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Tétris Loses The Desk, Gains So Much More

Letting people choose from a diversity of workspaces allows them to perform at their best and increases business efficiencies. Refurbishment company Tétris is showing companies how.

Monique Verduyn




Vital Stats

Cubicles are so last millennium. When the South African office of global property adviser JLL bought property consultancy Bradford McCormack & Associates in 2011, the event was a catalyst for change. Not only was there a need for more space, but JLL’s lease was coming to an end too.

As part of the move to swanky new premises, the organisation transitioned to activity-based working.

Craig Hean, MD of JLL, and Emma Luyt, MD of design, fit-out and refurbishment company Tétris, a wholly owned subsidiary of JLL, had visited JLL’s Stockholm offices and witnessed the new design alternative first-hand.

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Activity-based working lets employees choose how, when and where they work. “It started with the new location,” says Hean.

“We chose The Firs in Rosebank because we wanted a pedestrianised, first-world location where our people can pop out for lunch or go for a walk whenever they choose. Because the move presented us with an opportunity to do something avant-garde we decided to create a space that would double as a showroom for clients (which they love). We are living the offering that we’re proposing to clients and testing it in our own business.”

From baby boomers to millennials

Luyt took into account that the new office would have to suit the needs and temperaments of four generations — from baby boomers to millennials.

“I wanted a design that reflected the uniqueness of South African culture, which is typically louder, bolder and more colourful than many others, and that would also talk to the culture of our business.”

The result is a workspace comprising stunning red diner-style booths with down lighters, vibrant workstations, a noiseless library sheltered behind glass doors, hotel lobby-like meet-and-greet spaces, collaboration areas screened by fabric wings to absorb sound, brainstorming spaces, a café-style kitchen and more.

Acceptable sound levels are determined by carpet colours — yellow for silent, green for hushed conversations, and blue for chatty.

The results speak for themselves


The office houses 66 people, and just 29 desks in 780m2, a third of which is front-of-house. Regular offices require 15m2 to 20m2 per person, but activity-based workers need only 10m2. Upscaling has been easy — since the move, the company has grown by 50% in numbers, without needing more space.

At the end of each work ‘event’, workers clear the area. There are no messy desks, post-it notes or baby photos in this environment.

Anything that needs to be kept at the office is stored in small personal lockers. Paper use has been radically reduced — there’s one printer to service the entire workforce. The smaller property footprint reduces rental, energy and maintenance costs.

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Managing barriers to change

Research shows that 66% of all workspaces are unoccupied during the day. 45% of all privately stored documents can be found in several different places, and 85% of them will never be used again. But people are creatures of habit and change is not popular.

Some of the challenges of moving to activity-based working include fear of the unknown, concern over loss of status and loss of personal space, employees’ fear of not being ‘seen’ in the office, territorial issues, frustration at having to pack up the desk each night, and the fear of not having enough storage space.

“Change management was a key element in the success of this transition,” says Hean.

“We in-housed the process and encouraged participation and discussion. We assigned tasks to those who were most resistant and tried to ensure that everyone became invested.”

The change ended up being eased by three everyday, but not unlikely items — coffee, water and paper. Providing great coffee and filtered water went a long way to making people happier.

The employees were also given a specific period of time to have all paper documents scanned and stored electronically offsite. After the deadline, desk drawers were emptied and all the left over paper was sent for recycling.

“It was an amazingly liberating exercise,” says Hean. “What is equally surprising is that we have never looked back.”

The technology factor


To make activity-based working work, you need great IT. Connectivity is key in the JLL environment, and people can work anywhere, thanks to reliable WiFi. “Wherever you sit, just plug and play,” says Luyt.

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“We all have the same brand of laptops and chargers are conveniently located everywhere. It’s important to make it easy and convenient for people to work anywhere they choose, so that they use the spaces. Whether you opt for a couch or the library, everything you need to work is right there.”

The experiment has been so successful that JLL offices in other countries have approached the South African team for advice on making the move to a new world of work.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.


25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton



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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.






Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect




Vital Stats

It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

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From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.


“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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