of the best essays and investigations into employee health and wellbeing anywhere. We know which articles we loved because of their insights and quality of writing, check back at the end of the year for my picks, but we wondered – what were yours – the readers’ top articles.

Who Knew? Ethics!

One of the most surprising aspects of your top reads was that the top two were both about the ethics of managerial strategies and tools, an important lesson for us looking forward.

Our reader’s top pick was Ethics of Control: Who Nudges the Nudgers? by Leigh Phillips, which investigated the ethical implications of corporate use of behavior modification and nudging, not only to entice customers to buy, but at their own employees. Pointing out that humans are not always as rational as they think they are, he warned:

"… any application must be grounded in transparency and informed consent in order to support rather than extinguish the moral autonomy of employees."

He also asked, even in the most ethical of behavior modifications, just who is nudging the nudgers? Also, check out his contribution to our main article this issue: Accountability – A Corporate Report Card.

Fast approaching top popularity is AI and Ethics, written by Jodi N. Beggs. Ignoring the taste for fear and conspiracy fodder swirling around the issue of AI in the workplace, Beggs set out to examine the realities related to COVID shifts that meant that in many cases use of AI and technology accelerated and went from idea to practical application very quickly. She answered the question: are ethics keeping up with the technology in corporate AI applications – or not?

"… despite the fact that these systems are generally explicitly barred from choosing based on race, gender and so on, the algorithms by design are very good at identifying characteristics that are proxies for these characteristics, resulting in de facto discriminatory practices."

Only recently did these two knock our very first main article The Long View, by Karen Kao, off the top slot. Kao explored the fear and chaos that permeated all of society in the first months of the pandemic, urging survival strategies:

"Are we stupid? Cartoon ostriches stick their heads in the sand. Real ostriches deploy risk avoidance strategies like their great ground speed or formidable height to compensate for their inability to fly."

Two of our Op-Eds made the grade, which is unsurprising as they are intended to provide an expert’s new perspective and unique voice. The first is the Op-Ed: Hello, part of our New Year’s Special Issue, by Leigh Caldwell. Noting that many governments and institutions were using lockdown time to make changes to the ‘old’ normal, we wondered: what industries are opening to a whole new scope and design, and what brave new world are we entering? And Caldwell did not disappoint with his reply:

"The businesses with sustainable competitive advantage in the future will be those who invest in creating a story in which the customer is a protagonist, creating a distinct subjective experience. Companies as big as Lego and as small as the part-time craft sellers on Etsy are already on this path."

Also, check out his contribution to our main article this issue: Accountability – A Corporate Report Card.

Last in line in our top 5 reader’s picks, and no surprise, was Op-Ed: RoboBoss, written by Nevin Thompson. Drawing on his years of experience living in Japan, and of automation, he pointed out the dangers and pitfalls of using RoboBosses with no human oversight, and the negative impacts on employee health and wellbeing – noting that the RoboBoss is already here on the work floor.

"Regulatory changes intended to improve worker safety by implementing remote monitoring technology also make it easier for employers to introduce automated oversight to more and more kinds of work."

We will continue to bring you more of these great stories and authors (and more) in the years to come, listening to what you, the readers, want to read – oh and keep that birthday cupcake where it belongs, in the canteen and not as a recommended tip in The Habtic Standard.

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