<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.
<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.
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.
<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.
<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."
<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.
<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.
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.
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.”
Laptop computers are lightweight, portable and convenient, allowing us to work anywhere. But with many people now using laptops as their primary computer, even though they were originally designed as a temporary alternative to desktop computers, the risk of injury is high. “Unfortunately, the laptop’s compact design, with attached screen and keyboard, forces laptop users into awkward postures.” said Isla Galloway-Gaul, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy. “Laptops pose less risk when used for short periods of time, but nowadays many people use laptops all day. This creates an ongoing tradeoff between poor neck/head posture and poor hand/wrist posture which can lead to aches and pains and even more permanent repetitive strain or musculoskeletal type injuries to the back, neck and wrists.” She noted that this means that people need to pay special attention to the ergonomics of how they use laptops because they are designed with portability – not necessarily user health in mind. Top laptop tips for optimal ergonomic use: <ul> <li>“Companies should consider installing laptop stands to allow workers to use their laptops to the optimal height which is level with the eyes. Tilting your head forwards all day put an enormous strain on the neck and back. We are simply not designed to sit stooped forward for hours each day,“ Galloway-Gaul noted.</li> <li>Laptop stands correctly positioned encourages healthy posture and stress-free movements while also reducing the glare caused by ambient lighting. Experts recommend to keep a distance between 50 and 70cm between eye and screen. “This will reduce eyestrain, one if the most common physical problems encountered in the workplace which 60% of workers experiencing it once a week,” said Galloway-Gaul.</li> <li>She also suggested using a remote keyboard when working on a laptop in the office. “Obviously if the laptop is placed on a stand, the keyboard if far too high to reach”</li> <li>Combined with adjusting chair height, workers should adjust the keyboard angle to maintain a neutral, flat wrist position because hands and wrists should be kept in a straight wrist posture when typing and should not rest on a palm rest, table or lap while typing. “This is particularly important to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome, the trapping or compression of the median nerve as it passed through the wrist into the hand,” Galloway-Gaul advised.</li> <li>Break work into smaller segments and switch between tasks that use different motions. For example, alternate use of mouse with reading and searching the web. Keep your head and neck in a relaxed posture; avoid excessive neck flexion or rotation to see the screen.</li> <li>“Schedule mini-breaks every 30 to 40 minutes to avoid repetition and static positions, “ GallowayGaul said.</li> <li>If you have to raise your chair, use a footrest to support your feet. When seated your hips should be slightly higher than your knees.</li> <li>If you are using just the laptop to work, attach an external mouse instead of using the small constricted touchpad. This will prevent overusing one side of the body too much.”</li> </ul> After the work day is done, many people go home and use the computer for an additional 2 to 4 hours per night. “But your body does not know the difference between computer work at home or work. All it knows is that it is being stressed. So it it a good idea to remember these principles for home too,” she concluded.
Agile working, where employers offer fewer constraints and plenty of flexibility to an employee, is increasingly popular in South Africa. But how should businesses adapt to this trend? Isla Galloway-Gaul, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy said: “Agile working is a natural consequence of the growing acceptance that work is something we do, not somewhere we go. We are increasingly being asked to consult on how the workspace should adapt to this trend of working in the office and away from it.” <strong>Understanding agile work culture </strong> “By using various tools, communicating with their employers and working from a place where they can be at their most productive, workers often produce faster and more valuable work than when working from crowded cubicles," Galloway-Gaul noted. Although many confuse the term with flexible working, agile work culture has different goals, despite also incorporating flexibility. Flexible working is often perceived as favouring the employee, but with agile working, the organisation seeks long-term best results from its employees. <strong>Advantages to agile working </strong> Businesses gain tremendous benefits from agile working. In an era when many people prefer to work from home, coworking hubs or cafes, employers can save a lot of money and space by reducing their office size. “Thanks to the flexibility factor, business hours can easily be extended or even shortened and there are fewer outside factors to disrupt the regular workday. In exchange for greater freedom, employees are more mo- tivated to work and are more productive with their daily tasks, which is mutually beneficial to company and worker,” said Galloway-Gaul. Workers also enjoy an improved work-life balance, fewer commutes, and therefore better general wellbeing. <strong>Why is agile working needed? </strong> As increasing numbers of Millennials, who value flexibility and a healthy work-life balance above all, move into and hold more senior positions in the workplace, it’s practical to cater to this trend. And it makes sense to give established workers greater control over their working lives too. Said Gaul: “Thanks to the power of smartphones and laptops, cloud services that allow access to work files from anywhere along with the increasing prevalence of high-speed Internet, it’s no wonder that the agile work culture is thriving. And traffic seems to be getting worse in South Africa all the time too. Giving people the choice of how and where they work makes a lot of sense.” <strong>How to achieve agility? </strong> According to Galloway-Gaul, agility needs to be thought of in four separate dimensions: time, location, role and source. “The time category refers to the interval when staff work and has many considerations, such as how working hours are agreed upon, how overtime is measured and paid and whether or not employees can choose their own working hours and even how some employees can work in shifts,“ Galloway-Gaul said. The location dimension refers to the places where employees can be at their most productive and it can involve (but is not limited to) home offices, hot desking, coworking hubs or simply sitting in a café. Businesses may need to introduce smaller, well connected workspaces for when employees are in the office and do away with traditional fixed desk space and one-person offices. The role category establishes the functions and responsibilities of an employee or a team, while the source dimension refers to the type of agreement with the worker, which can be crowd-sourced, freelance-based, partnering or even based on fixed-term contracts. “If a business is interested in jumping on the agile working trend, it is important to do thorough research before changing company culture to establish if is truly advantageous to your line of work, your employees and business aspirations,” Galloway-Gaul concluded.
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, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy said 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: <strong>1. Make it feel like home </strong> "There has been a huge movement toward the ‘home away from home’ style of office design called resimercial, 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. <strong>2. Open the seating plan </strong> 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. <strong>3. More…. oxygen…please! </strong> 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. <strong>4. Embrace downtime </strong> 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.” <strong>5. Hire a cutting edge architect - or plan B </strong> A cutting edge architect comes from Sweden, wears black framed glasses for effect, sports a honeycoloured 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. <strong>6. Mix things up</strong> 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. <strong>7. Party like it’s 2999! </strong> 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 concluded.