Thursday, 15 August 2019

Forum: Urgent need to tackle burnout

Image for illustration only

Mr Abel Ang wrote a helpful and honest article on burnout (To the brink of burnout and back, Aug 11).

The recommendations to prevent burnout are not easily implemented in an increasingly networked world where the need to be on call 24/7 is required.

But first, there should be an acknowledgement of the problem - not only from workers but also from management - and then the courage to implement changes to prevent such a "crisis" from being the norm.

One area to take note of is to change the culture in our public and private institutions.

As we celebrate our 54th year of independence, we can be proud that our nation has achieved No. 1 in many areas.

However, we must not focus only on the achievements and ignore the costs.

The fact that our nation ranked rather high among nations which have poor work-life balance, and the fact that the number of suicides is increasing, should point to the need for intervention in the prevention of burnout and other mental problems among our people (S'pore ranks 32 out of 40 in index on work-life balance, Aug 8; Record 19 teenage boys committed suicide last year, July 30).

The need to achieve and meet a deadline or key performance indicators at all costs and to present a good image to those in authority, minus the care, concern and compassion for workers and subordinates, is not a culture worth preserving.

Micromanagement at every level, and correction and re-correction of work done for fear of making mistakes, constitute inefficiency, if not entirely a waste of time.

And thinking highly of only those who are "bootlickers" and ignoring feedback from those who truly mean well does not augur well for an organisation in the long run.

I am appalled to hear my patients who suffer a breakdown telling me that they cannot fulfil and complete a work task given the time constraints.

I have heard some tell me that they are still trying to clear all the e-mails in the previous months which were designated as "urgent" or "immediate".

We need to acknowledge that there is a problem.

As a doctor who sees many workers at all levels of the organisational hierarchy, I have no doubt that the problem of burnout is real. It affects all strata of society.

Do we have the courage and compassion to change the situation for the better?

Quek Koh Choon (Dr)

Scientists unlock secrets of gender within sperm for first time in major breakthrough

One day, one may choose the sex of the new born baby simply by making sure the correct sperm reaches the egg first....

Sperm can be segregated easily into male and female, scientists have shown for the first time, in a breakthrough which experts said could have ‘disruptive social consequences’ if applied to humans.

Japanese researchers discovered that sperm bearing the ‘X’ chromosome - which generates a female when it joins with the ‘X’ chromosome of an egg - carry molecules which when activated slow down its movement.

When a chemical to trigger those receptors is added to sperm, the male ‘Y’ chromosomes power ahead, separating themselves from the tardy ‘X’s.

Dr Masayuki Shimada said: “We have already adapted this method to cattle production by in vitro fertilization and to pig production by artificial insemination. The successful efficient ratio by this method in cattle in IVF is more than 90% in both male and female.  Hiroshima University has applied for a patent.


Exceptional people: SP team sets new Guinness World Record

(From left) Mr Phua Shin Zert, Mr Leong Ying Wei and Mr Teo Shao Zun with their Guinness World Record certificate. Source: tnp

Mr Teo Shao Zun, 25, with fellow graduate Mr Phua Shin Zert, 20, and mechanical and aeronautical engineering lecturer Mr Leong Ying Wei, 36, Mr Teo is part of a team from the Mechanical Engineering school at SP who recently set a Guinness World Record for the fastest speed achieved by a ping pong ball.

Attempting the feat on April 10 this year, they fired a ping pong ball at 833.33m/s or 2.43 times the speed of sound. It was verified as a new record on July 11, beating the speed of 806m/s previously set by a US father-son team.

The record stemmed from the students' final-year project in collaboration with a local defence industry partner. The goal was to launch supersonic projectiles for high-acceleration mechanical shock testing without the use of combustion or pyrotechnics.


Technology: Facebook paid contractors to transcribe users' audio

Facebook Inc has been paying outside contractors using humans to transcribe audio clips from users of its services, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday (Aug 13), citing people familiar with the matter.

Facebook acknowledged the transcriptions, telling the news agency in a statement that they were made with users' permission, but that the practice has nonetheless been stopped.

"Much like Apple and Google, we paused human review of audio more than a week ago," the company said.

Facebook is not the only company that used humans to transcribe private conversations from users. Other companies that practised such activity included Apple, Google, Amazon (all mostly from their smart speakers and smart devices) and Microsoft (Skype), although it is believed that such activity has stopped.