Tag: office

Is your office too loud for introverts?

It is estimated that between a third and a half of the population are introverts, but workplaces seem to increasingly favour noisy extroverts, often to the detriment of those who prefer to work in quieter environments.

Linda Trim, director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap, says that with the rise of the open plan office and the culture of speaking often and loudly as a way to gain career advancement, many offices risk sidelining up to half their workforces.

“Our goal as designers is to create places in the workplace that allows everyone to work more effectively, not just those with the most to say.”

It is important for offices to embrace flexibility for introverts.

“It is imperative to remember not all introverts are the same. Some prefer visual privacy to focus and recharge, therefore a booth or screen can provide the needed barrier for added comfort.

“On the other hand, our experience shows that introverts and extroverts alike require audible privacy to focus, yet some prefer not to be isolated. This has led to the popular concept of library-like settings, where employees can easily plug-in and work silently in a shared environment.”

She adds that some introverts thrive in an isolated environment. “A small focus room that is set up with multiple screens, a comfortable work surface, whiteboard and natural light will allow those people to quickly focus.”

She adds that offices always faced the challenge of workstation distractions. “People still often prefer to work at their desk, especially those who have items they frequently use stored there. This can be especially challenging for introverts, because of distractions like colleagues on their phones or a group collaborating nearby,“ Trim notes.

The solution is to work with targeted individuals to create flexible workstations that offer the appropriate amount of storage, visual privacy and posture customisation.

“These factors are easily modifiable allow people to curate an environment that meets their needs and maximise individual productivity. We are also mindful of the importance of giving employees enough space between workstations,” says Trim.

But even when offices are well designed to cater for introverts working solo, there are still many instances they have to collaborate with colleagues and this creates a further challenge for the office.

“A solution is to hold meetings in a quiet room with seats organised in a myriad of forms within the room. This design creates a more inviting atmosphere and allows for more options, unlike the typical individual focus room. Therefore, the introverted users feel included as part of a group rather than excluded, isolated or on display.”

Because introverted leaders tend to carefully listen to their colleagues, they are often more successful in one-on-one meetings in areas without distractions.

“We recommend having two configurations of space. The first should include seating at a height that makes note taking or reviewing work easy, the second should include lounge height furniture for more conversational meetings.”

Trim added that research also indicates introverts are more successful when they host industry or client events in their own space, as attendees will seek them out as the key person to engage with.

“Designing a space that can easily accommodate events could be an area that has a variety of uses as well,” she concludes.

By Michael Holder for BusinessGreen

Upcyclers turn old desks, chairs, and carpets into new office furniture, saving money and delivering environmental benefits.

Making sure products and materials can be used again – rather than going to waste – is good for for both businesses and the environment. That is the premise that underpins the concept of the “circular economy”, an emerging sector the government estimates could deliver £23-billionn a year of benefits to UK businesses if resources were used more efficiently.

For example, one third of our office furniture – 300 tonnes per day – ends up in landfill.

Firms such as Rype Office create sustainable furniture from items that would otherwise get thrown away and is employing ‘upcyclers’ across its growing business to help turn the circular economy vision into a reality.

Cities all around the world are becoming job creating entrepreneurial hubs in their own right thanks to a rise in digital connectedness and spaces for like minded people to work in stimulating environments.

Linda Trim, director at FutureSpace, says: “If cities want a chance at economic development they first need to focus on attracting and keeping good people. We need to figure out ways to make people happier, safer, healthier, more productive and able to function better as human beings. This is why cities need shared workspaces and coworking now more than ever.”

Shared workspaces are hubs of innovation
In a rapidly moving world, there is huge demand for innovation from disruptive ideas to build businesses, create jobs and attract talent. Innovation also tends to inspire further innovation as is evident in places like Silicon Valley.

“This virtuous cycle comes from the ability to look at a problem in a new way. And for this, nothing is better than the diversity of perspectives you get in a coworking space. Some of the most disruptive concepts and applications come from people outside the industry. For example Netflix, hosted a $1m Innovation Contest to improve their movie recommendation algorithm.

A team comprised of researchers from the United States, Austria, Canada, and Israel took home the $1 Million prize for their matching algorithm that improved recommendations by 10%.

“That’s why it’s so important to have spaces where people of different backgrounds can interact.”

But it’s not just entrepreneurs and small businesses who benefit. Large corporations are setting up satellite offices in coworking spaces too. They want to immerse their employees in a more progressive culture, where they can share ideas with people outside the company and industry. These new ideas may kick off a cycle of innovation within the corporation.

“Corporations also look to hire and develop new talent within shared workspaces. They might even seek to acquire an entire startup if it makes sense. By setting up in coworking spaces, corporations give themselves access to ideas and talent they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Shared Workspaces as an Economic Development Tool
Shared workspaces have a direct and indirect impact on the 3 key economic development stakeholders: entrepreneurs, corporations and the cities themselves.

“Entrepreneurs need a supportive ecosystem to thrive. An entrepreneur can often find these things in a coworking space and through the connections they make there. Shared workspaces therefore are an incubator for new businesses,” says Trim.

New businesses create jobs and are economic engines for cities. Corporations grow by acquiring those new businesses, or partnering up with them to create breakthrough innovations. This collaboration creates more density, vibrancy and resources that help the cities thrive.

Trim adds the trend for mobile working was also driving the demand for coworking places as fewer companies around the world want people to come in to an office each day.

“These rapid changes carry serious consequences for cities as well as workers. Namely, how do we help workers feel connected when they can work from anywhere in the world? Cities that want to compete for talent need more coworking space.”

By Maria Dermentzi for Mashable

Plastic Whale is a professional plastic fishing company that offers boat trips during which tourists — while sightseeing — will pick up plastic from Amsterdam’s canals. The plastic bottles that are being collected get turned into office furniture, in collaboration with Vepa.

The ideal office has seven distinct zones

Despite sleek computers standing on desks, offices are a place where time seems to have stood still. Many are fundamentally the same as they were a century ago.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says things like desks, chairs, filing cabinets, telephones are still the building blocks of most offices. But now “must have” design concepts are emerging, illustrating what good offices should look like.

“We spend six to 10 hours a day at work so increasingly there is more thought being put into how we work. It’s now widely accepted that the atmosphere and architecture of our workspaces influences our productivity.”

The ideal office consists of seven different zones, each providing for one aspect of our working environment.

Home base or quiet area
The home base, or quiet area, is closest to the classic “chair and desk” concept, just without the background noise. “This is a place where you can fully concentrate on your work, write that important email, develop concepts and ideas, take planning for that crucial process one step further. When you sit here, you can be sure that you won’t be interrupted,” says Trim.

Open plan
Focused on supporting communication, the open plan area is a cousin of the home base area. Sitting down here says, “Yes, I’m working, but feel free to talk to me.” With an open and inviting design, this area is ideal for productive teamwork for groups of two or three. If more team members are involved, a meeting room featuring a long, central table provides the best solution.

Break out
“An open break-out area is invaluable for every office,” Trim notes. It’s the perfect place for some informal chat and informal work with a coffee or a snack. This area is also ideal for colleagues who don’t come in to the office often and just want to catch up on their emails or prepare for a meeting.

Confidential talk
The best place for a confidential phone call or an important one-on-one meeting is the so-called “refuge” area. These places are often equipped with mobile and flexible furniture, a white board that’s integrated into the wall and a computer screen.

They can also be enclosed by glass walls that give the impression of a generously proportioned telephone cubicle, emphasising the intimate and confidential character of this area.

“It’s the place to go for important business meetings or a discrete conversation with your bank manager about your overdraft.”

Meeting room: conferencing, workshops and training sessions
Despite the trend of people working in different ways in different spaces, there is still a need for the good olde, traditional meeting room. “When decisions need to be made, presentations attended and training carried out, a dedicated meeting room is a must have,” says Trim.

Space to stretch legs
It’s well known how sitting all day is hard on the body and mind. “If budget allows, it’s very healthy to have some space in the office that is just that, space. It’s not serving any other purpose other than an area to give people somewhere to simply move around in.”
In the office world, where tasks tend to be static, there’s nothing better than a bit of movement now and again to stretch one’s legs.

But what if your office space is too small? “Try walking down the corridors or up and down the stairs a few times,” Trim advises.

Resource room for equipment, stores
There are few things as testing in an office as being stuck near a photocopier or the stationery cupboard.
“Businesses often the make the mistake of storing equipment and supplies in break rooms or confidential chat rooms which is naturally very disruptive to staff trying to use them. It seems obvious, but make a room for stuff and only stuff,Trim concludes.

By Sarah Wells for TechCrunch

If you’re endlessly distracted by your co-workers in the gaping open office space you all share, you’re not alone. Compared to traditional office spaces, face-to-face interaction in open office spaces is down 70 percent with resulting slips in productivity, according to Harvard researchers in a new study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B this month.

In the study, researchers followed two anonymous Fortune 500 companies during their transitions between a traditional office space to an open plan environment and used a sensor called a “sociometric badge” (think company ID on a lanyard) to record detailed information about the kind of interactions employees had in both spaces. The study collected information in two stages; first for several weeks before the renovation and the second for several weeks after.

While the concept behind open office spaces is to drive informal interaction and collaboration among employees, the study found that for both groups of employees monitored (52 for one company and 100 for the other company) face-to-face interactions dropped, the number of emails sent increased between 20 and 50 percent and company executives reported a qualitative drop in productivity.

“[Organisations] transform their office architectures into open spaces with the intention of creating more [face-to-face] interaction and thus a more vibrant work environment,” the study’s authors, Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban, wrote.

“[But] what they often get—as captured by a steady stream of news articles professing the death of the open office is an open expanse of proximal employees choosing to isolate themselves as best they can (e.g. by wearing large headphones) while appearing to be as busy as possible (since everyone can see them).”

While this study is far from the first to point fingers at open office space designs, the researchers claim this is the first study of its kind to collect qualitative data on this shift in working environment instead of relying primarily on employee surveys.

From their results, the researchers provide three cautionary tales:

  • Open office spaces don’t actually promote interaction. Instead, they cause employees to seek privacy wherever they can find it.
  • These open spaces might spell bad news for collective company intelligence or, in other words, an overstimulating office space creates a decrease in organizational productivity.
  • Not all channels of interaction will be effected equally in an open layout change. While the number of emails sent in the study did increase, the study found that the richness of this interaction was not equal to that lost in face-to-face interactions.

Seems like it might be time to (first, find a quiet room) and go back to the drawing board with the open office design.

Source: The Citizen 

R1 666 to rent an office chair for a month may seem a bit steep, but that’s exactly what the bankrupt state insurer is charging.

Are you sitting down for this?

The Road Accident Fund has pushed through a contract for the rental of 300 office chairs for almost half a million rand a month, in what amounts to R1 666 per chair, the Sunday Times has reported.

Another furniture contract with the same company, Gxakwes Projects, for R60-million, did not go ahead. Both contracts did not have a tendering process.

The fund is technically insolvent, with contingent liabilities totalling almost R190 billion, hence its attempts to make money by renting out office furniture.

The RAF takes R1.93 of every litre of South African petrol sold.

This has not helped them avoid a R34.7-million loss last year.

While the fund admits that renting furniture was “not the best option”, they say they need to do so “to settle claims immediately, resulting in a creditors book of about R8 billion.”

Transport Minister Blade Nzimande dissolved the fund’s board this week, declaring it dysfunctional and affected by “serious divisions”.

Gxakwes Projects, the company involved in the furniture contracts, has been red flagged by the National Treasury after a similar deal was entered into with Eskom, who wanted R24 million for the purchase of 9 217 chairs.

An inspection by the Treasury found that only 500 chairs were needed.

The attempt to secure a five year, R60-million contract without a tender was thwarted by some board members concerned that the “process is fraught with legal concerns.”

Reports of the goings on at the struggling state insurer are a bit like a car crash. As horrific as it is, you can’t look away.

Ideas are the new currency of modern economies and it is no more evident than in recent billion dollar idea success stories like Airbnb and Uber which are now disrupting established industries.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “Increasingly companies are putting emphasis on new ideas to grow their business and stand apart from the competition.

“We live in an ideas age and business are recognising that fact and today’s offices must support the ‘cult’ of new ideas. And in comfort of course.”

These are the biggest office trends expected in South Africa in 2018:

Idea-centric offices

“Because ideas are so important to the new economy in 2018 so we expect to see more idea centric offices that enable creative thinking. Many people think creativity is just for creatives but it should facilitated and encouraged in all aspects the working life because it helps all areas of business,” Andrews noted.

“There is a misconception that creativity is a ‘light bulb’ moment but it’s not. Creativity is really a haphazard, tricky problem solving process that should allow people to work in groups but also alone. Offices should therefore create spaces where people can work in a creativity supporting way.

This year Andrews expects an even greater shift away from traditional ‘battery farm’ corporate workplaces to places that are more like creative studios – that means different kinds of workplaces that offer uninterrupted individual focus, developing ideas in a pair, generating solutions as a group, converging around ideas and allowing time for diffused thinking.

“These different options allow the mind to wander.”

Unconventional work area design

An extension of idea-centric offices is the unconventional work area design.

“These are not just for hipsters working at Google anymore. Unconventional work offices now offer meditation spaces, dressed-down conference rooms complete with sofas, bean bag chairs, vibrant colours, and lots of room for fun, stress busting activities like ping pong or foosball.”

Offices all over the world are adopting these new and unorthodox working and meeting spaces to attract young talent and make working spaces more fun and collaborative.

Home-style comforts

“We are receiving a growing number of requests to make South African offices more  relaxed and people friendly so people don’t feel they are sitting in a such a severe place,” Andrews adds.

Demand for homestyle comfort design is a sign that employers are listening to the desires of their employees and figuring out new, fun ways to get them to stay at work longer. This design trend is all about making offices feel more comfortable or homelike.

Dynamic spaces

Dynamic spaces is another big trend. They are typically defined by lightweight and moveable furniture with wheels, doors to open extra space, moveable green wall dividers and wipe boards or chalk boards. They are moveable, constantly fluctuating, engaging, and can transform from a space for company parties and activities to traditional conference rooms or meeting areas.

Said Andrews: “Dynamic spaces offer the opportunity for businesses to be a lot more creative with their space. Businesses are constantly changing and becoming more flexible, allowing colleagues and staff to try new things in innovative ways.”

Greenery & nature

More a long-standing design principle than a trend, this is not just about adding a few plants here and there around the office.

“This goes much further by integrating nature through the building in the form of textures, patterns, plants and natural lighting. Being close to nature and living plants instills a greater sense of calm in offices. While not new, we are seeing a strong increase in demand for green in the workplace,” Andrews concludes.

Increasingly companies are seeing the workplace as a strategic tool for productivity and collaboration by introducing workplace innovations that make offices much more appealing places to work.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, said: “What makes an office environment great is different for every company. But these are six innovations we are seeing in offices around the world and increasingly in South Africa.”

Overlap zones
“A way to encourage spontaneous collaboration among employees is designing space to allow for “overlap zones,” which make it more likely employees will run into each other,” says Andrews.
Research from the University of Michigan showed that when scientists worked in a space where they ran into one another they were more likely to collaborate. The data suggests that creating opportunities for unplanned interactions among employees both inside and outside the organisation actually improves performance.

Samsung built an office that includes large outdoor areas sandwiched between floors that encourages employees to hang out and mingle in shared spaces. Online clothing store Zappos purposefully planned to build a smaller office for their U.S. headquarters to increase the number of probable interactions per hour per acre.

Configurable desks
Said Andrews: “We are seeing greater demand for desks there fit together like puzzle pieces. They can be moved, reworked and reattached as employees see fit. It matches their immediate needs such as working solo for a collaborative project.”

Music rooms
“One way to boost employee productivity at the office is to foster a positive company culture,” Andrews notes.

It’s not prevalent in South Africa yet but overseas music rooms are proving popular, as long they are soundproofed! At LinkedIn’s headquarters in Mountain View, California employees can play in a room that’s stocked with high-end music equipment like drums, guitars, keyboards, AV equipment, microphone stands, and even stage lighting.

The program improves the company’s marketability to potential employees, especially musicians, both as a specific perk and means to demonstrate the company is not like all the others.

A monitor revolution
We could be entering a new age for office monitors in 2018. “The past year has seen many offices upgrade their screens to 32-inch or even bigger screens and the latest models feature almost border-less edges or even a curved display.”
Besides the significant productivity advantages, companies are also beginning to deeply consider how their technology impacts on the look and feel of the workplace.
Monitors and other technology have become more prominent, as more workplaces opt for sit-stand desks, the back of the screen and the cables are more visible. These latest screens create a sleeker, modern look across the workplace, in turn, organisations are also choosing support tools with aesthetic appeal and that hide cables.

A superdesk
Designing an office space around the “open office” concept is one thing. But what about creating a shared desk for your company’s entire staff?
To represent their collaborative approach to work, marketing company the Barbarian Group built a 400 square meter desk that weaves through their office headquarters in New York City, which can sit up to 170 people at once.

“Of course this might note be practical for employees who want to work in a quieter spaces but it does create a fun sense of oneness,” says Andrews.

Plants and greenery
It isn’t too hard to believe that spending time around nature and sunlight and fragrant greenery is good for you. But now, there’s scientific research to back that claim. A 2014 study in Journal of Experimental Psychology by Nieuwenhuis et al showed that adding plants and greenery in an office can help increase employee productivity by 15%.

“Office landscaping helps the workplace become a more enjoyable, comfortable and profitable place to be,” Andrews adds.

For example, Google’s office in Tel Aviv, Israel has an indoor orange grove that turns an otherwise normal, collaborative space into a relaxing area that makes you feel like you’re sitting outside on a park bench.

Great offices are not merely well decorated and thoughtfully designed, but also have a profound effect on workers’ productivity and their sense of well-being.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office says, “It’s one of the main reasons why there’s a trend the world over for companies to make over their boring and old furniture by including stylish, pleasing chairs, couches and desks which is transforming utilitarian, drab spaces.”

Here’s how great office space can enhance productivity in the work place:

Boring furniture will make you lazy – and bored
Being surrounded with boring furniture, individuals oftentimes lose interest in work and lead to a drop in productivity “Even if we don’t think dull workplaces impact productivity they do by creating a subconscious listlessness that is associate with dreary surroundings,” Andrews says.

Vibrant colours bring enthusiasm
Lots of offices are choosing furniture and fittings in bright colours. “Bright colours assist in lifting a person’s mood. It’s a good way to alleviate stress, as well as increase productivity,” says Andrews.

Standing desks making your healthier
Several studies have discovered a link between the amount of time an individual spends sitting and her or his odds of developing diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

For example, one 2010 Australian study, discovered that for every additional hour participants spent sitting on a daily basis, their overall threat of dying within the study period (7 years) increased by 11%.

Says Andrews: ”A 2012 study discovered that if the average person in America decreased her or his sitting time to 3 hours a day, life expectancy would increase by 2 years.”

Keep it clean, and orderly
“Cleanliness and order are very important factors for an office that feels good to work in,” noted Andrews. “ A disorganised office deprives workers of the enthusiasm and send a message than sloppiness is OK.”

A clean and orderly office, helps to keep workers comfortable and productive.

Fixed spaces for handy items
A good idea is to always keep things in their place, as well as keeping them handy.

“Often workers put off their work because they need to get up and go to an additional place for finishing the task or wonder around trying to find something like a stapler. Keeping items handy won’t just speed work up, but it also makes you more productive,” says Andrews.

Where possible let the daylight in
“We all know the uncomfortable feeling of being stuck in a windowless room under fluorescent lights during daylight hours,” says Andrews. “Lack of natural light has profoundly negative effect on people’s health and therefor productivity.”

In a study entitled Impact of Workplace Daylight Exposure on Sleep, Physical Activity, and Quality of Life researchers at the Neuroscience program at Northwestern University in Chicago, reported that the detrimental impact of working in a windowless environment is a universal phenomenon.

It concluded that there is a strong relationship between workplace daylight exposure and office workers’ sleep, activity and quality of life.

“Employees who did not have windows reported reduced scores than their counterparts upon life quality measures associated with vitality and physical problems. Also, they had poorer outcomes within measures of overall sleep efficiency, sleep quality, daytime dysfunction, as well as sleep disturbances,” Andrews added.

Furniture installed by Inspiration Office is created in South Africa by AngelShack. It is German designed but locally produced to international standards. All furniture is VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds such as adhesives and dyes) free, made from sustainable material and coated with anti-microbial finishing.

AngelShack is one of the first companies in the world to apply this anti-germ technology.

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