Hay fever? Get an aircon

The sun is rising a little earlier and things are heating up around the country, signalling the onset of spring knocking at our doorstep.

To most of us, this means no more wearing layers upon layers of clothes while out. For others it signals the beginning of a period where hay fever unleashes a relentless onslaught of sneezing, stuffiness, a runny nose, or itchiness in your nose, the roof of your mouth, throat, eyes or ears, enough to incapacitate even the toughest individuals.

All these uncomfortable conditions can definitely lead to a loss of productivity in the workplace, put a dampener on your mood and leave you none-too-keen on enjoying the spring weather.

The biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen. Trees, grasses, and weeds release these tiny grains into the air to fertilize other plants causing millions of people around the world suffer from their effects.

As much as there are external triggers such as pollen and dust, there are also internal triggers from within your own home. These allergy triggers can include dust mite droppings, animal dander, cockroach droppings and molds, just to mention a few of the really nasty ones. On top of these there are also germs in the air that we pass on to each other in spaces like offices or even at home.

With exposure to some kind of allergen or floating bacteria an imminent reality, one would need to live in a bubble to not suffer those effects. The latest conventional air conditioning units might be able to protect you from most of these elements but research has revealed that they may be making you sick – by collecting and harboring harmful germs that then get re-circulated into your home or office. The bacteria gets trapped in the filters and begin to multiply before eventually reentering your home.

So how do we battle all these bacteria? Using an air purifying system works effectively on airborne, adhesive and in-filter trapped micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses thus providing a cleaner living environment.

By Nelmarie Kapp, product marketing atPanasonic South Africa

Human spam: the scourge of the modern office

Such is the extent of “human spam” – the endless interruptions from colleagues – that many offices are now creating “do not disturb” zones so people can get quality work done.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, workplace specialists who consult across Africa, says it is increasingly common for companies to set up zones or rooms where absolutely no noise is permitted.

“They are essentially filling stations for the mind. We hear from companies than many people complain of only being able to get work done after 5pm when everyone else goes home. People try and work but find it hard to do more than a few minutes continuously because they are interrupted by the phone ringing, people watching funny videos on Facebook, other colleagues coming over to ask questions or the general hullabaloo of the office.”

Trim says it is absurd that so many people commute in to an office specifically to work and then are only really be able to get down to it once colleagues had gone home.

“We’ve also seen a trend in people taking work home to they can work in peace.”

To counter this and enable greater office productivity, Trim says they have been installing “quiet zones” which are reminiscent of old fashioned libraries in their rules.

“Typically this would be a room, a booth or an area where no talking, no cell phones or other disturbances are allowed. They are designed for when people really need to knuckle down and get work done free from the human spam of colleagues.”

Trim says they have designed and installed more than a dozen quiet zones this year alone and expect to see the number rise in the years ahead.

She notes that they are not intended to encourage some people to permanently work in them but rather provide a place for short, intense period of work where concentration and thinking is needed.

“Companies have noted that these zones improve productivity because someone can go and knock out a particular job in an hour say. The same work in the general office area often takes three or four times as long because of all the interruptions.

“But it’s more than that. The quality and accuracy of work tends to be higher too.”

Trim also notes that it also seemed to be a boon for keeping colleague relationships sweet: “Instead of sitting at a desk fuming because someone won’t keep quiet, a worker can simply slip away to a quiet space.”

She adds than quiet spaces are “plug and play” – completely ready for work.

“Typically, have good Internet connectivity, clean uncluttered worktops and calming, pared down furniture.”

Reclaimed wood makes a comeback

A Cape furniture designer is recycling discarded cellar items into pieces of masterfully crafted furniture by breathing new life into old wine barrels.

For the past 17 years, Vinwood has been crafting unique indoor and outdoor furniture from reclaimed French oak, sourced from the winelands of the Western Cape where it was once used as wine barrels and casks. The furniture gives homes a welcoming ambience with Vinwood’s simplistic, functional yet timeless designs.

“The casks and tanks that we salvage date from the past two centuries and we preserve the character of these giants by carefully incorporating the markings and numbering on the staves left by the craftsman who made these items decades ago. The barrel, and stave numbers can be seen on the edges of our Reserve Range tables, making each piece a collector’s item,” says CEO Jianni Geras.

Vinwood’s manufacturing process relies largely on skilled labour, as the nature of the curved barrel timber demands hand selection and hand crafting.

Encapsulating the history and romance of the wine that the wood used to cradle within it, wineries such as Spier, Boschendal, Bilton, Devonvale, Whalehaven, Jordan and Zorgvliet have commissioned Vinwood for unique pieces of furniture.

“Green living is a big trend in South Africa and identifying a gap for unique items which become conversation starters, together with looking remarkable in the home makes our furniture a logical solution,” Geras says.

“We take pride in the fact that 90% of our material is re-cycled timber and from an environmentally sustainable source. The 10% new oak that we use is also from sustainable forests in North America, although it is not recycled wood.”

The large range consists of patio and cellar furniture, coffee tables, lounge and occasional seats, dining room tables and chairs, high chairs, as well as kitchen accessories.

What makes an office not just mediocre, but exceptional? How can a design that has all the functional elements be taken one step further?

It comes down to the little finishing touches. The splash of colours and textures. The furniture and art. The detail that is incorporated into the design. These finishing touches bring together the elements of a room and set the tone for the space.

Choose a design company, such as Giant Leap, who knows how to carefully choose these features, spending time pulling together the overall design of a room.

In 2016, Giant Leap has seen certain trends coming through with these finer details. A lot of natural materials, textures and neutral colours have been incorporated in the design and accessories. Pops of colour are brought in through aspects such as the art, scatter cushions for the furniture and the objects that may be placed around the room. At the moment, favoured materials are copper, brass, wood and marble.

An integral part is also ensuring that the overall design works with the finishing touches. Some offices have been designed with intentionally exposed elements, such as exposed roof beams or unpainted concrete. In these instances, the accessories or finishing touches will tie the space together and highlight the design. The finishing touches work hand-in-hand with the design to enhance the space and ensure that it leaves a positive impression.

Although lighting may not be considered a finishing touch, it is! The use of floor lamps, table lamps and pendants can provide a warmer, calming atmosphere, affecting how a space is perceived. It’s an important part of the design that can really tie together the tone of a room.

Ensure a design that is exceptional from floor to ceiling by inspiring creativity, enhancing productivity and focusing on the finer  details.

Think desk workers spending their days in front of a computer aren’t likely to get injured on the job?

Think again.

More than half of all workplace injuries are related to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) — injuries that are common among those who engage in repetitive motion activities as typing on a computer keyboard.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, says that even the seemingly ‘safest’ jobs lead to employee injuries and a large cost to the bottom line of business.

“In fact, nearly 60 percent of employees doing office computer work say they have wrist pain.

“Long days hunched over keyboards can lead to cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) and lower back ailments.”

Here are some other common complaints:

  • Muscle fatigue or pain. Working for long periods in the same position or in awkward positions can put stress on hands and wrists and lead to injury.
  • Eye strain. Sitting too close to — or prolonged staring at — a monitor can reduce eye blinking and may lead to dry or aching eyes.
  • Lower back pain. Using laptops or non-adjustable office furniture can cause employees to work at awkward angles and lead to back stress.

Andrews notes that several trends make CTDs a special concern for today’s typical office workers.

“So many employees use computers all day and then also sit down at the computer at home to surf the Internet or even catch up on work.

“Secondly, specialised jobs are on the increase the world over. This means more people are doing the same thing all day. And finally, people are living longer and also working longer which means many more years of wear and tear on the body.”

According to South African workplace research company Know More, only 40% of 10 000 South African workers surveyed feel that their workplace environment supports their wellbeing.

And this doesn’t just exact a physical toll on employees, it can have a significant impact on businesses’ bottom line.

“For example,in 2003 in the US, the average medical claim associated with a CTD was over $43 000. Now it’s over $50 000. And that doesn’t even include the hidden costs for employers of lost productivity when an employee is injured or the cost of hiring and training a replacement worker.”

So what’s a business to do?

“Don’t think that a desk and chair is all that employees need,” Andrews advises.

Ergonomics, or the process of safely and comfortably relating workers to their work- spaces, can help by reducing the likelihood of work related injuries through greater emphasis on a well designed workspace.

“Studies have shown that a well-designed office space can increase efficiency by up to 36%.”

Andrews adds that Inspiration Office has increasingly installed several ‘collaborative spaces’ with furniture like couches and coffee tables.

“These are designed not only for teamwork, but also to encourage people to move around and change their workstations to reduce repetitive actions during the day.”

Moving is particularly important: according to the same Know More survey, only 21% of South African office workers feel that their workplaces offer sufficient areas to allow physical activity.

It needn’t be costly either. “When one considers that in most organisations 80% of the budget is allocated to people in the form of salaries, while only 7% is allocated to space, by leveraging the smallest cost line item better – businesses can obtain a return in efficiency in the biggest cost line item,” says Andrews.

For instance, the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests measure such as leaving enough room for range of motion, adjusting desk chairs to individuals, positioning monitors so eye level is at the top of the screen and finding a pointing device, such as a mouse, stylus or tablet, suited to the individual.

There are many other simple things employers can consider to help protect their workers and their pocketbooks. For example:

  • Stress the importance of good posture at the computer;
  • Use smart lifting techniques and tools that can make the job easier;
  • Appoint someone on your staff to take responsibility for safety issues. Have this person understand ergonomics best practices, review resources provided by your workers’ compensation insurance company, train employees, and make changes to workspaces as needed; and
  • Take breaks throughout the work day to walk about.

Major risk factors that add to cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs):

  • Static posture
  • Awkward posture
  • Repetition
  • Force and/or vibration
  • Extreme temperature

Safe behaviours that limit CTDs:

  • Good posture
  • Correct workstation setup
  • Occasional rest breaks
  • Task variation
  • Proper lifting techniques

“Common sense measures can go a long way to preventing these types of injuries, “Andrews adds.

South African companies are following the global trend of leasing office furniture rather than buying it in an effort to be more capital efficient and improve cash flows – a move consistent with the “rent, don’t buy” economy.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy with head offices in Johannesburg, said that since Inspiration Office pioneered furniture leasing in South Africa in 2013 through its financing arm, the company has seen a 30% spike in South African business leasing rather than owning office furniture.

“We expect this trend to continue as the economy remains sluggish. It’s very efficient to pay a small monthly amount for a few years rather than have a large cash outflow for furniture that is often quickly out of date.

“Furniture leasing is an operating expense rather than a capital expense thereby improving cash flow. For example a chair worth R4 000 can be leased for around R3 a day for a five-year period.”

Andrews notes that in the US, often a leading indicator of international offices trends, office furniture leasing has now superseded sales over the past three years and is growing at a rate of nearly 20% a year. And the total value of the furniture leased in the US in the past 20 years has now topped $1,5-billion.

“We’ve noticed a similar trend in Europe as well as small but growing demand for leasing in other African countries too.”

Andrews also said that office spaces are getting smaller and more efficient as business embrace the mobile working trend and workers share space by hot-desking.

“Because employees are now working remotely – or on gadgets like the iPads and very small laptops,offices need smaller furniture. And leasing it enables business to be nimble about downscaling large, bulky furniture, freeing up office space and saving money.

“Ironically desks in many companies haven’t changed in size for the past 30 years since the days of deep monitor computer screens and paper file storage. We have smart cars, smart devices but offices in the main have remained ‘stupid’.”

Andrews added that the shift towards leasing furniture over buying, is consistent with societal trends of renting rather than owing.

“People lease their cars, or in some instances have gotten rid of their cars altogether to only use Uber. Some people rent their homes, companies ‘rent’ people by using freelancers or hire people for short term projects. The trend towards renting over owning is one that can be seen everywhere.”

Furniture lease periods in South Africa are typically for three, four or five years. At the end of the term, businesses can buy the furniture, lease new furniture, or opt to have it recycled ensuring green disposal of unwanted desks, chairs and storage units – the most popular items leased.

Andrews concluded that many of South African’s top companies have taken to leasing and he expects the trend to continue.

Next time you finish washing your hands in a public bathroom, you may want to think twice when you choose between a jet hand dryer and paper towels. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, jet air dryers spray 1 300 times more viral plaques than paper towels.

Some viral plaques (clumps of viruses) were launched nearly 10 feet from the dryer itself, Popular Science reported. The study, which was published in January, was trending on Monday.

Researchers at the University of Westminster compared paper towels, warm air dryers and jet dryers.

Participants were asked to dip their gloved hands into a solution of a harmless virus, MS2. They then gave their hands a quick shake and tried one of the three drying methods, Popular Science reported. Next, samples were collected from the air and surfaces at different distances from where the drying took place.

The study authors observed that jet dryers spread up to 60 times more germs than the traditional hand dryers and 1 300 times more than standard paper towels.

The research did not test the different drying methods’ distribution of bacteria, which are much larger and can cause disease.

Source: www.foxnews.com

Dutch furniture brand Lensvelt is producing a collection of “boring” office furniture intended to “restore the balance between work and play” in the workplace.

The Boring Collection was conceived as a comment on the “ugly” appearance of affordable contract furniture and the distracting designs being added to some workplaces in the wake of the Google office.

Created in collaboration with Amsterdam architecture studio Space Encounters, the collection consists of a plain grey desk chair, visitor chair, acoustic panel, low and high cabinets, and four types of desk. The team also created a “boring” bin and clock.

Each piece is made up of simple, archetypal shapes in order to help the furniture be less conspicuous.


“The looks of affordable office furniture are pretty much dictated by legislation and therefore often detonate with the rest of the interior and surroundings,” said the design team.

“The Boring Collection does not pretend to be more beautiful, in fact the Boring Collection does not claim any attention,” they told Dezeen.

The team’s opinion on modern-day office design is similar to that of expert Jeremy Myerson, who told Dezeen that the Google-inspired fad for slides and ping-pong tables has had a damaging impact on the workplace.

“Partially thanks to Google, the modern day office is nothing like it was before,” said the Boring Collection team. “Office cubicles were torn down and replaced with open-plan floors, dimly lit meeting rooms turned into cappuccino bars, and damp office buildings abandoned in favour of spacious warehouses.”

“These are all meaningful improvements, but somewhere in the process we went too far,” they continued. “When slides, brainstorm mattresses and ping-pong tables started appearing we lost sight of what offices are actually meant for work.”

“With Boring Collection we want to give designers the tools to restore the balance between work and play again.”

Dutch artist duo Lernert & Sander, who are well known for their moving image campaigns for fashion brand COS, were enlisted to create a video and a series of interesting images of the pieces.

One of the images shows the furniture pieces stacked on top of each other in a shape inspired by Ettore Sottsass’ Carlton bookcase.

“We can totally relate to the idea that furniture should not demand too much attention,” says Lernert Engelberts. “For this project, we worked with the most iconic gesture of boredom: the attempt to throw a ball of crumpled paper into the trashcan until the clock turns five.”

“The office people steal the scene even though they are surrounded by the designs of Boring Collection. Just like the architects intended,” he adds.

Lernert & Sander’s concept will be repeated for the furniture collection’s debut at this year’s Milan design week with an installation at Ventura Lambrate.

The furniture will be placed in a clock-like formation, and will stand in an artificial landscape of 150 000 paper balls made from leaflets about the collection.

Source: www.dezeen.com

Don’t let your desk do you in

Long hours, slouching, slumping, and straining can dominate the office. Clean up your act around the computer, before bad habits lead to poor health.

Here are five ways to make sure your computer desk doesn’t become the death of you.

  1. Give your monitor a second look
    If your screen is planted directly on your desktop, it’s time to ask management for a raise — for your computer’s display. According to Dr. Jim Sheedy, director of the Vision Performance Institute at Pacific University, the top of your the screen should be level with your eyes. The ideas is to get the eyes looking down about 10 degrees. If it’s any lower or higher, computer users will adapt to it by moving their head. If your screen is to low, your head points down, causing neck and back aches. High displays, meanwhile, contribute to dry eye syndrome.
  2. Poor posture? Take it on the chin
    Poor posture is something that every office-based employee should consider throughout their day. Most people sitting at a computer get drawn into the screen, which means they crane their necks forward. This imbalance puts strain on the neck and spine. It’s like holding a bowling ball with one hand, says Dr. James Bowman, of Portland, Ore.-based Solutions Chiropractic. If your arm is vertical underneath, it puts less strain on the muscles, but lean that ball forward and your muscles have to compensate to keep it aloft. Sitting at a desk, that bowling ball is actually our head, so Bowman recommends chin retractions, or making a double chin, to keep the neck and spine lined up underneath.
    “It’s probably the most effective single exercise you can do for the upper back and neck,” he says.
  3. Stand up for yourself
    The modern workplace was built around the concept of sitting, but humans’ ability to stand goes back millions of years. Buck the trend of the office era with a standing desk — or, if that’s too radical, a sit-stand workstation. According to research out of the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic, sit-stand workstations helped workers replace 25% of their sitting time with standing up, which can increase their sense of well being and decreased their fatigue and appetite. The Jarvis Desk can go from 26-inches to 51-inches at the push of a button, lifting up to 350 pounds of whatever’s on your desk—including multiple monitors.
    “I definitely feel healthier standing while working as it causes me to be more focused on my posture and ‘hold’ myself better in terms of my stomach and shoulders especially,” says Dan McCormack, who uses a Jarvis Desk at his home office in Austin, Texas.
  4. Move it or lose it
    But why stand when you could walk? Many offices around the country are getting wise to treadmill desks, which can help workers burn 100 calories more per hour over sitting, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health.
    “The most important thing is to switch it up and work in different positions throughout the day,” says Emily Couey, Eventbrite’s vice president of people. The online event ticketing service offers multiple workspace options including traditional sitting desks, standing desks, and treadmill desks, which Couey says “people love, because it allows them move while they work — especially those with fitness trackers counting their daily steps.”
  5. Pace yourself
    All work and no play makes Jack a bad employee. Whether it’s on their phone in the bathroom or on the computer in their cube, everyone takes sanity breaks to check their Facebook or read some news. The Pomodoro Technique even encourages this kind of behavior by breaking tasks into “pomodoros,” intense 25 minute work bursts, followed by five-minute breaks. Named because they can be measured using little tomato-shaped kitchen timers (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato), this method lets people work intensely and stave off distraction, yet rewards them with time to goof off, as well. If you don’t have a tomato timer handy, there are a lot of apps online to keep track of your sessions. But Francesco Cirillo, the technique’s founder, recommends using the real deal.

By John Patrick Pullen for www.motto.time.com

A range of AngelShack’s high quality, innovative office furniture will be on display at the fifth annual Proudly South African Buy Local Summit and Expo being held at the Sandton Convention Centre on 30 March.

This is the first time AngelShack will feature alongside some 200 exhibitors at the national exhibition which seeks to boost the local economy by supporting quality organisations that are Proudly South African.

“We are so excited to participate in this very beneficial event where we have been given the chance to showcase our stylish and progressive office furniture range including the award-winning POP Chair, produced right here in Sandton,” explained Joy Turnbull, MD of sales at AngelShack.

The summit has quickly grown into one of the biggest events on the business calendar, promoting local manufacturing and business to stimulate the economy. It attracts a cross-section of business leaders, government representatives, economists, entrepreneurs and procurement decision-makers providing the ideal networking opportunity for all sectors.

“The Summit and Expo encourage an increase in the uptake of local goods and services to stimulate the economy and create jobs,” says Proudly SA’s CEO, Adv Leslie Sedibe.

“It is an opportunity for our members, such as AngelShack, to showcase their Proudly South African products and services while we promote what South Africa makes – and what makes South Africa. We are proud of the achievements by our members such as AngelShack, as well as their important contribution towards growing the economy, creating jobs and helping create a better country for all,” he added.

“We encourage procurement decision makers as well as ordinary South African consumers to visit the Expo and experience the significant contribution AngelShack makes to South Africa and the local economy,” he concluded.

The Proudly South African brand has very strict criteria determining what companies or enterprises qualify to become members of the organisation. To ensure products or services are of the best quality, at least 50% of the cost of production must be incurred within the country; the product or service must have some recognised form of quality accreditation; the company must comply with all labour legislation and ensure fair labour practices and the company must be environmentally responsible.

“AngelShack adheres strictly to these four pillars which we believe are integral to the success of business in South Africa,” said Turnbull. “When it comes to office furniture, we feel it’s important that our customers receive international-level quality while still paying local prices.”

Through buying local, consumers have a hugely positive impact on lives of South Africans through job creation, by safeguarding existing jobs, reducing poverty and establishing a strong industrial base. This simple act also encourages entrepreneurship and creativity while the consumer is guaranteed a good quality product.

AngelShack collaborates with international designer, Stefan Brodbeck, who brings a worldly aspect to the furniture style while the organisation’s local Research and Development team of industrial designers ensure every piece is suited to and costed for the South African market.

AngelShack will be running a competition on the day, the prize being one POP Chair, decorated in the South African flag, which will go to one lucky stand visitor. Alongside the POP Chair, AngelShack will also be displaying the GameChanger NXT desking system, storage solutions, the Speak Easy Booth, as well as the new Buddy – a fun, informal seating option.

The Proudly South African Summit and Expo will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre on 30 March from 7am to 5pm. As part of Proudly SA’s service to the country, entry to the Expo is free of charge. Registration to attend the event can be completed online at www.buylocalsummit.co.za

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