Tag: office

By Lauren Feiner for CNBC

WeWork announced Wednesday it is creating a fund with $2.9-billion of total equity capital to buy stakes in buildings it rents from.

The company has previously been criticized for CEO Adam Neumann’s stake in buildings he rented to the company.
The fund, called ARK, will serve as WeWork’s “global real estate acquisition and management platform,” according to a press release.

WeWork has become a business with a multi-billion valuation by being a prolific tenant. Now, it is starting a nearly $3 billion fund to become a landlord, too.

WeWork, which recently renamed itself to The We Company, is creating ARK, a “global real estate acquisition and management platform,” to buy stakes in buildings in which it plans to lease a lot of space, the company announced Wednesday. It will begin with $2.9 billion of total equity capital.

“ARK will focus on acquiring, developing, and managing real estate assets in global gateway cities and high-growth secondary markets that will benefit from WeWork’s occupancy,” according to the release. It will use WeWork’s own technology and relationships to access real estate opportunities and will “immediately stabilise assets by executing a proven pre-packaged business plan and will apply The We Company’s holistic solutions for real estate owners, based on The We Company’s established capabilities in sourcing, building, filling, and operating properties.”

The fund could further complicate questions about WeWork’s allegiances, which were illuminated by a Wall Street Journal report in January that revealed CEO Adam Neumann has profited by leasing buildings he owns to WeWork. Under the new plan, Neumann will actually transfer some of his real estate holdings into the ARK fund, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

While this may provide better optics for the company, since ARK will be run independently from WeWork’s main business, ARK will still be under The We Company’s umbrella, according to Businessweek. A WeWork spokesperson declined to confirm or comment on the transfer of Neumann’s real estate holdings to CNBC.

But ARK also may provide a level of stability for WeWork and its investors, which is a key step as it prepares for a public offering. WeWork, like other recent tech IPOs, is still unprofitable. The company said it had a net loss of $1.9 billion on $1.8 billion in revenue in 2018, and a net loss of $933 million on $886 million in revenue in 2017, according to a presentation shared with CNBC in March. Lyft and Uber, which both recently debuted with losses, have fallen short of expectations in their brief tenures on the public market so far due to concern about their ability to close their margins in the future.

Behind Sandton’s empty offices

By Alistair Anderson for Financial Mail

It’s 4pm on a Thursday, and 10 people are kicking a ball around a football pitch in the business hub of Sandton. It’s not this that is unusual; it’s that they’re doing it on the roof of their building — the R4bn, 87,000m² Discovery head office.

1 Discovery Place is something of a wonder. More than 5,000 people work in the financial services group’s head office. Other than the rooftop football pitch (and running track), its state-of-the-art features include a gym, restaurants, bicycle storage facilities, and a parking system that directs drivers to vacant bays. It’s said to be so expansive that a Boeing 737 could be suspended in the west atrium of the building without touching sides.

But the development of buildings such as this — arguably the most advanced office space in Africa — belies the parlous state of commercial property in Sandton.

The business node is home to many of SA’s large corporates, including FirstRand, Investec, Growthpoint Properties and Sasol, as well as multinational law firms such as Hogan Lovells, Bowmans, ENSafrica and DLA Piper.

 


It’s the most highly valued commercial hub in Africa — an “office city” that attracts commuting professionals. But it’s currently experiencing its worst office vacancy level in more than 20 years.

Will Harris, the CEO of commercial real-estate software and data services provider Gmaven, says 21.8% or 455,837m² of the total rentable 2-million square metres of Sandton office space is standing empty.

That’s about three times the 7%-8% level that analysts consider to be healthy, and almost double the 11% national vacancy estimate of the SA Property Owners Association (Sapoa).

The exact figure for Sandton office space varies, depending on who is collecting the data. Sapoa’s latest office report, released at the end of December, puts it at 18.6%, while global property services group Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) has it at 16.8%.

The variance is a frustration for those in the sector, says Harris, given that “data is the oil that the commercial real estate industry runs on”. In part, it’s a result of how those collecting the data define Sandton and the vacancy factor.

Gmaven is the only one to explain its demarcation of Sandton (see map): the polygon that includes Sandton Central, Parkmore, Morningside, Barlow Park, Simba, Atholl, Wierda Valley, Chislehurston and Sandhurst. By the company’s measure, this 510ha area contains 282 office properties.

In turn, it defines vacancy as office space that is either vacant at present, or will be available in the next three months. (This corresponds with the minimum industry average of three months to finalise a lease agreement.)

Based on these measures, Harris concludes that one-fifth of Sandton office space is standing empty — and that excludes an additional 1,980m² that he says will become available three months from now.

The office market is going through changes as companies are starting to require less space per employee
But while the exact figures vary, there’s general agreement that office vacancies are on the rise.

JLL SA research analyst Omphile Ramokhoase, for example, points to a rise “from a low of 9.9% in 2016 to 16.8% at the close of 2018”.

Experts also agree that the vacancy rate in Sandton outpaces that of comparable commercial nodes. Sapoa, for example, puts the vacancy rate (as a percentage of the area available for leasing) at 11.8% for the Cape Town CBD and 9.5% for Umhlanga Ridge in KwaZulu-Natal.

The problem stems from weak economic growth and a glut of developments, coupled with corporate consolidation and competition from new commercial nodes.

In many ways, the property sector is a barometer for the health of the economy. So, given stagnant growth, it’s hardly surprising that Sandton’s office vacancy level is north of 20%. In fact, the last time vacancy levels were this high was in the late 1990s, when interest rates were around 24.5% and GDP growth was weak (SA’s economy grew at just 0.5% in 1998).

SA’s economic boom in the mid-2000s prompted large property groups such as Growthpoint and Zenprop to plan an assortment of developments in Sandton. By the time the 2008/2009 global financial crisis hit, it was too late for developers to pull the plug — so a large supply came on stream in the late 2000s.

This lag between real estate planning and actual development means the reality of SA’s stagnating economy is evident in rental numbers, if not in the number of new building developments coming on stream. Besides, says Growthpoint CEO Norbert Sasse, many landlords and developers have created buildings in Sandton with a 10-to 20-year view in mind.

According to JLL SA’s analysis, there was 984,000m² of premium-grade (P-grade) office space (rented and vacant) in Sandton by the end of 2018 — up 34% from 2017. And the expansion is not over yet. Ramokhoase puts the office development pipeline for the node at an additional 100,000m².

The result, she says, has been slower aggregate rental growth — though P-grade office space has proved more resilient, with an average vacancy rate of 6.4% in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Corporate consolidation has also had an effect. Discovery, for example, left five buildings vacant when it moved into its single head office early last year.

Similarly, law firm Bowmans and Old Mutual moved into larger single buildings, leaving vacant space behind. And the new companies taking up office space in Sandton have not grown to a size where they can command significant office space.

Then there’s the issue of competition. Experts say Sandton is under pressure from new nodes such as Midrand’s Waterfall City, and smaller nodes such as Rosebank, which have less traffic and cater better for pedestrians.

What it means
The last time vacancy levels were this high was in the late 1990s, when interest rates were at about 24.5% and GDP growth was weak

At the premium level, average rental in Sandton is holding its own at R225/m², according to Gmaven. This is lower than Rosebank’s P-grade average of R238/m², but higher than that of Cape Town’s business nodes, which are at R209/m² for Claremont and R182/m² for the CBD.

But at the lower levels, Sandton’s rentals are mostly down. A-grade office space is an average R145/m², against R181/m² in Rosebank, R148/m² in the Cape Town CBD and R169/m² in Claremont. By the square metre, B-grade office space is an average R123 in Sandton against R134 in Rosebank, R108 in the Cape Town CBD and R140 in Claremont.

Harris says investors and developers are keeping a keen eye on Sandton, because it’s a commercial hub — and that’s unlikely to change in the immediate future.

Some developers are already confident that office vacancies will ease in the next few years, as economic growth picks up again. This explains the number of new residential developments in the pipeline, including high-end development The Leonardo, and Acsiopolis, a 20-storey luxury apartment building in Benmore. Legacy Group, which has developed The Leonardo, says a large number of office workers have bought luxury apartments in the skyscraper.

But until such time as there’s an improvement, Keillen Ndlovu, head of listed property at Stanlib, advises that landlords need to be bolder and more creative with space they cannot fill.

“Unless we see good economic growth, it will take time to let most of the office buildings,” he says. “We believe that some opportunities exist for conversion into residential, self-storage, co-working and flexible office workspace. The office market is going through changes as companies are starting to require less space per employee, and hot-desking and/or ability to work from home will pick up over time.”

One of the buildings Discovery vacated when it consolidated — 155 West Street — is being repositioned to take advantage of this changing world of work. Its owner, Redefine Properties, has let 10,000m² to flexible workspace provider WeWork on a 15-year lease that starts in September.

It’s the second such deal for WeWork, which has also set up office space in Rosebank.

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.

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.

Increasingly offices are beginning to look a lot more like our homes. But what is behind this popular global trend?

Linda Trim, Director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap said: “The term ‘resi-mercial,’ has been coined to describe this blending of residential and commercial furnishings and feel in the workplace. We are seeing greater numbers of requests for our installations to look more casual and more like home.”

Trim noted that it is all about about creating a space that people want to be in. When you think that we spend about a third of our lives working, no one wants to feel like they’re in an office.

“It’s not so much managing work, home and play but the blending of it.”She added that with more people using laptops instead of desktop computers, people are no longer tethered to a desk. “People pick up their laptops and will perhaps sit or lounge on a couch, much like they they do at home.”

More comfortable work space also appeals to younger employees Trim noted. “This is a really important consideration for companies in competition to attract and retain skilled workers.”

A mix of desks and couches is practical too – it makes it easier to do different types of work, from collaborative brainstorming sessions to heads down work.But it’s not just all about adding colourful sofas around the the office. Beyond the traditional desk, there are different sized couches, bar-tall tables let people sit or stand, and even work spaces that resemble a kitchen table or diner are popular.

“The right mix of furnishings can create an environment that increases employee engagement and satisfaction, which are considered key drivers to a company’s success. A space plays a role in the cognitive, physical and emotional well-being of workers. In that world, you have to think more about informal spaces,” says Trim.

Trim adds that home-like offices reduced the sense of hierarchy in offices. “Previously the ‘boss’ would have his own office in the corner while workers sat in rows somewhere else. A more casual environment does away with this old fashioned rigidity and can therefore reduce the tension in the workplace.”

The office you choose for your business has a direct impact on your employees, your clients, and of course your bottom line. But getting this incredibly important decision wrong could mean devastating consequences.

Linda Trim, director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap, says that picking the ideal work environment is a complex, time-consuming process.

“But if you can avoid these six common mistakes, there’s a good chance that your next office will deliver the commercial benefits you’re looking for.”

1. Forgetting about future expansion
All business owners have their sights set on growth. But all too often, they choose their office space based on their current business needs.
Says Trim:” It’s important to think about the future when leasing an office. If you’re signing a medium or long-term deal, your options could be very limited if your business grows but your space is inflexible. You might end up having to lease a second office, which is not usually a cost-effective way to do business, and can undermine team cohesion and culture.”

2. Not thoroughly checking the condition of the office
It’s not enough to simply walk around an office and quickly assess its condition. You need to check everything carefully. And you need to ask a lot of questions.
Will needed repairs be carried out before you move in? Are there sufficient power outlets? Is the office wired for data? Are all areas of the office space heated and air-conditioned?
“Only when you’ve carried out a thorough inspection should you consider signing a lease,” Trim advises.

3. Underestimating the importance of design
Some business owners think that, as long as the space is big enough, any old office will do. But studies actually prove that well designed spaces help increase productivity and creativity.
“If you want to take your employees to be happy, it’s critical that you look for offices that were thoughtfully designed to engage modern workers,” says Trim. Good design for example includes good lighting, ergonomically friendly furniture and tailor made areas for different work functions.

4. Making leasing decisions based on price alone
Every business owner wants the best possible office deal they can find.
But cheaper doesn’t always mean better. “And, in many cases, choosing the least expensive option can end up costing you a lot more over the long run—particularly when you think about the impact a less-than-ideal office can have on employee engagement,” Trim warns.
“When choosing an office, there are many factors to consider: how close the space is to public transportation, the image of the building, the safety of a neighbourhood, the availability of nearby top talent, what amenities like gyms are available, and more. Overlook any of them and you may end up regretting your decision.”

5. Thinking only about desk space
Very few businesses these days keep their employees tied to their desks all day.
Productive teams get opportunities to relax in leisure or communal areas. And group working is usually more effective in breakout areas—away from desks.
Says Trim: “Consider how your business operates and how your employees go about their daily duties. While desk space is important, there are other open areas that your business will probably need for meetings, collaboration, and inspiration. And they will need quiet areas too for focused work.”

6. Not negotiating terms
Landlords and leasing agents often know when someone doesn’t have much experience in business. Some of them tend to quote artificially high prices at first. Others initially withhold special incentives and inducements.
“If you don’t haggle over the price or ask questions about incentives, odds are you won’t be offered the best deal possible. Go into the process with knowledge of the local office rental market and don’t be afraid to push back a bit,” Trim concludes.

How to choose a UPS for your needs

Judging by the state of Eskom, loadshedding is here to stay. So what is the best solution to get you through the average 4-hour load shedding schedule? A generator, or a UPS with long life batteries?

It really all depends on your circumstances.

If your business or home is located in a low noise area, such as office blocks, flats or apartments, then a silent UPS solution is probably the best way to go, even though the initial capital investment may be three or more times that of a generator.

Of course, the new type inverter type generators are more silent, but the cost is more than double that of conventional generators of the same size.

What most people don’t realise is that even though the upfront cost of a generator may seem an attractive proposition, there are associated hidden costs in the form of fuel costs, maintenance costs and spare parts. If the generator is a “cheapie” from China without local support from an official distributor, then beware. You could be forced to dump it after only a few months.

Installation costs of a generator may also be slightly more than that of a UPS, as you would have to install a manual changeover switch, to switch to either generator power or to grid power, depending on the situation.

With most UPS systems, changeover is an automatic process; when Eskom or City Power fails, the system automatically switches to battery power through an inverter.

Yes, it is true that a generator can be fitted with an automatic change over switch, but with costs exceeding R15 000 to R20 000, you may as well go the UPS route.

With a UPS there are no fuel or maintenance costs. Reputable UPS systems have intelligent battery chargers that ensure maximum battery efficiency for long life. Yes, depending on the type of deep cycle battery used (5 or 10 year lifespan), as well as the frequency of re-charges, one would have to plan ahead to replace batteries when they reach end of life. The benefits however will far outweigh the costs.

A pure sinewave UPS offers seamless, clean and stable power during load shedding, enabling you to power sensitive devices such as computers and modems.

To cut down the initial investment of a UPS, consider a system with fewer batteries.
Do you really need 6-8 hours backup, or will 3-4 hours do? Remember that during load shedding you can extend the length of the rated backup by simply connecting the bare minimum equipment.

For example, in a home environment, lights, TV/DSTV and Internet; or in an office environment, lights, the telephone system, computers and Internet. Most of this can be achieved with a 2-3KVA UPS or generator.

Insistence on buying large generators, far exceeding power requirements during a power outage, results in fuel going to waste.

A generator is only a true necessity if the power outages in your area are over 8 hours or longer.
In those cases, the cost of a UPS with backup batteries would become prohibitive – unless of course, it has a solar power option that would deal with daytime power outages.

Choose wisely and never over-capitalise if the main focus is to simply get through the load shedding sessions.

By Henri Pereira for FocalCom

 

Move over co-working: pro-working is here

Think of pro-working as co-working’s mature older sibling – one who is better dressed and much more sophisticated.

Linda Trim, director at FutureSpace, says, “Pro-working is rapidly growing in popularity with professionals and businesses worldwide that want a shared workspace that meets their polished image.”

She adds that pro-working has introduced a new kind of shared work spaced that is more advanced than co-working and which focuses more on services than just the space, much like a five star hotel.

“There is now a clear and growing distinction now between co-working spaces which tend to cater to freelancers, and pro-working offices which offer a more formal, luxurious environment with facilities to match.”

In the past few years, many long-established and professional businesses became conscious of the benefits that sharing a work-space has to offer: reduced cost office space; collaboration; networking; and exchanging skills and knowledge.

“The problem they faced was that many locations on the market just didn’t fit with their identity. They were utilitarian and geared towards freelancers as well as more informal startups and lacked services like the latest technology and formal spaces in which to meet clients.

“They were hip and often grungy and clearly not the best fit for professionals who want their workspace to match their image – and not be distributed by endless games of ping pong,” Trim notes.

But now that companies and consultants operating on a more traditional structure are learning about the benefits of sharing workspace with like-minded businesses, the market is looking to accommodate their needs.
As much as pro-working is a play on co-working, it has evolved from a typical serviced office set up, but with the added element of the best boutique hotel hospitality such as concierge services, personal assistants and access to gyms.

Says Trim: “In addition, the pro-working offering is inspired by the community spirit that co-working has brought to modern office life. Pro-working aims to allow formal businesses to create communities with compatible professionals.

“Co-working made this transition effortless for lone workers and small companies who depended on flexible work options. And now pro-working is doing the same for the professional set.”

Trim also notes that one of the key workplace trends today is to really invest in your people and make sure they are happy and able to produce their best work, which is why the shared market is such a hit the world over.

“Pro-working places are particularly appealing for companies that want to expand because the offices are ‘on-demand’ – there is no need for lengthy procurement processes or FICA (Financial Intelligence Centre Act) requirements,” says Trim. “They also offer extreme flexibility in that the office space is there for as short or long a time as you want it.”

FutureSpace offices in Katherine Street and Rivonia Road in Sandton host many of South Africa’s most successful companies, as well as international start ups that needed to quickly get up and running.

Such is the demand, FutureSpace plans to open several new offices in 2019.

By Nicole Norfleet for Seattle Times

To appeal to more workers, many companies and building owners are re­designing and renovating their offices. Modern kitchens with high-top seating, collaboration areas made for informal meetings and adaptable office furniture with standing desks have all become the new standard for office renovations.

While many of those features are predicted to still be prevalent in 2019, architects and designers say new design trends have emerged, with some clients investing in more privacy for their open offices, heavily branded design that reflects their company ethos, and more adaptable layouts.

Branded environments. Many clients want their workspace to reflect their company, a marketing tool that helps organizations stand out to prospective clients as well as a way to reinforce company culture among employees.

“They are really coming up with unique ways to define themselves,” said Natasha Fonville, brand manager of Minneapolis-based Atmosphere Commercial Interiors. “That beautifully branded experience is really going to keep trending and keep elevating the spaces around us.”

At the new downtown offices of Sleep Number, the company’s emblem is throughout the space on the wall and ceiling with Sleep Number settings on some of the tables.

At Field Nation’s new Minneapolis offices, a network of orange piping that runs electricity to light fixtures was designed as a representation of a technological network.

No receptionists
Some companies have decided to do away with front-desk receptionists, sometimes using technology to direct guests to where they need to go or having a more informal entry area.

Betsy Vohs, founder and chief executive of design firm Studio BV in Minneapolis, said 75 percent of her clients don’t really need a receptionist to answer calls or greet guests. “Having them at the front desk isn’t the best use of their time and energy,” Vohs said.

At the new Hopkins offices her firm has helped to design for Digi International, the company opted to skip the front-desk receptionist and use the space for an entry lounge with a coffee bar and a digital kiosk.

This past summer, Studio BV designed the offices of Field Nation, which also doesn’t use receptionists.

More agile space
Adaptable space has also become more of a priority as many companies have reduced the square footage dedicated to individual employees. With workers more nomadic, many new offices are currently designed to allow for rearrangement of the furniture layout and changes to walls and partitions.

“I think it’s just a sign of our times that workplaces are being so agile and really adapting to how people work best … and that’s always evolving,” Fonville said.

At Atmosphere’s downtown office, the walls are moved about once a year. For example, the company recently noticed that employees weren’t using some of the office enclaves, so leaders decided to take out a few walls to allow for more breathing room and larger meeting areas.

Audio privacy
As offices have become more open, one side effect has been that sound can carry throughout the space, making audio privacy a concern. Many new offices have private call rooms. Companies also have requested other sound-dampening materials such as acoustic foam, felt, drapery and carpet, Vohs said.

The renovated offices of Gardner Builders in Minneapolis, which Studio BV helped design, feature cubbies wrapped in acoustic foam.

The recently renovated RSM Plaza downtown has similar cutouts in its lobby. Some companies go as far as installing white-noise machines throughout their offices.

Move over, millennials
Much has been said about how current offices have been designed with millennial employees in mind, but designers have already begun to shift gears to interpret how the younger Gen Z might use their spaces. After millennials, defined as being born between 1981 and 1996, Gen Z is the newest defined generation. Gen Z is believed to be more realistic, social change-oriented, tech-integrated and interested in on-demand learning, said Rich Bonnin, a design principal at HGA in Minneapolis.

“These aren’t the decision-makers now, but they will be,” he said, at a recent broker event at the St. Paul Curling Club organized by real estate company Newmark Knight Frank.

Gen Z workers are more likely to value face-to-face interactions, shared space, choice-rich environments, security and the natural as well as the digital experience, he said.

Wellness
More architects have begun to incorporate design standards to advance workers’ health and well-being. WELL certification is still a relatively new concept that explores how design can help workers live better through improvements in air, water, light, fitness and other areas.

“It has kind of become the new LEED,” said Derek McCallum, a principal at RSP Architects in Minneapolis, which now has WELL-certified staff.

The 428 office building in St. Paul was WELL gold-certified and has high-level air filtration close to hospital grade, added water filtration, and a prominent and open staircase to promote physical activity.

Engaging employees
Companies are studying and surveying their employees more to make informed design decisions.

For the new headquarters for Prime Therapeutics in Eagan, external consultants studied the company’s previous offices to determine how much square footage per person was being used and the operational costs of the space.

They interviewed employees and observed to how they worked. Data showed that desks were sitting empty about 60 percent of the week, with people opting for shared spaces, said Kim Gibson, the company’s senior director for real estate workplace.

“We really wanted to understand how people were working and the things that they desired to help make them more productive,” Gibson said. The data helped Prime Therapeutics and architecture firm HGA create different spaces to accommodate workers, such as one-on-one spaces and private “oasis rooms.”

Amenities, amenities, amenities
The amenities race continues for many multi-tenant offices, with landlords investing heavily in community space and building perks such as modern gyms and lounges with high-end furniture. Many downtown Minneapolis office buildings have undergone recent rehabs of their amenity spaces, including RSM Plaza and the AT&T Tower.

Piedmont Office Realty Trust, the owner of U.S. Bancorp Center, plans to spend about $7.5 million to create a tenant-amenity space on the top floor of the tower. The building is more than 98 percent leased, but the company wanted to continue to improve the building, said Thomas Prescott, executive vice president of the Midwest region of Piedmont.

“It’s the right thing to do, enhancing our asset,” he said. “We’re excited. We’re making a significant investment in a building that’s mostly leased.”

A large stairway will lead up to the space that will feature a full fitness facility, tenant lounge, conference area and a game room with a golf simulator.

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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