The Weekly Round-Up: Escaping the office, social media addicts and celebrity sat-navs

Sunglasses: check. Suntan cream: check. Office on speed dial?... check
Written by The Round-Up, Contributor on

Sunglasses: check. Suntan cream: check. Office on speed dial?... check

If you're packing your bags and heading off on your summer holidays, you may need to make a couple of additions to your traditional checklist of sunglasses, Speedos and suntan lotion: a laptop and smartphone for keeping up with the office.

Because there is a good chance that, while your holiday companions are lolling on the beach sleeping off last night's alcoholic excesses, you'll be sitting in the shade, squinting at an email from accounts.

According to a survey of 1,000 City workers, two-thirds of the unlucky souls will be taking their laptops when they go on holiday this year in order to keep up with the office. Half will check their email every day, even though many admit that checking their email will leave them feeling more stressed.

More than half blamed their work obsession on the current tough economic climate, while 39 per cent of those surveyed by security company Credent said their bosses actually expect to be able to contact them while they're taking annual leave, which is nice.

The Round-Up is a firm believer in a holiday being just that, and not two weeks of glorified remote working (although it does add a fresh meaning to the term 'hotdesking').

As such, it has a few suggestions about how to combat this worrying leakage of the world of work into your holiday fun.

One option is to insist that all communication is done over videoconference. Colleagues will rapidly grow irked by the vision of you sitting by the pool and drinking cocktails while discussing sales forecasts, especially if you do it all while wearing a mankini.

If that doesn't put them off contacting you, perhaps an unfortunate combination of suntan lotion, sand and sangria might suddenly render your laptop useless on day one of your break. Combine that with accidentally dipping your phone in the swimming pool and you have a fortnight of peace ahead.

Alternatively, find a holiday destination with no mobile or wi-fi coverage. The Round-Up hears the Antarctic is lovely at this time of year.

Of course, you wouldn't have to work so darn hard on holiday if you hadn't spent so much time slacking off when you were actually in the office.

Two million of the UK's workforce spend more than an hour per day on Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks while at work, while another 20 million spend half an hour per day on social sites in the office. All of this adds up to £14bn in lost productivity for the UK economy, reckons research out this week.

At this juncture the Round-Up feels obliged to point out that silicon.com is of course on Twitter, Facebook, and (for the suits) LinkedIn. And far from destroying your productivity, connecting with silicon.com via every one of these social media options will make you the envy of all your friends. Not that all your friends can't join in too - we're not that picky.

MyJobGroup.co.uk, which conducted the survey, found many of the workers polled reported social media having no ill-effects on their efficiency: only 14 per cent of respondents said they were less productive as a result of social media and 10 per cent even claimed social media had made them more productive. Which makes the Round-Up wonder how productive they were before finding Facebook. Maybe they spent the entire day staring into space before they discovered the joys of throwing sheep and tending to virtual crops.

Unsurprisingly the survey found little desire among workers for social networks to be barred from the workplace, with only one in three people (those with 'manager', 'killjoy' or 'grouch' as their job title) wanting them banned.

The Round-Up is not a fan of banning social media, but wouldn't mind some kind of exam put in place so that people who are boring or simply not funny should be barred from irritating the rest of us with banal updates such as "eating some crisps". Some things are just not worth sharing.

Drive, my hawkmen, drive!

National treasure Brian Blessed could soon be the latest celebrity voice issuing from your sat-nav.

After hitting 25,000 members, a Facebook group called 'Campaign to get Brian Blessed to do a voice over for my sat-nav' has persuaded sat-nav maker TomTom to make Blessed - perhaps best known as Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon - the voice that tells you you have just missed your turnoff.

According to the BBC, big-voiced Blessed was so pleased with the campaign he has even recorded a YouTube video to say thank you to the campaigners - during which, rather marvellously, he also utters his trademark cry of "Gordon's Alive!"

Not long ago Darth Vader was signed up to be the voice of a sat-nav too, so clearly sat-nav companies have decided their target audience is middle-aged sci-fi fans who do lots of driving. Not a bad demographic to target, and the Round-Up would suggest next up should be Ming the Merciless: "Turn right or I shall pummel your puny planet into dust, Earthman," has got a nice ring to it. Or maybe the ED-209 from RoboCop: "Turn left: you have 15 seconds to comply."

Let us know at editorial@silicon.com which sci-fi characters you'd want on your sat-nav and why, and the Round-Up will publish its favourites, or post a comment below.

That leaves just enough time to recommend a few of the many excellent stories published this week by silicon.com:

Find out what the new BlackBerry 6 operating system looks like and check out the new BlackBerry Torch handset, and learn everything you ever wanted to know about Red Hat, including where that name came from.

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