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Why employees no longer believe in ‘your desk’

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Today’s employees believe that the traditional “working behind a desk” concept is outdated and that technology enables them to strike a balance between work and their personal life, writes ANJA VAN BEEK.

Today’s employees – especially younger people – expect to be able to strike a reasonable balance between the needs of their personal lives and their professional obligations. They believe in working hard, but they also understand that investing time in their health, hobbies, friends and family is important to leading a fulfilled and productive life.

According to the Sage Walk with Me Report, 41% of the young workforce believes that technology will make the concept of “your desk” outdated, that the workplace will have more virtual staff in the next 10 years.

Progressive HR departments are embracing this shift in the workplace as a positive trend – and are looking at ways that they can use work-life balance as a means to attract and retain the best talent. They understand that work-life balance isn’t just good for the employee – it is also good for business because it can lead to lower costs and enhanced productivity.

The indirect costs of an exhausted workforce include absenteeism, health costs, reduced company morale, poor employee retention, lower productivity and lapses in quality of employees’ work. The costs of constantly recruiting and training new employees to replace those who burn out or leave can be substantial. By contrast, where the workforce works sensible hours, the people are often more creative, motivated, productive and engaged.

HR has an important role to play here – by means of helping to facilitate a culture that focuses in performance and quality of output rather than on the number of hours that people spend at their desks.

Here are some ways HR can support these changes in work culture:

1.     Be there for employees

With mobile devices in every employee’s hands, many people fail to unplug from work, even over the weekends or when they are on leave. Be aware of employees who never log off and who don’t draw a clear line between home and work.

Watch for warning signs like frequent absenteeism or slipping productivity and work quality – these might indicate that an employee is working too hard rather than slacking off. Also ask managers to watch out for signs of burn-out among the members of their teams.

If necessary, make it a policy that employees don’t need to answer emails or their mobile phones outside work hours, unless it’s an emergency. Employee-assistance programmes or external resources can be considered to help employees who struggle to say no to pushy co-workers or who battle to manage their time.

2.     Introduce workplace flexibility

Flexible hours don’t suit every job or every organisation, but knowledge workers increasingly expect some leeway around where and when they work. Though traditional managers fear that people will be unproductive when they work from home some of the time, or have some freedom in choosing their hours, this needn’t be the case.

Getting it right is about putting the right policies, technology, processes and performance management structures in place. There are affordable cloud-based technology solutions that can assist. Collaboration software (that can track task progress), videoconferencing, and human resources apps can empower employees and give business peace of mind in terms of output. HR and managers will need to make an effort to measure output regularly to ensure no one is falling behind.

Where it isn’t possible for people to work flexible hours, companies can support employees in other ways. For example, many larger companies offer employees onsite gyms or childcare facilities, or arrange laundry collection for people who cannot get away from the office.

3.     Set the example

Leading by example is one of the best successful ways for HR to create a company culture that promotes an output-oriented culture and supports the principles of a healthy work-life balance. HR can encourage managers and business owners to set an example, by taking frequent breaks, by completing their tasks and by taking their allocated holiday breaks. HR can also offer work-life balance workshops and encourage community upliftment or philanthropic activities to encourage a sense of accomplishment that is not work related.

Closing words

Whether you’re a small business owner or an HR professional at a large organisation, you’ll understand that it takes hard work and sacrifice to turn a dream business idea into a way of life. It’s important to support the employees who are joining your enterprise on this journey and to help them lead balanced and healthy lives.

* Anja van Beek, Vice President for People (HR) at Sage International (Africa Australia, Middle East and Asia)

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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