Tag: workers

Office property market still under pressure

By Edward West for IOL

FNB’s fourth quarter commercial property survey continues to point to a strong broker perception that companies are revising their office needs.

The brokers perceive activity in the market to be the weakest when compared with the retail and industrial market sectors.

Globally there has been ongoing debate around the “work-from-home” trend and whether it will or won’t impact heavily on office space demand.

Some see imminent downscaling of office space requirements by many companies, and a major glut of office space. Recently, however, some have cited the need for office space to enhance human collaborations, the argument being that working online full time has limitations in terms of human relationships.

“While office space has its place for physical meetings and interaction, our belief is that less of it is needed for such purposes, with staff able to spend a significant part of their time at home. Also, financial realities for pressured companies may play a key role in decision-making, and office space is costly,” FNB Commercial Property Finance Property Sector strategist John Loos said yesterday.

“Whether financial pressure-related downscaling or work-from-home-specific thinking, the end result looks the same, very weak demand for office space, and increased over-supply,” he said.

In the survey, brokers perceived market activity to have picked up in all three major commercial property sectors in the fourth quarter, with industrial property remaining the strongest.

The percentage of respondents perceiving business conditions to be satisfactory fell to only 21 percent however, down from 31 percent the previous quarter, following a mild third quarter increase as South Africa emerged from the second quarter hard lockdown.

The FNB Commercial Property Broker Survey surveys a sample of commercial property brokers in the six metros. The survey was done in November 2020, before the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

In all three major property markets, brokers saw the negative economic impact from Covid-19 lockdowns as still being a major influence on their near-term market activity expectations.

In the office sector, the “Zoom Boom” and its “work from home” implications continued to overshadow even the recession impact. The impact of online retail in the retail property sector was viewed as much less significant than the “work from home” impact on the office market.

The respondents were most upbeat about the industrial and warehouse property market, with the market’s fourth quarter activity rating up slightly to 4.68 points out of 10 points, from 4.64 points in the previous quarter. The retail property activity rating was lower at 3.59 points although slightly up from its prior quarter’s 3.37 points reading.

This sector, however, surprised on the upside in the Near Term Expectations Indices of Property Market Activity, the survey showed.

The brokers saw the negative economic impact from Covid-19 lockdowns as still being a major influence on their near-term market activity expectations in all three major markets.

Forty-four percent of them perceived companies to be re-evaluating their office space needs, and in many instances downscaling, thus a key factor influencing their near-term expectations of market activity in this segment. Only 2 percent of brokers pointed to stock constraints, while a greater 12percent pointed to an oversupply of stock.

 

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that people have proven productive while working from home. And while they are increasingly keen to return to the office, it has also shown up just how the offices should adapt according to new research.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says the question is how to modify the physical office as a place for culture, connection, community-building, and innovation while still allowing for that flexibility.

“When we design for connection and communication, then people’s individual experiences in the workplace becomes the most important measure of success,” she says.

Based on our research, here are six strategies and considerations that will shape the future workplace:

1. The office should remain mostly open

Despite concerns about the pandemic, 71% of workers we surveyed would like to go back to an office that is mostly open. Through our research over the years, we have found that mostly-open environments with on-demand privacy — like phone rooms or focus rooms — are most desired by employees and return the highest effectiveness and satisfaction ratings.

2. Flexible seating and self-identifying neighbourhoods

If you’re considering a shift to more unassigned seating, people’s preferences can be complicated. “In our survey we found that most people’s preference leaned towards having an assigned desk — only 17% were willing to share. This is perhaps unsurprising given the current health crisis — but when you offer the opportunity to work in a more hybrid way, just over half of workers (51%) would be willing to trade their assigned desk for greater flexibility to choose when and where they work, “ Trim noted.

3. Most work spaces in the office should be video-conference enabled

Offices should as standard provide video conferencing that will help connect distributed teams. Most spaces will need to be enabled for video conferences, taking into account factors such as acoustics, degree of enclosure, background sightlines, technology, and more. “There will be a need to overhaul the protocols and etiquette around how we use these spaces. With video conferencing potentially occurring not just in meeting rooms, but in semi-enclosed and open spaces as well, the office may feel buzzier than before,” Trim said.

4. Shift from workstations to collaborative spaces

With fewer workers typically on-site in the future, the balance of spaces at the office will need to shift to meet worker’s needs. Allocating fewer workstations to individuals frees up space that can be repurposed for a wider variety of collaborative spaces.

At the same time, companies and organisations can’t eliminate workstations entirely.

“Our survey found space to focus on independent focus work is still the number 3 reason workers want to come into the office. To support equity for employees, some spaces for individual focus work should be included in offices going forward.”

5. Create space for culture, mentoring and connection

Awareness of what others are working on outside one’s own team is particularly important to building and maintaining company culture in a more remote work environment.

“For example, through our research we learned that fewer than half of workers participated in coaching or mentoring sessions during the pandemic — but those who did were disproportionately in executive, senior leadership or managerial roles.”

Over video calls, it’s more difficult to see when team members are struggling and more difficult to discern how to best support them. Having a physical space to connect in-person and develop team and mentoring relationships is important not only to individual growth but also to an organisation’s long-term culture.

Ultimately, what we’re seeing is an acceleration of a trend that we’ve identified in our workplace research over the last decade: people already working in a hybrid arrangement have reported the highest satisfaction with their work situation.

“Now, with the pandemic, many more workers have gained the experience of working from home — and our latest survey results show that people’s office expectations are changing to match,” Trim concludes.

Eskom workers strike

By Lauren Isaacs for EWN

Eskom on Monday confirmed that some workers at its power stations would embark on a planned protest from Tuesday.

The demonstrators are temporary workers employed by contractors and Eskom Rotek Industries.

It is believed they are up in arms over the use of labour brokers.

Eskom’s spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said: “Eskom has put in measures to minimise the disruption to production and it bears noting that the matters that are being raised by the protestors are already before the CCMA,” he said.

On Tuesday night Eskom sent a notification on Twitter to say that the power grid was under pressure.

This comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa said that government was making progress in overcoming the problems Eskom has been facing for years now.

Ramaphosa has used his weekly newsletter to address the energy crisis gripping the country.

He said that improvements were continuing in municipal debt collection and despite load shedding, maintenance work was continuing at power stations.

He said that South Africa would be buying electricity through a transparent tendering process that prioritised competitiveness and cost-effectiveness.

Government has gazetted ministerial determinations that will enable the development of more than 11,800 megawatts of additional power generation.

To attract the best and the brightest, many companies are creating an “anti-office” — a Silicon Valley inspired, more relaxed environment that looks more like a trendy coffee shop or the foyer of a boutique hotel.

But many of these inspiring workspaces are sitting puzzlingly empty, despite contrasting strongly with the more formal, conventional offices favoured in the past.

Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “Despite significant investments to create inspiring workplaces that will attract talent, especially Millennials, many of these more casual and fun workspaces sit empty, while others are in constant use.

“The question is why do people choose one space over another? And is there a right formula for creating these spaces? Given the time and investment it takes, it’s really important for businesses to get it right the first time.”

Galloway-Gaul notes that most of the time, the primary driver for creating shared spaces is simply aesthetics with not enough thought given to the varied ways in which people actually work.

“People need more than a beautiful sofa and a coffee table. They come to the office to work. Organisations therefore need to turn their focus toward reducing what’s unnecessary and getting back to facilitating a focus on work,” she says.

Many shared spaces are designed primarily for social interactions and provide limited options for performance work.

“Unable to find the right space for doing heads down work, it’s not unusual, for example, to find people doing focus work in large spaces designed for collaboration or trying to collaborate in areas designed for respite,” Galloway-Gaul notes.

“It’s fine and even appealing to make the workspace look like a designer home, but businesses need to use every square meter of office space in a meaningful way, so these spaces can also be productive and help people perform.”

The key is to provide people with a mix of diverse spaces that support different work modes and styles. The lack of these may be why employees of large corporations are only moderately satisfied with the shared spaces their organisations provide them.

A study by Steelcase confirmed that employees prefer to work in a range of spaces, rather than a single setting.

SA’s minimum wage is increasing on 1 March

On 1 March, South Africa’s minimum wage will see its first increase since being introduced in 2019.

Unions were outraged at a previous recommendation of 5% increases, pointing out that the minimum wages introduced in 2019 were agreed in 2017, and are now much eroded.

  • The new national minimum wage will be set at R20.76 per hour
  • This is an increase of 3.8% on the previous R20
  • Annual consumer inflation was at 4% last month, up from the rate of 3.6% in November
  • Unions sought an increase of at least 12.5% in the minimum wage this year

Here are the new minimum wages due to come into effect on 1 March 2020:

  • For work not covered by a special determination: R20.76 per hour
  • For domestic workers: R15.57 per hour
  • For contract cleaning staff: between R20.83 and R22.84 per hour, depending on the geographic area
  • For farm workers: R18.68 per hour.
  • For workers in government’s expanded public works programme: R11.42 per hour

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:
  1. Emotional wellness – give employees access to natural light , and quiet rooms where they can comfortably focus on their work.
  2. Physical wellness – provide people with healthy food options, and ergonomically designed work stations.
  3. Environmental wellness – make sure your workspaces have adequate air quality, light, temperature, and proper acoustics.

Banks set to go on strike

All of the major banks across South Africa will partake in strike action on Friday unless a court rules in favour of stopping it.

If The South African Society of Bank Officials (Sasbo) succeeds on Wednesday, service will be disrupted nationwide. The total shutdown may result in up to 70 000 employees downing tools.

Sasbo, which is affiliated with Cosatu, is is planning five marches throughout the country in Johannesburg, Durban, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. They are scheduled to take place from 10:00 onwards.

The union is striking over the digitalisation of banking practices which have lead to job losses and retrenchments in the sector.

The South African outlined how each bank might be affected:

Standard Bank
Employees: 54 000
Customers: 8.12 million (as of 2018)
Response: The bank are waiting for the court’s decision before responding to planned strike action
Other information: Standard Bank are said to have slashed 1 200 jobs in the last year, following the closure of 91 branches across South Africa. The bank is facing the harshest criticisms from the union.

FNB
Employees: Around 30 000
Customers: 8.15 million (as of 2018)
Response: FNB envisage staff shortages on Friday, but the group have customers to ease the workload by registering for online banking, or downloading FNB’s official app before the end of the week
Other information: They have expressed their willingness to co-operate with Sasbo, after getting wind of the potential bank strike last Friday

ABSA
Employees: 42 000
Customers: Between 8 – 9 million. Just over five million people use it as their “main bank”
Response: ABSA has confirmed to Fin24 that they “will deploy a business continuity and contingency plan to mitigate the impact on customers and clients” – they expect a small number of workers to strike.
Other information: Around 187 ABSA branches have been cut from service over the past decade

Nedbank
Employees: 31 000
Customers: 7.85 million (as of 2018)
Response: They have revealed through a statement that some branches will have “a limited number of workers available”, and continued to say: “For optimal service delivery, clients are encouraged to make use of our ATMs and our convenient digital banking platforms to transact.”
Other information: The institution has joined Business Unity South Africa’s application to halt the bank strikes. Around 1 500 Nedbank staff are currently facing unemployment or redeployment elsewhere

Capitec
Employees: 12 000 – 13 000
Customers: 10.2 million (as of 2018)
Response: A representative told Business Tech: “Over the past year, our staff complement has grown by over 200 people. We also plan to open a further 17 branches in the next six months.”
Other information: Don’t expect too much disruption at Capitec. Their ship remains steady on the bank strike issue

Cash machines, inter-personal bank services and a host of branches are expected to be impacted across the country.

In order to prepare for Friday, consumers should:

  • Withdraw money in advance and make sure you have enough to last a few days
  • Any tax-related payments to SARS should be made before the close of business on Wednesday
  • Register for your bank’s online banking or download their bank app. 

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

What unemployment looks like in South Africa

South Africa’s unemployment rate is getting worse. The latest stats from Stats SA, as well as the opinions of leading economic and labour experts, paint a very dire picture:

  • The unemployment rate increased by 1,4 percentage points from 27,6% in the first quarter of 2019 to 29,0% in the second quarter of 2019
  • The number of people unemployed grew by 455 000
  • The number of people employed grew by just 21 000
  • Government’s failed Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) was supposed to create 350 000 manufacturing jobs
  • 320 000 manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2008
  • Gang violence on the Cape Flats is a direct result of the loss of jobs in the textile industry in the areas
  • 6,7-million people are currently unemployed in South Africa – the size of the entire country of Bulgaria

Six ways to make work more meaningful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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