Five ways to promote a healthy workplace

Employees lose one to two hours, and often more, of productivity each day in work environments unsupportive of daily health – but there are easy, cost effective steps that can be taken to remedy the problem.

Linda Trim, director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap, says: ”Air quality, lighting and temperature are the top factors for positive influence on wellness.

“Other priorities include personal control of the workspace and more privacy from noise and people distractions. Given the importance of a healthy work environment to productivity and retention – 7 out of 10 employees are likely to stay at a job that enhances wellness – all businesses should invest some time in making the most of their space.”

Here are five ways to promote a healthy workplace:

1. Personalise your workspace

You may not always be able to renovate and install new furniture, but you can probably always make decorative and design improvements. “Hanging pictures, keeping fresh flowers or live plants at desks make a big difference,” says Trim. She also suggested improved, more people-friendly office layouts and positioning people so they have the most appealing views possible.

2. Create privacy in open layouts

Fewer offices with doors in lieu of more shared layouts saves money, so they’re here to stay. But you can still maintain your privacy in an open workplace. Says Trim: “Taking advantage of privacy rooms and hanging a Do Not Disturb sign when you need to focus or using common spaces away from your desk make a big difference to a sense of control. If you do have private spaces you can use, know where these are and how to reserve them.”

3. Bring in support tools

It would be ideal if every office provided the air quality, lighting, temperature and other factors we want, but opinions notoriously vary on what’s optimal. If you need more air or light, consider a desk fan or desk lamp. The fan can help for temperature that’s too warm. Keep a jacket or scarf on hand if temperatures are too cold.

4. Build good health habits into your daily schedule

Leaving your open workspace for a privacy room for even a few minutes each day is one example of a habit you can build into your schedule. “In addition, take your lunch break,” Trim advises. It’s good for networking too. Walk the floor for exercise and for a broader perspective on your work. “Drink water throughout the day.”

5. Invest your bonus productivity hour and build a virtuous cycle

According to the Future Workplace Wellness Study conducted by View, a US company that creates smart buildings, 67% of employees are more productive in workplaces that promote a healthy environment, and gains could mean one hour or more of increased productivity each day.

“Once you incorporate improvements to your workspace and gain that time back, invest it in your career,” Trim advises.

“Write a list of career enhancing activities and tick it off. Examples could include catching up on industry news, attending a webinar to update your skills, spending time with colleagues outside your immediate area – or even a wellness option like walking outside.”

By Lizle Louw and Shane Johnson for  Webber Wentzel

Following the Constitutional Court’s Prince judgment, cannabis use, possession and cultivation in South Africa has been decriminalised with adult persons now permitted to use, possess and cultivate cannabis in a private place for personal consumption.

Given that Prince does not deal with the effects of the decriminalisation of cannabis in the workplace, many unanswered employment related questions emerge which we set out below.

What can be said, at this stage is that Prince does not affect an employer’s obligation to maintain a safe working environment for all of its employees, which includes prohibiting employees who are “intoxicated” from entering the workplace, and policies and testing applicable to alcohol use in the workplace are not likely to be appropriate in dealing with cannabis use.

Cannabis in the workplace
In terms of Prince, the use, possession and/or cultivation of cannabis by adults is permitted “in private”. Although cannabis use, possession and cultivation is not confined to one’s “home” or a “private dwelling”, it is likely to be difficult for an employee to argue that the workplace is a “private” space, especially given that the use of cannabis in public or in the presence of non-consenting adult persons is not permitted.

The more difficult issue is where employees use cannabis in private, outside of the workplace, and thereafter report for duty. Cannabis can affect an employee’s occupational capacity in various ways, including performing tasks more slowly, performing poorly when handling routine, monotonous tasks, difficulty in multi-tasking, difficulty in taking instructions from superiors, difficulty in making crucial decisions (especially in high risk situations), difficulty in operating machinery and/or motor vehicles. It is these consequences that an employer will have to consider when the employee reports for work and test positive for cannabis use.

The above scenario may not seem very different to employees using alcohol in private and then reporting for work. The difference, however, between alcohol and cannabis in relation to workplace policy is that for as long as alcohol is detected in the human body, it results in impairment; Cannabis may be detected in the human body for months after use, which at that time may no longer cause impairment.

Testing of employees for cannabis
Medical testing of employees remains regulated by section 7 of the Employment Equity Act (EEA). Medical testing of employees is permitted if it is justifiable in light of medical facts, employment conditions, social policy, the fair distribution of employee benefits or the inherent requirements of a job. An employer who wishes to test an employee for cannabis may be able to justify such testing relying on the provisions of the EEA. A number of tests (some of which are not available in South Africa at present) are used to test for cannabis: breath, blood, oral fluid (saliva), urine, sweat and hair.

Saliva tests will show cannabis use in the past 24 hours (which could be an indication that the employee is still impaired) but hair testing will show cannabis use for up to months after use (which could mean that the employee is no longer impaired). It will not necessarily be the actual testing that will be problematic, but what one does with the test results.

Workplace policies and procedures
Most employers enforce a zero tolerance approach to the use of any drugs and/or alcohol in the workplace. Prior to Prince it was relatively easy to deal with cannabis at work as cannabis use, possession and cultivation was a criminal offence. Following Prince, and given that traces of cannabis may remain in the body for months after use (which does not automatically result in impairment) employers may need to regulate cannabis as a separate issue and by implication through a separate policy and procedure. Zero tolerance policies may not be justifiable.
Employers and their occupational medical practitioners should consider the safety requirements at the workplace and determine whether a zero tolerance approach is justifiable or whether there is an acceptable limit of cannabis trace after some time of use. This may include conducting a screening test (such as a saliva test) that will show immediate past use and then conducting further tests to establish the level of impairment.

From those who choose to co-work when running a remote team, to growing startups and large corporations offering flexibility and autonomy, the spectacular growth of the co-working market seems to know no bounds.

Linda Trim, director at FutureSpace, says that according to a Global Coworking Unconfrence (the largest co-working series in the world) forecast, by 2022 there will be 30 432 spaces and 5.1 million paid co-working members worldwide.

Says Trim: “The market shows an average annual growth rate of 24.2 percent since 2007, and is less a way of working now than a way of life.”

So, what’s behind the explosion, and what does it mean for South Africa?

“The are so many benefits to coworking,” notes Trim. As demands on workplace flexibility increase, corporations are turning to coworking to solve the problem of rising commercial space costs while staying agile.”

She added shared workspaces are an energising, open and supportive environment for those who are not ready for their own office or enjoy the flux and energy of shared space. “It is precisely this flexibility that is so attractive for small businesses and entrepreneurs as they build. For startups, the coworking solution ticks all the boxes of flexible, affordable space, and a creative hub to foster new ideas and new business.”

The self-employed knowledge worker sector is growing too, bringing with it the need for hubs to provide social interaction, alternative locations than the cramped office desk or coffee shop, and clusters of interaction for connectivity.

So, if this market continues to grow and thrive as all the signs indicate, what is the impact on innovation?

For innovation to be successful, the ability to bounce ideas and to foster a culture of creativity is only part of the picture.

“Collaboration is also crucial to innovation, and it’s precisely this element that coworking provides,” says Trim. “The need to build links has always been a key part of business, but open innovation speeds up development. This means networking with people both inside and outside of your organisation, making coworking a powerful catalyst.”

Creating an incubator culture through coworking also has an impact on the speed of growth and success rate of startups. Coworking members grow through collaboration with the space operator where opportunities allow. This gives startups the chance to showcase their businesses to a wider audience that they may not otherwise have had access to.

“Startups fail slowly when they’re alone and can’t get impartial feedback. They fail fast when they have access to objective, well-intentioned feedback from fellow coworkers,” Trim adds.

“A high quality shared office provider will recognise your business model and growth ambitions and offer a rich and compelling program of networking events.”

By creating introductions and helping to build networks, entrepreneurs have more time to focus on innovation which is often the motivation to run their own businesses in the first place.

“As the coworking model continues to grow and diversify in South Africa, we can expect to see more opportunities and models for startup open culture innovation around the country,” Trim concludes.

How to design a magnetic office

For many employees the physical work environment ranks among one of the top factors that influence their decisions to join a company. And with a global war for talent intensifying, the workplace can be a strategic asset that distinguishes an organisation as an exceptional employer.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says: “As workplaces look to attract the best and brightest, companies are turning to design to help differentiate their work environment, focusing on an increased understanding of what employees really need to make them happy and engaged at work.”

Designing a magnetic workplace

How can workplace designers create a magnetic workplace that attracts employees?

Says Trim: “The most important principle is that the office space should make people feel really good.” Landscapes, nature views or the introduction of plants in the office strongly impact productivity because there is a powerful bond between humans and the natural world referred to as Biophilia. Studies have shown that being surrounded by nature improves both physical and mental health.

Feel good spaces should also be tactile and have ample daylight. Living walls, or biowalls, combined with natural materials bring a sense of the outside into the work environment.

Office appeal and productivity can also be improved by offering a variety of interior settings that allow employees to choose where they want to work that day based on the mode of work required.

“For example, in the morning, workers could gather in a cafe style area for coffee and informal interaction. In the afternoon, they can move to a gathering place designed for teamwork or to a privacy ‘hive’ for focused work,” says Trim.

Magnetic workplaces support the unique roles, work styles, and personalities of each individual, and provide a range of space types, furnishings, and multi-functional common areas that draw people in and keep them wanting to come back to the office.

The coming challenge for design

Telecommuting offers employees an alternative to working in a traditional office. This trend, combined with the number of hours people now spend online, means individuals are interacting in vastly different ways than they once were.

Remote work is likely to become ever more the norm. The designing challenge therefore is to create a space that attracts employees back to the office.

“A magnetic workplace will be defined as one that is so appealing that employees who might otherwise work remotely from home or in a coffee shop, choose to come and spend their day at work,” says Trim.

There are already examples of this in co-working spaces which blur the lines between office and social venue.

“Knowing that our future workplaces present a greater emphasis on virtual communication, workplace designers will be challenged to create physical spaces that encourage face-to-face interaction and speak to our innate need for human connection. Many view the workplace as a second home, so employees will be drawn to magnetic workplaces offering comfortable environments where they can work, socialise, and simply be themselves,” Trim concludes.

New paternity leave law looms

By Qama Qukula for Cape Talk

Last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a landmark law that provides new fathers with 10 days consecutive paid leave after the birth of their child.

But many questions remain about the amendments, what they mean, and when they come into effect.

According to Business Tech, labour minister Thulas Nxesi referred the amendments and the corresponding regulations to the Unemployment Insurance Board for consultation. The next steps will see the amendments gazetted for public comments before the legislation is finalised.

Employment law expert Anli Bezuidenhout tackled some frequently asked questions about parental leave and how it will apply to fathers.

Who pays?
Paternity leave will be paid out of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), it will not be the employer’s responsibility.

How much?
Employees will be given a partial payout. It can be up to 66% of the father’s salary.

Can dads bargain?
Employees can negotiate some kind of co-payment with their employer to pay the balance of their salary and establish a work back contract for when they return to work.

When must the leave be taken?
The leave may commence when the child is born. Bezuidenhout says the Act provides the scope for fathers to negotiate with their employers.

What must employers do?
Employers need to amend their employment contracts to make them compliant with this new law.

What happens to family responsibility leave?
The three days of family responsibility leave will still exist and remains separate from parental leave.

However, it cannot be used when a child is born. It can be used in cases when a child falls sick or passes away.

How to recognise the lies customers tell

Source: Sales Guru

A white lie here, a fib there …

Just how honest is your prospect being with you?

We uncovered the top 5 lies favoured by your prospect. They’re naughty, but here’s how to play the lying game the professional way.

Lie 5: We don’t have the budget
Almost never true, lie 5 really means “we have the budget, but it’s been assigned to other projects with higher priority”.

Your move: Ask questions to find out where the money is currently being spent. Once you’ve discovered what’s funded and why to reposition your offering and the value it provides so that it becomes a higher priority than budget items that are currently funded.

Lie 4: I make all the buying decisions
NEVER does ONE executive make all the buying decisions. There is always consultation with others or a decision-making process that needs to be followed.

Your move: Ask about the specific reporting structure and gently probe to find out the “stakeholders” who “influence” the decision. Read between the lines and you’ll probably be able to figure out which people actually have to be sold in order for a deal to go through.

Lie 3: Your competition is cheaper OR we always get a discount
This may be true, or it may not be true. Either way, don’t fall for this popular tactic – it’s simply meant to entice you to drop your prices.

Your move: Position your offering, and the privilege of working with you and your company, as being of much higher value than working with your competitor. If they’re demanding a discount, they’re testing to see whether they ‘got the best deal’. If you do indeed drop the price, you’ll lose credibility and end up cutting a non-profitable deal. Both loses, and no wins (for you).

Lie 2: I’m sorry I missed our meeting
If they miss a meeting more than once, then there’s no way that they’re telling the truth. Fact is, they may want to blow you off and they don’t have the courage to say so.

Your move: Once you’ve calmed down, reassess the viability of meeting with the client again and try to schedule another rendezvous if you think it’s worth it (it’s almost always worth it).

Lie 1: She’s not in the office right now
If you’re cold calling, this is almost undoubtedly a lie – fed to you by the PA or receptionist or similar gatekeeper.
But the gatekeeper is just doing their job: keeping you away from the decision-maker.

Your move: Pretend that it’s true, always, and remain calm. Ask when would be a good time to call. You may need to sell the gatekeeper on the idea that your call is important enough to put through.

The global co-working trend of the past few years which disrupted the traditional office space is itself already being disrupted as the demand for shared work space that is more like a luxury five star luxury hotel grows.

Linda Trim, director at FutureSpace, says that co-working spaces have tended to be utilitarian “rows of bros” hunched over laptops in bland cubicles, pausing every so often to play ping-pong creating a noisy, bustling atmosphere.

“But that is changing because there is a rapidly growing demand for shared work spaces that are tranquil, beautifully designed and more like five star hotels in their look and services levels.

“These are the kinds of places that attract blue chip companies, executives, independent consultants, start-ups and those simply wanting a premium service with concierges on hand to help you really get your head down and achieve your work goals.

“The focus really is on helping you be extremely productive.”

Trim says that FutureSpace was developed by taking the established co-working model and making it better by offering every service a worker could want from the moment they arrive.

“In particular the depth and sophistication of technology services offered by premium shared work spaces is increasingly a distinguishing factor as this is often not available in basic co-working offices. Very high speed, reliable wifi and instant video conferencing facilities in particular are in great demand.”

The tech factor is prevalent in other ways too: People can quickly book desks, private offices, meeting rooms, summon tea and coffee, or enlist some on-site tech help to ensure everything is working when it needs to be.

“Everything is on-demand and available only when you need it,“ Trim notes. “This kind of Airbnb and Uber style flexibility is also one of the biggest drivers of premium shared office space. Ask and a concierge will bring you lunch or book a call with New York straight away so you can get the most out of your working day.”

Trim adds that another differentiator was that driving the demand for premium shared offices was the number of quality, knowledge sharing educational events and networking with people from different companies and countries.

“Having an opportunity to meeting and mix with people doing great and interesting things is an invaluable experience for business people,” Trim notes. FutureSpace recently held a stock market trading masterclass and will also hold an inspirational talk by a sexual violence survivor for Women’s Day.

The flexibility of having a well designed office available ready when you are at a lower cost than a more traditional office is proving popular. FutureSpace recently opened its third office in Bryanston to compliment its existing offices in Rivonia Road and Katherine Street in Sandton such is the demand.

Even though unlimited leave is not a new concept internationally, the news that a local specialist banking group has embraced it has raised a few eyebrows.

Nicol Myburgh, head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies, says this approach necessitates a radical change in thinking from corporate policy-makers.

‘Bottomless’ holidays first appeared in the mid-90s and have steadily spread across US and British firms. Yet South African businesses are still hesitant to adopt this trend, owing to concerns around abuse of such a policy.

“While these concerns are legitimate, organisations that implement an unlimited leave policy can just as easily take it away if it is abused as it is not a minimum requirement dictated by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA). On the flip side, it gives employees the freedom to plan their own lives and shows them how much the company trusts and cares about them,” says Myburgh.

However, he cautions that an unlimited leave policy only makes sense if it makes staff more productive. It is not about maintaining a business-as-usual approach and hoping for the best.

“An unlimited leave policy goes against the traditional thinking of an organisation and requires a complete mindset change from management and staff. The best way to manage such a policy is to start with strict measurement criteria and couple it to specific targets, levels of achievement, and outcomes.”

“To avoid abuse, employees should be informed that such a leave policy is not regulated by the BCEA, but instead by company policy. The business can therefore impose its own terms and conditions on anything that is provided above and beyond the BCEA. Employees should be made aware that this leave is subject to strict achievable outcomes or the policy could be reversed.”

Myburgh believes that an unlimited leave policy does not necessarily translate to all industry sectors and is arguably more suited to the corporate environment. “Statistics show that staff in manufacturing companies tend to use all their leave in a leave cycle, albeit annual, family responsibility or sick leave. The inference could be made that they are abusing their leave and thus an unlimited leave policy would not be recommended.”

Expectations are high that more companies in South Africa will gradually start embracing this trend. With unlimited leave already very popular in the US and Europe, there should be a shift in the same direction from local businesses.

“Africa tends to implement Western market trends at its own pace. However, so it might be a while before more companies embrace this as a competitive advantage for employee perks. That being said, it is good to lay the groundwork now and perhaps start experimenting by using it as incentive for completing certain complex projects,” Myburgh concludes.

What office workers get up to each week

By Zoya Gervis for New York Post

A study examining the intricacies of workplace communication found the average office worker has 17 meetings, gatherings with colleagues and conferences with clients each week.

How was your evening? Did you see “Big Little Lies”? Questions like these might sound familiar, as the average office worker endures 21 bouts of awkward colleague small talk per week.

And to power through it all, they’ll consume 19 coffees or other beverages from Monday to Friday.

A study, conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with GoTo by LogMeIn, examined the working habits and behaviours of 2 000 employed people in the US, UK, France, Germany, India and Australia — and it discovered that in a typical day, the average office worker will look at 10 non-work related sites.

From four small talk interactions, four coffees and three meetings, employed workers have busy days.

And it appears that work isn’t always at the forefront of the average office worker’s mind. In fact, the office workers studied will visit a non-work-related website more than 50 times per week and be on their phone for non-work reasons a further 56 times.

That sees workers take more than 100 non-working mini-breaks throughout the week.

The research progressed to examine the tools and efficiencies of their current work-setup. The average worker juggles five different work programs a day and uses a further four collaboration tools. At any one time they will have six different tabs open on their computer.

Results showed that more than half (56 percent) felt their workplace had ineffective or lacking communication policies.

And as many as 64 percent say they waste time switching between all the tools they need to use to do their job.

Other barriers to productive office communication and productivity proved to be phones — with over half (55 percent) revealing phones to be the leading cause of their work distractions.

A further 46 percent cited their inability to focus on the job on loud conversations while another 44 percent said their personal emails were to blame for their lack of productivity.

News alerts (35 percent) and noisy construction near the office (32 percent) also made it into the top five office distractions.

When it comes to office communication, 64 percent of those studied revealed they waste time switching between different tools and programs they need to use daily.

As a result, 56 percent admit that their communication among colleagues is ineffective and could use some help.

“These days workers are inundated with a vast number of tools that are supposed to make work easier. However, without the right technology the number of tools can quickly become overwhelming,” said Mark Strassman, SVP and General Manager, Unified Communications and Collaboration at LogMeIn.

The many barriers and inefficiencies might be why over a third (38 percent) have suffered an embarrassing workplace miscommunication.

The most common miscommunication blunder in the workplace was found to be sending an email to the wrong person.

Other notable work-related miscommunications included making a spelling mistake (46 percent), having a grammar mistake (39 percent) or not speaking up in a meeting (34 percent).

In fact, one respondent had accidentally sent a text message sent for her boyfriend to her assistant manager, while another mistakenly sent personal information to a co-worker.

Strassman continued, “Businesses need to set their employees up for success by giving them easy to use, reliable collaboration tools that help rather than hinder. Ultimately the tools need to facilitate great collaboration by simply getting out of the way so employees can work how, where and when they want.”

In a week, the average office worker will experience:

  • 21.15 bouts of small talk
  • 18.6 cups of coffee/drinks
  • 17.05 meetings
  • 25.85 email refreshes

Six ways to make work more meaningful

According to a Gallup poll called the State of the Global Workplace which studied employee engagement in 142 countries, only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work.

Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says: ”When people are engaged, they adopt the vision, values, and purpose of the organisation they work for. They become passionate contributors, innovative problem solvers, and are a joy to work with.

“The answer to winning back disengaged employees, and keeping the engaged employees engaged, isn’t only pay, perks or promotions. It’s meaning – that is, giving work a greater sense of significance, and making work matter.”

Here are six ways to make people more engaged at work:

1. Show people their work matters
“Make time for employees to explore the purpose–or profound why–of what they do,” So, introduce your team to their customers. Explain how their work helps others, even in small ways, and encourage them to share their own stories. Reframe the work your team is doing so they can understand how and why they fit into that work.

2. Create a learning environment to encourage personal growth
Make space for people to create and execute their own learning plans, offering help along the way. Understand their different learning styles and attention spans, and provide experiences for growth expanding on what they already know, with immediate opportunities for putting into practice at work.

3. Help make people feel valued and valuable
“You care about your personal family and friends, but what about your ‘work family,’ whom you probably see the most? Do you ever ask how your employees are doing, and care about what they say?,” said Galloway-Gaul. By showing employees their value, they will feel valued as individuals and in turn are more likely to live up to their value in the workplace.

4. Involve people in decisions to crate a sense of control, and grant autonomy liberally
Micromanagement can be a meaning-killer. “Including your employees in decisions and giving them space to get the job done helps them feel less like numbers and more like contributors. Whether it’s where to put the new soda fridge, or how to solve a million-dollar problem, don’t manage in a vacuum,” Galloway-Gaul advised.

5. Allow people to bring their real self to work
By being your authentic self, you give employees permission not to check their identities at the door, even if they are a quirkier than everyone else. Of course, this must be within the bounds of workplace professionalism.

6. Help people see where they fit in the mission, and that the mission depends on them to achieve it
“Employees will never think their work matters if they don’t know that they matter. Achieve this by showing them the long-term vision and how they fit in it and contribute to to – beyond the org chart of course,” said Galloway-Gaul.

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