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Future office, no office

By Dana Eitzen, corporate & marketing communications executive at Canon SA

As we usher in the new year, business leaders will be looking at how they can adapt their workplace to drive greater productivity, engagement and collaboration. The last five years has seen countless businesses modelling tech brands like Google, by investing in in-house perks such as beer taps, table tennis and pick and mix stands. While gimmicks like this are effective ways of getting new employees in the door, do they really have a positive impact on performance?

Research produced by Microsoft[ has found that only 11.4% of European employees feel highly productive at work. When businesses drill down on the reasons behind this, the most common concerns are having no quiet place to work and “visual noise” – distractions which pull employees eyes away from their desks. With employees already struggling to concentrate in a normal business environment, pool tables don’t seem like the right answer. In fact, business leaders should be asking themselves whether a traditional office with four walls is really the answer at all.

Remote working is becoming increasingly popular, and whilst it still generates hot debate, research has found that remote workers are actually performing better than their on-site co-workers. In fact, there are some businesses who have moved to a completely remote working model, stating that this has improved not only employee productivity, but also satisfaction, whilst mitigating the costs associated with a physical office. Small businesses may be most drawn to this solution. Traditionally, small businesses might have felt compelled to hire space, despite it being unaffordable and sometimes unnecessary, because technology was not advanced enough to make flexible working viable. But with the continued evolution of smart digital tools, decision makers will be better placed to determine: is an office truly right for my business?

Collaboration

To answer that question, we first must consider the issue of collaboration. Naturally, being physically present in a space with other people makes collaboration more likely – and more necessary. Furthermore, as organisations have been working to remove the physical boundaries in the workplace, this has sparked the open office revolution – fewer walls, and a steadfast objective of making collaborations faster and easier. And it works: open meeting spaces and communal areas such as kitchens and sofa spaces all have the desired effect of bringing together people in a more comfortable, and creative space. But while this means that colleagues can more easily speak with teammates and share ideas, it can also create a lot of unnecessary sound and movement which may impact employee productivity.

Technology increasingly allows us to overcome business challenges and has birthed a multitude of web-enabled collaborative tools designed to help bring teams together, without the office. As businesses explore more flexible forms of working, technology is making it simpler and cheaper than ever before for businesses to overcome the obstacle of distance and preserve collaboration. Google Docs was the first of its kind for collaboration platforms – allowing multiple people to work on a single document simultaneously and bounce ideas off each other in real-time. Since then, the market has grown enormously, with tools from Asana to Flock helping workers work well together, regardless of location. Research shows that online collaboration tools like this can improve team efficiency and enable employees to stick to their task for 64 longer than those who are working alone. The reasons behind this are no surprise – employees have faster access to information, immediate feedback and can more easily manage documents and tasks. And of course, while designed for use in an office context, these tools can perform the same function for remote teams. However, investments like this have to be aligned to a business’s working environment A purely people-centric approach to collaboration can risk undermining the business if not fully thought out.  There is no one size fits all solution in terms of collaborative technology; the right decision needs to balance business-centricity with working culture and depends very much on the desired outcomes of the company.

Productivity

What about productivity? Across Europe, workplace productivity has seen limited growth since 2010 and this ongoing concern from business leaders has led to widespread discussion about how to improve employee output. In the office, it’s easy to monitor progress and check-in with employees, which is one of the primary reasons it has remained a constant in the running of a business.

Researchfound that a lack of clear goals was the most common factor behind project failure and for workers inside an office, this should not be difficult to mitigate. However, for companies with remote workers, the question of how to set objectives and gauge how employees perform against these is crucial. As cloud has become more commonplace, we have seen a rise in cloud-based project management solutions, which help widely dispersed teams achieve objectives. Productivity solutions, such as Trello provide better visibility of project goals and deadlines to ensure teams, wherever they might be based, stay on top of work. In fact, 77% of high performing projects reportedly used digital project management software to stay on track. The evidence suggests these offer good ROI and puts to rest concerns about being unable to track or relate employee progress.

Engagement

In the past, organisations feared that without face to face contact, remote employees would feel disengaged from work. We used to think of a physical experience as more engaging than a virtual one, because we can touch, hear, see, smell or even taste it and it has a total effect on our attention. However, if you look around you today, the majority of people will be engrossed in a digital device, whether that is a phone, tablet or computer all creating unique and immersive experiences. Sage identified the key factors that impacted employees’ engagement including, an agile environment, connected community, co-working space and purpose. If we evaluate each of these aspects, these are all things that technology can achieve.

Video conferencing, for instance, is now a staple in workplace communication and is connecting colleagues around the world. In one global study, 92% of employees surveyed believe that video collaboration technology helps to improve relationships and fosters greater teamwork. It also allows for employees to cultivate a co-working space in an agile environment; individuals can meet their teams from a coffee shop in London or even a hotel in Bali. In the future, widescale implementation of 5G will make this form of communication even more life-like and immersive. With higher speeds and lower latency, 5G will make virtual reality meetings a possibility, enabling employees to feel like they are actually in a room with their colleagues. It begs the question, if you can create a life-like enough simulation of a physical space that meets the needs of employees, do you need a real one?

Satisfaction

Workplace design and technology go hand in hand, and increasingly they are one and the same – entire office environments are available on digital workplace portals specifically designed to meet the objectives and values of an organisation. Ultimately, the question of what the office of the future looks like for your business comes down to the type of organisation business leaders are trying to create. Collaboration, productivity and engagement are key to the long-term success of a business, and we have seen how technology can help to drive this whether in an office or some remote location. However, key in all of this, is selecting tools and a workplace design that enhances employee satisfaction. When employees have the freedom and tools to work in their own way, their satisfaction grows exponentially and for businesses this marks improved productivity, reduced churn and a bigger bottom line. While there is no single solution, and a combination of a physical office and remote working capabilities works for most enterprises, companies today have more freedom than ever to consider whether they need four walls to make their business a success.

For more information about Canon, please visit www.canon.co.za or follow Canon on FacebookTwitter,Instagram or LinkedIn

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How to create an esports team

2018 was a landmark year for South African esports as one of the country’s best teams took the battle overseas and made waves in the international scene. A year ago Bravado’s top Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) team relocated to Arizona in the U.S., a venture dubbed Project Destiny, where they used the opportunity to train as full-time professional athletes and conquer the best teams out there.

Project Destiny was a massive success. A year later and Bravado’s CS:GO team had carved a name for itself through several high-profile victories and invitations to top tier tournaments. Clearly this is not the end of the story and the team has been reflecting on the lessons and opportunities.

Team captain Dimitri “Detrony” Hadjipaschali helped lead Project Destiny and gleaned a considerable amount on what needs to go into an esports team.

Team for the right reasons

For aspirant pro players who want to up their game, pun intended, he advises starting at the basics: why do you want a team?

“In recent times, people want to create a team with no direct intention, not knowing if they want to do this casually and socially, or professionally. Doing this professionally requires risk. It depends on how much work and sacrifices are contributed to the cause of creating a team. Playing socially is fine, part-time, as many people do, but playing professionally and wanting to reach the top one day, purely depends on your dedication, motivation and intention.”

Put in the hours

Like any aspirant pro athlete, preparation requires hours of training. Bravado’s players all put in several hours of training daily, 7 days a week, and Project Destiny’s full-time pros worked multiple training sessions every day, usually in the morning and afternoon for 4 hours each, as well as competitive matches in the late evening.

But even Bravado members who are not full time still put in hours of training every day. Serious players need to find the time and build up their dedication because this level of performance is simply the bar set in esports. Said Dimitri:

“The general esports title or game a team competes in will require anything, if not more than, a traditional sport outside of esports would require to get to the top.”

Fortunately, you don’t have to go all-out from the start. Esports are tiered with the top players in the highest tiers. So there is space to cut your esporting teeth while making room for it in your life. But never forget that to be one of the best means no half-measures. In esports, you have to commit to win.

Share goals

“A good team player is an individual who views his team as a single unit and not just himself as an ‘individual player’ in the bigger picture,” said Dimitri. “They put their team first and before themselves. This is the first main fundamental of a mindset required for a team player.”

Pro teams shouldn’t be mistaken for gaming clans, which are more casual and where gaming is a hobby. Even though they can be very competitive, clans mostly play for fun and entertainment, whereas a professional team is highly competitive with goals that it sets out to accomplish.

This is important because it helps the team members agree on the importance of those goals and the focus required. If you are not willing to show up every day to play the same game, partake in training exercises and learn from feedback, a pro career won’t work for you:

“Playing professionally requires aligned individuals where they share common goals and have equal intentions to realize what they want to achieve and what it takes to compete at a high level.”

Be patient

Professional athletes aren’t created overnight. It takes many years of focus and dedication while also pursuing studies or working at a day job before someone manages to ascend into a paid career. Esports is the same and demands patience alongside dedication.

Esports teams amplify this requirement. While in Arizona, Bravado applied the maxim “Teams who work together win together.” Household chores were divided up between players, creating a sense of common responsibility. This repetitive reinforcement of team values is crucial for success, whereas impatience for a team to ‘click’ is a recipe for disaster:

“Often, teams do not achieve their desired results and achievements in the short run and immediately resort to a roster change. Or someone in the team is replaced without a completely valid reason. This underestimates the importance of sticking together to create synergy in the long run.”

He also added that using time smartly is perhaps even more important than the amount of time spent on training. The team under Project Destiny used a full-time coach who helped set routines, objectives and priorities:

“The mistake with teams struggling to improve these days is that they do not know and understand how to work with limited time, and how to do this best and constructively as possible. Often teams that aren’t at a top competitive level yet arrange bootcamps, but set the limited time they have with each other incorrectly, or rather not to the best potential.”

When Bravado embarked on Project Destiny, it aimed to put South African esports on the map and serve as role models for aspirant players in the country. By those measures, it has been a huge success and Bravado continues to grow and educate. Through the ongoing support of sponsors Alienware and Intel, Bravado continues its mission of creating esporting excellence and opportunity for South Africans.

Learn more at bravadogaming.com or contact Bravado’s players directly via their social media accounts.

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Opera reveals SA browsing habits

Opera, one of the world’s major browser developers, and leader in AI driven digital content delivery and discovery, has released its State of Mobile Web 2019 report, revealing that nine out of ten people in South Africa use their mobile browser every day.

Other Key findings from the report include:

  • Internet users in Africa use their browser to access social media domains such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, followed by entertainment and search websites
  • Opera News users in Africa spend 50% of in-app time watching videos
  • South Africans pay six times more per gigabyte of mobile data than people in India
  • Opera Mini saved users nearly 100 million USD in mobile data in 2018

The report reveals that the Opera mobile browsers and standalone news app were used by nearly 20 million internet users in Africa and by more than 350 million people globally in the first quarter of 2019. The State of Mobile Web 2019 report also shows that Opera experienced a growth of more than 26 percent of its user base year on year, compared to the first quarter of 2018 in Africa.

“We are thrilled to see that our mobile browsers and news app have grown by 25 million monthly users in the last year, ” said Jørgen Arnesen, Head of Marketing and Distribution at Opera. “The new Opera News app has led this positive growth, as well as the introduction of new features to our mobile browsers like built-in VPN and crypto wallet. The successful partnerships Opera has with major smartphone manufacturers in Africa have also contributed to this massive growth”.

The 2019 edition of the State of the Mobile Web report looked into the use of the Opera Mini browser and the Opera browser for Android, and it shows that mobile browsing is one of the most popular online activities among African internet users. For example, in South Africa, nine out of ten people use their mobile browser every day, an activity they prefer over the use of other applications like YouTube.

The report also revealed that on average, Africans using Opera spend more than 30 minutes browsing online each day. The most browsed category of websites was social media platform domains such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, followed by search engines like Google, and entertainment and sport websites.

100 million dollars  saved on mobile data

In the State of the Mobile Web 2019 report, Opera gives detailed insight into the use of the data savings feature in the Opera Mini browser, and compares the average price of mobile data in 20 countries in Africa. The results revealed that the data compression mode in Opera Mini saved users nearly 100 million USD of data in 2018.

In this analysis, Opera also compared the costs of data in some African countries with the cost of mobile data in India and Germany. The outcome of this analysis showed that South Africans pay six times more per gigabyte of mobile data than Indians and almost the same price as Germans for one gigabyte of mobile data.

Rapidly changing  news and video consumption landscape

The report takes a look at the trends of news and video consumption across Africa. This includes analyzing the usage of its standalone Opera News app, which grew from launch to over 20 million users in a period of one year. Categories like breaking news, local news, and entertainment were the favourites among users in the first quarter of the year.

Video content is also becoming more popular among people who use the Opera News app. The report shows that people spend 50 percent of in-app time inOpera News watching videos on Instaclips, the recently added video feature on the news app.

The usage of Instaclips keeps growing since its test launch in December 2018: in Q1-2019, Instaclips registered a total of 122,000 videos uploaded in different languages such as English, Portoguese, French, Arabic and Swahilli.

Expanding beyond browsing to fuel digital transformation

Opera’s commitment to digital transformation in Africa is ongoing. Beyond the development of its mobile browsers and standalone news app, Opera has made major investments on the African continent, expanding its services to other technology areas such as FinTech and digital advertising.

In 2018, Opera announced the launch of OKash, a fintech micro-lending solution that quickly gained traction among mobile internet users in Kenya. Today, OKash ranks among the most downloaded micro lending applications among Kenyans and its user base keeps on growing.

In May 2019,Opera announced the introduction of Opera Ads, a new advertising platform that allows media agencies and publishers to run more targeted marketing campaigns through the Opera platforms.

Available online

The full version of State of Mobile Web 2019 report is available to read online or for download by clicking here.

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