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How Artificial Intelligence is growing in the workplace

How Artificial Intelligence is growing in the workplace

<p>So far the effects of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been slow to reveal themselves in businesses in South Africa but the scale of the oncoming change is starting to become apparent overseas.</p> <p>Isla Galloway-Gaul, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy said: “AI’s influence is growing in the workplace and will bring substantial change to South African offices in the next few years as machine learning, task automation and robotics are increasingly used in business.”</p> <p>She noted that the ability of computers to learn, rather than be programmed, puts a wide range of complex roles within reach of automation for the first time.</p> <p><strong>Bots and virtual assistants</strong><br /> As machine-learning trained systems gain the ability to understand speech and language, so the prospect of automated chatbots is becoming a reality.</p> <p>One example is UK electronics retailer Dixons Carphone, which used the Microsoft Bot Framework and Microsoft Cognitive Services to create a conversational bot.</p> <p>Google demonstrated the potential of chatbots last year with its demo of its Duplex system. Duplex rang up businesses such as restaurants and hairdressers booking an appointment while sounding and behaving enough like a human.</p> <p>“Household names are also muscling into the area of creating a virtual assistant for the enterprise space like Amazon’s Alexa for Business. With many AI-assisted technologies, the aim of using chatbots and virtual assistants appears to be either making existing employees more effective or replacing manual roles,“ noted Galloway-Gaul.</p> <p><strong>Workplace Sensor technology and analytics</strong><br /> Huge amounts of data can now be collected from inexpensive sensors applied to smart decisions. For example, South African workplace sensing technology company MakeSense allows businesses to accurately assess just how much of their workplaces they actually use, likely saving a lot of money in the process.</p> <p>It works by placing small sensors around the office which analyses peoples’ movement.</p> <p>“Workspace occupancy sensing technology helps businesses understand how desks, meeting rooms and breakout spaces are used in extraordinary detail. For example on average 40% of people don’t turn up to meetings so many meetings room are probably too big and are wasted space and cost.”</p> <p><strong>Machine vision in the workplace</strong><br /> Machine vision is an area of AI that could allow the automation of many manual roles that until recently would have been considered too complex for a computer system to handle.<br /> A case is point is Amazon Go, a grocery store, where shoppers just pick up what they want and walk out of the shop with their goods. The system works by using cameras dotted throughout the store to track what each shopper picks up. The shopper is charged when they leave, via an Amazon app on their smartphone.</p> <p><strong>Robots in the workplace</strong><br /> Robots are nothing new in the workplace, having been a fixture in car manufacturing plants for decades.<br /> “But what's different today is that robots are beginning to be used for less repetitive and predictable tasks. Robots can increasingly cope with a greater deal of uncertainty in their environment, broadening the tasks they can take on and opening the possibility of working more closely alongside humans.” Galloway-Gaul noted. Amazon again is leading the way in using robots to improve efficiency inside its warehouses. Its knee-high warehouse robots carry products to human pickers who select items to be sent out.</p> <p><strong>Robotic Process Automation</strong><br /> Back office tasks like data entry, accounting, human resources and supply-chain management are full of repetitive and semi-predictable tasks.<br /> Increasingly, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software is used to capture the rules that govern how people process transactions, manipulate data and send data to and from computer systems, in an attempt to then use those rules to build an automated platform that can perform those roles.</p> <p>“Change is therefore coming to all workspaces all around the world; the trick will be getting AI to help business grow and work well with humans,” Galloway-Gaul concluded.</p>

Aglet 15th Apr 2019
Why the pod is popping up everywhere in offices in South Africa

Why the pod is popping up everywhere in offices in South Africa

The pod — a small, free-standing box or space that is typically soundproof and designed to fit just one or two people — is taking over offices in South Africa according one of the country’s biggest office space and furniture consultancies. And there is good reason for the rise in its popularity. Isla Galloway-Gaul, Managing Director of Inspiration Office said: “Privacy pods that allow you to meet or talk on the phone without others overhearing, or work in complete silence, have been installed in many offices ranging from start ups to large companies with thousands of employees. “We have experienced rising demand for pods over the past few years and expect them to become increasingly popular in offices in South Africa.” One of the biggest reasons for companies installing pods in their public spaces is people’s need for silence and privacy. “We all need periods of silence, especially at work,” said Galloway-Gaul. “Working and commuting in busy urban environments is putting a lot of noise and busyness pressure on our lifestyles.” People around the world tend to spend increasing numbers of hours at work compared to decades past, and because of the rise of open plan offices we need the option to go somewhere quiet and carry on working. “While many people like open plan offices, others find in makes for a more difficult work environment by creating more stress, reducing productivity and lowering job satisfaction. Most people struggle with concentration anyway, even without interruptions and elevated noise levels,“ she added. Privacy pods are an ideal solution and easily installed. “They do away with the need to build entirely new private rooms, can be added and removed according to need and as they are small, can be slotted in without making much change to the overall offices space or aesthetic. They are also much more cost effective and far less disruptive than making wholesale changes to an office,” said Galloway-Gaul. “Companies can still have uncluttered open offices and accommodate those who need quiet.” Another reason behind the rise of the pod? “An increased focus on wellness,” said Galloway-Gaul. “There are a lot of introverts in the world that need a place to go to think and recharge,” she said. “And even those who aren’t, may want a few moments of peace every so often.” Productivity is another factor. Pods make it more convenient for people to work more, thereby increasing productivity. Productivity in the workplace is vital to support an efficient business and enhance the bottom line, but it is apparent that a lot of employees feel that they are sometimes restricted by the environment around them. Said Galloway-Gaul: “Organisations must create as much choice as possible to enable employees to vary noise levels to meet their needs depending on what they're working on. “There is a growing demand for pods around the world. It’s a growth area and one that could be a disrupter to how companies plan their spaces.”

Aglet 15th Apr 2019
Meet your new team member - the room

Meet your new team member - the room

Digital assistants and smart rooms with environmental systems will soon be so sensitive to our workplace needs that they will feel like conscientious colleagues eager to meet our every command. Isla Galloway-Gaul, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy said “It’s time to start thinking of your office space as a team member because of how it will interact with you and your colleagues. “We expect the development of environmental systems that operate like friendly, artificial intelligence platforms that, while not sentient and emotionally developed in a human sense, can detect our moods and impulses with facial-and-speech-recognition software and brain-reading devices.” She said the systems could for example sense when we’re drifting off in a meeting, and could nudge us to get a drink to refresh ourselves. Said Galloway-Gaul: “In the immediate future, we see the growing popularity of digital personal assistants, such as Cortana and Google Assistant, and intelligent furnishings, in the workplace.” For example a conference table equipped with microphones and speech-processing software could understand and summarise conversations happening around it. Through such integrated, intelligent systems linked to the cloud, a room will be able to anticipate the needs of the team within it - bringing up past documents or project logs - or encouraging participation by nudging quiet team members to share their opinions. With this new level of detection and analysis, environments hold the potential to enhance human performance by getting to know us personally. “Rooms will become personalised to our software habits and preferences, knowing which platforms, news feeds and applications we gravitate toward. In the same way a smartwatch tells us how many calories we’ve burned and hours we’ve slept, augmented rooms and surfaces will track our behaviours through data pulled from our devices and bio-informed sensors—adjusting lighting, visual privacy, acoustics and temperature with algorithms sensitive to our personal preferences,” Galloway-Gaul added. Over time, the design of intelligent rooms and user inter-faces will become more humanistic and intuitive, articulated in architecture and furnishings reflecting a range of postures, work modes, light levels and acoustic qualities. The introvert may find she does her best work in a private, solitary room encased in soundproof glass. The extrovert may prefer to prepare to do his year-end report in a busy café, while listening to loud music. “Both will come to see spaces as a partner in the work process,” said Galloway-Gaul. Privacy is a concern however as these systems will get to know us very well. “As rooms begin to listen to us and data becomes easier to harvest, the security and privacy of employee information will become the concern of every organisation.” Galloway-Gaul noted that Europe has recently taken the lead in digital privacy by establishing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which lays out sweeping individual rights over your personal data. “Controlling digital stimulation and the data it gathers will be increasingly important as systems become ever more sophisticated,“ Galloway-Gaul concluded.

Aglet 15th Apr 2019
Want to be really productive at work in 2018? Here’s how

Want to be really productive at work in 2018? Here’s how

<strong>Richard Andrews</strong> Director at Inspiration Office (Pty) Ltd Productivity is the combination of intelligent planning and focused efforts. But staying productive at work can be a challenge said Richard Andrews, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africawide office space and furniture consultancy.   “Every time the work day ends, odds are that you are not satisfied with what you have accomplished. Here’s how to make your work life more productive."   <strong>1. Seek help / Delegate tasks </strong> Everybody needs help and should never take on large tasks alone. “In order to get help from others, you need to trust your colleagues in helping you complete work. If you tell your colleague what the deadline is for the project, then they will likely take it very seriously, “ said Andrews. Make sure to give your colleague all of the resources that he or she needs. If you are too introverted to ask for help, then you will most likely be doing tasks on your own. You may also end up becoming somebody else's work-horse because you are too shy to speak up.   <strong>2. Don’t get sucked into unnecessary meetings </strong> Said Andrews: “Time is the most important currency in your work life. While it may be tempting to meet with as many people for the benefit of networking, the time you get at your desk is extremely valuable. Knowing what meetings to refuse is very important." If your manager wants a meeting, then it is obviously important. However, attending a meeting about which font to use for the weekly newsletter design get-together may not be worth your time. “What many people find effective is to designate a day or two out of the week just for meetings leaving the rest of the time to focus on core tasks.”   <strong>3. Create to-do lists </strong> At work, there are tasks that are simple and ones that are complex. “It’s often easier to complete the easy ones first and then tackle the complicated ones. To stay on top of task creating to-do lists is a good idea rather than having a million things you need to do buzzing around your head,” Andrews noted. If some of the tasks are larger, then break them into multiple smaller tasks. One of the most satisfying aspects of creating a to-do list is crossing off things when they are done. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and gives you a visualisation of progress.   <strong>4. Designate times to handle e-mail </strong> If you are constantly checking your e-mail, this could mean you have too much free time on your hands and need to work on other tasks. Urgent information tends to be passed through phone calls rather than e-mail. Instead of stopping what you are doing to respond to a new email, you should consider setting aside a time for responding to e-mails in batches.   <strong>5. Weed out distractions </strong> In the U.S., over 12.2 billion collective hours are being spent browsing on a social network every day. This is costing the U.S. economy around $650 billion per year. “If you find that you are really falling behind on your work, then you should consider uninstalling apps like Facebook and Twitter from your smartphone. It’s the easiest way to stop being tempted into distraction,” Andrews said.   <strong>6. Set ambitious, yet realistic goals </strong> People that set higher goals have a tendency to be more satisfied than those with lower expectations. One of the major reasons why people fail at goals is because they did not set a deadline. Goals have to be very specific and they should be written down. “It is good to get feedback about the goals in order to refine them,” Andrews advised.   <strong>7. Spend a few minutes preparing for the next day </strong> Mornings at work can be chaotic and often you are tasked with unexpected things which can easily throw your day out. “A few minutes preparing the day before means you have less to do when you get to work and the smoother your day will be,” Andrews added.   <strong>8. Declutter your immediate work environment </strong> Clutter can really influence the way you work and your productivity when at your desk. "If you’re too disorganized, everything competes for your attention and makes it hard to work, not to mention influence perceptions of your professionalism." “Inspiration Office has access to many innovative and cost effective solutions that has allowed us to improve the efficiency of many client’s offices, and as a result improve overall productivity” concluded Andrews.

Aglet 25th Mar 2019
6 innovative ways companies are changing the workplace

6 innovative ways companies are changing the workplace

<strong>Richard Andrews</strong> Director at Inspiration Office (Pty) Ltd   Increasingly companies are seeing the workplace as a strategic tool for productivity and collaboration by introducing workplace innovations that make offices much more appealing places to work.   Richard Andrews, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy said: "What makes an office environment great is different for every company. But these are six innovations we are seeing in offices around the world and increasingly in South Africa."   <strong>1) Overlap Zones </strong> "A way to encourage spontaneous collaboration among employees is designing space to allow for "overlap zones", which make it more likely employees will run into each other," said Andrews. Research from the University of Michigan showed that when scientists worked in a space where they ran into one another they were more likely to collaborate. The data suggests that creating opportunities for unplanned interactions among employees both inside and outside the organisation actually improves performance. Samsung built an office that includes large outdoor areas sandwiched between floors that encourages employees to hang out and mingle in shared spaces. Online clothing store Zappos purposefully planned to build a smaller office for the U.S. headquarters to increase the number of probable interactions per hour per acre.   <strong>2) Configurable Desks </strong> Said Andrews: "We are seeing a greater demand for desks that fit together like puzzle pieces. They can be moved, reworked and reattached as employees see fit. It matches their immediate needs such as working solo for a collaborative project." Headphone company Skullcandy uses configurable desks at their office in Zurich.   <strong>3) Music Rooms</strong> "One way to boost employee productivity at the office is to foster a positive company culture," Andrews noted. It's not prevalent in South Africa yet but overseas music rooms are proving popular, as long as they are soundproofed! At LinkedIn's headquarters in Mountain View, California, employees can play in a room that's stocked with high-end music equipment like drums, guitars, keyboards, AV equipment, microphone stands and even stage lighting. The program improves the company's marketability to potential employees, especially musicians, both as a specific perk and as a means to demonstrate the company is not like all the others.   <strong>4) A monitor revolution </strong> We could be entering a new age for office monitors in 2018. "The past year has seen many offices upgrade their screens to 32-inch or even bigger screens and the latest models feature almost border-less edges or even a curved display," Andrews noted. Besides the significant productivity advantages, companies are also beginning to deeply consider how their technology impacts on the look and feel of the workplace. Monitors and other technology have become more prominent, as more workplaces opt for sit-stand desks, the back of the screen and cables are more visible. These latest screens create a sleeker, modern look across the workplace, in turn, organisations are also choosing support tools with aesthetic appeal and that hides cables.   <strong>5) A Superdesk </strong> Designing an office around the "open office" concept is one thing. But what about creating a shared desk for your company's entire staff? To represent their collaborative approach to work, marketing company the Barbarian Group built a 400 square meter desk that weaves through their office headquarters in New York City, which can sit up to 170 people at once. "Of course this might not be practical for employees who want to work in a quieter space, but it does create a sense of oneness," said Andrews.   <strong>6) Plants & Greenery </strong> It isn't too hard to believe that spending time around nature and sunlight and fragrant greenery is good for you. But now, there's scientific research to back that claim. A 2014 study in Journal of Experimental Psychology by Nieuwenhuis et al showed that adding plants and greenery in an office can help increase employee productivity by 15%. "Office landscaping helps the workplace become a more enjoyable, comfortable and profitable place to be," Andrews added. For example, Google's office in Tel Aviv, Israel, has an indoor orange grove that turns an otherwise normal, collaborative space into a relaxing area that makes you feel like you're sitting outside on a park bench.

Aglet 25th Mar 2019
Idea centric offices with homestyle comforts expected to be amongst SA office trends of 2018

Idea centric offices with homestyle comforts expected to be amongst SA office trends of 2018

Ideas are the new currency of modern economies and it is no more evident than in recent billion dollar idea success stories like Airbnb and Uber which are now disrupting, and even putting out of business, established industries. Richard Andrews, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy said "Increasingly companies are putting emphasis on new ideas to grow their business and stand apart from competition." "We live in an ideas age and businesses are recognising that fact and today's offices must support the 'cult' of new ideas. And in comfort of course." These are the biggest office trends expected in South African in 2018:   <strong>Idea centric office</strong> "Given ideas are so important to the new economy in 2018 we expect to see more idea centric offices that enable creative thinking. Many people think creativity is just for creatives but it should be facilitated and encouraged in all aspects of the working life because it helps all areas of business," Andrews noted. "There is a misconception that creativity is a 'light bulb' moment - but it is not. Creativity is really a haphazard, tricky problem solving process that should allow people to work in groups but also alone. Offices should therefore create spaces where people can work in a creativity supporting way." This year Andrews expects an even greater shift away from traditional 'battery farm' corporate workplaces to places that are more like creative studios - that means different kinds of workplaces that offer uninterrupted individual focus, developing ideas in a pair, generating solutions as a group, converging around ideas and allowing time for diffused thinking. "These different options allow the mind to wander."   <strong>Unconventional work area design</strong> An extension of idea centric offices is the unconventional work area design. "These are not just for hipsters working at Google anymore. Unconventional work offices now offer meditation spaces, dressed-down conference rooms complete with sofas, bean bag chairs, vibrant colours, and lots of room for fun, stress busting activities like ping pong or foosball." Offices all over the world are adopting these new and unorthodox working and meeting spaces to attract young talent and make working spaces more fun and collaborative.   <strong>Homestyle comforts</strong> "We are receiving a growing number of requests to make South African offices more relaxed and people friendly so people don't feel they are sitting in such a sever place'" Andrews added. Demand for homestyle comfort design is a sign that employers are listening to the desires of their employees and figuring out new, fun ways, to get them to stay at work longer. This design trend is all about making offices feel more comfortable or homelike.   <strong>Dynamic Spaces</strong> Dynamic spaces is another big trend. They are typically defined by lightweight and moveable furniture with wheels, doors to open extra space, moveable green wall dividers and wipe boards or chalk boards. They are moveable, constantly fluctuating, engaging, and can transform from a space for company parties and activities to traditional conference rooms or meeting areas. Said Andrews: "Dynamic spaces offer the opportunity for businesses to be a lot more creative with their space. Businesses are constantly changing and becoming more flexible, allowing colleagues and staff to try new things in innovative ways."   <strong>Greenery & nature</strong> More a long-standing design principle than a trend, this is not just about adding a few plants here and there around the office. "This goes much further by integrating nature through the building in the form of textures, patterns, plants and natural lighting. Being close to nature and living plants instills a greater sense of calm in offices. While not new, we are seeing a strong increase in demand for green in the workplace," Andrews concluded.

Aglet 25th Mar 2019
From unequal pay to robots - the hot button workplace issues likely to dominate 2018

From unequal pay to robots - the hot button workplace issues likely to dominate 2018

<strong>Richard Andrews </strong> Director at Inspiration Office (Pty) Ltd   Workplaces the world over are changing rapidly thanks to the way we prefer to work, social changes and technological advances.   Richard Andrews, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy said seldom has so much change come at once to the workplace as it has this year. These are the more significant trends that will continue to dominate the conversation around work in 2018.   <strong>UNEQUAL PAY </strong> South Africa is ranked 19 in a global index report on gender inequality released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) late last year. The report finds that while South Africa has improved its share of women legislators, senior officials and managers, the gender wage gap in the country has increased. In recent years, women have made significant progress towards equality in a number of areas such as education and health, with the Nordic countries leading the way. But the global trend now seems to have made a U-turn, especially in workplaces, where full gender equality is not expected to materialise until 2234 according to WEF.   "This is a hot topic the world over," said Andrews. "And until there is fairness, wage gaps will continue to be scrutinised. Closing the wage gap could add millions to the economy and uplift so many people's lives."   Andrews noted that he expects more countries around the world to follow in the steps the UK took last year in making it a legal requirement for companies with more than 250 employees to declare the gender wage gap.   <strong>WORKPLACE HARASSMENT </strong> Last year there was a lot of news of workers coming forward to tell their stories of discrimination and harassment at the hands of those in power. In light of these developments, employees expect their leaders to rest their values and workplace policies. Said Andrews: "We need to ask what can we do about this?" "It starts by taking a more responsible approach to leadership and continues with a concerted effort to change the way organisations monitor employee interaction throughout the company."   Andrews noted that leaders need to "move beyond check-thebox engagement metrics to dig in and do deeper work developing transparent cultures. In short, 'See something, say something.'"   <strong>GENERATION INCLUSION </strong> "Generation Z's university graduates are entering the workplace full-time, changing the fabric of the workforce," said Andrews. "Gen Z came of age during the 2008 economic crisis, and many within the generation are more interested in job stability than their millennial peers, who have gained a job-hopper reputation. Employers should be thinking about fostering growth opportunities rather than simply looking to pay them more to keep them loyal."   Mixed generational management will be at the top and throughout organisations, with Gen X and millennials leading, while boomers and traditionalists migrate to project and consultative contractor roles, Andrews noted.   The necessity for employers to offer their staff a palette of places, presence and postures, thereby giving complete choice and control over where and how they work, has never been greater than it is now. "Older millennials are entering the C-Suite, and they will be asking boomers to help them as advisers, coaches or mentors," he added.   <strong>FLEXIBLE, REMOTE AND FREELANCE WORK </strong> Globally, the importance of flexible work for both the alreadyemployed and for job seekers can't be understated.   "In addition, telecommuting and working from home is on the rise too," said Andrews. "Not only will more companies invest in remotre workers, but those who require workers on site will do everything possible to make work feel like home. Developers will adapt with mixed-use developments that bring workers closer to the office." Andrews noted that Inspiration Office has changed its furniture offering in the past few years along with these trends to meet the demand for more comfortable, less formal office spaces at rates that don't break the bank. There is also a rapid rise in the freelance workforce in South Africa and around the world. In the U.S. for instance, the freelance is growing more than three times faster than the U.S. workforce overall. The number of U.S. freelancers now stands at 57.3 million, representing an 8.1% jump over the last three years.   <strong>ROBOTS AND AI </strong> A recent report on the future of work from McKinsey noted that as many as 375 million workers around the world may need to switch occupational categories and learn new skills, because in about 60% of jobs, at least one-third of the work can be automated. "It isn't cause for alarm just yet," Andrews noted. "Only 5% of jobs can be completely eliminated by automation. But it does mean that workers need to be prepared to make a change by learning new skills and constantly adapting." As Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes part of even more technologies from Amazon's Alexa to smart home devices and cloud computing platforms, demand for workers skilled in artificial intelligence will rise.

Aglet 25th Mar 2019
6 ways your company can adapt to an ageing workforce

6 ways your company can adapt to an ageing workforce

<strong>Richard Andrews</strong> Director at Inspiration Office (Pty) Ltd   Many of today's 10 year olds will live to be 120 and it's not a stretch therefore to expect them to still be working at 100. Richard Andrews, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy said workplace demands will change as people live and work longer and that the best time to adapt is now.   "We are beginning to see clients asking questions on how to future proof workplaces so they remain appealing to an older and extremely valuable workforce that is rich with know-how."   Here's how companies can adapt their workspaces: <strong>Make the workplace age-neutral </strong> Whether it's training on office technology or a slick ergonomic overhaul, companies can help their older employees remain at the top of their game by making the workplace more comfortable. Said Andrews; "The workplaces demand of say a 20-something single person varies greatly to that of a married person in their mid-50's with kids at home."   Simple changes can be made without catering to just one group. "Rethinking of colours, making sure acoustics and audio technology makes provision for those harder of hearing and introducing (and allowing) easy access to mother's rooms are some of the easy wins which won't impact the office overall, but will cater to an ageing workforce."   <strong>See all that experience as a boon </strong> Instead of viewing older employees as a burden, consider seasoned, experienced employees as a boon for your business. "More older employees means more skills and wisdom in the workplace, which means more potential mentors for younger employees who'll be inheriting leadership roles when older workers retire" said Andrews. "If a company truly wants the best team for the job, the most effective teams are age diverse, especially when it comes to innovative ideas and ways to tackle challenges."   Andrews noted that in addition to experience, older workers often tend to be more reliable, more loyal and have the confidence to speak their minds to senior people.   <strong>Be more flexible </strong> In recent years, employers have become increasingly flexible about when and where employees are working. However, studies show they've tightened up when it comes to employees working less than full-time.   "But a fractionalised work week and phased retirement options would likely better suit a greying workforce. We need to be able to decelerate like we accelerate the work life. Like you climb up the corporate ladder, you should be able to climb down the corporate ladder," Andrews noted.   <strong>Offer training </strong> Training is not only important for helping older workers learn new skills and master new technologies, but also for supervisors managing employees of varying ages. Creating cross generational teams and encouraging collaboration can help to diffuse age bias. Collectively, this could improve culture in the workplace, while also helping older employees maintain a high level of performance.   <strong> Identify employees' wants and needs </strong> Said Andrews: "Use focus groups and outside consultants to conduct a comprehensive review of your company's demographics and whether the workplace meets the ergonomic and cultural needs of your employees."   This is good practice for companies in general as employees sometime find it difficult to speak up to managers for fear of being singled out or being seen as troublesome. But finding out certain age-specific needs will bring benefits beyond just helping older workers manage the more physical aspects of their jobs.   <strong>Plan ahead </strong> "By studying your workplace demographics and planning ahead, you can develop policies that meet the needs of your workforce," said Andrews.   "For example, if you have a large population of retirement-age employees who would like to keep working in a lesser capacity, then you might consider instituting flexible options that allow workers to ease into retirement. Additionally, this will help you get succession plans in place for when workers in leadership positions do begin to retire."

Aglet 25th Mar 2019
How lighting affects office productivity

How lighting affects office productivity

<strong>Richard Andrews </strong> Director at Inspiration Office (Pty) Ltd   There are certain factors that everyone knows affects workplace productivity, but there is one important item often overlooked by most employers the world over: LIGHTING   Richard Andrews, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy said: "An employer's choice of lighting can have a significant impact on the productivity of a company."   "A study conducted by the American Society of Interior Design for example indicated that 68% of employees complain about the lighting situation in their offices. The fact that such a substantial number of employees disliked the lighting implies that many employers could be making the same mistakes."   "Light has an enormous effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. It's in our DNA to perform better under specific lighting, and that's why we react differently depending on our light environment," Andrews noted.   One of the most striking factors influencing how we work is called the colour temperature of the light source we're exposed to on a regular basis.   So, what is colour temperature? Higher colour temperatures appear blue-white and are called coll or daylight colours. Mid-range colour temperatures appear cool white while lower colour temperatures range from red to yellowish-white in tone and are called warm colours.   For a better idea, these are some examples of what there colour temperatures look like in everyday life: <ul> <li>The glow from the fire lighting is considered a warm colour.</li> <li>A sunset is considered a cool white colour.</li> <li>A typical sunny day is considered a cool colour.</li> <li>An overcast winter day is considered a very cool colour.</li> </ul> <strong>What colour temperature lighting is best at work? </strong> "Cooler light makes workers more productive," said Andrews A number of studies (Cheung & Zee in the Journal of Sleep Medicine as one stand out example) have found sunlight can have a multitude of benefits on our health.   Exposure to natural light is especially beneficial to workers that are cooped up in an office all day. Natural light from both the morning and evening has been found to decrease depression. As a result of these findings we often advise clients to bring down drywalls and use an extensive amount of glass in the offices they design. With this strategy, light is able to travel and disperse throughout the office space.   <strong>Tailoring Lighting Throughout the Office </strong> If you don't have access to daylight, studies have also found that working under "blue-enriched" light bulbs actually increases work performance by supporting mental acuity, vitality and alertness while reducing fatigue and daytime sleepiness.   Researchers at the University of Greenwich found in a twomonth study that the workers they put under "blue-enriched light bulbs" reported feeling "happier, more alert and had less eye strain."   Said Andrews: "Other benefits of blue light include lowering melatonin, which is created in our glands and basically puts us to sleep. This lower level of melatonin keeps people alert in the same way coffee does."   "With so many brainpower benefits, blue or cooler light should be kept in brainstorming rooms."   On the other hand, since warmer tones tend to create a sense of comfort, it makes this kind of lighting in more intimate settings where you want workers to feel calm and relaxed, perhaps in a meeting room where you want to emit trust. Conference rooms should have middle tones that produce a friendly and inviting environment, but also cool enough tones to keep workers alert and motivated.   "Throughout the day, light also needs to change since space acts like a working organism; lighting in the office should be cooler and blue and should gradually change to a warmer, yellow as the day progresses."   <strong>Programmable Lighting - The Next Big Thing? </strong> The most innovative companies are already discovering the power of strategic lighting. "In the next couple of years, you're going to see major changes in lighting technology in companies. More and more companies will have programmable lighting that will be able to changed as one desires," Andrews concluded.

Aglet 25th Mar 2019
More SA companies following Apple's sit / stand approach to work

More SA companies following Apple's sit / stand approach to work

<strong>Richard Andrews </strong> Director at Inspiration Office (Pty) Ltd   Recently, it was widely reported in the media that all employees at Apple's new spaceship-style headquarters in Cupertino, California would be getting desks that give them the option of working sitting or standing - a trend that is rapidly catching on in South African offices too.   Richard Andrews, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy said that rapidly increasing numbers of their clients are asking for new desk installations that can accommodate workers who prefer to mix up the work day by standing and sitting.   "In the past year we have had nearly a 50% rise in the demand for desks that give office workers the choice of sitting or standing," said Andrews. He added that the financial services and insurance industries in South Africa in particular have jumped on the trend, with some firms replacing the workstations for every staff member.   "The return in efficiency in having staff that are able to adjust their posture at the push of a button, has more than outweighed the capital expenditure. In our experience height adjustable workstations are a simple way to provide for the well-being of an organisation's most valuable asset - its people."   Sitting all day is seen by health professionals the world over as the new smoking. Sitting is killing people slowly by taking a huge physical and mental toll on the mind and body. Often workers sit for eight to ten hours a day, which is a dangerous habit.   Research shows that sitting for long periods of time contributes to the risk of metabolic syndrome, musculoskeletal disorders, heart attack and stroke risk and overall death risk, among others. Those who sit a great deal also have lower life expectancies and slower metabolism.   Dr. Hidde van der Ploeg, a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health in Australia, found that sitting for 11 or more hours per day increased risk of death by 40%, regardless of other activity levels. "People mistakenly think they can shrug off the effects of a long day by hitting the gym after work but you can't," Andrews warned.   So how can office workers protect themselves? <strong>1) Ask for a standing desk and set it to the right height. </strong> "There really is no need to stand all day. Ideally though, at least every other hour, workers should work standing for an hour," Andrews advised.   <strong>2) Office laps. </strong> Taking a walk around the office or even outside if time permits helps combat the strains of sitting. Try and walk at least every hour.   <strong>3) Active meetings. </strong> Said Andrews: "Most meetings are too long anyway. Taking a loop around the block while talking to colleagues will get the circulation going and shorten the meeting."   <strong>4) Desk exercises. </strong> Stretching your arms and legs at your desk are a simple way to keep moving even while you're seated. Arms reaching for the sky and extending legs forwards help improve circulation.   <strong>5) Set reminders. </strong> Increasingly smart watches can detect if the wearer has been sitting too long and sends an alert to the user to get up and move around. "Alternately a colleague buddy system of reminders is a good way to remind yourself to get up and move every hour," said Andrews.   He added the typical sit/stand desks look exactly the same as normal desks but come fitted with a lever or button on the side. All workers need to do is simply flip the lever and adjust the desk to a comfortable standing height and the reverse to set it back to sitting desk level.

Aglet 25th Mar 2019
Biophilia takes root in SA offices as trend grows worldwide

Biophilia takes root in SA offices as trend grows worldwide

It’s an odd sounding word that’s often mistaken for something illegal or someone who likes books, but biophilia is simply humankind’s innate connection with nature. And it is a trend growing more popular in South Africa’s offices. Richard Andrews, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy, said biophilia helps explain why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us, why a garden view can enhance our creativity and strolling through a park have restorative, even healing effects. “Simply put, humans are programmed to feel good in nature. And nature has a powerfully positive effect on our wellbeing. Globally urban designers and office designers are incorporating the phenomenon into their work. They want to bring it to where we spend about a third of our lives: the office.” Said Andrews: “Natural light, wood grain, living walls, plants and outdoor seating are just a few ways to bring elements of nature to the workplace. We are increasingly being asked to incorporate nature into the work we do across South Africa. “In the workplace, it is therefore about tricking our brains to feel like we’re in a natural environment by triggering underlying patterns that we’re programmed to recognise and feel good in." With the emergence of the green building movement in the early 1990s, linkages were made between improved environmental quality and worker productivity in research by Browning & Room 1994. While the financial gains due to productivity improvements were considered significant, productivity was identified as a placeholder for health and well-being, which have even broader impact. The healing power of a connection with nature was established by Roger Ulrich’s 1984 landmark study comparing recovery rates of patients with and without a view to nature. Environment psychologist Stephen Kaplan noted that people with a view of natural elements, such as trees, water or countryside, report greater levels of wellbeing than those looking over more urban settings. Andrews noted the last decade has seen a steady growth in work around and the intersections of neuroscience and architecture, both in research and in practice and that even green building standards have begun to incorporate biophilia, mostly for its contribution to indoor environmental quality. Andrews described a biophilic design in the office. “Whether your preferred environment is the desert, forest or ocean, nuanced design can encourage recognisable connections to nature.” Biophilia is also about different hues, textures and colours Andrews added. “People have this preconception that nature is green. But biophilia can also be inspired by say rich desert colours. “If you design a space the right way, people will want to spend time there, engage more frequently with colleagues and then also be more engaged with their work,” Andrews concluded. The term ‘biophilia’ was first coined by social psychologist Eric Fromm in 1964 and later popularised by biologist Edward Wilson (Biophilia, 1984). The denotations have evolved from within the fields of biology and psychology, and been adapted to the fields of neuroscience, endocrinology, architecture and beyond.

Aglet 25th Mar 2019
What do Millennials want at work? Surprise, the same as what we all want!

What do Millennials want at work? Surprise, the same as what we all want!

Analysing and interpreting Millennials is an industry in itself but are they really as different as experts would have us believe, especially when it comes to the workplace? Richard Andrews, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy said, “While pointed descriptions of what makes Millennials unique are presented as self-evident, very few are supported with solid empirical research." “On the contrary, a growing body of evidence suggests that employees of all ages are much more alike than different in their attitudes and values at work." “If gaps do exist, they amount to small differences that have always existed between younger and older workers throughout history and have little to do with the Millennial generation.” And there are plenty of examples as evidence. “Even the most widely accepted stereotypes about Millennials appear to be questionable” Andrews noted, pointing to a recent study by IBM’s Institute for Business Value. The report entitled <em>Myths, Exaggerations and Uncomfortable Truths - The real story behind Millennials in the workplace</em> was based on a multigenerational study of 1 784 employees from companies across 12 countries and six industries. It found that about the same percentage of Millennials (25%) want to make a positive impact on their organisation as Gen Xers (21%) and Baby Boomers (23%). Differences were uniformly minimal across nine other variables as well. A 2015 study commissioned by international business broadcaster CNBC showed similar results. Said Andrews: “Looking at the importance of six traits in a potential employer — ethics, environmental practices, work-life balance, profitability, diversity and reputation for hiring the best and brightest — the CNBC study found found that Millennial preferences are just about the same as the broader population on all six." “In fact, contrary to the hard-to-please image, Millennials reported being more satisfied with the training and skills development they receive. And 76% were satisfied with their opportunities for promotion, 10 percentage points higher than the rest of the population.” A KPMG study also showed Millennials to be virtually identical to their older colleagues on every measure of overall engagement such as pride in the organisation, optimism about the firm’s future and trust in leadership. So why do so many people perceive Millennials as so different? An interesting study was carried out by researchers from George Washington University in which they reviewed 20 studies examining generational differences. “The conclusion was that meaningful differences among generations probably do not exist in the workplace. The small differences that do appear are likely attributable to factors such as stage of life more than generational membership, “ Andrews noted. “For example, one of the prevailing perceptions of Millennials is that they have much higher traits of narcissism. But interestingly, this study shows it’s a trait more associated with young people, and not linked to when you were born.” Andrews added that the myth of the job-hopping Millennial is just that — a myth. The data consistently showed that today’s young people are actually less likely to job hop than previous generations. In light of all this evidence, it’s likely that companies pursuing Millennial-specific employee engagement strategies are wasting time and money. “They would be far better served to focus on factors that lead all employees to join, stay, and perform at their best,” Andrews added. “And those factors are the same for all workers - a winning organisation they can be proud of, an environment in which they can make the most of their skills, good pay and fair treatment and enjoyable, fulfilling work.”

Aglet 25th Mar 2019
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