During the last decade, the workplace has undergone dramatic change: but it pales in comparison to how new organisational structures will impact the work environment as we move towards 2020.

Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “Our ways of working have changed as many societies become wealthier, as consumers demand new types of products and services and as we constantly seek to increase productivity.”

She notes that there are four megatrends, which will have a profound impact on how we work:

The rise of mobile knowledge workers

A knowledge worker uses research skills to define a problem, identify possible solutions, communicate this information and then works on one or several of these possible solutions. “The rise of knowledge workers sets new requirements for office design. Knowledge work is flexible, and knowledge workers are far more likely than other types of workers to work from home and be more mobile.

“The design of the work environment must be adapted to specific work needs as well as suit personal preferences, “ Galloway-Gaul notes.

Burst of new technology

For more than 30 years, IT and mobile advancements have had a profound influence on how we work and it’s likely this exponential advance will continue.
A few emerging technologies are already so advanced that it is possible to gauge their future influence. For example the Internet of Things, a connected network of physical devices, can connect and exchange data, resulting in efficiency improvements, economic benefits, and reduced human efforts. Real time speech recognition and translation will support easier communications between different language speakers and big data will allow companies to recognise patterns and make better decisions.

From Generation X to Generation Y

Generation X describes people born from the early 60s to the early 80s, many of whom hold now senior and work-influential positions in society today. Generation Y, often referred to as millennials, represent the generation that followed Generation X.

Says Galloway-Gaul: “Looking ahead to understand how our ways of working will change, it is necessary to understand what Generation Y need from their workplace, what their characteristics are like and how differently they see the world.” For example millennials tend to be more family-centric which means they are willing to trade higher pay for a better work-life balance. They are also the most tech-savvy generation which makes remote work possible, even desirable. They are achievement orientated and seek frequent new challenges.

Globalisation and the pressure to perform

Globalisation affects how we work in at least two ways. “Firstly, there is a now a larger, global talent pool available which means talent is more geographically dispersed and culturally diverse.

“As we head towards 2020, people will increasingly work with co-workers they have never met before,” Galloway-Gaul says.

Secondly, globalisation increases the pressure to perform. Previously companies could produce goods and have a secure home market with limited competition. “Now many products are sold at similar or more cost effective prices with the same or better service, and innovation is copied by competitors within weeks. This puts the question of whether work or services should be outsourced to other countries on the strategic agenda of any corporation,” Galloway-Gaul concludes.

By lvan lsraelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting

One of the many remarkable things about the Labour Relations Act (LRA) is that the term ‘employer’ is not defined. The LRA uses this term very frequently in placing heavy obligations on the employer by dictating that, for example:

• Within 30 days of receiving a notice from a registered trade union the “employer” must meet the union to conclude a collective agreement [Section 21(3)]

• An “employer” must disclose to a trade union representative (shop steward) all information relevant to the performance of his/her effectively [Section 16(2]

• A dismissal is unfair if the “employer” fails to prove the dismissal was for a fair reason or was affected in accordance with a fair procedure [Section 188(1]

It may seem that the reason for the omission of the definition of an employer is that such definition is not necessary because it is obvious. However, more than once, when deciding who is to be held liable, the question of who the employer is has been raised. Is it the contracting company or the contractor’s client? Is it the employment agency or the entity that makes use of its services? Is the closed corporation the employer or is it the members of the cc? Is it the subsidiary company or is it the holding or parent company? The answers to these questions are not always clear cut.

For example, in the case of Group 6 Security Pty) Ltd & another vs Moletsane & others (2005, 11 BLLR 1072) the employee was dismissed after an altercation with the employer. The CCMA ruled that the dismissal was unfair. The arbitrator found that the security company and one of its shareholders were jointly and severally liable for the payment of compensation to the employee and for the employee’s legal costs. The Labour Court, on hearing the review application, ruled that “the veil of a corporate entity may be pierced only when there are allegations of fraud, dishonesty or improper conduct.” In the Group 6 case the Court could find no misdoings. The shareholder who had been found by the CCMA to be jointly liable for the unfair dismissal had merely told the employee that the company was an empty shell and this did not constitute dishonesty. Also, the shareholder had not been a cited party at the arbitration hearing; he had only been a witness. The CCMA had therefore been wrong to make the shareholder jointly and severally liable for the compensation and costs to be paid to the employee.

What would have happened however, if the shareholder had been cited as a co-respondent at the CCMA and if he had been found to have committed an improper act. It is possible that the Court would have allowed the CCMA to look beneath the corporate veil for the person responsible.

In the case of Footwear Trading cc vs Mdlalose (2005, 5 BLLR 452) the employee was dismissed and won an award from the CCMA for compensation. The award was made against the employer, Fila (Pty) Ltd a company closely associated with Footwear Trading. The employee applied to the Labour Court for an order to make the CCMA’s award an order of court. Fila told the Court that it was dormant and that Footwear Trading had taken over certain of its assets. The employee also sought an order declaring Fila and Footwear Trading to be co-employers and therefore jointly and severally liable. Footwear denied that it was joined to Fila claiming that it merely carried out administrative tasks for Fila. The Labour Court rejected this and declared the two companies jointly and severally liable for the compensation payment due to the employee.

Footwear Trading then appealed against this decision to the Labour Appeal Court which found that:

• The LRA does not define “employer” and that therefore the definition of this term must be derived from the definition of an “employee” which is someone who provides services. An employer is therefore a person who “receives services”.

• Legal personality may be disregarded where a corporation is a mere alter ego or conduit for another person

• Footwear Trading was in control of the business even if it was a separate legal entity and not technically the employer.

• Footwear Trading was confirmed to be jointly liable for payment to the employee of compensation and the appeal was therefore dismissed.

The above is a warning to employers that the use of subsidiaries, associate companies and other surrogates for purposes of avoiding labour law obligations is extremely risky. It is far wiser to utilise available labour law expertise to ensure that the law is properly complied with so as to make ducking behind technicalities unnecessary.

So far the effects of artificial intelligence (AI) have been slow to reveal themselves in businesses in South Africa but the scale of the oncoming change is starting to become apparent overseas.

Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “AI’s influence is growing in the workplace and will bring substantial change to South African offices in the next few years as machine learning, task automation and robotics are increasingly used in business.”

The ability of computers to learn, rather than be programmed, puts a wide range of complex roles within reach of automation for the first time.

Bots and virtual assistants

As machine-learning trained systems gain the ability to understand speech and language, so the prospect of automated chatbots is becoming a reality.

One example is UK electronics retailer Dixons Carphone, which used the Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services to create a conversational bot.

Google demonstrated the potential of chatbots last year with its demo of its Duplex system. Duplex rang up businesses such as a restaurant and a hairdressers booking an appointment while sounding and behaving enough like a human.

“Household names are also muscling into the area of creating a virtual assistant for the enterprise space like Amazon’s Alexa for Business. With many AI-assisted technologies, the aim of using chatbots and virtual assistants appears to be either making existing employees more effective or replacing manual roles,“ noted Galloway-Gaul.

Workplace sensor technology and analytics

Huge amounts of data can now be collected from inexpensive sensors applied to smart decisions. For example, South African workplace sensing technology company MakeSense allows businesses to accurately assess just howmuch of their workplaces they actually use, likely saving a lot of money in the process.

It works by placing small sensors around the office which analyses peoples’ movement.

“Workspace occupancy sensing technology helps businesses understand how desks, meeting rooms and break out spaces are used in extraordinary detail. For example on average 40% of people don’t turn up to meetings so many meetings room are probably too big and are wasted space and cost.”

Machine vision in the workplace

Machine vision is an area of AI that could allow the automation of many manual roles that until recently would have been considered too complex for a computer system to handle.

A case is point is Amazon Go, a grocery store where shoppers just pick up what they want and walk out of the shop with their goods. The system works by using cameras dotted throughout the store to track what each shopper picks up. The shopper is charged when they leave, via an Amazon app on their smartphone.

Robots in the workplace

Robots are nothing new in the workplace, having been a fixture in car manufacturing plants for decades.

“But what’s different today is that robots are beginning to be used for less repetitive and predictable tasks. Robots can increasingly cope with a greater deal of uncertainty in their environment, broadening the tasks they can take on and opening the possibility of working more closely alongside humans.” Galloway-Gaul noted. Amazon again is leading the way in using robots to improve efficiency inside its warehouses. Its knee-high warehouse robots carry products to human pickers who select items to be sent out.

Robotic process automation

Back office tasks like data entry, accounting, human resources and supply-chain management are full of repetitive and semi-predictable tasks.

Increasingly, robotic process automation (RPA) software is used to capture the rules that govern how people process transactions, manipulate data and send data to and from computer systems, in an attempt to then use those rules to build an automated platform that can perform those roles.

“Change is therefore coming to all workspaces all around the world; the trick will be getting AI to help business grow and work well with humans,” Galloway-Gaul concludes.

By Allana Akhtar for Business Insider US 

Being on your phone at work, once the sign of a bad employee, is now the norm.

Text messages are “making deep inroads” in workplaces across America, says Wall Street Journal reporter Te-Ping Chen. Yet messaging your boss can lead to accidental texts like “Love you” or “pumpkinbear.”

“While email helps silo work communications, the text inbox is a more blended affair, where notes from friends and family jostle with communiqués from bosses and co-workers,” Chen writes.

Besides awkward text exchanges, there are other miscues many employees can make as smartphones become more commonplace at work. For instance, overusing your phone or constantly getting bombarded with notifications can lead to decreased productivity.

“Productivity is often at its apex during a flow state,” when a person is fully immersed in an activity, NYC-based psychotherapist Jordana Jacobs told Business Insider.

According to Jacobs, while phones are great for the technology they provide, they also feed into our natural distracted state. Cell phones take us out of the flow state, “which is so fundamental to productivity,” she said. “Essentially, we are consistently interrupting our own thought process,” she said. To put it simply, our phones “take us away from ‘the now,'” she added.

It’s probably not plausible for you to get rid of your phone at work completely, but you can still take steps to keep it from getting in the way of your goals.

The first step to being more productive is identifying all the ways our phones keep us from staying focused. Jacobs and Jonathan Alpert, psychotherapist and author of “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days,” broke down the phone habits that are ruining our productivity:

Mindlessly checking emails harms productivity
According to Jacobs, smartphones take us out of being in the present. When we’re constantly checking those work and personal emails, she said it puts us in the mindset of, “I’m doing this rather than just being where I am now.”

Constantly taking photos can keep you from being in the moment
One of the perks of today’s smartphones is that they double as high-quality cameras.

While it’s great to want to take a picture here and there to have a keepsake of a particular moment, Jacobs said that playing paparazzi in our own lives is another way of taking us from living in the now.

Checking social media distracts us from the actual task
Social media can feed our obsession with other people’s lives, but Jacobs said it’s also a platform for us to brag to our followers about what we are doing or have done.

Texting others keeps you from conversing with people around you
Jacobs said that texting and messaging other people can have you more focused on what those people are currently doing, causing a distraction from anything productive that you should be achieving.

Having your phone out all the time keeps you from prioritising
Jacobs said she believes that we have lost the capacity to be alone.

“We now think of the phone as our primary attachment figure; all of the people we know and love live in the phone, that’s how we talk to them,” she said. “We never actually have space by ourselves to contemplate, reflect, or gain insight into the self, in the way we used to be able to.”

Knowing and growing ourselves can be the most productive work we do, and our phones often get in the way of this.

Productivity apps can help and hurt your efforts
While Alpert does think that there are some productivity apps that can be helpful, he said he believes that relying solely on them or downloading the wrong one can actually do the opposite. According to him, the best way to stay productive is to have the right mindset.

“How someone thinks can significantly impact their behaviors, drive, and ultimately their output,” he said. “People should feel encouraged that developing a go-getter mindset is possible.”

Notifications on your screen can be distracting
Alpert said many people do, and these notifications – whether it’s a text message or news alert – can distract you from finishing whatever work you have started. He suggested shutting off social media notifications completely. “These merely serve as a distraction and probably don’t contain anything urgent,” he said.

Opening one app can leads to opening another
With apps, the internet, and other features of smartphones, you can easily find yourself going down a deep rabbit hole of distraction.

“Rarely do people go online or on their phones and stick to the intended reason for checking their phones,” he said. “If they’re checking weather, that might then lead to checking email, messages, or reading a news story – all this serves as a gross distraction and impacts productivity.”

The blue light emitted by your phone impacts sleep quality
According to Alpert, the blue light that is emitted from devices can affect our sleep patterns.

“Blue light is thought to enter the brain through the eyes and impact the pineal gland. This gland plays a role in melatonin production, the hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles,” he said. “So devices used close to bed could impact someone’s ability to get proper rest.”

This will have a profound effect on mood, energy levels, and ability to focus and complete tasks, he said.

Since we can look up anything  we may be losing the ability to wonder
This one may not be expressly related to productivity, but it is still concerning.

Jacobs said we have lost our ability to wonder, because we can pretty much look up whatever we need to – the answers to every burning question we may have are always right at our fingertips. “I think this truncates the creativity process and stunts our imaginations,” she said.

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.

Policies should not generalise

By Ivan Israelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting

Section 6 of the Employment Equity Act (EEA) prohibits unfair discrimination against an employee on arbitrary grounds including race, age, disability, sex and many others.

In the case of IMATU and another vs The City of Cape Town (2005, 11 BLLR 1084) a law enforcement officer working for the city council applied to be transferred to its fire fighting unit. He was turned down because it was believed that his diabetes could be dangerous to himself and others.

The court held that the employer had the onus of proving that its policy of a blanket ban on insulin dependent diabetics was not discriminatory. However, the employer was unable to provide such proof. The Court held further that the employee’s condition did not constitute a disability for purposes of the EEA. The Court also held that the employee’s dignity had been negatively affected which gave rise to unfair discrimination. The employer was also unable to persuade the Court that its policy against diabetes sufferers was based on inherent requirements of the job.

The Court concluded that the employer’s policy generalised unnecessarily and unfairly as testing of diabetes sufferers should establish on an individual basis whether they are fit for certain jobs.

The outcome of the City of Cape Town case has significance in a number of areas; viz:

• The labour law is highly protective of employees
• What is fair or unfair is open to the interpretation of court judges
• Policies that make generalisations about groups of people are in danger of being ruled unfair especially if such generalisations cannot be substantiated
• Above all, even if the type of alleged unfair discrimination is not one listed in the EEA the Courts have given themselves jurisdiction to rule on them. This suggests that any act of discrimination, if it is arbitrary and/or if it negatively affects the dignity of the employee, may well adjudged to be unfair.

Employers are therefore strongly advised to engage the services of their most expert labour law specialist in order to:

• Review all their human resources and industrial relations policies in the interests of checking for generalizations, unwarranted assumptions and discriminatory aspects. This applies regardless of whether or not such discrimination appears to be for the good of employees, for the sake of safety, affirmative action or for reasons of inherent requirements of the job.

• Assess a variety of workplace issues that may require decisions that are practical yet have to comply with labour law. Due to the fact that labour law protections of employees are so broad and so open to judicial interpretation employers need to get expert advice before making any decision that could affect employees directly or indirectly.

• Ensure that all managers and other decision makers are trained in the endless hidden dangers for employers arising in labour law.

Losing unfair discrimination cases in court is not only financially costly but damage to the employer’s reputation and industrial relations can have an even worse effect on the employer’s market position, bottom line and long-term viability.

Studies show people who work in co-working spaces are on balance more satisfied, better performers and find more meaning in their work than those working in traditional offices.

What’s so special about co-working?

Linda Trim, Director at FutureSpace, says: “Co-working spaces attract diverse groups of people such as entrepreneurs, remote workers, independent professionals and people from large companies who work together in communal setting.

“This seems to be create a special alchemy of contentment.”

Trim cites a study in the Harvard Business Review by researchers Garrett, Bacevice and Spreitzer which found that people working at co-working spaces were not just more satisfied and productive than those in regular offices, but were also much more engaged in shaping their and their company’s future.

“But perhaps the most important factor that the research uncovered was that these people where thriving at work because they saw their work as more meaningful that those in regular offices.”

Why are there such differences?

Firstly, unlike a traditional office, co-working spaces consist of members who work for a range of different companies, ventures, and projects. “Because there is little direct competition or internal politics, they don’t feel they have to put on a work persona to fit in,” Trim noted. “Working amongst people doing different kinds of work can also make one’s own work identity stronger.”

Secondly, meaning may come from working in a culture where it is the norm to help each other out, and there are many opportunities to do so. The variety of workers in the space means that coworkers have unique skill sets that they can provide to other community members.

Meaning may also be derived from the essence of co-working coworking: community, collaboration and learning. “It’s not simply the case that a person is going to work; they’re also part of a global social movement,” Trim added. Co-workers often say that having a community to work in helps them create structures and discipline that motivates them.

Thirdly, they also have more job control. Co-working spaces are normally accessible 24/7. People can decide whether to put in a long day when they have a deadline or want to show progress, or can decide to take a long break in the middle of the day to go to the gym. Said Trim: “They can choose whether they want to work in a quiet space so they can focus, or in a more collaborative space with shared tables where interaction is easier.”

Even though the co-working movement has its origins among freelancers, entrepreneurs, and the tech industry, it’s increasingly relevant for a broader range of people and organisations.

“In fact, co-working can become part of your company’s strategy, and it can help your people and your business thrive. An increasing number of companies are incorporating co-working into their business strategies,” Trim concludes.

Make your office better in 2019

If looking around your office at motivational posters from 1988, psyche-ward green walls and rows of people slumped at rows of desks makes you want to run screaming for the exits, don’t worry, help is at hand.

Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says that despite so much evidence of the massive productivity and health benefits of more relaxed, people friendly spaces, many offices in South Africa are still quite dreary.

“But the good news is that it takes very little to make an office a much happier place to be. It’s a good time for business to use the new year as an opportunity to make offices charming to the eye rather than just utilitarian workplaces.”

Here’s how:

1. Make it feel like home

“There has been a huge movement toward the ‘home away from home’ style of office design called resi-mercial, a combination of residential and commercial design inspiration,“ Galloway-Gaul noted.

Employees need a work space that is separate from home but that doesn’t mean work can’t be comfortable and welcoming. Soft seating, coffee tables, bar height tables, kitchens, TVs all help to make people feel they are in a friendly place with familiar facilities.

2. Open the seating plan

We are all familiar now with the world’s biggest tech firms like Google, Amazon and Cisco Systems showing off all the super hip things they do for their employees. “Luckily you don’t need billions of dollars to break out of the work place mould,” said Galloway-Gaul. The lower cost concept of coworking brings an open seating plan and office structure that encourages cross-pollination of ideas, employees, and events in larger buildings. Instead of the same employees seeing each other every day, coworking spaces allow them to mingle with employees from other companies and used shared resources like gyms, canteens and conference rooms that smaller companies couldn’t afford alone.

3. More…. oxygen…please!

Trees, plants, and all things green not only bring some much needed vibrancy to normally bland, dull cubicles, but they bridge that gap between indoor and outdoor. “Plants not only look good and increase productivity they improve air quality and improve wellbeing. They also meet our human tendency to want to connect with nature, known as biophilia,” added Galloway-Gaul.

4. Embrace downtime

Bosses develop nervous ticks when you tell them employees need downtime during the work day. But they do. It’s good for their brains to take a break and relax.

If you can’t afford a water slide and a paintball hangar in the cafeteria, keep it simple. Said Galloway-Gaul: “Put a video game console in the break room or an old pinball machine in the lobby. Schedule theme days. It’s important to have fun with it.”

5. Hire a cutting edge architect – or plan B

A cutting edge architect comes from Sweden, wears black framed glasses for effect, sports a honey-coloured beard and wears a plaid shirt – and charges by the minute. But plan B can be effective too. Even a few quirky adjustments to the seating arrangement, furniture and lighting can make the work-space feel cool and unique in a way that excites employees to come in each day. It also fosters creativity.

6. Mix things up

While number 6 is not strictly an office improvement, it’s certainly a working life improvement. “While not everyone has the freedom to work at home, everyone should be given the opportunity, at least on occasion. The relaxation and freedom it offers suits many people. And it makes the office look a little bit fresher on your return,” said Galloway-Gaul.

7. Party like it’s 2999!

After hours parties and opportunities to relax and unwind are important to developing a creative, inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable. “It’s also important for people to get to know their colleagues in a more sociable setting,” Galloway-Gaul concludes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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