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The Office Of The Future

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.

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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

welcome-boardroom

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.

Related: Are You in the Right Office? Ask Yourself These 4 Key Questions

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

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

office-employees-communication

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.

Related: 3 Unique Paths To Improving Office Productivity

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.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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5 Ways SMMEs Can Best Use An Incubation Centre

Here are some tips on how entrepreneurs can make the most of these incubation centres.

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Incubation centres play a meaningful role – not only in South Africa but around the world – as they groom SMMEs and give them access to opportunities that will help them survive in a competitive marketplace. These centres help entrepreneurs modernise their businesses with world-class technology, while providing insights that can help turn ideas into products. Incubation centres offer infrastructure and support, knowledge-sharing and a unique environment that helps strengthen their businesses.

Earlier this month, Cisco South Africa launched its R10 million Edge Incubation Centre in Pretoria where 30 SMMEs per year will have the opportunity to make use of the platform and speed up their entry to market. The centre gives SMMEs access to complete business facilities including workspaces, video conferencing and collaboration platforms, boardroom and training facilities, and access to global Cisco experts who can help them develop business ideas in a digital world.

Here are some tips on how entrepreneurs can make the most of these incubation centres:

1. Collaboration

Gain insights from global experts using the latest Webex technology and collaborate with other SMMEs. Utilise the meeting spaces to drive commercial sales initiatives with the help of business support facilities.

2. Resources & Equipment

Make use of laboratories and tools like cloud-based facilities, smart interactive whiteboards for content sharing, video conferencing, and meeting rooms. Utilise the high-tech customer demo centre as a practice platform.

Related: The Definitive List Of South African Business Incubators For Start-Ups

3. Support

Take advantage of the enablement programmes as well as the ongoing training and development. Knowledge transfer will always help your business. Utilise the technical support and business insights to grow your business and make it competitive in the digital economy.

4. Connectivity

This is your main tool in a digital marketplace. Make use of the high-speed broadband facilities and develop your digital skills because you will need it.

5. Sales

Don’t forget to utilise the pre-sales support as this may give you the edge in the marketplace. Gain insights and experience and use it to your advantage.

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9 In 10 Workers Want A Festive Gift From Their Employer To Make Them Feel Valued

29% Would like to receive vouchers from their company.

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As the festive season approaches, digital print company instantprint have revealed what managers can be doing to show staff they are appreciated.

Over 9 in 10 workers (94%) want a gift from their employers to make them feel valued, appreciated and happy this Christmas.

The research, which surveyed 1,500 UK office workers, also revealed the most in demand gifts that employees would like to receive from their employers:

  • 29% would like a gift voucher
  • 8% would like an early finish
  • One in five (20%) would like a free bar at the company Christmas party
  • One in ten (10.3%) would like a physical gift
  • 7% would like a charitable donation to be made in their name.

Related: Why Innovative Employee Benefits Are Your Competitive Advantage

Different sections of the workforce had varying demands. IT professionals would prefer an early finish this festive period, with 35% in the IT department choosing this as their ideal Christmas gift.

Senior management seem to have a more selfless approach to the gifts they would like to receive. One in ten (11%) said they would like a charitable donation to be made in their name, compared to the average demand for this present of just 7%.

There was some difference between men and women too. Women are the ones really pressing for gift vouchers, with 33% saying they are the ideal present, compared to just 23% of men. Male employees seem to prefer a free bar, with 22% choosing this, compared to just 18% of women.

James Kinsella, CEO and Co-founder of instantprint, said about the research:

“Most organisation take part in the festive period, with decorations, Christmas parties and office Secret Santas.

“But this research highlights how important a small show of gratitude can be for your workforce. Something as simple as an early finish, free bar at a party or a Christmas gift voucher can make employees feel valued and appreciated. This in turn can help boost employee morale, loyalty and productivity in the workplace.”

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South African Students To Battle In Universities Business Challenge To Win Up To R50 000

Students will compete in a simulation that encourages business skills.

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Cognity Advisory’s Universities Business Challenge (UBC), sponsored by General Electric (GE), launched in July this year, has seen 500 students from 13 different universities across South Africa participate in a business simulation competition, that’s designed to develop their entrepreneurship skills. The challenge is now down to just 10 teams from five different universities (approximately 50 students), who will travel to Johannesburg to compete in the two-day final event on the 5 and 6th December 2018.

The ten teams competing in the final includes three teams from the North West University, two from Mangosuthu University of Technology, two from the Vaal University of Technology, two from the University of Limpopo and one from The University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN). These teams will be competing for the chance to win up to R50,000.

Related: Call For Applications: Young Entrepreneurs Global Exposure Trips

The aim of the UBC, now in its second year in South Africa and 20th year globally, is to tackle South Africa’s high level of youth unemployment. Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) announced that South Africa’s official unemployment rate increased by 0.3 of a percentage point to 27.5% in the third quarter of 2018.

The competition simulates a business environment, with students given a problem to solve. The simulation is designed to foster skills such as analytical thinking, problem solving, commercial awareness and team-working. The challenge is designed to empower young people and equip them with the necessary skills to succeed in business.

Tope Toogun, development advisor and CEO of Cognity Advisory says, “Students are very prepared in terms of theory when they leave university, but not the practical skills they need to start and run a business. Seeing as SMEs make up 90 percent of formal businesses it’s really important that these students know how to build a business on their own or at the very least, in small teams.”

Toogun explains how the simulation encourages business skills, “The students competing in the challenge learn all about managing people, customer service, working in teams and how to create a start up without even realising they are being exposed to all these skills. These are the skills that will separate the members in the final. Students must work as a team and make instinctive decisions.”

Cognity Advisory is engaging students through social media competitions and newsletter updates. These competitions include spot prizes for students who post an image or video and receive the highest engagement on it.

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