Tag: office

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

The open-plan office is here to stay and as we move closer to Corporate Wellness Week, taking place from 2-6 July, there is no better time to reflect on how distractions such as noise in the office contribute to decreased productivity and general office unhappiness.

“I love working in an open-plan office and feeling connected with the team,” says David Fish, MD of local office furniture and accessories manufacturer AngelShack. “One of the key selling points of open-plan offices is that they foster collaboration, communication and sharing, encouraging teams to work together on projects to a far greater degree than they would if confined to their own cubicle or office. However, while the positives are undisputed, there are certain factors, such as noise, that make working out in the open somewhat challenging and which have to be taken into consideration,” adds Fish.

“Noise is the second most common complaint in offices worldwide,” says Lauren Clark, concept developer at Saint-Gobain Ecophon, manufacturers of acoustic ceilings and wall panels. “Research shows that sound is one of the main contributors to employee dissatisfaction and studies have found that open-plan offices can reduce productivity by up to 15% because of increased noise, interruptions and a lack of sound privacy.” According to Clark the sources of office noise are varied – from the hum of air-conditioning units to outside traffic, cell phone ring tones and, most notably, colleagues’ voices.

“There is plenty of research showing that the most destructive sound of all is other people’s conversations,” says Julian Treasure, chairman of United Kingdom consultancy, The Sound Agency. “We have bandwidth for roughly 1.6 human conversations. So if you’re hearing somebody’s conversation, then that’s taking up 1 of your 1.6. Even if you don’t want to listen to it, you can’t stop: You have no earlids. And that means you’ve just .6 left to listen to your own inner voice.”

Statistics by the World Health Organisation (WHO) tell us that the average person spends a third of their adult life at work, which is why it’s so important that we are able to function to the best of our ability while on the job. According to Clark, research also tells us that in a noisy environment the performance of complex tasks is 50% less accurate than in more quiet spaces.

But since many office spaces worldwide already use open-plan or shared office spaces, organisations can’t easily shift or respond to employees’ concerns. Instead, the onus is on employees to find solutions to office sounds or lack of privacy.

Sound solutions

Fortunately there are a variety of ways in which to combat the negative effects of noise on the workplace – from building materials such as acoustic ceilings, to double-glazed facades, screens and even office furniture that buffers the transfer of sound and provides a measure of acoustic privacy.

To counteract the detrimental effects of noise in the workplace AngelShack, game-changers in the business of innovative, award-wining office furniture, has launched two sound proof booths to which employees can retreat to escape the din in the office.

“At AngelShack we’re in the business of challenging conventions,” says Fish. “We don’t sell office furniture, we provide workplace solutions for the office of tomorrow, including innovative products such as the Focus and Speak Easy booths that address issues of employee wellness and access to privacy as well as the need for confidentiality in the workplace and at the same time noise reduction.”

Here are Fish’s five tips, suggestions and design solutions for ways to reduce noise in the office work space:

1. Get focussed: AngelShack’s Focus Booth is a fully enclosed capsule that offers solitude from a busy work environment, making it perfect for confidential phone calls and one-on-one meetings. The booth, which is lined with acoustic foam, features a full-length glass door, internal lighting and temperature control. Temperature is the most common complaint in offices worldwide

2. Plants, Plants and More Plants: Well-placed plants have proven effective in reducing noise levels in an open office setting. The larger the plant means the bigger the impact, not to mention the obvious aesthetic benefits and overall impact on air quality.

3. Time out to talk: AngelShack’s Speak Easy Booth is another total-privacy solution that employees can use to make calls without outside interference. The booth is lined with acoustic foam, a full-length glass door, internal lighting and temperature control, plus a handy shelf for pens and notebooks.

4. Listen to the waves: If you can’t control noise propagation in the office by traditional acoustic control measures, today’s electronics offer new possibilities. One technique is to introduce random, natural sounds to the workplace environment that obscure or “mask” the sound of distracting conversations.

5. Design Thinking: Clever design principles that allow for sound absorption and diffusion are key. Spaces need to be properly planned in terms of where to position noisy spaces versus quiet spaces, and the introduction of buffers such as acoustic partition systems, screens and facades that prevent noise transfer from one space to another.
There are many factors to consider when looking at acoustic solutions to combat the negative effects of noise in the workplace, says Clark. “My shout out to designers is for them to be mindful of the performance criteria of different products, so that they can make informed decisions about which products and materials deliver an acoustic solution that works from both a visual and audio perspective.

“Nature and the outdoor environment are far more comfortable from an acoustic point of view than indoor spaces and the trick is to bring this insight into our design of indoor spaces such as offices now and moving forward,”concludes Clarke.

Image: AngelShack

The notion of teamwork is not new, and for most of the twentieth century teams functioned like an assembly line, focusing on areas of expertise and the division of tasks.

“But this siloed work style ended up slowing things down, causing errors and overlooked opportunities,” says Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy.

“To combat this problem, that paradigm gave way in many organisations to open plan offices. According to global office architects and furniture designers Steelcase, 69 percent of all offices now have an open floor plan. But work in these settings is mostly an independent pursuit, interspersed with team meetings and water cooler conversations.

Says Galloway-Gaul: “Without question, the need to reboot the corporate workplace is overdue because while the processes and activities of teams today has dramatically changed, some businesses spaces have not kept up.”

Today work gets done through networks and lateral relationships. Employees who once operated in different universes must come together in interdependent, fluid teams. The spaces that best support this kind of work are designed specifically for teams, while embracing the needs of all the constituent individuals.

“Forget the adage that ‘there is no ‘I’ in team,” says Galloway-Gaul. “Teams are made up of individuals. We need to design for multidisciplinary teamwork in a way that also gives the individual what they need to do their best work.”

There is therefore a growing demand for user control over spaces – people want to be able to adapt spaces at the pace of the project, and to give team members agency in defining how the ‘me’ and the ‘we’ need to work together at a given time.“

But right now, although many organisations have become nimble, there are still businesses in which employees need to file requests with facilities and end up waiting weeks for the changes they’ve asked for. Galloway-Gaul noted. “Project work moves through different phases and each phase has its own set of activities. It’s important that the space can evolve with the project.”

So what do teams need from their work environments?

Teams need a sense of shared purpose, cohesion and identity to be able to successfully work together and build on each others’ ideas. Galloway-Gaul says companies should consider three things to help their teams excel.

1) Build a home for teams – the role of team space is bigger than just supporting the work itself. It’s also about the human dimension. The team space should reflect and encourage the type of practices and working style of the team where they can foster a sense of identity, cohesion and trust.

2) Flex space to process – teams need a dynamic space that keeps up with their process and keeps them in flow. The space should let teams in rapid cycles reorganise in a natural, spontaneous way.

3) Empower teams – teams need control over their environments to cope rapidly with individual preferences and project needs. Empower teams and individuals to make quick adjustments to their space on demand to keep projects moving.

In the race to attract and retain the best talent, dramatically improving the workplace experience to make it a ‘super experience’ is now on the radar of every organisation.

Linda Trim, director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap, said that as new technologies and design practices raise the bar in what can be achieved, South Africa, as in the rest of the world, is now entering the era of the ‘super-experience’ at work.

A ‘super-experience’ is a heightened experience that creates excitement, is original and impactful and which goes beyond the typical and more mundane ‘user experience’ which people experience at traditional workplaces.

Said Trim: “Super experiences make you feel excited or that you’ve achieved something; they can stimulate curiosity, create a sense of purpose or instil a sense of belonging to a company. They can be unusual and unexpected – or reassuring and morale boosting. They can be small and intimate or executed on a grand scale.”

There are many examples of the ‘super-experience’ at some of the world’s best known companies. These include office buildings such as Amazon’s biophilic glass orbs at its Seattle headquarters which bring people closer to nature creating the sense they are working in a rainforest.

The Airbnb headquarters in San Francisco famously created 16 “neighbourhoods” in the office, each comprising desk spaces, large communal tables, standing desks, phone rooms and personal storage lockers. In South Africa, Giant Leap created state of the art training rooms for new employees at Flight Centre so people got to experience a ‘super-experience’ from day one at the company.

Data and media company Bloomberg’s new base in London is based in two buildings joined by bridges and located between the Bank of England and St Paul’s Cathedral in London’s famous Square Mile. It features a giant 210 metre ramp at its heart that aims to encourage collaboration between workers, offers and a pantry with free snacks and views over London.

NASA’s scientists have formed a ‘Space Orchestra’ which plays around the world.

“Employee experience wasn’t really on the workplace map a few years ago but many businesses are now scrambling to create experiences inside and beyond office buildings that support innovation, wellbeing, productivity and learning.
“And as part of a newly thriving ‘experience economy’, new job titles are emerging in organisations such as CEXO (Chief Experience Officer),” Trim notes.

She added that to create a ‘super experience’, companies should take a people-first approach, offering a flexible portfolio of experiences, and keeping an open mind on bringing in new technologies.

“The era of the super-experience will depend on new lighting, AV, soundscaping and sensor technologies in the workplace along with digital apps. The property sector will also require new skills, knowledge and ideas from theatre, arts, hospitality, retail and behavioural science if it is to make super-experience more of an occurrence in the workplace,” Trim concludes.

By Lauren Feiner for CNBC

WeWork announced Wednesday it is creating a fund with $2.9-billion of total equity capital to buy stakes in buildings it rents from.

The company has previously been criticized for CEO Adam Neumann’s stake in buildings he rented to the company.
The fund, called ARK, will serve as WeWork’s “global real estate acquisition and management platform,” according to a press release.

WeWork has become a business with a multi-billion valuation by being a prolific tenant. Now, it is starting a nearly $3 billion fund to become a landlord, too.

WeWork, which recently renamed itself to The We Company, is creating ARK, a “global real estate acquisition and management platform,” to buy stakes in buildings in which it plans to lease a lot of space, the company announced Wednesday. It will begin with $2.9 billion of total equity capital.

“ARK will focus on acquiring, developing, and managing real estate assets in global gateway cities and high-growth secondary markets that will benefit from WeWork’s occupancy,” according to the release. It will use WeWork’s own technology and relationships to access real estate opportunities and will “immediately stabilise assets by executing a proven pre-packaged business plan and will apply The We Company’s holistic solutions for real estate owners, based on The We Company’s established capabilities in sourcing, building, filling, and operating properties.”

The fund could further complicate questions about WeWork’s allegiances, which were illuminated by a Wall Street Journal report in January that revealed CEO Adam Neumann has profited by leasing buildings he owns to WeWork. Under the new plan, Neumann will actually transfer some of his real estate holdings into the ARK fund, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

While this may provide better optics for the company, since ARK will be run independently from WeWork’s main business, ARK will still be under The We Company’s umbrella, according to Businessweek. A WeWork spokesperson declined to confirm or comment on the transfer of Neumann’s real estate holdings to CNBC.

But ARK also may provide a level of stability for WeWork and its investors, which is a key step as it prepares for a public offering. WeWork, like other recent tech IPOs, is still unprofitable. The company said it had a net loss of $1.9 billion on $1.8 billion in revenue in 2018, and a net loss of $933 million on $886 million in revenue in 2017, according to a presentation shared with CNBC in March. Lyft and Uber, which both recently debuted with losses, have fallen short of expectations in their brief tenures on the public market so far due to concern about their ability to close their margins in the future.

Behind Sandton’s empty offices

By Alistair Anderson for Financial Mail

It’s 4pm on a Thursday, and 10 people are kicking a ball around a football pitch in the business hub of Sandton. It’s not this that is unusual; it’s that they’re doing it on the roof of their building — the R4bn, 87,000m² Discovery head office.

1 Discovery Place is something of a wonder. More than 5,000 people work in the financial services group’s head office. Other than the rooftop football pitch (and running track), its state-of-the-art features include a gym, restaurants, bicycle storage facilities, and a parking system that directs drivers to vacant bays. It’s said to be so expansive that a Boeing 737 could be suspended in the west atrium of the building without touching sides.

But the development of buildings such as this — arguably the most advanced office space in Africa — belies the parlous state of commercial property in Sandton.

The business node is home to many of SA’s large corporates, including FirstRand, Investec, Growthpoint Properties and Sasol, as well as multinational law firms such as Hogan Lovells, Bowmans, ENSafrica and DLA Piper.

 


It’s the most highly valued commercial hub in Africa — an “office city” that attracts commuting professionals. But it’s currently experiencing its worst office vacancy level in more than 20 years.

Will Harris, the CEO of commercial real-estate software and data services provider Gmaven, says 21.8% or 455,837m² of the total rentable 2-million square metres of Sandton office space is standing empty.

That’s about three times the 7%-8% level that analysts consider to be healthy, and almost double the 11% national vacancy estimate of the SA Property Owners Association (Sapoa).

The exact figure for Sandton office space varies, depending on who is collecting the data. Sapoa’s latest office report, released at the end of December, puts it at 18.6%, while global property services group Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) has it at 16.8%.

The variance is a frustration for those in the sector, says Harris, given that “data is the oil that the commercial real estate industry runs on”. In part, it’s a result of how those collecting the data define Sandton and the vacancy factor.

Gmaven is the only one to explain its demarcation of Sandton (see map): the polygon that includes Sandton Central, Parkmore, Morningside, Barlow Park, Simba, Atholl, Wierda Valley, Chislehurston and Sandhurst. By the company’s measure, this 510ha area contains 282 office properties.

In turn, it defines vacancy as office space that is either vacant at present, or will be available in the next three months. (This corresponds with the minimum industry average of three months to finalise a lease agreement.)

Based on these measures, Harris concludes that one-fifth of Sandton office space is standing empty — and that excludes an additional 1,980m² that he says will become available three months from now.

The office market is going through changes as companies are starting to require less space per employee
But while the exact figures vary, there’s general agreement that office vacancies are on the rise.

JLL SA research analyst Omphile Ramokhoase, for example, points to a rise “from a low of 9.9% in 2016 to 16.8% at the close of 2018”.

Experts also agree that the vacancy rate in Sandton outpaces that of comparable commercial nodes. Sapoa, for example, puts the vacancy rate (as a percentage of the area available for leasing) at 11.8% for the Cape Town CBD and 9.5% for Umhlanga Ridge in KwaZulu-Natal.

The problem stems from weak economic growth and a glut of developments, coupled with corporate consolidation and competition from new commercial nodes.

In many ways, the property sector is a barometer for the health of the economy. So, given stagnant growth, it’s hardly surprising that Sandton’s office vacancy level is north of 20%. In fact, the last time vacancy levels were this high was in the late 1990s, when interest rates were around 24.5% and GDP growth was weak (SA’s economy grew at just 0.5% in 1998).

SA’s economic boom in the mid-2000s prompted large property groups such as Growthpoint and Zenprop to plan an assortment of developments in Sandton. By the time the 2008/2009 global financial crisis hit, it was too late for developers to pull the plug — so a large supply came on stream in the late 2000s.

This lag between real estate planning and actual development means the reality of SA’s stagnating economy is evident in rental numbers, if not in the number of new building developments coming on stream. Besides, says Growthpoint CEO Norbert Sasse, many landlords and developers have created buildings in Sandton with a 10-to 20-year view in mind.

According to JLL SA’s analysis, there was 984,000m² of premium-grade (P-grade) office space (rented and vacant) in Sandton by the end of 2018 — up 34% from 2017. And the expansion is not over yet. Ramokhoase puts the office development pipeline for the node at an additional 100,000m².

The result, she says, has been slower aggregate rental growth — though P-grade office space has proved more resilient, with an average vacancy rate of 6.4% in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Corporate consolidation has also had an effect. Discovery, for example, left five buildings vacant when it moved into its single head office early last year.

Similarly, law firm Bowmans and Old Mutual moved into larger single buildings, leaving vacant space behind. And the new companies taking up office space in Sandton have not grown to a size where they can command significant office space.

Then there’s the issue of competition. Experts say Sandton is under pressure from new nodes such as Midrand’s Waterfall City, and smaller nodes such as Rosebank, which have less traffic and cater better for pedestrians.

What it means
The last time vacancy levels were this high was in the late 1990s, when interest rates were at about 24.5% and GDP growth was weak

At the premium level, average rental in Sandton is holding its own at R225/m², according to Gmaven. This is lower than Rosebank’s P-grade average of R238/m², but higher than that of Cape Town’s business nodes, which are at R209/m² for Claremont and R182/m² for the CBD.

But at the lower levels, Sandton’s rentals are mostly down. A-grade office space is an average R145/m², against R181/m² in Rosebank, R148/m² in the Cape Town CBD and R169/m² in Claremont. By the square metre, B-grade office space is an average R123 in Sandton against R134 in Rosebank, R108 in the Cape Town CBD and R140 in Claremont.

Harris says investors and developers are keeping a keen eye on Sandton, because it’s a commercial hub — and that’s unlikely to change in the immediate future.

Some developers are already confident that office vacancies will ease in the next few years, as economic growth picks up again. This explains the number of new residential developments in the pipeline, including high-end development The Leonardo, and Acsiopolis, a 20-storey luxury apartment building in Benmore. Legacy Group, which has developed The Leonardo, says a large number of office workers have bought luxury apartments in the skyscraper.

But until such time as there’s an improvement, Keillen Ndlovu, head of listed property at Stanlib, advises that landlords need to be bolder and more creative with space they cannot fill.

“Unless we see good economic growth, it will take time to let most of the office buildings,” he says. “We believe that some opportunities exist for conversion into residential, self-storage, co-working and flexible office workspace. The office market is going through changes as companies are starting to require less space per employee, and hot-desking and/or ability to work from home will pick up over time.”

One of the buildings Discovery vacated when it consolidated — 155 West Street — is being repositioned to take advantage of this changing world of work. Its owner, Redefine Properties, has let 10,000m² to flexible workspace provider WeWork on a 15-year lease that starts in September.

It’s the second such deal for WeWork, which has also set up office space in Rosebank.

Six pieces of tech every office needs

Source: HackRead

Before you start buying any technology or furniture for your office, you must put in some planning and research time. There are so many options to consider and each one will have a direct impact on the functionality of your workspace and, as result, how productive you and your team are on a day to day basis.

Poorly designed and chaotic offices with substandard equipment do not make for a great working environment. What’s bad for your employees is bad for your business. The office design process doesn’t have to be complicated. In addition to your computers, here are some essential pieces of tech every office needs.

1. Electric desks

Although you may think that furniture is a weird place to start when talking about office technology, you do need to consider the long term benefits of investing in electric height adjustable desks. With the touch of a button, you can electric raise and lower your desk to change your working positions through the day. This helps to prevent bad posture, aches and strains and encouraging them to be more active.

2. Incredible Wi-Fi

Your Wi-Fi is an area where it really doesn’t pay to cut corners. Weak and slow Wi-Fi signal that keeps dropping out is going to reduce productivity and demotivate your staff. It’s best to talk to a professional IT consultant about the solutions on the market as they’ll be able to recommend the best.

3. A cloud-based network

In the past, a company would have shared and stored data on physical hard drives in the office. This not only meant that the company was vulnerable to data loss if the computers were damaged or stolen, but also that there was no remote access or flexible working. Luckily, things have changed. A cloud-based system is a virtual storage space rather than physical and enables authorized people to access the network from wherever they are in the world via a secure
login.

4. Top quality headphones

Busy workspaces are great, but sometimes you need to zone out and just focus on a task. Too much noise or even deadly silence can be a real distraction, so good quality headphones are an absolute must. Whether they’re used for listening to music, watching videos or taking calls or to dull the office buzz, you need to choose headphones which work for your business. You can easily and quickly find headphones using Choosist based on your budget and preferred features.

5. A reliable phone system

A business can live or die by its ability to communicate effectively. It’s crucial to get the best telephone network you can afford not only to ensure your staff can collaborate effectively but also to ensure any customers or affiliates get the best possible service. Consider a VoIP phone system which runs on an internet connection, rather than wires. These systems can integrate with computers so your employees will be able to make and receive calls from their desktop or laptop and there are no physical phone lines to connect your offices, employees or stores.

6. A complete security system

It’s not enough to simply lock the doors at the end of the day or even to rely on ID badges to grant or deny access. In the digital age, we live in you should be investing in multi-factor security with several stages of identification needed. In some cases, this could be as advanced as facial or fingerprint recognition for physical security, but Cybersecurity software is also essential to keep your business safe from hackers.

By David A Graham for The Atlantic

Christmastime is when the pens in my house get their biggest workout of the year. Like many Americans above grammar-school age, I seldom write by hand anymore, outside of barely legible grocery lists. But the end of the year brings out a slew of opportunities for penmanship, adding notes to holiday cards to old friends, addressing them, and then doing the same with thank-you notes after Christmas. And given how little I write in the other 11 months of the year, that means there are a lot of errors, which in turn spur a new connection with another old friend: Wite-Out.

The sticky, white fluid and its chief rival, Liquid Paper, are peculiar anachronisms, throwbacks to the era of big hair, big cars, and big office stationery budgets. They were designed to help workers correct errors they made on typewriters, without having to retype documents from the start. But typewriters have disappeared from the modern office, relegated to attics and museums. Even paper is increasingly disappearing from the modern office, as more and more functions are digitized. But correction fluids are not only surviving—they appear to be thriving, with Wite-Out sales climbing nearly 10 percent in 2017, according to the most recent public numbers. It’s a mystery of the digital age.

One sign of the cultural impact of the Wite-Out brand is that, like Kleenex, it has become a generic term. But it wasn’t the first. Liquid Paper dates back to the 1950s, when Bette Nesmith Graham, a struggling divorced mother, took on typing jobs to make money. The problem was that she wasn’t a good typist, and kept making mistakes. So she began experimenting with ways to cover up errors, enlisting her sons to help her. (This creative streak would help one of those sons, Mickey, in his career as an artist—first as a member of the Monkees, and later as a producer of films including Repo Man.) In 1958, she patented Liquid Paper.

There were other products that achieved the same goal, like strips of sticky paper that covered up errors, but Liquid Paper quickly eclipsed them—so much so that it soon drew imitators. In 1965, Tipp-Ex began producing its own fluid in Germany. A year later, George Kloosterhouse and Edwin Johanknecht, searching for a product that wouldn’t show up when a document was photocopied, developed Wite-Out.

It’s difficult for anyone raised in the age of computers to grasp how useful correction fluids must have been when typewriters were a dominant technology in offices and classrooms. Of course, correction fluids are useful for things other than typewriting. In the pre-laser-printer era, it was often easier to correct a document from a dot-matrix printer by hand than to reprint it. Handwritten documents in ink are also more easily Wited-Out than rewritten.

But today, even printer sales are down, casualties of an era when more and more writing is executed on screen and never printed or written out at all. In fact, office supplies as a whole are slumping. According to a report by the analysis firm Technavio, the U.S. stationery and office-supply market is essentially flat, projected to go from $86.4 billion in 2015 to $87.5 billion by 2018. The paper industry has had it especially bad.

Yet correction fluid remains remarkably resilient. As early as 2005, The New York Times pondered the product’s fate with trepidation. Somehow, more than a decade on, it has kept its ground. According to the NPD Group, which tracks marketing data, sales of correction fluid grew 1 percent from 2017 to 2018, though they fell 7 percent the year before. (Correction tapes were flat, while correction pens are fading.) From 2015 to 2016 to 2017, Bic, which makes Wite-Out and Tipp-Ex, reported that correction products increased in share from 5 to 6 to 9 percent of the global stationery market. It’s a little less clear how Liquid Paper is doing. Newell, which owns the brand, doesn’t break out earnings enough to tell, and the company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Who’s still buying these things? All the best answers are mostly conjecture. AdWeek suggested that sales might be buoyed by artists using fluid like paint. A Bic spokesperson pointed to a series of weird and entertaining interactive YouTube ads for Tipp-Ex in Europe, and said that Wite-Out is launching “colored dispensers that will appeal to younger consumers.”

That sounds faintly ridiculous—what use is a colorful bauble to a digital native?—but there may be something to it. Even as paper sales dip, up-market stationery is one sub-segment that is expected to grow, thanks to a Millennial affection for personalized stationery. Tia Frapolli, president of NPD’s office-supplies practice, pointed to bullet-journaling and hand-lettering as paper-based trends that could breathe some life into correction fluids.

Wite-Out is a strange place for serial-killing Millennials to offer clemency. In part, the attraction to the material is the same as any other hand-made or small-batch product: The physical act of covering up a mistake is imperfect but more satisfying than simply hitting backspace. There’s also a poignancy to a screwed generation gravitating toward Wite-Out.

You can’t erase the past anymore than you can erase a printed typo or written error—but you can paper it over and pretend it didn’t happen.

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.”

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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