Author: My Office News

How loadshedding affects your security

By Ntwaagae Seleka for News24

Home owners and businesses have been urged to test their security systems as a matter of urgency and to pay particular attention to the battery back-up systems during load shedding periods.

“Many people are under the incorrect assumption that their home alarm system is deactivated when the power supply is interrupted. However, if you have a stable and correctly programmed system coupled with a battery that is in good condition, it will continue to protect the premises during a power outage – regardless if the outage is because of load shedding or not,” said Charnel Hattingh, national marketing and communications manager at Fidelity ADT.

The only time it may not function correctly is if there is a technical issue, or the battery power is low.

“Most modern alarm systems have a back-up battery pack that activates automatically when there is a power failure. There are a number of practical steps that can be taken to ensure security is not compromised during any power cuts.

“Some of these include ensuring that the alarm system has an adequate battery supply, that all automated gates and doors are secured and lastly to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to your security provider or the South African Police Service,” said Hattingh.

With the added inconvenience of the lights going out at night due to power cuts, candles and touch-lights are handy alternatives.

Home owners are also advised that it is important that their alarm systems have adequate battery supply and that batteries should be checked regularly. Alarms should be checked during extended power outages to keep systems running.

Power cuts can affect fire systems and fire control systems, so these also need to be checked regularly. The more frequent use of gas and candles can increase the risk of fire and home fire extinguishers should be on hand.

People are urged to remain vigilant during power cuts and be on the lookout for any suspicious activity and report this to their security company or the police immediately.

Hattingh said home and business owners should consider installing Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology, which is integrated into the alarm system’s wiring and automatically switches on for a maximum of 15 minutes when there is a power outage.

“If there is an additional battery pack, the small, non-intrusive LED lights can stay on for the duration of the power outage – or a maximum of 40 hours – without draining the primary alarm battery. Because of load shedding, there might also be a higher than usual number of alarm activation signals received by security companies and their monitoring centres.

“This could lead to a delay in monitoring centre agents making contact with customers. You can assist by manually cancelling any potential false alarms caused by load shedding, and thus help call centre agents in prioritising the calls needing urgent attention,” said Hattingh.

 

By Kerushun Pillay for The Witness

Once a specialist field for nerds, the world of coding has today become pretty much a norm in the career space — so much so that even basic administrative jobs require people to know basic coding.

And the trend is being felt strongly: several online platforms, including universities, are on offer for people to get quick crash courses in coding, in addition to a wealth of online resources and free coding software for anyone interested.

There are a few non-profit organisations teaching coding and advanced IT to impoverished schools, with other local organisations strongly advocating for coding to be taught to the youth.

The looming fourth industrial revolution — which is likely to kill the traditional “blue collar” line of work — has meant advanced IT skills is slowly becoming no longer just advantageous, but more of a requirement. And those who’ve mastered it have seen a whole new world open up, from new employment and freelance opportunities, to suddenly being sought-after in their fields.

A pupil entering Grade 1 this year will graduate in 2031 if they do a one-year post matric qualification, when the world — and more importantly, the job market — is vastly different.

Coders make up a huge portion of the increasingly popular “gig economy” — where freelancers are hooked up with companies.

Even a traditionally pen and paper industry like journalism is slowly beginning to value basic coding skills, with more international newsrooms listing knowledge of basic HTML coding as a requirement.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is making plans to implement coding into the school curricula for Grade R to Grade 9 starting from next year.

The Department of Basic Education is looking at introducing coding schools.

The DBE has developed a “framework of skills for a changing world” and provincial departments are already in the process of implementing them.

The DBE said the Council of Education Ministers had last year approved the implementation of a Coding and Robotics curriculum to begin during foundation phase.

“Teachers and learners will be able to respond to emerging technologies, including the Internet of things, robotics and artificial intelligence,” the department said.

The DBE has partnered with Unisa­, which has made 24 IT labs available to train some 72 000 teachers in coding.

Unisa and the University of the North West are both working on developing the education framework for coding, the DBE said.

Those universities are also supporting the DBE to develop a coding platform which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to customise teaching and learning. That platform will be available in all 11 languages.

“There are plans in place to train at least three teachers in each of the 16 000 primary schools to teach coding.

“The implementation of Coding in the system will be preceded by a pilot project in 50 schools in five provinces during 2019, to ready the system and to ensure that the schools are prepared for full implementation post 2020,” said the DBE.

What is coding?
Coding makes it possible to create computer software, applications and websites. These are made using a specific coding language.

For example, HTML, CSS and JavaScript are used to construct websites, where HTML sets out the bare bones of a website, CSS is the design component which dictates colours and fonts, and JavaScript is the engine behind the website’s functionality.

So how does coding help children?

The “four C’s of coding” enable pupils to make sense of the digital world and develop crucial skills for the future job market.

1. Confidence

It encourages pupils to maintain a “can-do” attitude towards solving difficult problems. One of the coding concepts taught is debugging, where a coder has to identify and fix a bug. This process takes perseverance, and once it’s solved there is a sense of achievement and emboldened confidence in their coding abilities.

2. Creativity

Coding encourages experimentation, making mistakes, exploring ideas and questioning assumptions. In doing so, pupils develop the mindset for creative thinking. Instead of being passive technology users, they become active inventors and innovators.

3. Collaboration

Working in teams is an essential life skill. Coding may be seen as an independent task, but it calls for collaboration and group work, since many projects or apps are designed by teams. Coding projects also involve liaising with and presenting ideas to clients.

4. Computational thinking

By starting young, children will be better prepared to succeed and thrive in the 21st century. Computational thinking provides children with a new way of thinking that can be used to solve a variety of problems.

Here are five coding languages you should look at if you’re interested in coding. These will allow you to create a fully responsive website.

1. HTML — Think of a website as a human body, with HTML — or Hypertext Markup Language — being the skeletal structure. HTML is the most basic level of a website where the coder inputs all the components in plain text.

2. CSS — If HTML is the skeleton, then CSS is the clothing. CSS — or Cascading Style Sheet — allows the coder to input colours and fonts and rearrange components — also known as elements — and design the website as required.

3. JavaScript — Think of JavaScript as the organs: it isn’t seen, but is the engine that keeps the website ticking. JavaScript is used to create more sophisticated parts to a website. Ever see a website where photos or words come out of nowhere to invade the screen? That’s the work of JavaScirpt.

4. JQuery — JQuery is a library of JavaScript functions, making it easier for the coder to code certain functions.

5. PhP — or Hypertext Processor — is a server side language which allows the coder to include a server on the website. A server is used for, among other things, storing usernames and passwords. Facebook, for example, relies on PhP to store users’ information.

How do I even start?

You can learn a number of coding languages right now and all you need is an internet connection. Here’s how:

1. Use online tutorials — free guides, like W3Schools for example, are available to help you learn programming languages and also have solutions to commonly experienced coding problems.

2. YouTube — There are several “code along” videos to get you into the groove of coding. There are also channels offering step-by-step tutorials for every language.

3. Try it out — You learn by doing, and coding is no different. Let’s say you want to design websites: take a website you like which has a simple design and try to code it yourself. Online resources like GitHub­ also offer countless examples for you to test out.

4. Google it — Encountering stumbling blocks is inevitable but rest assured as dozens of people have had the same problem and have posted a solution.

What the analysts say

Analysis felt the move to adopt coding in schools was a positive one, but say implementation could be a challenge.

Dr Anthea Cereseto, the national CEO of the Governing Body Foundation, said while the foundation had not yet adopted a standpoint on the issue, the country could not risk being “left behind” while technology advances.

“We will advise schools to keep up with modern advances and coding is part of the future. The problem is with funding, and while we can’t neglect coding, attention must also be given to other shortfalls,” she said.

Cereseto said the department needed to weigh covering “essentials”, like early childhood development, while implementing coding: “There is a finite budget and the department has to prioritise properly. Recently, department expenditure has been declining.”

She added: “It should also be broadly rolled out and can’t only be introduced in elite pockets. Right now only the elite can get [coding] training if they pay for it, and some schools offer it. But it needs to be rolled out in schools or else the equity gap will be increased.”

Cereseto said training teachers would be another challenge: “Learning coding is not an overnight thing. They need to be trained properly and then we need the resources because something like coding can’t just be theoretical.”

Education analyst Professor Labby Ramrathan­ said: “It’s a big step, and introducing coding is more useful than introducing more languages. It would allow the curriculum to align itself with education for relevance.”

He said the DBE’s pilot roll-out will provide a sense of what is needed for proper implementation.

Tech guru Arthur Goldstuck said learning coding was like learning another language, as it will allow young people to understand the advancing world.

“It is wonderful to expose children to it and they will find a whole new world open up, but teachers generally don’t learn new concepts and we can’t start rolling it out until that happens.

“Resources are another challenge, but if money is taken from places where there is misspending and put in education there should be no problem,” Goldstruck said.

He added that schools should also look at teaching entrepreneurial skills, which go hand-in-hand with freelance coding and collaborating with other people.

It’s all the rage

Pupils are enthusiastic about coding, and it allows them to improve their creative thinking and problem-solving skills.

This is according to advocates for taking coding to the youth who run workshops at schools and offer coding training.

Stefan Louw, the co-founder of the CodeSpace Foundation, said learning how to code made technology more meaningful to pupils, and that it allowed pupils to think creatively to solve problems.

The foundation tasks pupils with project-based work in order to build their skills.

“When you’re learning, you’re making mental models and building things up in your mind, and when you’re applying that knowledge, you’re building something in your mind — that’s when you’re really learning effectively.

“The theory suggests that it’s by working through problems that are part of a larger project that students are able to ‘build’ the learning that will stick with them to be applied to future problems,” he said.

He added that his foundation will soon introduce robotics to schools.

“The job market is already experiencing a massive shift as automation becomes a reality: low-skill or unskilled labour is increasingly automated, but it’s definitely not all bad news.

“There’s a considerable opportunity for employment in this field, and a tech education can allow South Africa to leapfrog into a position of frontrunner in the world of innovation, if we’re able to provide tech education that will allow us to meet the worldwide demand for skilled, talented programmers.”

He said the current school system was “outdated” and there was now the opportunity to integrate IT to the point where it enhances learning across classes.

CodeJIKA, a non-profit which takes coding to schools, echoed Louw, saying that young people would not understand the demands of the new job market without being exposed to coding at an early age.

According to CodeJIKA, who have established pupil-run coding clubs in high schools, contrary to the perception that advanced computer skills are only valuable in IT professions, over 70% of computing jobs are outside that industry.

The organisation believes a knowledge of computer science is increasingly critical in research, finance and manufacturing.

Six pieces of tech every office needs

Source: HackRead

Before you start buying any technology or furniture for your office, you must put in some planning and research time. There are so many options to consider and each one will have a direct impact on the functionality of your workspace and, as result, how productive you and your team are on a day to day basis.

Poorly designed and chaotic offices with substandard equipment do not make for a great working environment. What’s bad for your employees is bad for your business. The office design process doesn’t have to be complicated. In addition to your computers, here are some essential pieces of tech every office needs.

1. Electric desks

Although you may think that furniture is a weird place to start when talking about office technology, you do need to consider the long term benefits of investing in electric height adjustable desks. With the touch of a button, you can electric raise and lower your desk to change your working positions through the day. This helps to prevent bad posture, aches and strains and encouraging them to be more active.

2. Incredible Wi-Fi

Your Wi-Fi is an area where it really doesn’t pay to cut corners. Weak and slow Wi-Fi signal that keeps dropping out is going to reduce productivity and demotivate your staff. It’s best to talk to a professional IT consultant about the solutions on the market as they’ll be able to recommend the best.

3. A cloud-based network

In the past, a company would have shared and stored data on physical hard drives in the office. This not only meant that the company was vulnerable to data loss if the computers were damaged or stolen, but also that there was no remote access or flexible working. Luckily, things have changed. A cloud-based system is a virtual storage space rather than physical and enables authorized people to access the network from wherever they are in the world via a secure
login.

4. Top quality headphones

Busy workspaces are great, but sometimes you need to zone out and just focus on a task. Too much noise or even deadly silence can be a real distraction, so good quality headphones are an absolute must. Whether they’re used for listening to music, watching videos or taking calls or to dull the office buzz, you need to choose headphones which work for your business. You can easily and quickly find headphones using Choosist based on your budget and preferred features.

5. A reliable phone system

A business can live or die by its ability to communicate effectively. It’s crucial to get the best telephone network you can afford not only to ensure your staff can collaborate effectively but also to ensure any customers or affiliates get the best possible service. Consider a VoIP phone system which runs on an internet connection, rather than wires. These systems can integrate with computers so your employees will be able to make and receive calls from their desktop or laptop and there are no physical phone lines to connect your offices, employees or stores.

6. A complete security system

It’s not enough to simply lock the doors at the end of the day or even to rely on ID badges to grant or deny access. In the digital age, we live in you should be investing in multi-factor security with several stages of identification needed. In some cases, this could be as advanced as facial or fingerprint recognition for physical security, but Cybersecurity software is also essential to keep your business safe from hackers.

Source: BBC

Google has been hit with a €1.49bn (£1.28bn) fine from the EU for blocking rival online search advertisers.

It is the third EU fine for the search and advertising giant in two years.

The case accuses Google of abusing its market dominance by restricting third-party rivals from displaying search ads between 2006 and 2016.

In response, Google changed its AdSense contracts with large third parties, giving them more leeway to display competing search ads.

Google owner Alphabet makes large amounts of money from advertising – pre-tax profits reached $30.7bn (£23bn) in 2018, up from $12.66bn in 2017.

“Google has cemented its dominance in online search adverts and shielded itself from competitive pressure by imposing anti-competitive contractual restrictions on third-party websites.

“This is illegal under EU anti-trust rules,” said EC commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

Last year, the EU competition authority hit Google with a record €4.34bn fine for using its popular Android mobile operating system to block rivals.

This followed a €2.42bn fine in 2017 for hindering rivals of shopping comparison websites.

The European Commission said that websites often had an embedded search function.

When a consumer uses this, the website delivers both search results and search adverts, which appear alongside the search result.

Google’s “AdSense for search” product delivers those adverts for website publishers.

The Commission described Google as acting like “an intermediary, like an advertising broker”.

In 2006, Google started to include “exclusivity clauses” in contracts which stopped publishers from placing ads from Google rivals such as Microsoft and Yahoo on search pages, the Commission said.

From 2009, Google started replacing the exclusivity clauses with “premium placement” clauses, which meant publishers had to keep the most profitable space on their search results pages for Google’s adverts and they had to request a minimum number of Google adverts.

Publishers also needed to get written permission from Google before making any changes to how rival ads were displayed, letting Google control “how attractive, and therefore clicked on, competing search adverts could be”, the Commission said.

Search giant
The restrictive clauses “led to a vicious circle”, Ms Vestager said in a media conference.

“Google’s rivals, they were unable to grow, and to compete, and as a result of that, website owners had limited options for selling advertising space on those websites, and were forced solely to rely on Google,” she said.

“There was no reason for Google to include these restrictive clauses in their contracts, except to keep rivals out of the market,” she added.

Between 2006 to 2016, Google had more than 70% of the search intermediation market in the EU. It generally had more than 90% of the search market and more than 75% of the online search advertising market, the Commission added.

By Ferial Haffajee for Fin24

Eskom and government have started planning for Stage 5 and Stage 6 load shedding, according to officials who say that there is a race against time to ensure that a national blackout and grid collapse does not happen.

Stage 5 and Stage 6 load shedding imply shedding 5000 MW and 6000 MW respectively.

For businesses and residential consumers, it means more frequent cuts of the same duration, depending on where you live and who supplies your power.

Eskom’s website also contains load shedding schedules up to Stage 8 but has not implemented stages beyond Stage 4.

At the first major briefing to explain the fourth day of Stage 4 power cuts, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan said that the government and Eskom were determined not to go beyond Stage 4 load shedding where 4000 MW has to be shed in long and regular blackouts to business and residential consumers.

But it is now clear that there is planning to Stage 5 and Stage 6 in order to ensure that there is no national blackout.

“It will be a huge struggle to overcome this crisis,” said Gordhan.

An extensive briefing by Eskom executives and the Department of Public Enterprises on Tuesday has made it clear that the national power supply is more precarious than previously understood. South Africa has bought all available diesel on the high seas (to run emergency power), maintenance of power plants is in crisis because boiler tubes are bursting at eight units across three power stations and there is a planned strike early in April.

What does this mean for you?

Load shedding is here to stay and possibly at extended lengths now being experienced across the country. In addition, Eskom is in dispute with the National Energy Regulator with SA (Nersa) on its calculation of the Regulatory Clearing Account and it wants to be able to implement higher tariff increases.

Nersa gave Eskom much lower additional tariff clearances than it requested, but these already added four percentage points to the allowable tariff of just above 9% for 2019/20. Is there light? A little.

On Thursday, a ship with diesel stocks will dock and this supply will ease the crisis; in 10 days, the government will report back with a deeper diagnosis of South Africa’s power woes.

All that government could really offer on Tuesday is that there will be better communication of the crisis with the public and an effort to design blocks of blackouts friendlier to life and the economy.

“We are very far from a point of total black-out. The system operators main task is to defend and protect the grid,” said Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza in a briefing designed to shed light after four days of load-shedding which has left the economy teetering and the nation seething.

“We don’t want to remain in a vicious cycle where load-shedding shifts to other crises (like a water crisis because plants go down in power cuts). We are committed to rebuilding the energy supply and energy confidence,” said Gordhan. One of the reasons for the latest power crisis is that it takes too long to buy the parts Eskom needs to maintain its power station fleet, said Mabuza.

The government will be going to the National Treasury to seek an opt-out of strict procurement laws to provide for emergency and faster purchasing.

“We are talking to the Treasury, to the Auditor-General to design processes very quickly to enable Eskom to be more responsive. (But we will) make sure no malfeasance is allowed during that process. People will try to take the gap. We will make sure it doesn’t happen,” said Gordhan who earlier revealed that 3000 staff at Eskom are doing business with the utility.

An estimated 1000 of the moonlighters have been identified.

Staff trading with Eskom is a conflict of interest which has driven up prices and is one factor in the debt pile that Eskom is carrying.

Mabuza also disputed a growing narrative by former executives of Eskom who use social media to disseminate a view that independent power producers (IPP’s) of renewable energy are responsible for the utility’s financial woes and for load-shedding.

“The board has asked me to say it is not appropriate to keep quiet about the IPP’s. In the revenue determination of what is allowable, there’s a budget of R30bn for IPP’s. In so far as Eskom is concerned, what we buy on IPP’s we recoup from the tariff. We are neutral as far as Eskom is concerned – we pass it onto the consumer. If we spend more than R30bn we get it back through the RCA (the regulatory clearing account). We have many problems at Eskom; IPP’s are not the cause of our problems,” said Mabuza.

“We fully understand that frustration and we want to apologise. At the same time, I want to appeal for understanding [in terms of] the nature of the challenges,” said Gordhan who did not give a deadline of when the deep and long load-shedding will stop.

He appealed for understanding from the country and said that South Africans should conserve as much electricity as possible. Eskom will reintroduce its programme of buying spare capacity from industrial users who may not need all the energy they are producing at private power stations.

South Africa has 48000 megawatts of installed energy but it only currently has 28 000 megawatts available daily, causing the gaping deficit that leads to ricocheting power cuts.

There are three senior fix-it teams working on the problem, said Gordhan. A presidential task team has presented one report to Cabinet; the Eskom board and management have presented their own 9-point turnaround plan and there is a team of between 12 and 14 private sector engineers combing through the Eskom power stations to present their own diagnostic report of what is going wrong.

Asked if too many cooks did not spoil the broth and whether government risked throwing structures at the problem, Gordhan said the power crisis needed more rather than fewer eyes on the problem or the risk of groupthink (where people begin to think alike and no longer question each other’s assumptions or points of view) was high.

“There is an eagerness and determination to get to the bottom of what the problems are. To answer the question: ‘How long will load-shedding last’? We will come back to you in 10 to 14 days. We have no magic formula. There is no magic wand to say load-shedding is over. It will be a huge struggle to overcome this crisis. We want to give the public as much information as possible,” said Gordhan.

In the parking lot of the hotel in which the briefing was held, a generator droned loudly. Rosebank in Johannesburg faced Stage 4 load-shedding for the entire period of the briefing – a graphic display of the crisis being described.

Shock as Sun City’s value plummets

By Siseko Njobeni for Business Live

The tough economy is behind the shock decline in Sun City’s value.

Sun International has for the first time reduced the value of Sun City as a struggling economy brought pressure on the iconic resort and casino.

The R306m reduction in value to R2bn comes after the company spent R1bn on refurbishments at the Sun City complex in 2016.

The drop in the resort’s value attests to the difficulties facing SA’s leisure and retail sectors due to increased competition, sluggish economic growth and reduced discretionary consumer spending.

Massmart confident it can turn Game around

Source: CNBC Africa

Massmart had a tough financial year, reporting a decline in headline earnings per share by 31.7 cents.

The biggest contributor to the company’s decline were Game, Dionwired and Hi-Tech.

Investors have been surprised by the extent of the decline.

According to Massmart CEO, Guy Hayward, the company’s sales are an accurate depiction of the general state of the South African economy.

“We are also disappointed in our profit growth, which is down 16%,” he says.

Food and Game are already 22% of total sales, and 2018 saw a move to Johannesburg and the restructuring of management and support roles.

“We are confident that we are doing the right things and that customers will respond to us in 2019,” Hayward says.

Turning Game around

Game will be kept very relevant to customers. The R20-billion business has up to 40% market share in many places; in fact, the company sees one in three TVs sold through it.
Going forward, Game will need to drive down costs and manage selling prices better.
“We need to make sure we offer customers wonderful merchandise that is very well priced. We need to shout about it; we need to make sure they know what they can buy in Game. We need to offer exciting products – maybe exclusive deals we have that no one else has, and we need to make sure our food is very well priced,” Hayward concludes.

 

By David A Graham for The Atlantic

Christmastime is when the pens in my house get their biggest workout of the year. Like many Americans above grammar-school age, I seldom write by hand anymore, outside of barely legible grocery lists. But the end of the year brings out a slew of opportunities for penmanship, adding notes to holiday cards to old friends, addressing them, and then doing the same with thank-you notes after Christmas. And given how little I write in the other 11 months of the year, that means there are a lot of errors, which in turn spur a new connection with another old friend: Wite-Out.

The sticky, white fluid and its chief rival, Liquid Paper, are peculiar anachronisms, throwbacks to the era of big hair, big cars, and big office stationery budgets. They were designed to help workers correct errors they made on typewriters, without having to retype documents from the start. But typewriters have disappeared from the modern office, relegated to attics and museums. Even paper is increasingly disappearing from the modern office, as more and more functions are digitized. But correction fluids are not only surviving—they appear to be thriving, with Wite-Out sales climbing nearly 10 percent in 2017, according to the most recent public numbers. It’s a mystery of the digital age.

One sign of the cultural impact of the Wite-Out brand is that, like Kleenex, it has become a generic term. But it wasn’t the first. Liquid Paper dates back to the 1950s, when Bette Nesmith Graham, a struggling divorced mother, took on typing jobs to make money. The problem was that she wasn’t a good typist, and kept making mistakes. So she began experimenting with ways to cover up errors, enlisting her sons to help her. (This creative streak would help one of those sons, Mickey, in his career as an artist—first as a member of the Monkees, and later as a producer of films including Repo Man.) In 1958, she patented Liquid Paper.

There were other products that achieved the same goal, like strips of sticky paper that covered up errors, but Liquid Paper quickly eclipsed them—so much so that it soon drew imitators. In 1965, Tipp-Ex began producing its own fluid in Germany. A year later, George Kloosterhouse and Edwin Johanknecht, searching for a product that wouldn’t show up when a document was photocopied, developed Wite-Out.

It’s difficult for anyone raised in the age of computers to grasp how useful correction fluids must have been when typewriters were a dominant technology in offices and classrooms. Of course, correction fluids are useful for things other than typewriting. In the pre-laser-printer era, it was often easier to correct a document from a dot-matrix printer by hand than to reprint it. Handwritten documents in ink are also more easily Wited-Out than rewritten.

But today, even printer sales are down, casualties of an era when more and more writing is executed on screen and never printed or written out at all. In fact, office supplies as a whole are slumping. According to a report by the analysis firm Technavio, the U.S. stationery and office-supply market is essentially flat, projected to go from $86.4 billion in 2015 to $87.5 billion by 2018. The paper industry has had it especially bad.

Yet correction fluid remains remarkably resilient. As early as 2005, The New York Times pondered the product’s fate with trepidation. Somehow, more than a decade on, it has kept its ground. According to the NPD Group, which tracks marketing data, sales of correction fluid grew 1 percent from 2017 to 2018, though they fell 7 percent the year before. (Correction tapes were flat, while correction pens are fading.) From 2015 to 2016 to 2017, Bic, which makes Wite-Out and Tipp-Ex, reported that correction products increased in share from 5 to 6 to 9 percent of the global stationery market. It’s a little less clear how Liquid Paper is doing. Newell, which owns the brand, doesn’t break out earnings enough to tell, and the company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Who’s still buying these things? All the best answers are mostly conjecture. AdWeek suggested that sales might be buoyed by artists using fluid like paint. A Bic spokesperson pointed to a series of weird and entertaining interactive YouTube ads for Tipp-Ex in Europe, and said that Wite-Out is launching “colored dispensers that will appeal to younger consumers.”

That sounds faintly ridiculous—what use is a colorful bauble to a digital native?—but there may be something to it. Even as paper sales dip, up-market stationery is one sub-segment that is expected to grow, thanks to a Millennial affection for personalized stationery. Tia Frapolli, president of NPD’s office-supplies practice, pointed to bullet-journaling and hand-lettering as paper-based trends that could breathe some life into correction fluids.

Wite-Out is a strange place for serial-killing Millennials to offer clemency. In part, the attraction to the material is the same as any other hand-made or small-batch product: The physical act of covering up a mistake is imperfect but more satisfying than simply hitting backspace. There’s also a poignancy to a screwed generation gravitating toward Wite-Out.

You can’t erase the past anymore than you can erase a printed typo or written error—but you can paper it over and pretend it didn’t happen.

Make your office better in 2019

If looking around your office at motivational posters from 1988, psyche-ward green walls and rows of people slumped at rows of desks makes you want to run screaming for the exits, don’t worry, help is at hand.

Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says that despite so much evidence of the massive productivity and health benefits of more relaxed, people friendly spaces, many offices in South Africa are still quite dreary.

“But the good news is that it takes very little to make an office a much happier place to be. It’s a good time for business to use the new year as an opportunity to make offices charming to the eye rather than just utilitarian workplaces.”

Here’s how:

1. Make it feel like home

“There has been a huge movement toward the ‘home away from home’ style of office design called resi-mercial, a combination of residential and commercial design inspiration,“ Galloway-Gaul noted.

Employees need a work space that is separate from home but that doesn’t mean work can’t be comfortable and welcoming. Soft seating, coffee tables, bar height tables, kitchens, TVs all help to make people feel they are in a friendly place with familiar facilities.

2. Open the seating plan

We are all familiar now with the world’s biggest tech firms like Google, Amazon and Cisco Systems showing off all the super hip things they do for their employees. “Luckily you don’t need billions of dollars to break out of the work place mould,” said Galloway-Gaul. The lower cost concept of coworking brings an open seating plan and office structure that encourages cross-pollination of ideas, employees, and events in larger buildings. Instead of the same employees seeing each other every day, coworking spaces allow them to mingle with employees from other companies and used shared resources like gyms, canteens and conference rooms that smaller companies couldn’t afford alone.

3. More…. oxygen…please!

Trees, plants, and all things green not only bring some much needed vibrancy to normally bland, dull cubicles, but they bridge that gap between indoor and outdoor. “Plants not only look good and increase productivity they improve air quality and improve wellbeing. They also meet our human tendency to want to connect with nature, known as biophilia,” added Galloway-Gaul.

4. Embrace downtime

Bosses develop nervous ticks when you tell them employees need downtime during the work day. But they do. It’s good for their brains to take a break and relax.

If you can’t afford a water slide and a paintball hangar in the cafeteria, keep it simple. Said Galloway-Gaul: “Put a video game console in the break room or an old pinball machine in the lobby. Schedule theme days. It’s important to have fun with it.”

5. Hire a cutting edge architect – or plan B

A cutting edge architect comes from Sweden, wears black framed glasses for effect, sports a honey-coloured beard and wears a plaid shirt – and charges by the minute. But plan B can be effective too. Even a few quirky adjustments to the seating arrangement, furniture and lighting can make the work-space feel cool and unique in a way that excites employees to come in each day. It also fosters creativity.

6. Mix things up

While number 6 is not strictly an office improvement, it’s certainly a working life improvement. “While not everyone has the freedom to work at home, everyone should be given the opportunity, at least on occasion. The relaxation and freedom it offers suits many people. And it makes the office look a little bit fresher on your return,” said Galloway-Gaul.

7. Party like it’s 2999!

After hours parties and opportunities to relax and unwind are important to developing a creative, inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable. “It’s also important for people to get to know their colleagues in a more sociable setting,” Galloway-Gaul concludes.

CNA’s sales are up

Against all odds, Edcon looks set to mark its 90th anniversary in September, brought back from the brink by last-minute financial life support from banks, landlords and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC).

The group was set to run out of cash at the end of February, but the latest recapitalisation injects R2.7bn into the country’s largest nonfood retailer, its second in two years and third in total.

In the latest rescue plan, investors wanted certainty the group was well on its way to recovery before they would inject money.

The group has a five-year plan covering property, costs and contracts and there is early evidence it’s paying off.

CNA’s sales, with 18% less space, are up 10%-15% on last year, and so far Edcon has made more of a profit in the past four months than in the same period in the year before.

Stock, staff, fixtures and fittings will be moved from downsized and closed stores to others outlets, but the staff complement will be retained at current levels.

Landlords had four options: close stores, retain them, relocate or shrink. Melrose Arch was the largest loss-making store from day one, and it’s now closed. The Mall of Africa store has been reduced from two floors to one.

What can consumers expect?

Shoppers can expect refreshed stores, “but there’s no big bang coming”, said Pattison. The group’s private-label offering accounts for 55% of sales, and they’re looking to grow this to 60% over three years.

“It’s about needing to fix the fashion product and get service right. We’ve forgotten some of the retail disciplines,” said Pattison.

 

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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