Zimbabwe switches off the Internet

By Brian Latham for Fin24

When the Zimbabwean government ordered Internet service providers to shutter parts of the web in an effort to curb anti-government protests, it also plunged homes into darkness because people can’t pay their utilities online.

Most people in the southern African nation use Econet Wireless Zimbabwe’s Ecocash mobile-phone payment system for daily transactions.

They buy electricity in units of $5 or less and almost all domestic users are on prepaid meters, so many buy for $1 at a time.

According to Zimbabwe’s Finance Ministry, less than 5% of commercial transactions in the country involve cash, mainly because it’s hard to find. Instead Zimbabweans use Ecocash or bank cards.

“Tonight will be spent in darkness,” said 42-year-old John Pedzesai, who sells plants on a sidewalk in the capital, Harare.

Econet, Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile-phone company, declined to comment.

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

The South African Reserve Bank has published a consultation paper on policy proposals for cryptocurrency assets, detailing its recommended regulatory approach to Bitcoin and other tokens in South Africa.

This paper currently only offers recommendations and is open to comment from the public until 15 February 2019.

The Intergovernmental FinTech Working Group (IFWG), which includes members from Treasury and the SARB, formed a Crypto Assets Regulatory Working Group to construct recommendations for the regulation of digital assets in South Africa.

This consultation paper is a product of this working group, and addresses the possible advantages and disadvantages of cryptocurrency in a South African context – including its ability to be used for criminal activities and its impact on financial services.

“Upon conclusion of the consultation phase, the regulatory authorities will specify the way forward through a policy instrument such as a guidance note or position paper aimed for first quarter of 2019,” the paper stated.

“The IFWG and Crypto Assets Regulatory Working Group is of the view that regulatory action should not be delayed until the most appropriate regulatory approach has become clear, but to rather act and amend as innovation evolves.”

Proposed regulations
The regulations proposed in the paper aim to help monitor the purchasing and selling of cryptocurrency, with a major focus on improving compliance with existing financial security legislation.

Under these new rules, all cryptocurrency asset trading platforms, custodial service providers, and payment service providers will be required to register with the IFWG and comply with AML/CFT provisions of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act.

These platforms include Bitcoin exchanges, trading centres, and cryptocurrency ATMs.

Additionally, the government recommends that cryptocurrency service providers monitor user transactions – especially large transactions which may be linked to terrorist activity.

Regulatory authorities did add that they would not impose any market entry conditions for registered entities.

Where companies and service providers do not comply with these requirements, the government recommended that administrative sanctions be imposed.

The Crypto Assets Regulatory Working Group said it would continue monitoring the state of the cryptocurrency market, especially businesses and users situated in South Africa.

Rare WhatsApp bug can expose your chats

By Vikas Shukla for Value Walk

WhatsApp has a lot on its plate. It’s trying to fight the spread of fake news via its app. It’s working on a bunch of new features to make its service more secure and offer better user experience. At the same time, it also has to deal with weird bugs, hoax messages, and scams.

The ever-investigative folks at Piunikaweb have now spotted what could be a pretty rare WhatsApp bug. The worst thing about it is that it could let someone else read your chats in plain text after you have changed your phone number.

What does this rare WhatsApp bug do?
Amazon employee Abby Fuller said in a tweet that she was in for a bit of a surprise when she popped in her new SIM into a new smartphone and tried logging into WhatsApp. She was able to view and read the chat history linked to the WhatsApp account of the previous owner of that phone number. The past owner of the number may have no idea that Abby was able to read their chat in plain text.

WhatsApp says on its website that when you change your phone number, you should first delete your old account. If you don’t delete it and no longer have access to it, it will automatically delete all the data associated with your old number within 45 days. What’s surprising here is that Abby Fuller has been using the new number for more than 45 days. Theoretically, the data associated with the previous owner’s account should have been deleted within 45 days.

Piunikaweb says Abby Fuller has deleted the chats associated with the previous owner. It’s a huge privacy issue, nonetheless. The publication noted that it’s “definitely a bug” as Abby could view someone else’s chats in plain text when the SIM has been in her name for more than 45 days. Lending further credibility to this view is that Abby didn’t restore it from the backup.

Filippo Valsorda, who works at Google, said it’s possible that the messages Abby received were sent after the previous owner stopped using it. Those messages stayed with one tick, and got resent when Abby registered that phone number with WhatsApp. It’s the first time I’ve heard of this rare WhatsApp bug. The Facebook-owned service hasn’t yet officially commented on the issue.

Separately, a bunch of users have been complaining about another WhatsApp bug that causes the messages to disappear from the app. A user named Bharat Mishra told WABetaInfo that every morning he finds some of his old chats disappearing mysteriously from the app. Mishra uses a Moto G4 Plus, and has re-installed WhatsApp several times in an attempt to get rid of this issue. He has also sent “more than 25 emails” to WhatsApp regarding the issue, but hasn’t heard back. A similar problem was reported late last year by another user, who claimed to have been facing the same issue since April.

If you are not haunted by one WhatsApp bug or another, you might be interested in the new features coming to the messaging service. Past reports have suggested that the company was working on adding Face ID and Touch ID support to WhatsApp for iOS to enhance security. It’s still in the development process. Now WABetaInfo reports that the WhatsApp beta version numbered Android 2.19.3 has biometric authentication for Android users. It means we should expect both the Android and iOS version of WhatsApp to get biometric authentication in the coming months for added security.

By Paige dos Santos, digital lead at SAP Africa

What would you do if you didn’t need the money? It’s not a question we often give much serious thought to, but it may very well be one that we need to answer in the next few decades. The advent of the internet was expected to result in widespread economic democratisation; instead, it has resulted in increased polarisation of wealth – creating a small number of uber rich. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report for 2017, between 2009 and 2012 the income of the top 1% in the US grew by 31% , compared with less than 0.5% for the remaining 99%.

This trend is likely to become exacerbated as digital concentration continues unchecked. This level of polarisation cannot sustain itself in the long term and could result in social upheaval. The shifting role of organisations in this new paradigm requires many traditional organisations to fundamentally rethink their reason for being and their approach to their employee value propositions, both now and into the future.

Seismic societal shifts

Murmurings of public policy response can already be seen internationally. Over the last few weeks, the United Kingdom announced the introduction of Digital Services Tax, a 2% revenue charge on “specific digital business models,” predominantly targeting tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook. However, the situation we find ourselves in might well require action that is a little more radical. Yanis Varoufakis, Greek economist, academic and politician, posits that a new approach is in fact imperative to the stability of civilisation. Enter the Universal Basic Income. Call it an obligation-free dividend if you will. Universal Basic Income is a fixed income bestowed upon each citizen of a country every month – regardless of income, resources or employment status. The World Economic Forum 2018 featured several discussions exploring the concept.

Would such an approach result in sloth-like existences for us all? Will we become the embodiment of the “idle-hands” saying? Perhaps not. Several studies are currently investigating the impact of universal basic income, two of which are underway on the African continent. Studies in Uganda showed that recipients of a basic income worked an average of 17% more hours per day, increased business assets by 57% and reported a reduction in spending on vices such as alcohol and cigarettes. The reason? For the first time, people had hope.

Concurrently to digital economic concentration, our global population is burgeoning rapidly, heading towards what Charles C. Mann points out is biological ‘outbreak’ status. Our beautiful planet has finite resources. If we continue to take these for granted by pursuing linear, consumption-driven economic development approaches, we will only see an acceleration of the difficulties we are starting to face globally: choking pollution, food shortages, extreme weather and more. We urgently need to find ways to preserve our world for years to come by redesigning our processes and economies to conserve and optimise, rather than consume and monopolise.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals provide highly visible targets around this. These problems are too big for governments alone to solve. Public private partnerships, and responsible corporate citizens, are essential to making this a reality. This is something that SAP is taking very seriously, contributing to the adoption of technology to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. Purpose needs to be something indistinguishable from our core business. It should define what we do and why we do it, contributing to a beautiful world for generations to come.

Systemic purpose

Let’s revisit the opening question. In light of our changing society, if you had enough money to cover your basic expenses, what kind of an organisation would you want to work for? One that chased profits above all else, or one that really had a higher purpose? A study undertaken by BetterUp found that workers would be willing to forego 23% of their entire future lifetime earnings in order to have a job that was always meaningful.

Engaging your total workforce around organisational purpose can be hugely beneficial, creating significant opportunity for organic and innovation driven growth. However, this is easier said than done. As organisations metamorphose to perform in the digital age, talent models are changing. The skillsets required are in a constant state of flux, and the gig-economy is booming in response to this. According to Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report 2018, more than 40% of workers in the US are now engaged in alternative work arrangements – contracting or gig working.

With such high percentages of an organisation’s human talent involved in external work arrangements, it’s essential to ensure that they are engaged and contributing to the organisations purpose too. Technology tools are available to assist customers in achieving this level of integrated engagement by approaching workforce management holistically. The SAP SuccessFactors and Fieldglass solutions integrate powerfully to ensure that both your internal and external workforce are striving towards a shared sense of purpose, and that individuals can see the impact of their efforts. At the same time, the solution suite manages the ever-present external workforce risks from a legal, security and privacy perspective.

Interlock – combining intuition and logic

When you are working for a purpose you truly believe in, you want to be able to add as much value as possible to that purpose every day. But as humans, we are fallible creatures. We often believe we are being logical and pragmatic, when the reality is that, according to research performed by Daniel Kahneman and his associates, we are primarily using our automatic intuitive responses rather than our logic-based ones. This is where intelligent systems are providing us with remarkable tools that ensure we get the right insights, at the right time, to equip us to make the best logical decisions for our organisations and minimise heuristic bias.

Consider the recruitment process. SAP SuccessFactors uses in-built machine learning analysis to ensure that job specifications created by managers are worded to equally attract male and female candidates, directly impacting gender diversity in the workplace. If the description contains too many masculine-oriented words, the system will automatically suggest replacing certain words and provide appropriate synonyms. This results in a gender-balanced job specification.

When embarking on new projects, SAP Fieldglass Live Insights enables organisations to identify the best geographic locations for the project, based on critical success factors. The solution scans SAP Fieldglass data on contract workers countrywide to recommend the best location based on resource skill level, availability and cost. Tools such as these enable our employees and organisations to perform at optimal levels, making the best possible decisions for their organisations and in turn, achieving their purpose.

The potential to thrive

If you didn’t have to work, would you choose to spend 18 hours a day at the office, sacrificing your family life and mental and physical wellness? And if by chance you did, would you be performing optimally? In the digital world, human creativity, curiosity and resilience are essential to personal and organisational performance, to achieving the purpose the organisation is driving towards. These characteristics are most evident when employees thrive, which is why special attention needs to be paid to the link between wellness and performance at work.

SAP, in collaboration with Ariana Huffington’s Thrive Global, has developed a solution that brings these together: SAP Worklife. SAP Worklife combines data on critical health indicators such as sleep, exercise, diet and mental health, with performance, development and employee satisfaction. The insight it provides enables HR professionals and managers to nurture talent to become the best they can be, in every aspect of life. Imagine the impact of unlocking curiosity and creativity across your organisation, and the energy of working with a team who are truly fulfilling their potential, not just as workers, but as human beings.

Universal basic income is just one of many possibilities that may unfold as we journey into exciting new frontiers as a human race. As our natural resources come under increased pressure and our societies start to shift, we need to pay careful attention to the change. Are we stubbornly focused on the immediate time horizon, ignoring the emerging reality of the next five years in order to fight fires for the next six to twelve months? Or are we thinking further ahead?

It’s time to be honest when you answer the question – would your employees still work for you if they didn’t need the money?

Source: Business Day

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected by Parliament in a humiliating defeat, her plan for leaving the European Union all but dead. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn responded by proposing a vote of no confidence in her government.

The House of Commons voted 432 versus 202 against the divorce the UK government brokered with the European Union. A margin of less than 60 would have given grounds to hope that the deal was salvageable, with the EU poised to engage in ways to make it more palatable.

Sterling rebounded smartly from the day’s lows and rallied more than a cent to stand above $1.28 after the vote.

Corbyn’s motion will be debated and voted on Wednesday. If it is successful, there will be 14 days for a new government to be formed, or a general election will be scheduled.

Instead, the largest defeat in over a century prompted the Labour Party to pounce to try to force a general election.

“It is clear the House does not support this deal,” May told MPs following the vote. “But tonight’s vote tells us nothing about what it does support,” she said, pledging to talk to her Northern Irish allies and senior politicians across Parliament to try to reach a consensus. “The government will approach these meetings in a constructive spirit.”

She also acknowledged the “scale and importance” of the vote and said the first step must be to confirm that MPs still had confidence in her government.

It is likely that Tories and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her government, would still stand by her — for now. Though one question is whether pro-Brexit Tories who wanted to oust her as leader last year would consider voting with the opposition just to get rid of her.

More than two years after the nation cast a die and voted to leave the 28-nation bloc, the UK is facing political paralysis over a decision that has divided the nation and its political class for decades.

May’s choices are limited by the fact that her Conservative party does not have a majority in Parliament and that there are competing interests between those who want a clean break from the EU those that want to preserve close ties and an opposition party eager to come power.

The UK was meant to leave on March 29 — two years after May triggered the process — but now that is also looking unlikely and an increasingly boxed-in prime minister could well decide to ask fellow EU leaders for an extension as she works out her next steps.

The chairman of EU leaders Donald Tusk said the only positive solution after the vote is for Britain to stay in the EU.

“If a deal is impossible, and no-one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” Tusk tweeted after the vote.

Eskom expects to report record R15bn loss

By Paul Burkhardt, Bloomberg/Fin24

Eskom, South Africa’s struggling power utility, expects to report a loss of more than R15 billion in the year to March 31, a record for any state company.

The anticipated loss, revealed by Chief Financial Officer Calib Cassim at a tariff application hearing in Cape Town on Monday, will exacerbate Eskom’s already dire financial position – it is saddled with R419 billion of debt – and increase pressure on the government to help bail it out.

The utility has said its situation is unsustainable and suggested the state take some of its debt onto its own balance sheet, an option not favored by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Eskom’s loss estimate may be on the conservative side, according to Peter Attard Montalto, the London-based head of capital markets research at Intellidex, a research company.

“We are now expecting a loss closer to R20 billion for the year, despite a reduction in the investment pace,” he said.

The loss of about R15 billion was targeted notwithstanding that Eskom may need to spend more on capital expenditure and maintenance, the utility’s media desk said in an emailed reply to questions.

A turnaround plan is currently being discussed with the government, and will be made public once the process has been concluded, while talks are being held with a number of lenders to secure required funding, it said.

The Department of Public Enterprises, which oversees the utility, didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Eskom has proposed that it be allowed to raise tariffs by 15% annually for three years to help it bring its debt under control, but Attard Montalto sees it as unlikely that South Africa’s power regulator will grant its request because it abides by a strict formula when determining how costs should be allowed to feed into prices.

“With Eskom likely to get a lower award than asked for, it is likely to run a significant loss in the next fiscal year as well,” he said.

Source: Supermarket & Retailer

The National Minimum Wage Act (NMWA) provides for, amongst others, a national minimum wage; the establishment of a National Minimum Wage Commission; a review and annual adjustment of the national minimum wage; and the provision of an exemption from paying the national minimum wage.

Who does the NMWA apply to?

The NMWA applies to all workers and their employers, except members of the South African National Defence Force, the National Intelligence Agency, the South African Secret Service; and volunteers who perform work for another person without remuneration. It applies to any person who works for another and who receives, or is entitled to receive, any payment for that work whether in money or in kind.

What is the national minimum wage?

The national minimum wage is R20 for each ordinary hour worked. There are, however, certain exceptions to the national minimum wage amount of R20 per hour.

Farm workers are entitled to a minimum wage of R18 per hour. A ‘farm worker’ means a worker who is employed mainly or wholly in connection with farming or forestry activities, and includes a domestic worker employed in a home on a farm or forestry environment and a security guard on a farm or other agricultural premises, excluding a security guard employed in the private security industry.

Domestic workers are entitled to a minimum wage of R15 per hour. A ‘domestic worker’ means a worker who performs domestic work in a private household and who received, or is entitled to receive, a wage and includes: a gardener; a person employed by a household as a driver of a motor vehicle; a person who takes care of children, the aged, the sick, the frail or the disabled; and domestic workers employed or supplied by employment services.

Workers employment on an expanded public works programme are entitled to a minimum wage of R11 per hour from a date that will be determined by the President in the Government Gazette. Expanded public works programme means a programme to provide public or community services through a labour-intensive programme determined by the Minister. And funded from public resources.

Workers who have concluded learnership agreements contemplated in section 17 of the Skills Development Act 97 of 1998 are entitled to the allowances contained in Schedule 2 of the NMWA.

Employer’s should note that, within 18 months of the commencement of the NMWA, being 1 January 2019, the National Minimum Wage Commission, will review the national minimum wage of farm workers and domestic workers, and within two years, determine an adjustment of the applicable national minimum wage. The national minimum wage in respect of workers in the expanded public works programme will be increased proportionately to any adjustment of the national minimum wage.

How is the national minimum wage calculated?

The calculation of the national minimum wage is the amount payable in money for ordinary hours of work. It excludes:

  • any payment made to enable a worker to work including any transport, equipment, tool, food or accommodation allowance, unless specified otherwise in a sectoral determination;
  • any payment in kind including board or accommodation, unless specified otherwise in a sectoral determination;
  • gratuities including bonuses, tips or gifts; and
  • any other prescribed category of payment.

‘Ordinary hours of work’ means the hours of work permitted in terms of section 9 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 (BCEA) (currently 45 hours per week) or in terms of any agreement in terms of section 11 or 12 of the BCEA. worker is entitled to receive the national minimum wage for the number of hours that the worker works on any day. An employee or worker who works for less than four hours on any day must be paid for four hours on that day.

This is applicable to employees or workers who earn less than the earnings threshold set by the Minister over time, presently being R205,433.30. If the worker is paid on a basis other than the number of hours worked, the worker may not be paid less than the national minimum wage for the ordinary hours of work.

Any deduction made from the remuneration of a worker must be in accordance with section 34 of the BCEA, provided that the deduction made in terms of section 34(1)(a) of the BCEA does not exceed one quarter of a worker’s remuneration.

Does a worker have a right to the national minimum wage?

Every worker will be entitled to payment of a wage not less than the national minimum wage. Employers will be obligated to pay workers this wage. The payment of the national minimum wage cannot be waived and overrides any contrary provision in a contract, collective agreement, sectoral determination or law.

Must a worker’s contract of employment be amended in light of the NMWA?

The national minimum wage must constitute a term of the worker’s contract, unless the contract, collective agreement or law provides for a more favourable wage. Employers should thus, where applicable, amend their contracts of employment to make reference to the national minimum wage. An employer should note further that a unilateral change of wages, hours of work or other conditions of employment in connection with the implementation of the national minimum wage will be regarded as an unfair labour practice.

When does the provisions of the NMWA come into effect?

The NMWA will came into operation on 1 January 2019. Section 4(6) of the NMWA, which prohibits the payment of the national minimum wage being waived and further provides that the national minimum wage takes precedence over any contrary provision in any contract, collective agreement, sectoral determination or law, operates with retrospective effect from 1 May 2017.

Can an employer be exempt from paying the national minimum wage?

An employer or employer’s organisation registered in terms of section 96 of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995 (LRA), or any other law, acting on behalf of a member, may apply for exemption from paying the national minimum wage. The exemption may not be granted for longer than one year and must specify the wage that the employer is required to pay workers. The exemption process provided for in the regulations to the NMWA must be complied with when doing so.

An employer or a registered employer’s organisation may assist its members to apply to the delegated authority, for an exemption from paying the national minimum wage.

The application must be lodged on the National Minimum Wage Exemption System.

An exemption may only be granted if the delegated authority is satisfied that the employer cannot afford to pay the minimum wage, and every representative trade union has been meaningfully consulted or if there is no such trade union, the affected workers have been meaningfully consulted. The consultation process requires the employer to provide the other parties with a copy of the exemption application to be lodged on the online system.

The determination of whether an employer can afford to pay the minimum wage must be in accordance with the Commercial, Household, or Non-Profit Organisations Financial Decision Process outlined in Schedule 1 of the Regulations to the NMWA.

The delegated authority may grant an exemption from paying the national minimum wage only from the date of the application for the exemption. The exemption must specify the period for which it is granted, which may not be more than 12 months.

The delegated authority must specify the wage that the employer is required to pay workers, which may not be less than 90% of the national minimum wage.

The delegated authority may grant an exemption on any condition that advances the purposes of the NMWA.

An employer exempted from paying the national minimum wage must display a copy of the exemption notice conspicuously at the workplace where it can be read by all employees to whom the exemption applies. Further, a copy of the exemption notice must be given to the representative trade union, every worker who requests a copy, and the bargaining council.

Any affected person may apply to the delegated authority for the withdrawal of an exemption notice by lodging an application on the online system in the prescribed format. Before the delegated authority makes the decision to withdraw an exemption notice, the delegated authority must also be satisfied that the employer has been consulted, and the representative trade union or affected workers have been given access to the application lodged.

If an exemption notice is withdrawn, the delegated authority must issue a notice of withdrawal on the Exemption System.

What is the role and responsibility of the National Minimum Wage Commission?

A National Minimum Wage Commission is established by the NMWA. The Commission must review the national minimum wage annually and make recommendations to the Minister on any adjustment of the national minimum wage. The recommendations must consider: inflation, the cost of living and the need to retain the value of the minimum wage; wage levels and collective bargaining outcomes; gross domestic product; productivity; ability of employers to carry on their businesses successfully; the operation of small, medium or micro-enterprises and new enterprises; the likely impact of the recommended adjustment on employment or the creation of employment; and any other relevant factor.

Jacques van Wyk is director and labour law specialist at Werksmans Attorneys.

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.

Make school stationery last

Source: Jacaranda FM

It’s back to school which means parents are expected to buy a list of school stationery as long as their arm for their kids.
Stationery can be costly and because of that, it needs to last. These tips below will help you ensure that your child’s school stationery lasts longer and will save you some money.

Buy good quality stationery
Good quality products last longer. Avoid buying things just because they are cheaper. It’s better to invest in quality stationery than finding yourself having to buy more stationery during the year, which might turn out to be costlier.

Remember to compare prices from different stores. You might get good quality products for less by comparing prices.

Organise your stationery
There is nothing worse than coming home to find your child’s stationery scattered all over the floor or in multiple rooms. Not only does this make your house untidy, but it can also result in your child losing some of the stationery. So, teach your children how to organise their stationery and to pack it away tidily.

Make a list
Keeping track of the stationery will ensure that your child doesn’t lose items without realising it. Set aside time for them either daily, or weekly where they check the list and ensure they haven’t lost anything

Ensure your child’s stationery is marked
Children often misplace or get their stationery mixed up. Marking your child’s stationery will ensure that they can easily identify it.

Buy a big enough school bag and space case
If your child’s school bag or space case is too small, they might end up damaging their stationery. Buy a big enough school bag that has the compartments they need for different items. Also get a space case so that they can pack all their stationery in one place.

Take proper care of stationery
Teach your children to handle their stationery with care. This means teaching them the importance of replacing tops on pens and markers, replacing the top on their glue sticks and keeping crayons and colouring pencils packed in the box.

Dear members

The weekly My Office newsletter has gone from strength to strength since its inception, with an ever-increasing readership, covering the office products and stationery industry and business users.

However, following requests from shop-sa members, the board, together with IT Online (the publishers), decided to add a separate and industry-specific shop-sa newsletter to cover as much information as possible of interest to suppliers and resellers in South Africa.

Critical to its success is the assistance from you, our members, in providing relevant news items such as mergers, people on the move, product launches and so on.

For advertisers, it is an opportunity to “talk” directly to your customers.

Apart from the minimal shop-sa membership subs, the increased advertising revenue will ensure that shop-sa can continue offering other benefits to its members.

2019 will undoubtedly be a watershed year for South Africa, and a strong association is essential to help members to navigate what lies ahead.

To rephrase a quote from Kenneth H. Blanchard: “None of us is as strong as all of us.”

We hope you enjoy the additional format and wish you all the best for the new year.
Your comments, suggestions and ideas are most welcome!

Hans Servas

Chairman

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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