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Increasing Productivity

How To Create A Productive Office Space

Think about the way you and your employees work. Does the job require focus or collaboration? Most likely, it’s a mixture of both.

Laura Entis

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Focus, for most, means quiet. It’s hard to concentrate amid conversations about last night’s football game or what happened at the office Christmas party.

Collaboration, on the other hand, requires a very different environment: a space where employees can freely brainstorm, bounce ideas off one another, and go on conference calls without worrying about disturbing those around them.

This seems self-evident. So why are so many employees expected to focus in a loud room, or collaborate without the resources to do so effectively?

Unsurprisingly, they’re not as productive as they could be. Gensler, a global design and architecture firm, found that three out of four knowledge workers surveyed were struggling to effectively balance focus and collaboration in their office environment.

Tricked-out, amenity-saturated offices like Google and Facebook may get all the attention when it comes to office design, but companies with a smaller budget can easily improve productivity by keeping these central points in mind.

Balance

Janet Pogue, a principal who co-leads Gensler’s workplace practice is (unsurprisingly) not a fan of the cubicle model. “Having seated privacy is not a bad thing, but there are ways that you can do that without being boxed in from every side,” she says. “I think the Dilbert world is gone.”

She is a proponent of spaces that feel intuitive, “which enable you to seamlessly keep working.”

This doesn’t have to mean an expensive re-design, but instead, outfitting available rooms with the right tools: pens and notepads and whiteboards in conference rooms, outlets throughout the office space so people take their laptops and break free of the desk.

Fluidity is important. “That word, to me means, functionality,” she says.

Focus

Some elements of your employees’ jobs inevitably require unadulterated focus. To be truly productive, they need to maintain a level of unbroken attention.

That means every time a colleague stops by for a friendly chat, or a nearby conversation becomes a distraction, concentration is broken and valuable time and energy is lost.

That’s why Pogue recommends setting up a quiet space in your office where employees can go to avoid all distractions and disruptions. The typical cubicle, she notes, is anything but a quiet space – the cubicle design invites interruption (no doors) without blocking nearby sound.

In addition, designating a quiet focus room often means avoiding another common pitfall: an office where silence is enforced. Pogue sees this all the time. “People make the space too quiet. If you can hear a pin drop, it’s not natural,” she says. “You need to have a certain amount of buzz and energy in an office that cancels out that noise.”

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Choice

Pogue recommends empowering employees with as many options regarding where and how they do their work as possible. “Having the ability to pick up and move, or having the ability to signal to others ‘don’t interrupt me’ by putting on headphones is really important.”

Employers often think one solution will work for everyone.

“If you look at the evolution of offices, we try to make things very universal…that assumes that we all work in the same way,” Pogue says.

In reality, individuals work differently, based on personality type (introverts versus extroverts) and job title. More senior positions, for example, “typically spend more time engaging in face-to-face collaboration or virtual collaboration, while somebody more junior may be spending more time in focus mode.” Workspaces should reflect this reality, and provide different environments so each person can personalise the way they spend their day.

Interaction

One of the most important elements of designing any office space, says Pogue, is working to increase serendipitous mingling between employees who normally wouldn’t interact.

Interacting with different kinds of people simulates conversations that can often lead to new ways of approaching a task or solving a problem. “We think about that a lot,” she says. “How do we draw people together who wouldn’t normally be drawn together?”

Like Steve Jobs (who was so insistent that employees bump into one another that he placed Pixar’s single bathroom at the centre of the building), Pogue recommends motivating people to leave their normal workspaces by making life a little less convenient.

If a redesign is impossible, there are less costly ways to achieve the same effect. For example, at Gensler’s own office, the “good” espresso machine is installed in a central location, so employees from different departments naturally congregate around the caffeine.

And interaction goes beyond possible creative outcomes. “At the end of the day,” Pogue says, “we want to feel like we are a part of a bigger whole.” Studies have shown that even though most employees believe they focus better at home, most still want to come into the office every day.

“Deep down, we’re all social people,” she says. “We all intuitively know it, but some organisations let real-estate cost get in the way of instead of realising that people are the most important asset of any company.” Ultimately, every worker should be a part of his or her workspace design.

How do you cater for your staff’s individual working styles? Let us know in the comment section below…

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Increasing Productivity

Use Talent As Your Key Competitive Advantage In 2019

What separates top performing companies from their more mediocre counterparts?

Nadine Todd

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2019

Ever since Jim Collins wrote about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus in his best-seller Good to Great, there has been an ever-increasing focus on the role that talent plays in the success of an organisation.

But, If you thought that great companies are successful because they attract, hire and can afford more talented employees, you’d be dead wrong. While conducting research for their book, Time, Talent, Energy: Overcome Organizational Drag & Unleash Your Team’s Productive Power, Bain & Company experts Michael Mankins and Eric Garton evaluated the relative productivity of 308 companies worldwide, and found that on average, all roles, across organisations, are made up of 14% A-level talent. This statistic holds true for the best-performing companies as well as poor performers.

In fact, the top-performer in their focus group was 40% more productive than the rest, but did not have significantly more A-level talent. This means that they had achieved what their peers had by 10am on a Thursday — and then continued to produce for the next two days.

As you head into a new year, consider what you could have achieved with an additional 90 to 100 days over the course of the past year? Where would your company be now?

Unlocking your potential

If talent is not the deciding factor, then what is? According to Mankins and Garton, it’s how that talent is deployed. They found that most companies have one A-level talent per team, spreading talent evenly across the organisation.

The problem is that this doesn’t take critical roles into account. Organisations that take the time to map critical positions within the company that directly impact key business objectives tend to be more productive. Why? Because their A-players are in the right positions and not wasted on non-critical roles that could just as easily be filled by B-players.

As an entrepreneur or team leader, your role is to grow your business or department. Your people are key to achieving this, so consider the talent you have to work with:

  • Are your top players in mission-critical roles?
  • Can they directly impact revenue growth?
  • Are they filling roles that a B-player can just as easily do, and which won’t impact revenue if the same level of productivity or efficiency is not achieved?

Related: Competitor Analysis Example

Efficiency versus productivity

While you evaluate your workforce, consider how Mankins describes efficiency versus productivity.

Efficiency is when the same amount is produced with less. To become more efficient, businesses need to find wastage and eliminate it.

Productivity on the other hand is when we produce more with the same. This is achieved when you increase output per unit of input and remove any obstacles to productivity.

Lean organisations are very good at finding efficiencies. Growth organisations are highly productive. If you want to achieve both in 2019, start by ensuring your A-level talent are in the right positions. Then look at all the areas in your business that are costing you money and consider how you can strip those costs away without affecting your productivity. You do not want to hinder growth. You want to run a smarter, leaner business.

Finally, you don’t need to do it alone. Too many entrepreneurs work independently of their teams. You’ve hired great people — use them. What are their suggestions on improving productivity and efficiencies across the business? Ask the right questions and you may just discover talent you didn’t know you had.

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Increasing Productivity

Working Remotely? Why You Need A Car

The cars available at vehicle auctions in South Africa consist of both sedans and zippy hatchbacks which are perfect for town driving and will get you to your in-office meetings on time.

Amy Galbraith

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Remote work can be an amazing experience. You do not have to wake up at 5 am to beat the morning traffic and you can work from the comfort of your own home office (or bedroom). Working remotely can become lonely and you might have to visit the office for certain projects. This means that you will need to have a car.

If you are in search of an affordable but reliable car, vehicle auctions in Gauteng could provide the perfect car to meet your needs. Not sure why you need a car if you are working from home? Below are just some of the reasons why it is a necessity.

You might need to go into the office

While some remote work does not require you to be in the office, there are some instances that you might be required to go into the office. This can prove difficult if you do not have a car and have to rely on public transport.

Public transport can be unreliable, which means that you might not arrive on time for meetings or project conferences. Being on time for meetings and group chats is important, and being late can add to your stress levels. Having a car will help to make this journey easier. The cars available at vehicle auctions in South Africa consist of both sedans and zippy hatchbacks which are perfect for town driving and will get you to your in-office meetings on time.

Related: Is Remote Work Taking A Psychological Toll On Your External Workers? Researchers Say Yes

You will need to perform daily errands

Whether you work from home, from a coffee store or in an office, the truth of daily life is that there are always errands to run. And without a car, you might not be able to perform these errands easily.

Grocery shopping can become heavy to carry home if you walk, and an appointment in a suburb far from your own might have to be cancelled. While these might not be as important as your work, you will soon find it frustrating having to call for a lift from a service such as Uber whenever you need to leave home. Not only will this become costly, but you will find it ineffective if you are in a rush or need to be somewhere at a certain time.

You might get lonely

Remote work does allow you a lot more freedom, but you have to put in the same hours as an office job. And these hours can become lonely if you are cooped up inside all day, alone. Having a car will allow you to meet up with friends in the afternoon or weekends.

Auctions will provide you with a diverse array of cars to choose from, including 4×4 options for those who enjoy longer journeys and adventures. Becoming lonely can be distracting and cause you to run behind on your work. If you are looking at working remotely but know that you could fall victim to this feeling, be sure to socialise with friends and family whenever possible. Having your own car will make this possible.

There will be client meetings

Remote work will mostly mean that you work from home or from your favourite coffee store. But it can also involve meeting clients to discuss a brief, which can be tricky if you have to rely on public transport. Not only will being late cause you to stress, but it will be a bad representation of your company for the client.

If you are able to drive yourself to meetings in your own car, there is a higher chance of a successful meeting. An Uber driver might get lost and a bus might break down, but your own car is reliable and affordable. If you have to meet a client urgently about a project, having to rely on public transport can be disastrous.

It is vital to take the fact of client meetings into account when you decide to work remotely and ensure you are able to represent your company the best way possible.

Related: How Much Does Your Remote Team Actually Need to Know?

There will be company get-togethers

A company that consists mostly of remote workers is guaranteed to have regular get-togethers so that all the team members can meet each other and get to know one another. Sometimes, these get-togethers might be far away, and you will need an easy and effective mode of transport.

If you are in search of a car to get you from home to the next work gathering, the auction cars in Gauteng will certainly fit your needs. Not attending company get-togethers and events will reflect poorly on your ability to work in a team, regardless of if your team works together in an office or not. You will be able to learn more about your team and the company as a whole at these events.

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Increasing Productivity

5 Traits Of Highly-Effective Scrum Teams

Here are the top 5 traits of highly-effective scrum teams.

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Scrum teams can make quick work of complex projects. But accomplishing your company goals by utilising a sprint team is difficult because effective scrum teams are so exceedingly rare.

If you’re thinking of assembling a scrum team, you have to be sure that you’re working with talented individuals who can tolerate the stress hyper-ambitious project management frameworks invite.

Agile teams are ones open to change, to communication, and to improving processes as they define them. Scrum teams have all these same qualities but are unique from agile teams in a few key ways.

You must search for key attributes that define great scrum teams before you begin your company’s next project. Here are the top 5 traits of highly-effective scrum teams:

1. Adaptive

Scrum is one of the leading frameworks implementing agile. Agile is an iterative process whereby teams are self-organised and self-motivated, delivering working products in cycles and measuring the progress of their project through these deliverables.

Scrum team members do not hesitate to change requirements, expand or minimise scope, or add or remove a planned feature from an end product.

Changing roles, revisiting processes, or scrapping failed plans is not unheard of for scrum teams. In fact, even changes late in the development process are encouraged.

2. Ambitious

Scrum defines the length of the iterative processes. The time spent on each cycle is defined as a sprint. With each sprint, which is usually only two weeks long, a small fragment of the project is completed.

Upon the completion of the sprint, the scrum master (or project manager) leads a retrospective, using past evidence and performance evaluations to determine how they will go about completing the next sprint. The sprint structure demands ambition.

Successful scrum teams are passionate and ambitious. With each new sprint, they concentrate their goal of continually improving and expanding what their team can accomplish.

3. Open to criticism

One of the foundational principles of scrum is continual improvement. The sprints and the project retrospectives between them serve to help the team better identify problems. In order for this to work, every team member must be open to constructive criticism.

In addition, they must understand how to apply this constructive criticism to make processes better. The team, therefore, must communicate clearly and concisely.

The team as a whole must be on the same page about improving processes. The team must be cohesive, open to mentorship, and gentle but honest communication.

4. Experienced

An experienced team is much more likely to lead your company to success than an inexperienced one. It seems like an obvious bit of wisdom but it is nonetheless true. While you may be attracted to hiring a young team of passionate and promising project managers and developers, it’s a better idea to bet on an experienced bunch.

Scrum is an incredible project management framework. Still, there is no substitute for experience. No matter how strong a framework may be, it cannot buttress your project against unexpected challenges – only experienced project managers can do that.

5. Co-operative

Scrum team leaders have to underscore the importance of constant communication on a regular basis. Ideally, scrum team members are cooperative, communicative, and transparent. The best scrum teams can achieve a high level of cooperation with little to no contentious feelings.

Additionally, scrum teams are cooperative with the organisation as a whole. Often, scrum teams want to communicate and cooperate with other departments within a company. Instead of working in the dark, scrum teams prefer to engage business people, product owners, and marketers with their development process.

Conclusion

Scrum is one of the most popular project management methodologies based on the agile approach. Scrum is everything agile is but with a bit more of a backbone.

Scrum teams embrace fast-paced environments that use an iterative process to handle complexity. As such, successful scrum teams are adaptive, ambitious, and co-operative. They are open to constructive criticism and can leverage retrospectives to better the project.

No matter how hard your team tries, they are sure to encounter challenges. Experienced scrum teams can handle this pressure with cool, calm, and collected demeanour.

Expert scrum teams are rare, but it is possible to assemble one with the proper attention to the traits that comprise the most effective scrum teams.

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