Smart devices and artificial intelligence are shaping our future. From redefining how we interact with each other to reshaping our thought processes, the influence technology has on our behaviour, and environments, is significant.
Grant Johnson, Founder and Head Designer of Conduit Interior, a hands-on commercial interior design agency, foresees the office of the future being less of a place where people go to put in their nine-to-five and more of a space where ideas and collaboration happen.
So what does the office of the future look like and how will it affect workplace design?
A desk is not just a desk
The coffee shop has become a much loved hub for mobile working, especially among freelancers. Free Wi-Fi, great coffee and a relaxed atmosphere promote a willingness to share ideas and stay motivated to ultimately get the job done.
Mirroring what they see outside of work has influenced what companies should do to increase staff productivity. There is a shift to offering staff flexible working hours and the option to work remotely from the office when needed. This has not only become the new status symbol among employees, but a high demand perk when considering a new position.
Sitting in one desk all day, for the length of your career, is no longer going to be the norm and is why a desk can no longer just be a desk. It could be a hot desk; a private focus room; even a bean bag or a sofa in the work café.
The office of the future offers staff the freedom to come and go, and sit anywhere they need to as long as they can plug in and get connected.
Ergonomics keeps changing because technology keeps changing. While communication tools like Skype and email have made it a lot easier to communicate without having to physically move from one place to another, it’s also increased the likelihood of remaining desk-bound. For staff to remain productive they need to change their bodily position throughout the day. Thanks to tech and the various devices we use to conduct business, the way we sit around a boardroom table has changed; tables and chairs have changed shape, even lighting and air flow are now purposed to allow for longer meetings.
Gesture control technologies that let users manipulate a screen with their fingers, arms, and facial expressions have already made their way into the video game world. Soon, they’re expected to migrate to the working world and office design needs to accommodate for this.
Blending of hierarchy
In companies around the world, we see more company leaders less concerned about having the corner office. They want to feel part of their teams, and super desks are popular. A super desk is one long desk, or in some instances a raised bar counter, that runs throughout the office floor plan.
This standing-height work surface encourages democratic participation and allows for working side-by-side. It’s been proven to help build intimacy and assists with making the transition from work space to social space seamless, and taking a break less distracting.
Simultaneously the need for privacy is still recognised and an “alone together” approach is adopted. This means the use of private sound booths, smaller meeting rooms and glass cubicles.
Finding the right balance of personal and mixed-use space can help build trust and ultimately inspire group creativity and flow. The use of glass is a great way to achieve this encouraging transparency and social cohesion, even in a ‘private’ space.
Home away from home
Tech companies are leading the way in creating self-contained villages that give employees little reason to ever leave the office. More thought is being put into the design of work cafés and social rooms that offer staff breakfast and lunch, as well as snacks and coffee throughout the day. Instead of a foosball table in the middle of the room, there are now relaxation rooms, equipped with books and music, and even yoga rooms.
This builds the company culture and lifestyle. Investing in the wellbeing of staff builds their emotional investment in the business, which is key to retaining staff in the long term.
Bringing nature inside
There is a lot of research around the benefits of working in nature, and incorporating it into your office design takes more than just a few pot plants. Think hanging plants in focus rooms; roof top gardens on balconies; fresh herb walls and clusters of trees inside. The office of the future will be more creative in its use of natural elements.
Fresh air is key whether naturally vented or filtered in. Smart lighting that switches on and off automatically will save electricity. Positioning workspaces next to windows, and boardrooms centrally, makes better use of natural light and boosts productivity.
The key to success is nurturing creative thinkers and the office of the future needs to magnify this. Ultimately staff will choose to align themselves with a business that offers more than an employer but rather a lifestyle that improves one’s quality of life – in the office and outside.
Entrepreneurs! Now Is The Time To Change Lives And Grow Revenues
All signs point to Africa as the most extraordinary place to be and do business in the future.
So, how are we going to do business?
This is the question posed by Musa Kalenga, the enthusiastic entrepreneur and strategist who was named one of the Top 200 young South Africans by Mail & Guardian, at a recent Entrepreneurship To The Point Session hosted by Property Point, the Growthpoint Properties initiative.
The answer to doing business that he offers entrepreneurs, even in this digital age, is humanity.
“Humanity is the new black; it is how we are going to be the next powerhouse of this globe,” says Kalenga. “Being human is the one thing that will enable us to survive in the age of augmentation.”
Kalenga is obsessed with using technology to empower the digitally invisible. “We can send people to the moon but we can’t feed people on earth? This is a problem,” he cautions, “because unless we’re making fundamental business model changes, we won’t have a market for the future.”
He took the Entrepreneurship To The Point audience on a journey, highlighting the sweet spot where technology and creativity merge.
Looking at how African entrepreneurs should respond to the age of augmentation, he uses the shocking November 2015 Paris attacks as an example. Facebook activated its Safety Check function, Uber alerted its drivers to take people to safety, and Airbnb operators took in anyone in need.
“While these are tech businesses at their core, they displayed decidedly human responses. They also didn’t have to redo their business model to respond in a more human way,” points out Kalenga. “The technology journey that communities and consumers have to go through must match ours as brand creators, value seekers and entrepreneurs.”
Doing this is simpler than you may think. Technology’s intersection with humanity is all about finding simple, meaningful solutions.
He points to the trend of impact investment – an approach taken by some of the world’s richest family businesses. Impact investment means finding opportunities that are solving human-centred problems and creating value for the humans that we seek to serve, and then figuring out how to make revenue as a business. Essentially, it puts doing good before making money. This is where humanity, technology and entrepreneurship are on course to meet and power the extraordinary future of business in Africa.
“Human beings are at the top of the food chain because we can understand a small and simple thing, then develop it for different purposes all the time. Also, because we can rally around common cause and purpose. Enhancing quality of life in the way people experience technology is key to continuing to solve problems, not only in Africa but across the globe,” concludes Kalenga
Futureproofing The Next Generation Of Entrepreneurs
Futureproof – a business built on purpose.
The South African labour market remains vulnerable, particularly in the youth employment sector. While there is a call for more entrepreneurs, further support for SMME’s and increased youth employment by government, the youth of today lack the skills, knowledge and opportunities to answer to the call.
Riddled by poverty and unemployment, South Africa remains a country in crisis. With more than 3.3 million* unemployed youths, entrepreneurship has been highlighted to eradicate our unemployment woes; here’s the catch though: a recent study on education depicted the effect that poor education has had on entrepreneurs, who are largely ill-equipped to run their own businesses as a result. (Businesslive.co.za (2017)).
Getting youths to grips with entrepreneurship
By combining a background in education and entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial educationalist, speaker, radio presenter, mother of two and all-round go-getter, Lisa Illingworth co-founded Futureproof to educate youths from as young as primary school on real-life entrepreneurship.
As an ex-teacher, Lisa recognised a serious need for educating children on the practical application and art of entrepreneurship to create a generation of informed, thriving youths. “Young adults in the 21st century are entering the working world equipped with knowledge and skills that are irrelevant for the workplace,” explains Lisa.
Futureproof is built on an unwavering commitment to entrepreneurship as a mechanism for intervening in the poverty cycle that our youths are caught up in. “I don’t want to watch another generation driven by poor education standards, self-entitlement and helplessness”.
Lisa believes that entrepreneurs possess qualities that each of us can aspire to in order to take charge of our own futures: they identify a problem or a gap and create a service or a product to solve this problem and generate a flow of money. “Their tenacity is something that few can relate to. Entrepreneurs sacrifice short-term gain to deliver a long-term solution and derive an income from their efforts and passion. Nothing comes easy to an entrepreneur, so persistence is key” she emphasizes.
In a country where many simply admit defeat, Lisa and her team believes that possessing an entrepreneurial mindset can set our youths apart and accelerate them in the working world. “Futureproof exists with a massive transformative purpose to educate the future generation of entrepreneurs,” explains Lisa. “We aim to identify and grow the 5% of high impact entrepreneurs that will create the much-needed economic transformation that this country requires but organically, this process allows kids to learn how to create their own income opportunities” Lisa continues.
Futureproof – for purpose, for profit
Today, Futureproof is a “for purpose, for profit” business. We sacrifice neither. “This business is built on a model that was based on authentically practicing what we teach. Many social enterprises default to a charity and this business is unapologetically not a charity. We teach kids to build sustainable enterprises and we mirror this through the way we do business”.
Futureproof provides kids the opportunity to craft their own futures by applying the entrepreneurial skills gained in their real-life situations. “By instilling an entrepreneurial mindset, we look to cultivate a generation of hungry entrepreneurs who are able to identify and build-on opportunities. Our courses teach problem solving at the highest level to the youngest kids, and we have seen some amazing success stories come out of this in kids as young as eight years old”.
At its helm, Lisa says that Futureproof’s Board of Directors is made up of some of the country’s top business minds – a team driven by passion and purpose. “We attract incredible people in business and for this reason I am pleased to be surrounded by top women in their respective fields such as S’onqoba Maseko and Chairperson of our Board of Directors (previous head of innovation for FNB and now the COO of Future Nations Schools) and Masenyane Molefe – our Human Resources Specialist and HR Director of Hyundai South Africa.
For more information on Futureproof’s programmes and how to get involved, visit: www.futureproofsa.com
Nedbank Brings Silicon Valley’s Plug And Play To Africa In Disruption First For The Continent
Nedbank launches The Disruption Agenda to connect the best technology start-ups to major corporations and business leaders.
Nedbank announced today the expansion of their US partnership with Plug and Play, the world’s largest innovation platform, to include South Africa for the first time.
Together, the entities will connect 10 visionary entrepreneurs from around the world to business leaders at The Disruption Agenda to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa in September.
These startups are at the leading edge of digital transformation. They have been accelerated via the Plug and Play platform and identified as relevant disruptors to solving cross-sector business challenges at a corporate level within the local market.
“Nedbank recognises that building an innovation strategy at a corporate level can present a number of significant challenges. To help corporate leaders, we have structured The Disruption Agenda, a first of its kind event on the continent, to simplify how corporates connect to world-class start-ups,” shares Stuart van der Veen, Head of Disruption and Innovation at Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB).
“The problem is that innovative thinking is too often limited to finding new ways of doing old things, when what businesses really need to set themselves apart is to find completely new things to do. And that’s where the successful integration of disruptive technology can be an unparalleled source of comprehensive transformation for any business.”
Nedbank’s participation in Plug and Play’s FinTech accelerator programme abroad supports its commitment to source innovative digital enhancements to meet the changing needs of its clients. Nedbank has sponsored Play and Play’s Fintech initiative for close on two years and for each of the four batches that Nedbank has been involved in, the bank’s teams actively engaged with the start-ups to source new ideas and partnerships with the aim of delivering delightful client experiences and disruptive client value propositions.
“Our partnership with Nedbank has given our start-ups a successful route to expand their business to South Africa,” said Max Koenig, Director of Plug and Play FinTech, Silicon Valley. “The CIB group, responsible for innovation within Nedbank, has been instrumental in sourcing start-ups to digitally transform their company.”
The Disruption Agenda is a closed event structured for Nedbank’s clients, while a public event for broader access to Plug and Play is envisioned to take place later in the year. The success of these engagements will form the basis of Plug and Play’s decision to accelerate plans to establish a permanent presence in Africa.
“The opportunity in Africa as a whole is endless and we view this event in September as an integral first step for opening and developing an Innovation Hub in South Africa in 2019” noted Saeed Amidi, Founder & CEO of Plug and Play.
“We believe that successful disruptors are those organisations that are able to see through their traditional functions and create new realities for their clients and businesses. In the process of transforming innovation thinkers to disruption leaders, these organisations have real potential to transform the economic reality of entire communities,” shares Van der Veen.
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