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Prompts for civil service bosses to get the vast majority of staff back into the office have been labelled “virtue signalling” by a union chief.Outgoing Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, in a letter seen by the PA news agency, has written to the permanent secretaries of government departments calling on them to bring as much as 80% of public sector staff back into the workplace.Sedwill, in the note dated September 3, said Boris Johnson had asked to be personally involved in the back-to-work drive and wanted to see departmental figures on a “weekly basis” following Cabinet agreement that increasing office numbers would be “hugely beneficial for our workforce”.Downing Street this week denied the existence of a “back-to-work” campaign but Sedwill’s letter is yet further evidence that ministers fear huge job losses in town and city centre shops and cafes if workers do not return to their pre-lockdown commuter patterns soon.The PM is keen for the public sector to lead from the front on the return to work and has even reportedly told Tory MPs he wants the Commons “back to normal” by Christmas.Sedwill said departments which were below their coronavirus staffing constraints “should now move quickly to seek to bring more staff back into the office in a Covid-secure way”.He wrote: “We are now strongly encouraging an increased workplace attendance through staff rota systems, with our aim by the end of September to enable 80% of staff to attend their usual workplace each week, for example 20% for five days, 30% for three days and 30% for two days, with the balance attending only occasionally for now.”But Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA, a union representing civil servants, said such targets would be difficult to achieve.He said office use in Whitehall was already “oversubscribed” even before Covid restrictions were introduced.Workplace guidance includes introducing one-way systems, staggered shift times and limiting the number of colleagues that staff members are exposed to in order to prevent the spread of the virus.Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Penman said: “There are two fundamental problems with this approach from the government.“One is its practicality – government offices have a capacity of a maximum of around 50% because of the Covid restrictions.“In a lift, for example, you can have a maximum of two in offices of thousands of people.”Penman argued the civil service had worked “effectively” since the pandemic started, dealing with the increased demand for Universal Credit and starting the furlough programme from the ground up, all with staff being 95% home-based.He added: “It is quite clear from the letter that has been sent out, this is really about virtue signalling to the private sector that has already moved on.“You’re not telling me that the big financial houses in the City of London would be having their staff working remotely if it wasn’t working effectively for them.”Figures published on Friday suggest employees are beginning to curtail their work from home habits.According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there has been an increase in people travelling to work in the last two months, with fewer working exclusively from home.The ONS said 57% of working adults reported that they had travelled to work – either exclusively or in combination with working from home – in the past seven days, while 20% had worked solely from home.The findings show an increase from the results of an ONS survey in the last week of June when 49% of working adults said they had travelled in to work, and 29% said they had worked exclusively at home.The latest statistics are based on survey responses from 1,644 adults in Britain between August 26 and 30.Transport for London has also recorded more passengers using both the Tube and buses throughout the week.It said 630,000 passengers used the London Underground network on Friday from the start of service until 10am – 21.1% higher than during the same period last week although still 69.2% lower than the same period last year.Bus journeys in the capital were also up 29.6% on last week, but down 50.8% on 2019.
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Facebook’s new interface was first unveiled last year. | Image: Facebook
Facebook’s “classic” experience, the interface with the iconic blue navigation bar at the top, is disappearing for good in September. Engadget reports that a Facebook support page has been updated saying everyone will soon have the new design. Although you can temporarily switch back to the old interface on Facebook’s site, the button warns that “the classic Facebook will no longer be available starting in September.”
The new design was announced at Facebook’s developer conference last year, and initially rolled out on the service’s iOS and Android apps. In March it got a widespread release on desktop as an opt-in feature, leaving people free to continue using the old design if they want to. Come September, however, the old design will...
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You can now hear audio stories read aloud in Apple News on your iPhone if you subscribe to Apple News+. If you aren't a subscriber, you will only hear brief previews.
Apple has introduced audio stories in the Apple News app for those with iOS 13.6 devices and higher.
You can also create a playlist of audio stories – tap and hold a story and choose how to add it to your queue.
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Apple has recently expanded the Apple News app for iOS to include audio news stories, letting you hear select Apple News+ stories read aloud as if they were podcasts.
To get these audio stories, you need to make sure your iPhone is running iOS 13.6 or higher. In addition, you need to be a subscriber to Apple's News+ service, which costs $10 per month.
If you aren't using Apple News+, then you will only be able to hear short previews of each news story, rather than the entire audio.
Check out the products mentioned in this article:
Apple News+ (From $9.99 a month at Apple)
iPhone 11 (From $699.99 at Apple)
How to make sure your iPhone is running iOS 13.6
1. Start the Settings app and then tap "General."
2. On the "General" page, tap "Software Update."
3. Check the version of iOS. If necessary, update to the latest version. Unfortunately, if your iPhone predates the iPhone 6S, it may not be upgradeable to iOS 13.6.
How to find audio stories on Apple News for the iPhone
1. Start the News app and tap "Audio" in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. This is a new icon starting with iOS 13.6.
2. To hear the Apple News Today read aloud, tap "Play" at the top right of the screen, beside "Apple News+ Audio." Each story will be read aloud, one after another. If you're not currently subscribing to Apple News+, you will only hear a short preview.
3. The audio player will appear at the bottom of the screen. You can play and pause the audio, or swipe up to see a larger version of the player. Swipe down to minimize it.
4. You can also select specific stories to be read aloud. To hear a story, simply tap it and it will begin playing.
If you aren't yet an Apple News+ subscriber, you'll see a banner on the screen asking you to upgrade, and audio stories will be described as "Previews."
How to control your audio playlist on Apple News+
If you are a subscriber to Apple News+, you can create a queue to hear certain stories played in any order you like. To do that, tap and hold a story until the pop-up menu appears, and then choose "Play Next" or "Play Last."
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