Social Enterprise

The Weekly Round-Up: Snow joke working from home

Plus: leaving it to the very last minute for online Christmas gifts...

It's snow laughing matter, all this bad weather. Yes, it only takes one snowflake landing on a railway line somewhere in the country and the entire transport network grinds to a halt. Productivity goes through the floor and the economy freezes over, replaced with a primitive barter system based on snowballs.

Of course, most people lucky enough to be equipped with the right kit to work from home enjoy the experience - at least for the first couple of days. No commute, no need even to change out of your pyjamas - unless you are doing a video conference, in which case it might be wise.

You can get the washing-up done and make a snowman, all while on company time. Marvellous.

But then the joy of WFH starts turning to paranoia, as snow day turns into snow week, and suddenly it's snow fun anymore as the questions begin to gnaw at you. Will the boss forget who I am and stop paying me? What will happen to that flapjack I left on my desk? Why won't that snowman stop staring at me?

In fact, it got so cold that silicon.com editor Steve Ranger decided to head off to Moscow to a) warm up and b) visit Kaspersky Lab. You can check out all the photos of Kaspersky Lab's antivirus headquarters.

Still, the productivity of at least one group hasn't dipped during the weather-related go-snow: the Round-Up's inbox has been hit with a blizzard of press releases warning how companies need to improve their remote-working capabilities. This view is of course true - but right now it's frankly a case of closing the stable door after the horse, or more appropriately reindeer, has bolted.

Still, if you're going stir crazy stuck in your house, social networking is here to help. Connect with silicon.com on Facebook, on Twitter or LinkedIn.

For many people, buying Christmas presents is a fun way of demonstrating how well they know their loved ones by picking out the perfect gift for them.

For others, the Round-Up included, buying Christmas presents is horrid experience that features a bewildered last-minute rush around the high street to find anything resembling a plausible gift.

Weirder still are those smug hyper-organised types who do all their shopping in the January sales and have it all wrapped up and ready 11 months early.

But for some adrenaline junkies, buying Christmas presents is a new extreme sport, with one in 10 people now doing the Christmas shopping on Christmas Day itself.

According to a survey of 2,000 people by Sky Broadband, a dare-devil 14 per cent admit to leaving their shopping until the big day itself.

But - thanks to the power of that wonderful internet, there are now more options for buying presents on Christmas Day than just the local petrol station. This change also means no longer do you have to try to explain why you thought a set of spark plugs and a road atlas were perfect for Aunt Doris. Who doesn't drive. Or own a car.

For these white-knuckle bargain hunters doing their shopping first thing on December 25, popular choices include online purchases of concert tickets, hotel bookings, beauty treatments, experiences, theatre trips or gift tokens, all of which can be printed out on Christmas morning.

After all, nothing says Christmas better than a half-price voucher stuffed in an envelope, still warm from the printer, eh?

One of those surveyed by Sky was Mark from Chigwell who is quoted as saying: "Thank god for vouchers! When I realised how many presents my wife had got me last year I made a mad dash to my computer and bought her a spa day. I got such a bargain; I'm planning to do the same again this year."

Let's just hope your wife realises how much time and care you put into her present, Mark.

Of course, leaving it so late has its risks. If your broadband decides to take Christmas morning off, so you can't do you last-minute shopping, or your printer freezes up so you can't print out those vouchers, expect to be eating a big portion of humble pie instead of your Christmas dinner.

The survey also notes that online shopping is now the standard option for many consumers: one in four shoppers now buys all the Christmas presents online.

Among the reasons they give for abandoning the high street include better bargains being available online, it's quicker to shop online and, err, "you can avoid annoying salespeople", which is a sentiment very much in line with the season of goodwill to all men.

On a separate, related subject, and one which no doubt will please power companies, Debenhams has reported the earliest ever start to the festive season.

Snow and economic gloom have prompted thousands of people to reach for the fairy lights to brighten up their days, according to the department store's trading figures. Sales of Christmas decorations are soaring much earlier than usual, even though the second week in December is usually seen as the appropriate time to put up the tinsel.

But what about office decorations? And more importantly, when are you allowed to put them up around your desk? At what point does that USB Father Christmas start bidding everyone a tinny "Merry Christmas" from your cubicle? Send us a picture when you deck you desk with boughs of digital holly, and we'll put up a gallery of the best.

That leaves just enough time to take a quick snow-shoed hike through the rest of the week's news. Discover why CIOs are unhappy about their vendors' long and winding tech roadmaps.

You can also find out about the computing power behind the spacecraft that could carry astronauts to the moon or even Mars.

Exclusive to silicon.com: our new Diary of a CIO Headhunter column, which gives you the inside track on how to get the top job. This week the focus is on what should really go on your CV to ensure you hit it off with the CEO. Here's a tip - it's not just 'reading' and 'watching TV'.

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