Tag: office

Lifestyle-focused work environments are for everyone

What time do you power down your laptop at night? Look at the plug next to your bed. How many devices are plugged in there? Your answers to these questions have probably revealed you’re at the office more than you’re actually in it, tucking into some bite-sized admin with breakfast at the corner café or catching a quick IM meeting from the back seat of an Uber. Your staff are no doubt doing the same. So, how do you restore work-life balance to encourage happy, healthy and motivated employees when everyone’s overflowing inbox is tagging along home with them? Make them feel at home with a lifestyle-focused work environment.

At the moment, a fundamental shift away from hierarchically designed offices, toward more inclusive, collaborative spaces, is taking place. One major reason for this is the growing platoon of Millennials in the modern workforce. These super-social and adept multi-taskers like open plan coffee-shop style environments, tech bedecked meeting hubs, acoustic pods, and even working from treadmills or barber shop chairs is not an unusual request these days. As a result, more and more companies are starting to mimic the trendy offices of the Googles and Facebooks of the world. But what if that doesn’t align with your brand… and your older staff just can’t comprehend the idea of morning meetings in an indoor treehouse?

Embracing lifestyle-focused work spaces doesn’t mean your office needs to look like a children’s playground. It’s simply about making the office more flexible to your employee and business needs. That means the first step to an ideal workspace is to understand your company requirements, culture and staff. Traders are bound to their workstations, attorneys require privacy, creatives like space to throw ideas around in, and so all the lifestyle-focused workspaces for these kinds of employees will need to be different to efficiently support the way in which they operate. However, there are a few minor changes that we’ve noticed can help to streamline any and every office, improving efficiency while giving it a homey air.

Comfortable soft seating hubs, intimate task lighting, quiet areas, private spaces, warm colour palettes, and the smell of brewing coffee are just a few minor tweaks that make most staff feel at home in the office. But another major stand-out benefit and consideration of lifestyle-focused work spaces is scalability. Lifestyle focused spaces allow for expansion without the costs of a new workstation for each new staff member. Instead, employees may move around an environment, without desk ownership, working from a pod or quiet room, canteen or bar-height collaboration table.

A lifestyle focused workspace that looks and feels more welcoming and comfortable will put your staff at ease, make their work-lives more meaningful and encourage them to invest more passion and drive into a company that is investing in their in-office experience and overall work-life balance. After all, home is where the heart is. Start your journey to a more lifestyle-focused workspace today and get more heart from your staff, as well as a responsive and agile office that changes and grows around you, instead of the other way around.

By Robyn Gray, Associate Director for Tétris South Africa

Top five SA workplace trends in 2017

South African offices are changing rapidly as the workplace continues to shift from a utilitarian place where you earn your money from 9 to 5 to a much more people=friendly, welcoming space where we will spend more than 50% of our time during our working lives.

Emma Leith, Interior Decorator at workplace specialists Giant Leap, shares her top five workplace trends in South Africa for 2017:

The end of fixed workspace layouts

Creating multifunctional community space as well as a diverse selection of areas is becoming increasingly important in order to accommodate constantly changing needs; allowing people to have greater fluidity, mobility and flexibility in the workspace.

“This trend can be seen in the form of modular furniture, work benches and sit-stand desks. Communal areas are becoming an important part of the workplace where people can get together for an informal meeting, to simply enjoy a cup of coffee alone or with a college or to collaborate across teams,” says Leith.

The Modern Office: A Home Away From Home

The office fit out is becoming increasingly geared towards creating a more lived in and homey feel.

“It’s a home away from home type of scenario. This is created by providing cosy, welcoming lounges, communal canteens, and comfy break out areas.”

Leith says that this ultimately provides for a better working environment allowing for greater employee satisfaction. This trend interlinks with point one above as people now have the option to work in more relaxed, comfortable environments.

“Residential furniture is another element that is being used more and more to create that warm, never-want-to-leave-the-office feeling,” Leith added.

Private Areas

The growing trend towards the open plan office generates the need for private pods/ areas, as the open plan concept does not always provide for the best working environment.

“Private pods are needed whether it be to have a quiet phone call, meeting or place to work with no distractions.  Therefore a combination of spaces is essential in the modern workplace,” notes Leith.

Private areas can be innovatively designed telephone booths, sound proof quiet rooms and sound proof space dividers. Increasingly, various new “pods” are being installed in the workplace in South Africa.

“Secluded pods allow office workers to meditate, smash things or scream and will be commonplace in two years time,”  Leith notes.

Themed Meeting Rooms To Portray Company Identity

Themed meeting rooms are becoming important areas for companies to portray their identity, values and what they do.

This may be in the form of wallpaper, graphics, furniture, lighting, or colour.

This allows for each meeting room to take on a certain personality, ultimately making them more interesting and inviting spaces to be in, as well as emphasising the firm’s identity.

Play Space

Not just for trendy companies like Google any more or start ups burning through cash.

“Games such as pool and Ping-Pong are also being brought into the communal areas which allow colleagues to interact with other on a more relaxed level as well as help them to relax.

“This trend is growing in South Africa is an effective way to break the office stress cycle and rest the brain, “ Leith concluded.

Giant Leap launch offices on demand in SA

Investec Property and workplace specialists Giant Leap have launched FutureSpace – a first of its kind, high-end office on demand at 61 Katherine Street in the heart of Sandton, Johannesburg.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says the new 2 000 square metre office could be thought of a mix between “a five star business class lounge and on-demand, sharing economy services like Uber and Airbnb.

“FutureSpace is fully fledged office with absolutely everything a business requires from high speed fibre WiFi, concierge and support staff to meeting rooms, video conferencing, a gym in the building and 24 hour electronic security. And of course barista coffee and food.”

Trim noted that the shift in social attitudes from “ownership to access” and the growing sharing economy was now beginning to impact the global perspective of the workplace and FutureSpace was in direct response to this.

Robin Magid, executive director of Investec Property, says that the FutureSpace office in Sandton was an “office of the future”.

“We plan to role out many more offices in the business centres in South Africa – as well as creating an international presence starting in London. All will be in high end locations and close to good transport links.

“The FutureSpace competitive advantage is the synergy of our core property locations and the design expertise of Giant Leap. No one else offers that.”

FutureSpace offers a luxury hotel type of experience that offers restaurants and hotel bookings, luggage storage services and advice on the local area.

“With no leasing commitments and only paying for what you use, FutureSpace offers entrepreneurs, start ups, freelancers and even existing businesses easy access to fully equipped established offices. It is also appealing to multinationals that can quickly establish an office in SA,” says Trim.

Trim says that a local start up tech company and an international company taking its first steps into South Africa had already rented space.

Trim added: ”It can take months to find suitable offices space and just as long again to install IT services, furniture and interior design. With FutureSpace you simply book and pay for your office online – or simply walk in – and you can start working straight away. The front desk will be expecting you.”

Instant bookings can be made online through an online portal. It will also allow clients to book and pay for all extra services they need.

The FutureSpace offices are designed to meet different office needs with monthly pricing ranging from R3 500 to R25 000.

There are executive office spaces designed for longer term leases, a monthly membership that can be purchased for the visitor area for drop in visitors as well as co-working spaces that are specially tailored to entrepreneurs and those who need to work closely together.

All users of FutureSpace can also gain access to hi-tech boardrooms, training rooms and lounges.

The offices are equipped with ergonomically designed furniture including award winning seating. Any furniture can also be changed to the users’ exact preferences.

Businesses can also just hire meeting facilities only for the likes of strategic meetings and brainstorming sessions.

More details and bookings are available at www.futurespaceoffice.co.za.

It wasn’t long after smart phones, tablets and ubiquitous Wi-Fi that workplace experts predicted the end of the office. And while a telecommuting trend took root for a while, it is now beginning to reverse with large American companies like IBM, Honeywell and Yahoo leading the change.

But also thanks to offices that are now much more human friendly.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says:  “The thinking went along these lines: if technology allow people to work anywhere, then who needs the office?

“As it turns out, the vast majority of workers do—because work, at its essence, is a social process. Even people armed with the latest mobile device still come to the office to connect with other people and to access technology they can’t carry around.

“The office didn’t go away, but it’s now evolving into something fundamentally different.

“We are in the midst of an office renaissance.”

And the proof is evident in some of the world’s biggest companies.

After several decades of allowing employees to perform their jobs remotely, IBM recently announced that it wanted many of its remote workers back in the office.

Between 1995 and 2009, the company shrank its office workforce. Other companies soon followed suit: Work-from-home became a desirable perk of many white-collar jobs.

Yahoo has also reversed its stance on home workers and said that since calling back its staff, employee engagement was up, product launches increased significantly and teams were thriving.

American conglomerate Honeywell also joined the back to the office trend by banning telecommuting for most of its workers worldwide.

Says Andrews: “It’s not surprising there is a swing back to the office. The workplace has become a catalyst for energy and buzz.

“People are again looking for inspiration and creativity at work, as well as human-centered technology that makes life easier. These ideas are being embraced and adopted at a rapid pace thanks to new people friendly design and facilities.”

Traditionally, offices were focused on uniformity and standards. Much of the space was dedicated to individual workstations, separated into departments, where people spent the majority of their time working alone. A cafeteria provided a place to eat lunch and large meeting rooms were used mostly for collaboration.

But by reducing the number of dedicated individual workstations and creating an ecosystem of spaces, people now have the freedom to choose how and where to work.

“Appealing offices now have a social hub, previously just a cafeteria, which shifts away from supporting just nourishment to now also becoming a place for workers to connect and collaborate,” says Andrews.

“They also have a nomadic camp—purposely placed near the social hub— to support mobile behaviours. The additional settings offer mobile workers a place to work alone or with others. Workers can see and be seen by coworkers, or choose a private setting for focused work.”

The concept of a ‘resident neighbourhood’ is also proving popular and includes spaces for managers in the open plan to promote learning and quick problem solving. Resource centres offers workers a space to securely store coats and bags and access meeting tools.

“People want to feel a connection to the places where they work, where they can see themselves in the space, versus something that feels imposed upon them. Well designed offices and productivity gains from working closely with smart people is driving the office renaissance,“ Andrews concludes.

Employees intend on taking advantage of their sick leave to stay away from work when in truth they really just can’t face a day in the office.

Almost 40% of South Africans are planning on “pulling a sickie” in June or July, according to a survey released by Pharma Dynamics on Monday.

The generic pharmaceutical company polled 1 500 workers across the country to find out how people were gearing up for the colds and flu season. However, respondents also let slip the time of year they are most likely to ring in sick, said Pharma Dynamics.

Bad weather coupled with colds and flu
A combination of miserable weather and the expected spate of colds and flu in winter makes June and July the most popular months of the year to take a duvet day, said Pharma Dynamics spokesperson Nicole Jennings.

“Nearly a third of those polled admitted that they’ve pulled a sickie before – 45% of whom said they do so two to three times a year, while a few chancers (15% in fact) do so even more often. The 40% whose conscience probably gets the better of them, can only bring themselves to do so once annually.”

Jennings said what makes matters even worse is that those who pretend to be sick don’t do so on their own.

“More than a whopping 51% rope in their partners and/or children to take a duvet day with them – 20% either didn’t have a partner or a child, which implied that if they did, they’d probably get them to bunk with them too. The remaining 29% preferred to do so solo.”

The result of sickness-related absenteeism on the economy has been enormous, according to the most recently available Adcorp Holdings’ employment index.

Cumulatively, since 2000 the economy lost R55.2bn in real terms due to sickness, the report dated 2013 shows.

The index found that between 2009 and 2011, one-quarter of all workers claimed the maximum statutory allowance for sick leave, which is 36 days in a three-year cycle. It showed that the average output per worker in 2012 was R145 233 per year – or R586.19 per working day. In 2011 this loss of output due to sickness totalled R4.29bn

At the time Adcorp said it was alarming that sick leave in South Africa had been rising continuously.

More recently, South Africa was ranked last among 19 nations in a global survey that measured healthcare system efficiency – the ability to deliver maximum results at the lowest possible cost.

The Future Health Index, commissioned by Dutch tech company Philips, showed that South Africa’s efficiency ratio was the lowest out of the 19 countries in the study, which included countries such as France, the US, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, China and Brazil.

South Africa scored 4.4 compared to the group average of 10.5.

Source: Fin24

How space affects learning

South Africa faces a particularly challenging teaching environment with often overcrowded classrooms, distracted learners and hard working but sometimes under-qualified teachers.

And another, more subtle challenge is that traditional teaching classroom experiences are often not aligned with how the brain works, particularly as it relates to attention.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says that learning institutions in South Africa can achieve far better results by better understanding how learning works.

“There are so many things vying for student attention today it makes it harder to get attention and therefore engagement but there are five things that can be done to dramatically improve results:

Seat location impacts attention

A study by Kennesaw State University revealed that where students sit in the classroom impacts focus. Says Andrews: “Students in the front and middle of the classroom stayed on task, while those in the back were more distracted. An active learning classroom where students easily moved and rearrange their seating enables them to stay attentive.”

Classrooms configured with no fixed position where the instructor must stand and mobile seating create better results. Here an teacher or student can address the class, lead a discussion and share content from anywhere in the classroom. There’s no front or back of the classroom, and since the seating allows students to change posture and position easily, every seat is the best seat in the room.

Active learning

Research by Diane M. Bunce, et. al. on “How Long Can Students Pay Attention in Class?”, compared a passive lecture approach and active learning methods. Researchers noted fewer attention lapses during times of active learning. They also found fewer lapses in attention during a lecture that immediately followed a demonstration or after a question was asked, compared to lectures that preceded active learning methods. This suggests active learning may have dual benefits: engaging student attention and refreshing attention immediately afterward.

Physical movement fuels the brain

Schools are starting to incorporate more physical activity in the classroom, such as Delaney Connective, a high school in Sydney, Australia, where students do “brain pushups” each morning: five-minute, Tai Chi-like exercises that get the blood flowing and help students focus.
“Physical movement increases alertness and helps encode and trigger memory. Yet schools and teachers traditionally train students to be sedentary, and equate sitting still with greater attention and focus,” noted Andrews.
Simply allowing students to get out of their seats to move while learning provides the brain with much-needed novelty and change.

Novelty and change get attention

Our brains naturally seek out what’s new and different. Therefore varying materials and breaks facilitate attention. A study by Kennesaw State University found that students paid more attention when the professor reviewed quiz answers, presented new information or shared videos, essentially by changing things up.
Novelty and change facilitate learning in another way too. Repeating important points by engaging multiple senses helps to reinforce learning. There is a greater likelihood that learning will generalise outside the classroom if it is organised across sensory, physical, emotional and cognitive networks.

Learning has a natural rhythm

The need for periods of both quiet focus and healthy distraction finds its parallel in learning.
Our brain can focus on a task for only so long, after which it needs a break for renewal to achieve high performance on the next task. Ignore this rhythm and we tend to lose focus.
“Researchers have found that people who respect this natural rhythm are more productive,” says Andrews. Breaks for rest and renewal are critical to the body and brain, as well as to attention span. The work of education is similarly organic, changing at different times of the term, week, even during a single class period.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office will be familiar with nonsensical “corpspeak” – that meaningless business jargon that so favoured by those in meetings and widely used when people are trying to impress colleagues.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy, said for his Christmas Wish List there are certain phrases he hopes to never hear again in an office in 2017.

“It’s an odd phenomenon that when otherwise plain speaking people pass through the portals of the office, their language changes. It’s almost like they’re visiting another country where people speak a different language.”

Andrews has compiled his Top Ten Offices phrases he never wants to hear again:
1) Touch base offline – this means let’s meet later sometime. In yet another meeting
2) Blue sky thinking – aka limitless thinking or thinking as if all were possible
3) Stick a pin in it – to deal with something later
4) Throw it against a wall and see if it sticks – try something to see if it actually works because we have no idea if it will
5) Deep dive – really getting to the bottom of something
6) Ecosystem – borrowed from biology and very prevalent in tech talk meaning how different systems work together
7) Amplify – no, not a music phrase, it simply means to improve or increase
8) Thinking outside the box – thinking creatively or differently to how we’ve always done it
9) Drinking the Kool-aid – going along with a bad idea just because all your peers are
10) Singing from the same hymn sheet – a self explanatory Xmas themed one
Christmas Bonus Annoying Phrase: Connect – meet, chat, get in touch with. You know, connect.
“This kind of jargon is pointless, irritating and so often confusing. I’m sure it would be a paradigm shifter (get it?) if people just spoke simply and said what they mean. Here’s hoping.”

The pitfalls of the office party

If it’s not on social media it hasn’t happened; a common belief among avid social-media users. But not every memorable experience deserves an Instagram video – especially if it is of you dancing on the table at your staff party, or taking on that infuriating colleague who has been working on your nerves all year.

Social media practitioners and labour lawyers warn that the embarrassment of being immortalised online could be just the beginning of your troubles as companies continue to test the parameters of labour law in relation to social-media use.

According to labour lawyer Terry Bell, employees would be liable for damages if they defamed their company in any way.

“And disciplinary action can be undertaken based on company rules,” said Bell.

Employees might see staff functions as an opportunity to let their hair down but they should remember that companies are not likely to forgive those who damage corporate reputations.

“At Christmas parties employees sometimes let more than their hair down and they should be very careful about what they put on social media,” said Bell.

Recruitment specialist Auguste Coetzer of Taleng Africa said the tone should to be set by companies.

Coetzer said companies should take stock and establish the objectives of the party and whether it should take place at all, adding that awards ceremonies might create division.

“If broad recognition of team success is crucial, the firm will avoid the mistake of combining the occasion with a prize-giving for exceptional performers. You can’t celebrate everyone and reward a few stellar achievers at the same event,” he said.

Coetzer said companies should not be afraid to warn employees about company policy on social media.

Head of corporate and experiential events at Event Affairs Megan Mcilrath said it was important to thank employees for a great year and not leave social media education to the eve of an event.

“It’s important that companies entrench a social-media and general behaviour policy so that at any stage employees know what is and what isn’t allowed regarding social media,” said Mcilrath.

Social-media consultant Sheena Kretzmer said companies and employees should be prepared for the fallout of staff parties in a social-media age in which live video blogging is the norm.

By Shenaaz Jamal for www.timeslive.co.za

People are working longer and in countries like South Africa, where we have a chronic skills shortage, workers with years of experience have invaluable knowledge to share at the workplace.

But how should companies adapt to make sure an ageing workforce feel like they still belong?

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, workplace specialists who consult across Africa, says that workplaces need to adapt for an older workplace and have been slow to do so so far.

“Population ageing is a global phenomenon and workplaces need to modify to accept the reality of older workers. It is increasingly important to retain workers as they get into their fifties, typically the time when businesses start to lose all that prized expertise.”

Trim says there are five key office considerations businesses need to retain and attract an ageing workforce:

1) Lighting, especially natural lighting

Natural light should be used in concentration spaces wherever possible, with fabric curtains and blinds to diffuse light. Task lights at the desk are an important consideration for ageing eyes and for reading printouts off-screen, and a lower and more pleasant level of general ambient lighting within the concentration space.

2) Good acoustics

Says Trim:”Having spaces where people who battle to hear can work easily especially with technology such as Skype is very important. We also suggested the use of sound-masking systems like acoustic boards that can reduce distracting noise which are appreciated by everyone in busy offices, not just older workers.”
3) Private space

All generations get sick and tired of work at times and would like somewhere to go to recuperate briefly from the stress and noise of the normal work environment.

“The provision of contemplation space that can provide a calm, quiet environment free from distraction and surveillance is important to making ageing workforces more productive – and evidence suggests it would be popular with everyone,” saysTrim.

Trim says that here Giant Leap advocates strong natural and organic elements, rich with plants, water, fabric banners and adjustable lighting, giving a different feel to the office atmosphere elsewhere.

It isn’t just older workers who crave quiet and privacy when they want to concentrate on solo tasks – or dedicated tools and spaces for collaboration when they want to work in a team.
4) Age Appropriate design

Age-appropriate design that helps, rather than unthinking design that hinders and stigmatises, can make a huge difference to quality of life. “And this was never more so than in considering access to work and the workplace for older people.” Trim noted.

For example older workers don’t want to feel incapable and frustrated by things like unadjustable chairs, confounding IT systems and cupboards that they just can’t reach. That also don’t want to feel they need someone to help them all they time but it’s a quick fix to deal with this.

“Offering things like easy access to files, height adjustable furniture and simple IT can make a difference.

“Older people who have honed their skills in the pre-digital era also prefer to spread out sheets and data, and not worry about confidentiality or tidying away before the project is completed.”

Bigger desks to spread things out and bigger backdrops to pin things up will enhance collaborative modes of working for older people.
5) Wellbeing focus

“Things like user-controlled lighting, ergonomic furniture, natural soundscapes and other humanising features all contribute to a sense of wellbeing,” says Trim.

As mentioned, private spaces that are governed by strict wellbeing protocols for working (for example, no mobile phone calls or loud conversations, as in a library). These spaces should be located away from noisy facilities such as kitchens and cafés, print-rooms or social spaces. They should be equipped with different types of furniture and adjustable settings to allow for a range of working positions, as poor ergonomics and uncomfortable posture will adversely affect the ability to focus.

Conclusion

“While older knowledge workers may well be compromised in the office environment by the inevitable effects of ageing on vision, hearing, posture, memory, balance and dexterity, they tend to compensate cognitively in terms of wisdom, experience and decision making.

“They are also, contrary to popular myth, flexible learners – they have adapted to several waves of business and technological change over lengthy careers. It’s makes economic sense for companies to make them feel at ease in the workplace,” Trim concludes.

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.

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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