Source: Supermarket & Retailer
Covid-19 and the pandemic’s subsequent lockdowns forced the Shoprite Group, with more than 147 000 employees, to implement a work from home environment almost overnight, rapidly facilitating thousands of virtual meetings per day in order to keep operations running smoothly.
As Africa’s largest food retailer, many of the Group’s employees continued to report to work on shop floors around the country – but those whose jobs didn’t necessitate visiting a physical store, distribution centre or office, made the change to working from home.
“Shoprite immediately made the move towards a comprehensive work from home policy as soon as government mandated it,” explains David Cohn, General Manager: IT for the Group. “And it’s been remarkably successful – within 3 days we enabled over 2 000 people to work from home; making new tools and resources available and increasing cyber security quite significantly.
“At last count, we have approximately 2 384 scheduled virtual meetings each day. Informal online meetings are even more popular – with more than 135 874 taking place since the start of lockdown.
“At present, over 3 700 Shoprite employees actively participate in online meetings – and the total number of virtual meetings sits at more than 124 000 for the lockdown period,” says Cohn.
Implementing these changes required a comprehensive IT policy that Cohn says was complex but rewarding to integrate into daily work practices.
“As most South African businesses, we’d never considered having such a rapid and complete shift to a virtual working environment, and doing so came as a shock to the system. But, as an organisation with such an agile and resilient IT department we were more than up for the challenge,” Cohn continues.
“What has been uplifting is seeing how the level of connection between our employees has remained intact. By so quickly and painlessly enabling our staff to work remotely, they’ve been able to carry on seamlessly.
“It’s certainly not been without its challenges,” says Cohn. “But employees have taken to the concept with remarkable spirit and tenacity, and together we’ve managed to keep the Group fully focused, ensuring seamless operation for the thousands of customers who depend on us daily.”
By Jasmine Stone for 2oceansvibe
The South African Revenue Services (SARS) will start issuing auto-assessments from 1 August.
On May 5, SARS announced new tax filing seasons and a much more heavy-handed approach to companies who are not submitting their EMP501s and IRP5s timeously.
There will be a renewed focus to ensure that all employers are fully compliant in terms of their filing and payment obligations. In order to achieve higher compliance, SARS will interface with the National Population Register, the Companies Registrar, and the Deeds Office.
SARS has put in place a three-phased approach:
- Phase 1 – April 15 to May 31 2020 – Employer and third-party filing
- Phase 2 –June 1 to August 31 2020 – Taxpayers to update their files (Bank Acc, addresses etc) / SARS follow up with non-compliant Employers/Third-party data providers / Auto Assessment of certain taxpayers and possible early filing for some taxpayers
- Phase 3 – September 1 to January 31 2021 – Tax filing for the remainder
Due dates for the submission of IRP5s and all third-party data (Bank interest certificates, Pension certificates, Medical certificates) is May 31, 2020. SARS has said that third-party data providers who remain wilfully non-compliant will be criminally charged during the period of June 1, 2020 to August 31, 2020.
In the two days prior to lockdown, SARS sent a number of notices warning employers who had filed their previous IRP5’s late, of criminal prosecution.
During the period up to August 31, SARS will auto-assess taxpayers who only have one IRP5. The taxpayers will have an opportunity to accept this auto-assessment, and if not accepted, will be required to submit their returns later.
It seems that SARS will allow certain taxpayers to file their returns before September 1, but only if their employers and third-party data providers are tax compliant. The wording used by SARS is, “individual taxpayers who are required to file but have not been auto-assessed may file early via on-line facilities if their employers & other third-party data providers are fully compliant (which includes no PAYE debt without a proper and secure deferment arrangement)”.
For all other taxpayers, SARS has delayed tax season to only open on September 1, whereas in previous years, it opened on the July 1. SARS will notify taxpayers to whom phase three filing applies.
It seems as though SARS strategy is to allow employees of tax-compliant companies to file early whilst employees of non-tax compliant employers will be required to wait until September 1 before they can file. This seems particularly harsh as this will probably hurt the hardest hit industries the most. This will also be a blow to taxpayers who were counting on submitting their tax returns as soon as possible in order to get their tax refunds.
Tax season deadlines for non-provisional taxpayers will be November 16, 2020 and provisional taxpayers will be January 31, 2021.
The pressure is on employers to ensure that all their returns are submitted and deferred payment arrangements are put in place if they are not able to pay.
Source: Business Insider SA
Bidvest, one of the largest companies in South Africa, has forced 70 000 of its staff, who can’t work during national lockdown, to take leave.
If they don’t have enough annual leave days available, this will be unpaid.
These employees will each get R2 000 from Bidvest – “specifically for food and other essentials”, according to a company statement. Bidvest will also apply for a new Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) benefit to “top up” salaries.
As part of the new Covid-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief scheme (TERS), the UIF will pay out a maximum of R6,730 a month (for those earning more than R17 700) to staff in companies that are in distress during the lockdown.
TERS will work on the same principle as maternity benefits. If a company can still afford to pay employees a part of their salaries, the TERS money will “top up” these payments – but employees can’t earn more than 100% of their current salaries.
Bidvest owns a large group of diverse companies – including freight, security, car dealerships and office service subsidiaries – as well as a majority stake in pharmaceutical group Adcock Ingram. The company generated sales of R77-billion in the year to end-June 2019, and employs some 100 000 people in South Africa. Only 30 000 are currently working during the lockdown.
“Some Bidvest companies are classified as essential services, but the majority of companies – and therefore employees – are not. This has had a major impact on the ability of certain companies within the Group to continue earning any income and where this has been the case, management has had no option but to make the best possible and affordable remuneration arrangements,” a spokesperson told Business Insider SA.
Bidvest has given a commitment that no employees will be retrenched during this lockdown period, and staff received their full salaries for March. Executives in the company have agreed to a 40% pay cut during the lockdown.
“There are approximately 80 000 employees (of the 100 000 people employed in South Africa) that earn less than R10 000 a month. It is hoped, therefore, that the UIF payments together with the additional R2,000 per month, will ensure that the majority of Bidvest’s South African employees receive their full salary during the lockdown period.
“Employees who are not working will receive a minimum of R2 000 a month, nett payment, at the end of April, and thereafter if necessary. This is in addition to the UIF/TERS benefits that we are arranging for employees to ensure that they are not left destitute during this difficult time,” said Bidvest Group CEO Lindsay Ralphs.
Bidvest saw its profits climb by almost 10% to R4.6-billion for the year to end-June, and generated more than R7-billion in cash.
“Many other listed companies are trying to protect their employees during this time – even struggling companies are trying to pay their employees 20% of 30% of their salaries,” one affected Bidvest employee told Business Insider on Monday. “It would be different if Bidvest is broke, but this is a huge brand. They are trying to protect the shareholders at our expense.”
Hot-desking, the idea that a desk in an office is used by many people whenever they find it free, has mushroomed in use over the past decade despite growing evidence that it’s unpopular with workers – and possibly bad for them too.
Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “The idea behind hot-desking is simple: you could save a lot of money by reducing the amount of expensive office space needed by sharing the large proportion of unused desks while people are away, in meetings or working elsewhere.
“Under-used office space in England and Wales for example costs businesses R200bn a year.”
She notes that while the cost savings ambitions are admirable the second tier effects of hot-desking haven’t been fully considered by some companies which have not adapted their offices to accommodate a style of working unfamiliar to many.
“We’ve noticed that workers often have to spend time finding somewhere to sit and can spend as much as 18 minutes a day on average looking for a spot. Clearly this is unproductive, and particularly impacts those who have arrived later to work. It can mean once someone has finally found a desk they are already quite stressed before the workday has even begun.”
While hot-desking suits some people, it can adversely affect the many staff who have to be in the office each day and need to know they’ve got everything they need where they need it.
Not knowing where the people you need to collaborate with are sitting can impair productivity too. “Often a query can be solved much quicker by simply going over to a coworker’s desk, rather than relying on email ping-pong. But that can’t happen if you’re wandering the floor trying to find them,” says Galloway-Gaul.
“In many workplaces now, poor acoustics and lack of visual privacy are a major concern but fixable,” she notes.
Hot-desking isn’t complete disaster because employers could be doing a lot more to make it work better for everyone – by looking into acoustic treatments for noisy open-plan offices and ensuring there’s a decent balance of collaborative and private work areas.
“Rows of open-plan space with hundreds of desks is not appealing to anyone,” she says.
“Companies need to be rethink how people move, create and collaborate and translate that into a thoughtfully designed place.”
Galloway-Gaul recommended companies use use light-scale, light-weight, easily movable furniture which allows teams to feel empowered to take over the space and easily create a space that best suits their needs.
Another suggestion is to combine furniture and technology in a way that encourages equal contribution by all members of a team.
“Companies also need enable privacy and control over the environment to provide a ‘safe haven’ spaces where new ideas can incubate,” she concluded.
In an effort to support a healthier and more productive workforce, employers increasing spend on well-intentioned wellness programmes such as onsite gyms and standing desks.
But Linda Trim, director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap, said while employees do like the extra facilities, “they want the basics first” – which is something companies tend to forget.
“Employees want better air quality, access to natural light, and the ability to personalise their workspace more than anything else. It makes sense: these factors are the biggest influencers of employee performance, happiness and wellbeing.
“We are increasingly asked to consult to CEOs of South African businesses on how to improve poor workspaces which prevent people and companies from progressing. For them it’s become a pressing need to have people-first workspaces.”
A high-quality workplace can reduce absenteeism up to four days a year. This can have a major impact on the bottom line. Employees who are satisfied with their work environments are 16% more productive, 18% more likely to stay, and 30% more attracted to their company over competitors.
Here are three steps you can take to improve your work environments and the wellbeing of your employees:
- Stop spending on barely used office perks. “A good rule of thumb is to never assume that you know what your employees want — but instead, find ways to ask them,” Trim advised. They might then put less emphasis on office perks that only a minority of employees will take advantage of (like an onsite gym), and more on changes in the workplace environment that impact all employees like air quality and access to light. Interestingly, we find that many employees want a view of the outdoors.
- Personalise when possible. We’ve all gotten used to personalising our outside-of-work lives. We watch the shows we want to watch and listen to the music we like to hear. “Employees are beginning to expect these same privileges in the workplace,” Trim noted. “Specifically, employees want to personalise workplace temperature, overhead and desk lighting and noise levels.”
Research by global acoustics company St Gobain, which Giant Leap partnered with for a recent installation, showed that good acoustics could mean a 15% reduction in cognitive stress for office workers working in an open plan office. American technology company Cisco manages the acoustic levels in their space by creating a floor plan without assigned seating that includes neighbourhoods of workspaces designed specifically for employees collaborating in person, remotely, or those who choose to work alone.
Others companies like US biotech company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals allow employees to control natural light streaming in through their office windows with a cell phone app. “The same strategy applies to light or temperature. You can position employees who want a higher temperature and more light around the edge of your floor plan, and those who like it quieter and cooler in the core,” Trim said.
- Create a holistic view of workplace wellness. Workplace wellness includes physical wellness, emotional wellness, and environmental wellness.All three need consideration:
- Emotional wellness – give employees access to natural light , and quiet rooms where they can comfortably focus on their work.
- Physical wellness – provide people with healthy food options, and ergonomically designed work stations.
- Environmental wellness – make sure your workspaces have adequate air quality, light, temperature, and proper acoustics.
By Jessica Stillman for Inc.com
Look at any list of America’s most in-demand employers from the last decade and you’ll find it’s dotted with big tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook. This prominence, coupled with these firm’s legendary perks and generous pay, might lead you to believe the best and brightest tech talent is knocking down the door to work there.
But according to a handful of fascinating recent reports, the appeal of working at big tech companies is actually on the wane.
The “techlash” comes to college campuses
A parade of ethics scandals, from Facebook’s disinformation problem to Google’s troubles with sexual harassment and Chinese censorship, combined with younger generations’ commitment to working for companies that align with their values, has made going to work for big tech something of an embarrassment at many of America’s elite universities, Emma Goldberg writes in the New York Times.
College seniors and recent graduates looking for jobs that are both principled and high-paying are doing so in a world that has soured on Big Tech. The positive perceptions of Google, Facebook and other large tech firms are crumbling.
Many students still see employment in tech as a ticket to prosperity, but for job seekers who can afford to be choosy, there is a growing sentiment that Silicon Valley’s most lucrative positions aren’t worth the ethical quandaries.
“Working at Google or Facebook seemed like the coolest thing ever my freshman year, because you’d get paid a ton of money but it was socially responsible,” reports one senior Goldberg interviews. Now, “there’s more hesitation about the moral qualities of these jobs. It’s like how people look at Wall Street.”
Another grad, this one from Stanford, relates that when fellow students announce they’re going to work for the likes of Facebook there is “an awkward gap where they feel like they have to justify themselves.”
Working on Wall Street, of course, hardly makes you a pariah, nor are financial firms unable to attract smart young people. But tech companies once enjoyed rock star-like appeal. To find themselves suddenly consigned to the same uncool category as the amoral (at best) finance industry is a big come down.
And Goldberg has numbers to back up this reputational slide. Pew research shows that the percentage of Americans who believe tech companies have a positive impact has fallen from 71 percent just five years ago to 50 percent in 2019. A former recruiter for Facebook revealed the acceptance rates for job offers is down around 40 percent.
Nor is Goldberg the only reporter digging into the story. April Glaser wrote a deep dive into anti-big tech activism at Stanford for Slate last summer. She describes how various groups are warning classmates about the ethical lapses of potential employers, including handing out leaflets at career fairs. Others are nudging computer science grads towards more ethical gigs at non-profits.
A headache for Big Tech, an opportunity for others
For big tech all this is definitely a headache (and possibly a wakeup call). For smaller companies without the ethical entanglements of the industry’s biggest players, it’s an opportunity to win exceptional talent at slighting less eye-watering cost by framing your work as a force for good. Finally, for tech-savvy employees, the so-called “techlash” may represent a dawning realization of their own power.
“Tech companies can hire new cafeteria workers and gig economy drivers, but talented software engineers, security researchers, and mathematicians are in short supply,” Boing Boing points out. “They have incredible leverage over the Big Tech companies, and, as they start to build solidarity with their users and more easily replaced co-workers, they have it within their power to bring Big Tech to its knees.”
P-E Corporate Services has released its 2019/2020 Salary Trends report, which shows the average salary increase in South Africa over the last year was 6.2%.
The P-E Corporate Services Salary Trends report is based on over 500 benchmarked positions across all industries.
The data is gathered from over 800 organisations employing in excess of 1.5-million staff, representing over 10% of South Africa’s economically-active population.
The report also provides market data for different levels of staff in South Africa, from lower-level income to middle/line management.
The report stated that the average salary increase was 6.2%, down from 6.4% the previous year.
While there has been a downward trend in annual salary increases in South Africa, inflation has also decreased during the period.
When adjusted for inflation, the average salary increases in South Africa have improved over the past five years.
The 2019/2020 Salary Trends report further revealed that construction staff received the lowest average increase at 5.8%.
Employees in the information technology sector also saw a consistent decline in salary increases over the past five years – down from 7.2% in 2015 to 6.5% last year.
Employees at state-owned enterprises, however, received the highest average salary increase at 7.1%. This was significantly higher than most private companies.
Faced with the prospect of a lengthy commute on a sweltering day, either jammed into a packed taxi or a never-ending queue at the traffic lights, plenty of us have dreamed about that ultimate career goal: working from home. Design the day to fit your other commitments, get a few things done around the house, and pop out for lunch with a friend – surely this is the answer to the quest for the perfect work/life balance?
Well, yes and no. Little or no social interaction, an endless list of distractions, and no motivation to ditch the pyjamas for something a little more… professionals are the other side of the coin. OK, the dishes might be done and the bathroom sparkles like a showroom – but what about those missed deadlines? What may sound idyllic on paper can prove disastrous in reality.
The disadvantages of working from home doesn’t stop there. Of course, the pitter-patter of tiny feet can be a joy, especially after you’re done for the day. But when you’re trying to prepare a presentation with one hand and break up warring siblings with another, things can look a little different. In New Zealand last year, demand for coworking spaces actually increased during the school holidays as practical parents sought refuge in an environment better geared to productivity. A survey of 15,000 people in 80 countries found that 68% South Africans cited family members as a barrier to getting things done.
Loneliness is another problem. The staggering rate at which technology has expanded has made our lives much easier: we can order dinner, something to read and a taxi with the tap of an app. But email and messaging platforms like Slack and WhatsApp, though extremely efficient forms of communication, have removed the need for any real interaction – and this can feel particularly acute for someone spending the day at home alone. Loneliness has become so serious, in fact, that in 2018 the UK became the first country in the world to appoint a minister for loneliness. What might at first sound wishy-washy is brought into sharp relief by this piece of evidence in a Harvard Business Review article, which found that loneliness is “associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
At the same time, the office environment has its own distractions. Beware the colleague with a fervent belief in endless meetings as the solution to all problems: not only do meetings often take up a significant chunk of time in a typical eight-hour workday, but they also introduce more issues than they solve if they’re not handled with military precision and a ruthless eye on the clock. Then there’s the danger of being side-tracked by someone else’s project, as they ask you to come over and look at something “just for a minute” that quickly turns into another precious hour lost to a non-core task.
So, how to crack the remote employment conundrum? Coworking solutions like Spaces may well have found the sweet spot between the advantages and disadvantages of working from home. Firstly, being surrounded by like-minded individuals creates a buzzy atmosphere that puts paid to any feelings of loneliness – but because your fellow members are more often acquaintances than colleagues, the opportunities for downing tools and discussing last night’s TV are greatly reduced compared to the office. And that sense of quietly competitive camaraderie can be a great motivating factor when 4pm rolls around and your first impulse is to put off writing that long email until tomorrow morning.
That said, it’s all about balance – after all, burnout can also be a big problem in the world of work in the 21st -century. Traditional office culture is partly to blame but home based workers aren’t immune either. Who hasn’t ended up putting in more hours at the kitchen table to prove to the boss that they really are working even though they’re at home? And when the laptop’s left open while you’re preparing dinner, it can be all too easy to carry on with various bits and pieces in between chopping the vegetables. At SPACES, networking events like mindfulness talks and yoga classes act as gentle reminders that a good work/life balance is what will make us most successful in the end.
Another article in the Harvard Business Review found that people thrive in coworking spaces for a number of reasons. The sense of community, the ability to be yourself rather than adopt a “work persona”, and the empowerment that comes with being able to plan the working day according to your schedule, all play their part in developing the meaning and purpose that we all need to feel fulfilled at work. Even better, there are none of those working-from-home distractions that can so easily swallow up half our time if we let them, and no loss of productivity that comes with office life.
When working from home doesn’t cut it for you, there’s always another option. Our coworking memberships provide access to workspaces all around the globe, without the distractions.
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.
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.