Tag: workplace

Top tips for workplace happiness

Many people think that if only they worked for a cooler company, had a different job or made more money they would then be happy at work.

But Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says that we should look to ourselves first for work happiness.

“The fundamental responsibility for being happy at work rests with the individual. You can be happier at work by following some simple ideas.”

These are her top tips:

1. Choose to be happy at work

Happiness is mostly a choice according to just about every expert. So you can choose to be happy at work. It sounds simple, but it’s often difficult to put into action.

“Think positively about your work. Dwell on the aspects that you enjoy. Find coworkers you like and spend your time with them. Your choices at work largely define your experience,” said Trim.

2. Only make commitments you can keep

One of the biggest causes of work stress and unhappiness is failing to keep commitments. Many employees spend more time making excuses for unkept commitments and worrying about the consequences than they do performing the tasks promised.

Create a system of organisation and planning that enables you to assess your ability to complete a requested commitment. “Don’t volunteer if you don’t have time. If your workload exceeds your available time and energy, make a comprehensive plan to ask for help and resources,” Trim advised.

3. Take charge of your personal & professional development

Said Trim:”You are the person with the most to gain from continuing to develop professionally so take charge of your own growth.” Ask for specific and meaningful help from your boss, but stick to your plans and goals.

4. Make sure you know what is happening at work

People often complain that they don’t receive enough information about what’s happening with their company, projects or coworkers. They wait for their boss to fill them up with knowledge. But the knowledge rarely comes. Why? “Because the boss is busy doing their job and doesn’t know what you don’t know. Seek out the information you need to work effectively. Develop an information network and use it,” Trim advised.

5. Ask for feedback often

Many people complain that their boss never gives me any feedback, so they never know how they are doing. “The truth is, “ said Trim, “you probably know exactly how you’re doing especially if you feel positive about your performance.” If you’re not positive about your work, think about improving and making a greater effort.
And then ask for feedback and and an assessment of your work.

6. Don’t be a neg-head

Choosing to be happy at work means avoiding negative conversations, gossip, and unhappy people as much as possible. No matter how positive you feel, negative people have a profound impact on your psyche. Don’t let the neg-heads bring you down.

7. Make friends

“One the best ways to be much happier at work is to have a best friend at work, “ said Trim. Enjoying your coworkers are good predictors of a positive and happy work experience. Take time to get to know them.

8. If all fails, searching for a new job will make you happy

If none of these ideas makes you happy at work, it’s time to re-evaluate your your job.
Most work environments don’t change all that much. But unhappy employees tend to grow even more disgruntled. “You can secretly smile while you spend all of your non-work time searching for a job, “ Trim concludes.

The future of work in a digital world

By Cathy Smith, MD at SAP Africa

The digital age, and the new technologies it’s brought with it – blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, augmented reality and virtual reality – is seen by many as a threat to our way of life as we know it. What if my job gets automated? How will I stay relevant? How do we adapt to the need for new skills to manage customer expectations and the flood of data that’s washing over us?

The bad news is that the nature of work has already changed irrevocably. Everything that can be automated, will be. We already live in an age of “robot restaurants”, where you order on a touch screen, and machines cook and serve your food. Did you notice the difference? AmazonGo is providing shopping without checkout lines. In the US alone, there are an estimated 3.4 million drivers that could be replaced by self-driving vehicles in 10 years, including truck drivers, taxi drivers and bus drivers.

We’re not immune from this phenomenon in Africa. In fact, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that 41% of all work activities in South Africa are susceptible to automation, compared to 44% in Ethiopia, 46% in Nigeria and 52% in Kenya. This doesn’t mean millions of jobs on the continent will be automated overnight, but it’s a clear indicator of the future direction we’re taking.

The good news is that we don’t need to panic. What’s important for us in South Africa, and the continent, is to realise that there is plenty of work that only humans can do. This is particularly relevant to the African context, as the working-age population rises to 600 million in 2030 from 370 million in 2010. We have a groundswell of young people who need jobs – and the digital age has the ability to provide them, if we start working now.

Make no mistake, there’s no doubt that this so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is going to disrupt many occupations. This is perfectly natural: every Industrial Revolution has made some jobs redundant. At the same time, these Revolutions have created vast new opportunities that have taken us forward exponentially.

Between 2012 and 2017, for example, it’s estimated that the demand for data analysts globally grew by 372%, and the demand for data visualisation skills by more than 2000%. As businesses, this means we have to not only create new jobs in areas like data science and analytics, but reskill our existing workforces to deal with the digital revolution and its new demands.

So, while bus drivers and data clerks are looking over their shoulders nervously right now, we’re seeing a vast range of new jobs being created in fields such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), data analysis, computer science and engineering.

This is a challenge for Sub-Saharan Africa, where our levels of STEM education are still not where they should be. That doesn’t mean there are no opportunities to be had. In the region, for example, we have a real opportunity to create a new generation of home-grown African digital creators, designers and makers, not just “digital deliverers”. People who understand African nuances and stories, and who not only speak local languages, but are fluent in digital.

This ability to bridge the digital and physical worlds, as it were, will be the new gold for Africa. We need more business operations data analysts, who combine deep knowledge of their industry with the latest analytical tools to adapt business strategies. There will also be more demand for user interface experts, who can facilitate seamless human-machine interaction.

Of course, in the longer term, we in Africa are going to have to make some fundamental decisions about how we educate people if we’re going to be a part of this brave new world. Governments, big business and civil society will all have roles to play in creating more future-ready education systems, including expanded access to early-childhood education, more skilled teachers, investments in digital fluency and ICT literacy skills, and providing robust technical and vocational education and training (TVET). This will take significant intent not only from a policy point of view, but also the financial means to fund this.

None of this will happen overnight. So what can we, as individuals and businesspeople, do in the meantime? A good start would be to realise that the old models of learning and work are broken. Jenny Dearborn, SAP’s Global Head of Learning, talks about how the old approach to learning and work was generally a three-stage life that consisted largely of learn-work-retire.

Today, we live in what Ms Dearborn calls the multi-stage life, which includes numerous phases of learn-work-change-learn-work. And where before, the learning was often by rote, because information was finite, learning now is all about critical thinking, complex problem-solving, creativity and innovation and even the ability to un-learn what you have learned before.

Helping instill this culture of lifelong learning, including the provision of adult training and upskilling infrastructure, is something that all companies can do, starting now. The research is clear: even if jobs are stable or growing, they are going through major changes to their skills profile. WEF’s Future of Jobs analysis found that, in South Africa alone, 39% of core skills required across all occupations will be different by 2020 compared to what was needed to perform those roles in 2015.

This is a huge wake-up call to companies to invest meaningfully in on-the-job training to keep their people – and themselves – relevant in this new digital age. There’s no doubt that more learning will need to take place in the workplace, and greater private sector involvement is needed. As employers, we have to start working closely with should therefore offer schools, universities and even non-formal education to provide learning opportunities to our workers.

We can also drive a far stronger focus on the so-called “soft skills”, which is often used as a slightly dismissive term in the workplace. The core skills needed in today’s workplace are active listening, speaking, and critical thinking. A quick look at the WEF’s “21st Century Skills Required For The Future Of Work” chart bears this out: as much as we need literacy, numeracy and IT skills to make sense of the modern world of work, we also need innately human skills like communication and collaboration. The good news is that not only can these be taught – but they can be taught within the work environment.

It sounds almost counter-intuitive, but to be successful in the Digital Age, businesses are going to have to go back to what has always made them strong: their people. Everyone can buy AI, build data warehouses, and automate every process in sight. The companies that will stand out will be those that that focus on the things that can’t be duplicated by AI or machine learning – uniquely human skills.

I have no doubt that the future will not be humans OR robots: it will be humans AND robots, working side by side. For us, as business people and children of the African continent, we’re on the brink of a major opportunity. We just have to grasp it.

Successful companies the world over are making the necessary shift of recognising the value of the workplace as a business tool to help hire and keep the best talent.

Linda Trim, director at workplace specialists Giant Leap, says that for South African companies, the overarching imperative must be to see workplace strategy as a business opportunity rather than a just a design challenge and a cost containment exercise.

With 80% of the average company’s costs tied to its talent, which is increasingly globally mobile, here are the top 5 workplace changes South African companies will need to adopt in the next 2 years to keep pace with international trends:

1. Build the ‘Internet of Workplace’
In larger companies, “Internet of Things” (IoT) integration has so far primarily been at the building level, using real-time dashboards to track workplace occupancy, building water consumption, elevator usage, temperatures and more.
“However, threads of the next stage of this are starting to emerge, “ Trim notes.

“Companies are starting to embrace everything from smartphone apps that control the window shades, to tablets in meeting rooms that enable employees to order a coffee through a virtual concierge or to adjust the temperature.”
Companies that build a workplace linked by internet connectivity – an “Internet of Workplace” – will leverage devices, furniture and environments that interact digitally to drive productivity.
For example, Dutch bank ABN Amro is using occupancy data to help employees find available workspaces, and analysing traffic patterns around lunchtime to manage lift rush hours.

2. Ingrain the co-working mentality in real estate strategy
By 2020, there will be 26 000 co-working locations worldwide. By comparison, there are 24 000 Starbucks globally. Initially, co-working was simply a term for the use of a shared workspace that businesses – many of them individual entrepreneurs or small startups.

“Today, top class co-working spaces like FutureSpace in Sandton, are used by a wide variety of businesses, including multinational companies,“ says Trim.
In the future, companies will also need to think more about accessing office space rather than owning or leasing it. This paradigm shift will require an evaluation of “core” and “ flexible” space needs so that businesses can execute a real estate strategy that minimises cost and maximises opportunities.

3. Make employee experience a core part of business strategy
While most business leaders already have an understanding of the importance of employee engagement, three-quarters of those surveyed in a Harvard Business Review study said that most of their employees are not highly engaged.

Says Trim: “Engagement and productivity can have a direct impact on the bottom line. One of the best ways that companies can ensure that their employees are engaged is to dedicate someone entirely to the employee experience. By creating a position of a chief experience officer, you can focus attention and resources to reduce work-day friction and create positive experiences for employees.”

4. Create a workplace that makes people healthier
Low productivity due to poor health damages companies profitability. In the U.S. for example, overweight workers and those with chronic health conditions account for more $153 billion in lost productivity annually.
“To combat these trends, wellness is and will remain one of the hottest topics in workplace design, “ said Trim.
“Employees will soon expect to be healthier when they leave the office than when they arrived. This will be thanks to access to high-quality air, natural light, water and healthy food choices, plus wellness programs with opportunities for exercise, health care services and social engagement.”

Technology can also play a role. Some European companies encourage employees to wear Fitbits and answer daily questions to assess exercise levels, stress levels, productivity and overall well-being. Employees then translate data-driven insights into decisions around how, where and when to work.
“By 2020, we expect that the importance of benchmarking built- environment performance to wellness standards will increase dramatically,” Trim adds.

5. Enable an agile organisation
Most organisations have dedicated teams with certain expertise that work on specific products or services for clients.
“Due to changing client demands, a quickly shifting environment and evolving technologies, organisations are starting to rethink these structures by prioritising collaboration between teams, breaking down silos.
The “agile organisation” is a term that’s getting a lot of attention right now,” said Trim.
To boost collaboration between people with different areas of expertise and backgrounds, agile organisations must be able to bring people physically together to work. Collaborations are key, which means that more people will come to the office and average occupancy rates will increase. Additionally, formal planned meetings are replaced by short, effective “meeting moments” and continuous informal collaboration within teams.
According to a study from McKinsey & Company, businesses that are deploying agile development at scale have accelerated their innovation by up to 80 percent.
“The year 2020 isn’t that far away. It is critical for South African companies to make space and location decisions that create engaging and productive experiences for employees,” Trim concludes.

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

After the landmark sexual harassment case involving Real Security was reported in 2003 I warned employers of the dire consequences if they do not take decisive preventive action. The automatically unfair dismissal claim was based on the fact that the employee was forced to resign because her employer allowed her to be discriminated against by the supervisor who sexually harassed her.

The Court cited section 60 of the EEA that says:

(1) “If it is alleged that an employee, while at work, contravened a provision of this Act, or engaged in any conduct that, if engaged in by the employee’s employer, would constitute a contravention of this Act, the alleged conduct must immediately be brought to the attention of the employer.

(2) The employer must consult all the relevant parties and must take all the necessary steps to eliminate the alleged conduct and comply with the provisions of this Act.

(3) If the employer fails to take the necessary steps and it is prove that the employee has contravened the relevant provisions, the employer must be deemed also to have contravened that provision.”

The Court awarded the employee compensation for unfair dismissal, unfair discrimination, medical expenses, pain, suffering and impairment of her dignity. In total she was awarded R82000,00 which equated to 41 months’ pay which is almost three and a half years’ pay.

Despite the warning that the outcome of this case sounded, employers are still not implementing measures to prevent sexual harassment and are obviously still losing cases in the Labour Court.

For example, in the recently decided case of Christian vs Colliers Properties (2005, 5 BLLR 479) Ms Christian was appointed as a typist by the employer. Two days after starting work the owner of the business asked her if she had a boyfriend and invited her to dinner. He also invited her to sit on his lap and kissed her on the neck. When she later objected to the owner’s conduct he asked her whether she was “in or out”. When she said that she was “not in” he asked her why he should allow her employment to continue. She was dismissed with two days pay and referred a sexual harassment dispute.

In a default judgement the Court decided that:

• The employee had been dismissed for refusing the owner’s advances

• This constituted an automatically unfair dismissal based on sexual discrimination

• Newly appointed employees are as deserving of protection from sexual harassment as are their longer serving colleagues

The employer had to pay the employee:

• 24 months’ remuneration in compensation

• Additional damages

• Interest on the amounts to be paid

• The employee’s legal costs

13 years after this case decision employers are still getting into trouble because they fail to utilise the best available labour law expertise to:

• Inculcate acceptance that a business can be ruined financially by allowing sexual harassment to occur

• Design a comprehensive sexual harassment policy

• Ensure that every owner, manager and employee understands the severe consequences of committing such acts

• Communicate to all concerned that such misconduct will result in severe penalties including possible dismissal

• Ensure that all employees feel entirely free to report sexual harassment.

• Train all employees in the abovelisted issues as well as in what constitutes sexual harassment, how to deal with it, where to report it and the company’s supportive policy towards sexual harassment victims

By lvan lsraelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting

As we enter a new year, it is prudent to pause and consider the many challenges and opportunities we are likely to face in the year ahead. Matters of innovation, digital transformation, technological advancement and business success often take center stage, but for me there is one aspect of our business which I believe will be instrumental to our success on the African continent: that of diversity.

A vibrant and dynamic continent
According to UNESCO estimates, Africa is home to as many as 3 000 ethnic groups speaking more than 2 000 different languages across 54 countries. The African population is the second-largest of all continents, as well as the youngest. In some African countries, up to half the citizens are under the age of 25. Any company wishing to do business successfully in Africa must prioritise diversity, or run the risk of alienating the very people with whom they want to do business.
Whilst Africa may sometimes be perceived to be making slow progress with modernization; it is in many respects a world leader. Recent statistics regarding gender diversity in particular have been encouraging: the 2016 McKinsey Women Matter Africa report found that in Africa, 29% of senior managers are women, and 5% of African companies are headed up by female CEOs. While this is still low, it beats the global average (in Europe, female representation at CEO level is only 3%) and points to a concerted and honest effort to bring equal opportunity to women in the workplace.

The business case for diversity
I am of the firm belief that a company that champions diversity will be more innovative, able to respond quicker to changing customer needs and in a better position to adapt to the challenges presented by a rapidly evolving global economy, than its more homogeneous peers. Data supports this: research has found that African companies with at least a quarter share of women on their boards, had on average 20% higher earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) than the industry average.
More tellingly, the global war for talent, which is set to be one of the core issues businesses will face in the next few decades, makes workplace discrimination a recipe for failure. Any business that ignores the contribution, skill, and talent of a potential employee purely based on their gender or culture or background, is effectively undermining its own ability to adapt and survive in a rapidly shifting and evolving global market.
Decades of science backs this: socially diverse groups (those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups, as they are better at solving complex, non-routine problems, anticipating alternative viewpoints, and making important decisions.

Understanding our customers
For companies wishing to do business here, having a culturally and gender-diverse workforce in place is essential to success. At SAP, we have a vision of making the world run simpler. Achieving this vision requires us to focus not just on the technology, but on the customer journey. We can’t understand what journey our customers want to go on, if we don’t understand our customers, of which SAP has an immense and diverse base that spans the globe. We must employ, empower, and inspire a diverse workforce if we are to realise our “Run Simple” vision.
As a business, we have made great progress on the road to diversity and inclusion. Globally, SAP set a goal in 2011 of ensuring that 25% of people in leadership positions are women by 2017. At SAP Africa, 33% of leadership positions are now occupied by women. We are also introducing new initiatives to support and inspire women in technology. Our Women in Data Science initiative, a collaboration between SAP’s Next-Gen Lab and Stanford University in the US, is designed to inspire women to pursue careers in tech, create awareness about data science, and showcase and celebrate the achievements of women in tech.

Playing an active role in fostering a culture of diversity
At SAP, it is critical to focus on how we can embrace diversity and instil a culture which enables success in a globalised workforce. By creating a diverse team with a range of experiences and perspectives, you can unlock new approaches to problems that seemed insurmountable at first. This, of course, depends on there being a culture which encourages all team members to look for the strengths that each unique individual brings to the team and incorporate their views into the customer solution.
Driving a successful diversity strategy begins with the senior leaders; but in order for it to be fully sustainable, it needs to be lived by each and every one of us.
That is my call to action to all staff, partners, vendors and even our customers: make diversity a core focus for your business this year. Enable the people who work with you to bring diverse viewpoints and experiences to the boardroom table. Inspire your teams to have the courage to bring new perspectives to existing problems and challenges. Instill a culture of openness and trust that makes it easier for people to contribute to the success of the organisation. Never doubt that your contribution has value to the team, the business and society at large.
Our success as a business, and as individuals, will be inextricably linked to our ability to foster diversity in the workplace. Can any of us truly afford to ignore the challenge?

By Brett Parker, MD of SAP Africa

A recent survey of 12 000 office workers nationwide has revealed the most important things we demand from our workplaces.

The survey also uncovered the things we like best and hate most about the place where we spend a third of our lives.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says the poll threw up some surprising findings.

“We asked people what was the most important thing for them in the workplace and 95% said access to good tea and coffee.

“This topped the list ahead of security (91%) and a healthy environment (87%) of what South African see as most important in the workplace.”

Rounding out the most important things was natural light (85%), greenery (71%), canteens (65%) and comfortable chairs (52%).

“Essentially it’s all the smaller things that people really need to be happy in the workplace,” says Andrews.

The poll also quizzed people on their biggest annoyances at the workplace.

Top of the list was loud colleagues, followed by colleagues who “smelled up the place” by eating lunch at the desk.

Third was ‘unbearable bosses.’

“It seems as many offices move to open plan design, the trend of squeezing more people into less space has brought workers in closer proximity to each other. There is nowhere to hide from other peoples’ habits.

“People talking loudly on the phone, endlessly talking to colleagues and making a general ruckus (88%) topped the list of the biggest peeve.

“This was followed closely by people who eat lunch at their desks thereby smelling up the workspace (76%).”

Andrews added that bad bosses (66%) was in third place particularly those that were hyper-critical and micro managers. Lack of privacy also featured with just over 50% citing that as an office downside.

Other strong office dislikes were dreary office spaces, long meetings, dress codes and working hours.

When asked about the best things about the workplace, the social aspect of meeting new people and becoming friends with certain colleagues was the best thing about the workplaces according to 80% of respondents.

Also favourable was the ‘learning and personal development’ that the workplaces offered (61%) and this was followed by ‘a place to make money’ at 49%.

Filling out the remaining office positives was ‘stimulation’, ‘sense of worth’ and ‘contribution to society.’

Andrews says that more businesses in South Africa were moving to address concerns such as those highlighted by the survey.

“Quiet spaces, places to make private calls and a trend towards more comfortable and relaxed spaces will improve the day to day office experience.”

The changing workplace

Innovation hubs, separate and relaxed spaces designed for creativity and collaboration, are quickly growing in popularity in South Africa as a way to drive innovation in a relaxed “feel at home” atmosphere.

“Workplaces are changing,” says Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

“Every leading organisation knows that it needs to innovate to stay ahead. According to a McKinsey survey, 33% of global business leaders rank ‘innovation of new products and services’ as their company’s top focus.”
“But innovation is hard. How do you make ideas grow especially when companies become more globally integrated as business becomes national or global?

“One of the best ways it to make is easy for people to get together in a casual environment. Research shows that 70% of ideas come from when people collaborate.”

He notes that Innovation Hubs create a culture of innovation by supporting creative collaboration, project teams and individuals.

Inspiration Office has recently helped create Innovations Hubs in South Africa for Google, E&Y, General Electric, Accenture and Standard Bank to name just a few. General Electric’s R500m Innovation Hub in Johannesburg is the first of its kind in Africa and is similar to its other hubs around the world.

Magnus Taljaard, head of Digital Customer Solutions at Standard Bank Group, says about the creation of its hub: “We wanted to create a highly collaborative and engaging environment where our digital product teams can thrive and create solutions our customers love.”

Andrews notes that businesses need spaces that support both collaboration at a distance and face-to-face and that also promote privacy as individuals need to do their best thinking. Hubs when not in use by groups, also provide private places to work.

He notes that during the last few years, work has become dramatically more intense. Business tasks today are more varied and more challenging, and in some countries workers are increasingly mobile.

“Employees in every organisation are working longer and harder, and they need a physical environment that not only supports them, but also re-energizes and inspires them.

“Some organisations embrace the idea of employees working in a coffee shop or other third place for a variety of reasons. Employees may need places where they can relax or work undisturbed. Already 31 percent of full-time employees in the United States do most of their work away from their employers’ locations. South Africa is following the same trends.”

Andrews says millennial workers are particularly keen on mobile working but need to have a place where they meet colleagues to catch up and think together.

He also pointed out that the idea of having an opportunity to move during the day is important.

“People hate the idea of being stuck at their desks all day.”

Businesses increasingly see the need to offer employees a place where they can take a break from their usual workspace, choose from spaces ranging from individual to large group settings, and maintain close connections with colleagues and the organisation.

“It resets your mind and gets you reengaged. Having spaces that are appropriately designed for the activity that’s going on makes that activity much more productive. What we’ve installed for clients tend to cater for a ‘palette of postures’ so people can sit or lounge in a way that’s most comfy for them. We also tend to use bright, colours and funky furniture not typically found in the more formal offices spaces.”
Innovation Hubs also help to manage commercial property costs by having fewer people in the office if companies allow remote working.

Characteristics of Innovation Hubs

Technology Integration
More than anything, highly effective hubs that accommodate real work must provide great technology. Users come for refreshment and with the expectation that the place will provide what they need for effective performance, so technology needs to be immediately available and convenient.

Design Attributes
Design elements create the ambience of a corporate hub and influence worker reaction. Finishes, lighting, music, scent, inspiring artifacts, artwork—these all work together to attract users by creating a sense of welcome. They also tell users how to behave in a space.

Hosting Characteristics
Hosting is ultimately about making employees feel connected to the organisation and to each other. The way employees are welcomed and supported lets them know they are valued and demonstrates that the organisation recognises the challenges of work and life integration.

Where should companies locate an Innovation Hub?
The corporate cafeteria is an obvious place where a company can create a corporate third place and better leverage under- utilised space. It isn’t the only answer, though. A company might need more locations to hold meetings, for example.

Andrews notes that some project groups often go off-site to hotels.

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

Think again.

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

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

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

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

Here are some other common complaints:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what’s a business to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safe behaviours that limit CTDs:

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

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

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As winter approaches, South African businesses will face an onslaught of germs – and not just from people, but from desk “germ traps” too.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy with head offices in Johannesburg, said that South African companies face losing millions of productive hours because of sickness this winter.

“Germs are everywhere, it’s a fact of life. Also known as microbes, bacteria, bugs and now even superbugs, various types of germslive within us, on us and all around us.

“Many of them keep us healthy and alive, but others pose threats to our wellbeing if our bodies cannot manage them.”

Andrews notes that according to a Lancaster University study, 72% of people report going to work when they are sick.

“What most people don’t realise is that it’s not just germs from people that spread to colleagues – office surfaces and materials used in the office space can be potent germ transmitters too.

“Germs are loiterers. They can live and thrive on all kinds of surfaces, including – and especially – desks in the workplace. Many office materials harbour germs making them as infectious as a sneezing colleague when you consider 80% of infections can be transmitted by touch, according to the WebMD website.”

Andrews added that the problem is likely to exacerbated by the fact that nearly 40% of the workforce is expected to be mobile by 2017.

“Workplaces today need to provide a variety of places for people to work, giving people choice and control over where and how they work. But as employees use shared workstations throughout the day, there is also increased need to minimise sharing harmful bacteria.

“One study by the University of Arizona’s Dr Charles Gerba found more than 10 million germs on the average desk. Crumbs for example that accumulate on desks, are a perfect environment for bacteria and fungi to thrive.”
Andrews added the transition from assigned “I spaces” to shared “we spaces” globally has created rising demand by companies the world over for the use of antimicrobials in the workspace as a way of fighting back agains the proliferation of germs.

“Antimicrobial agents and coatings are technologies that either kill or slow the growth of microbes.

“We’ve seen an increased demand from our clients in South Africa and across Africa for antimicrobials since we pioneered them in 2011 in South Africa and have had them as standard since then.
“They’re gaining relevance in the workplace as an option to dramatically reduce germs on frequently touched surfaces such as the worksurface edge and desk pad, height-adjustment controls, and power and data access points.”

Andrews said that the increased use of antimicrobials is expected to significantly reduce the cost of absent works and the related health care costs as they become a standard feature of office ware over the next decade.

“Antimicrobials show promise as another way to proactively create health-conscious work environments in support of improved worker wellbeing.

“Although antimicrobial materials should not replace or decrease regular cleaning routines or good hygiene practices such as hand washing, coughing into elbows and staying home when sick, they can add another level of potential benefit by sharply reducing germsin the workplace,” Andrews concludes.

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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