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You might think you and the people you work with are very good at communicating already. After all, we talk to our partners, family and friends without giving it too much thought! But communicating well takes a little finesse…

 

  1. Learn how to do ‘active listening’. When you’re listening, do you really hear what’s being said? Active listening is about making a deliberate effort not only to hear the words, but to understand the message that’s being given too. It means repeating back what you’re hearing, allowing plenty of opportunity for a person to speak, looking at the speaker directly, nodding occasionally and making small verbal comments like ‘mm-hmm’ and ‘yes’. Most importantly of all, active listening means not preparing your response whilst someone else is talking – instead, listen fully and then give your rebuttal! Here’s some great active listening advice.

 

  1. Use the right tools. As well as stronger face to face communication skills, it’s important the infrastructure you’re relying on allows for good communication too. For example, tools provided by the likes of upraise.io provide a platform for teams to communicate. Employees involved on a project can talk to one another and receive continuous feedback, recognition, praise and instruction from their managers and co-workers. But best of all? This kind of communication tool ensures that voices are heard and the necessary people are included in relevant conversations.

 

  1. Be clear about good digital etiquette. Emails are an obvious minefield for communication mishaps. Set clear guidelines for everyone to abide by: the tone should be professional if you’re in the kind of office that values a formal approach, and everyone should make the time to remember their manners! Encourage employees to refrain from emailing if they’re displeased or upset – it’s better to get up and talk face to face so that a situation doesn’t escalate. The biggest consideration in digital etiquette however is to keep things clear and concise: unnecessarily long emails compound a person’s workload and chew up too much time. Keep it short and sweet.

 

  1. Check your body language. We actually have a very colourful conversation with our body language… whether we’re aware of it or not! For example, standing up tall and widening our stance displays power, status and confidence. Maintaining eye contact is important in the office too. Whilst you don’t want to stare, you should have looked in a speaker’s eyes for long enough to know what colour their eyes are. This will make people feel that they are valued and that you are listening to them. Good body language even extends to perfecting your handshake! What does your handshake say about you?

 

5. Schedule regular meetings. One way to guarantee the improvement of communication in the workplace is to schedule time for it. For example, you could set dates for weekly team meetings, monthly 1-2-1s, regular interdepartmental brainstorms, or even invite the whole office for a catch up at the end of each week. These kinds of meetings offer employees a great opportunity to come up with ideas, feedback on what’s going on, learn what’s happening elsewhere in the business and boost the sense of morale overall.

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There are many studies looking into Alzheimer’s prevention, as the disease affects 850,000 people in the UK alone and this number is expected to rise to two million by 2025. Many of these studies are considering gaming and how it slows down the effects of the disease, as it stimulates the brain and encourages memory recall.

Everything from crosswords to looking into how bingo can improve your health has been considered, all with the premise that these games were made to improve memory recall – something Alzheimer’s affects greatly. The brain disorder is caused mainly by age and genetics but we can delay the effects with a lifestyle change that employs brain training games, as a way of tackling the disease’s symptoms.

Brain training games improve the connections between your brain cells which in turn can help generate new cells and stimulate the memory centres. Alzheimer’s is caused by beta-amyloid, a type of plaque that builds up in the brain, affecting its ability to remember and think clearly but those who play games can reduce the possibility of this plaque build up and therefore prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Games that can help with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s include crosswords, Sudoku, chess and bingo. Bingo is actively played in nursing homes up and down the country as it encourages those playing to concentrate on keeping track of the numbers called and their tickets.

The calling out of bingo numbers improves memory recall as those playing have to remember the number as they search for it on their grid, quickly before the next one is called. More cards to work from in a game requires more concentration, which can speed up the brain training process.

The good thing about these games is that they don’t make those playing stressed; a crossword or a Sudoku puzzle can be enjoyed at your own leisure, chess is a social game that can be played with a friend and bingo can be exhilarating and fun when the caller gets into the bingo calling spirit.

One study discovered that those playing mental stimulating games improved their scores on memory tests which resulted in a delay of six to nine months in worsening of symptoms. Those who played games also reported increased feelings of happiness and well being, as well as improved communication with others.

It’s important to note though that these effects occurred in the very early stages of the disease, those with severe dementia did not appear to benefit from playing these mental stimulating games.

When it comes to preventing Alzheimer’s it’s best to start now, engage your brain with games that encourage it to think hard for around 45 minutes a day. It’s also a good idea to turn off the TV and enjoy some physical activity too, because not only does it ensure you can remain mobile for longer, it can improve your physical and mental wellbeing as a whole. Take care of yourself in order to prevent the effects of the disease and definitely spend time playing more games.

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2015 was a record year for Scottish horse racing as thousands of visitors were attracted to the countries five race courses. As well as these facts, almost nine hundred people are currently in full time employment through the horse racing industry. As a result of improvements made within the industry, the Scottish economy has received an estimated £173 million.

It is thought that an influx of visitors from across the whole of Europe as well as south of the border have contributed greatly to this recent growth. Scottish racing reported of record prize money paid out throughout the year at Ayr, Musselburgh, Hamilton Park, Kelso and Perth race courses. Being Scotland’s second most popular spectator sport, there has been a long standing admiration between the two parties. However, last year’s records are being explained in part by improvements in the quality of tracks, as well as visitor facilities.

What the paying public more than anything want to see on race day however is the horses. Events such as the season opening, three day Perth Festival, are the type of events that bring in both large amount of spectators, as well as big money. With total attendances at Scotland’s five race courses reaching 308,258, an increase of more than 13 per cent since 2012, it is little wonder betting companies are now placing more emphasis on the Scottish market.

Scottish Racing Chairman Sir Ian Good has stated recently that “People love a day at the races, it’s safe, it’s fun and there’s a chance of winning with a small flutter.” With this in mind it is becoming more and more frequent for betting companies to offer the chance for customers to get a free bet for the race. The betting culture has always been associated with horse racing, all over the world, and companies such as Coral Interactive now offer horse racing odds across the UK, including Scotland. Betting agencies will now use the draw of a horse racing free bet to entice new customers.

The Scottish Grand National and the Ayr Gold Cup attracted over 40,000 spectators between the two of them, with prize money of £210,000 being paid out. Such figures, coupled with many of the venues becoming busy through an influx of corporate events, means that the industry is seemingly going from strength to strength. Scottish racing was recently well rewarded for its fine efforts at the Northern Racing Awards in Newcastle, and with three Scottish tracks in the UK top 12, things are certainly on the up for the sport.

 

 

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In spite of the advantages that the Internet can afford any business, regardless of size or sector, today’s online world is a virtual goldmine for cyber criminals. Over the past couple of years, data breaches and hacking incidents have become a regrettable, yet common, occurrence for countless high-profile companies.

But, a lot of the time, they have been architects of their own downfall by failing to adopt standard security procedures, particularly when storing information in the cloud. So, to help you avoid the same fate, here is how to keep your documents safe online.

Always use SSL certificates

Secured Sockets Layer (SSL) is the standard form of encryption for passing sensitive data from your own browser to your provider’s server. Several hosting companies charge for SSL certificates, but with SSD VPS this essential security measure comes at no extra cost to clients.

Choose SSL for your web server solution as well and it can bring additional benefits aside from keeping cloud documents safe. Your website’s SEO rankings and online reputation are bound to receive a timely boost, as customers will have the utmost confidence when handing over their own sensitive data.

Introduce a failsafe password policy

Did you know that 90 per cent of all passwords can be cracked within seconds? So, if you don’t take passwords seriously enough, cyber criminals will be able to access your cloud-based information with relative ease.

Introduce a password policy that gives hackers no opportunity to compromise your data. Best practices include a maximum age, minimum length, complexity requirements, and storing passwords in a database that uses reversible encryption for all users.

Implement two-factor authentication

If you would like more than just a username and password to protect the contents of your cloud, consider implementing two-factor authentication as well. This is available from several cloud storage providers but also requires cooperation from you and your employees too.

Two-factor authentication works by requiring a second form of identify verification, commonly a code sent via text message to an individual’s smartphone. Even if passwords are cracked, hackers won’t be able to gain access to your data.

Encrypt all of your data

Encryption works by using software to create a password for cloud documents. Anybody that wants to see the contents of these documents will then need the password to gain access. Simple.

The easiest way to encrypt data before sending it to the cloud is to zip files and then give them a password. Several software programs are available that can do this, but you will need to pay a premium for high levels of protection and reliability.

Understand sharing permissions

Even if you have taken the necessary steps to safely secure your important files and folders in the cloud, your downfall could be sharing this data with others. Therefore, it is imperative you understand sharing permissions so that only intended recipients can view your private cloud space.

When choosing a provider, make sure that they offer the level of permissions you require and are happy with, otherwise your data could quite easily fall into the wrong hands.

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According to one recent survey, some 90% of British organisations are now using cloud solutions, with over half of them using at least two providers. It’s not a massive overstatement to say that cloud server hosting has revolutionised the way businesses operate, boosting profitability alongside numerous other benefits. If your business doesn’t currently invest in a cloud hosting solution, here’s why you should consider it.

Scalability

If your business tends to experience rapid periods of growth, then it can be problematic to continually need to upgrade infrastructure. When you use cloud technologies you can expand or reduce capabilities such as bandwidth and server storage as and when required. What’s more, adjustments that might take your own IT department several days or even weeks to organise can often be sorted out by your provider within a matter of hours. It enables business growth, and helps you manage if you need to downsize as well.

SaaS (Software as a Service)

With the cloud you can access whole suites of programs, with everything your business needs to function, from financial software to marketing tools to CMS’. That means you no longer need to bother installing reams of software onto individual devices, or updating it, since that’s done automatically, so you are always working on the latest versions. Managing user licenses becomes a lot easier too. Software as a service leads to…

Cost Savings

Now you are only purchasing the services that you actually need at any given time, so you’re not going to be wasting as much money on expensive software that is only used a few times and then just sits there redundantly. Your capital expenditure is being significantly reduced and your finance department will be happy, also because…

Predictable Expenditure

You will have a steady monthly subscription to budget for, making the your IT expenditure more predictable and manageable, and the job of finance easier.

Support

You will have experts immediately at hand from your cloud provider, so that any issues with software are resolved promptly and effectively. It removes the need to have that expertise within your own organisation, freeing your IT department up to focus on other projects.

Greening-up

Corporate environmental responsibility is a big thing, and the cloud can help you to deliver on expectations. How? Running a server consumes a lot of power, but now you’re only using the capacity that you actually need. No half-empty servers in your office wasting your money and the earth’s resources.

Compliance

Sensitive data needs to be adequately protected to comply with laws and regulations, which can be complex. If your data is held in cloud servers, they meet those obligations for you – one less thing for you to worry about.

Competitiveness

The cloud appeals to businesses of all sizes, from SMEs to global multinationals. Small businesses can operate on a more even playing-field with the big players in their marketplace, because now they have access to enhanced technology that they might not have been able to afford before cloud computing came along.

Security

Because cloud providers live or die on the reliability of the services they provide to hundreds (if not thousands) of clients, proactive security is their watchword. You can have confidence that your data is more secure than if it were held on your own servers. It also means that the problem of staff losing kit such as laptops is reduced, as anyone finding it would still need a password to access your company data on the cloud. Plus, you can entrust regular data backups to your provider which will complement your own.

Remote working

Flexibility is far greater with the cloud, so if you have staff out in the field, they can connect to the information and platforms they need from devices wherever they are. It makes project collaboration with teams in different countries or timezones far easier to manage. A side-benefit of that is you can introduce hot-desking, leaving you with lower office costs, and possibly happier staff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re feeling the need to gain some more freedom and be able to go out and explore the roads more, you’re probably considering taking your driving test. Being fully qualified to legally drive gives you the freedom to travel to wherever you like and whenever you want to, without having to rely on public transportation or somebody to drive you to where you want to be. Preparing for your driving test in order to make sure that you are successful the first time is important, not only to make sure that you’re on the road as quickly as possible but also to ensure that you don’t have to pay any more money for further lessons. Here are some top tips for effective preparation.

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Find a Reputable Instructor

Learning to drive with a reputable driving instructor is absolutely essential if you want to be successful first time on your test. Fully qualified and trained driving instructors will have all of the knowledge and tools available to assist your learning and make sure that you are doing everything correctly in order to give you the best chance at passing your test first time. You will also be able to take mock driving tests, which are great for preparing you for the real thing and can help to ease some nerves as you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

The Theory Test

Before you will be able to go ahead and take your driving test, you’ll need to sit and pass the driving theory test. This test will be taken on a computer in a test centre, and you’ll be given a series of questions to answer regarding the rules of the road and then asked to watch some driving videos and spot hazards in the hazard perception part of the test. The sooner you can pass the theory test, the better as once it is out of the way, you can go ahead and book your practical test. Practicing for the theory test is important and you can do so with a range of mobile apps and websites that provide mock tests, such as the Top Tests website.

Ask Questions

Driving instructors are used to being asked all sorts of different questions, so if there’s something that you are unsure of the best thing for you to do is simply ask, even if to you the question may seem a bit silly. It is better to have as much knowledge as possible when preparing for your test, rather than go into it being unsure about any factors of the test. A good and reputable driving instructor will be happy to discuss any concerns which you have regarding the test and answer any questions which you may have regarding the test or even driving in general after you’ve passed.

Being ready to learn and practice lots is essential when you’re preparing to take your driving test! Prepare and motivate yourself with this top tips and you’ll be on the road in no time.

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When it comes to growing plants, fruit and vegetables, there are a number of ways we can maximise nature’s potential. But why would we want to? Well, it’s simple: by maximising nature’s potential we can ensure that farmers and merchants are able to improve the quality of their crops in an efficient way. In turn, consumers reap the benefit of reliable, desirable produce at an affordable price. Here’s how…

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First, we can maximise nature’s potential by helping crops to resist insects and pests. Creepy crawlies such as aphids, wireworms and seedcorn maggots can damage crops, resulting in lower yields and lower profits for farmers. To ward off these kinds of pests, protectants, treatments and chemicals can be applied to lessen the damage inflicted.

Another method of maximising nature’s potential is by seed pelleting, a process which adds materials to seeds to change their size and shape. This method of maximising nature’s potential is very helpful for growers: it allows for more oxygen to penetrate the seed, allows farmers to accurately space seeds with precision, and makes them idea for mechanical seed planting (which means the most crop be produced using fewest man-hours).

How else can we maximise nature’s potential? Well, we can alter seeds slightly to increase the strength of the crop. This is particularly helpful in our changing climate as it enables produce to withstand extreme weather and unpredictable fluctuations. Without harnessing the potential of a seed in this way, many crops would otherwise fail. An extra upshot of maximising nature’s potential in this manner means that we don’t have to rely on optimum growing conditions to increase the chances of producing a good yield, which can go a long way to making food more plentiful – and therefore cheaper!

Another way we can maximise nature’s potential is by treating seeds in a way that brings about a high crop yield. We can do this by adding chemicals and substances that protect crops from bacteria and disease, which ultimately leads to a larger number of crops within a yield surviving long enough to become suitable for sale.

You might be getting enough calories, but are you getting enough nutrients? There’s a way of maximising nature’s potential to solve that. We can adapt plants to become more nutritious by improving their vitamin or mineral content. In fact, the United Nations recommended that rice be enhanced with vitamin A to help reduce deficiencies of the nutrient around the world, resulting in the growth of ‘golden rice’ – an undertaking that won the Patent for Humanity award in 2015. So, as well as improving the overall quality of our diets generally, this method of maximising nature’s potential can go a long way towards fighting malnutrition across the globe.

Finally, we can maximise nature’s potential by engineering new kinds of crops, suitable for the climate they’re grown in. For example, scientists have developed a type of tomato that can grow successfully in salty soil, and more recently, scientists have grown a cereal crop that is enriched with omega-3 oils to be fed to farmed fish which enables them to grow larger. As producers and consumers, maximising nature’s potential is good news for us!

Christmas: a time for giving, receiving (and posting unwanted gifts online). A day, where the ‘present face’ appears in living rooms of almost every home in the country. If you’re not familiar with this term, you will most likely be familiar with the action; it’s the awkward smile and overflow of insincere compliments that follows from opening unwanted presents.

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But don’t fret – there are many ways you can make the most of receiving ghastly gifts as this helpful infographic explains.

The subject of selling on gifts, you have received, may be taboo, but it is a great way to save money and potentially get yourself out of debt. It means that instead of it going to waste, someone who really ‘wants’ it can enjoy it and you get the benefit from an extra few bob in your pocket.

On a more serious note however, if you are struggling after the Christmas excesses and want some advice on how to get out of debt, visit the Money Advice Service which offers free support managing your finances and tips and tools on how to budget.