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Future office, no office

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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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Gaming gets rad at Rand Show

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With the opening of the 125th Rand Show at Nasrec, south of Johannesburg, today, gamers and cosplayers have a new destination to strut their stuff.

A new addition to the show, the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion, is offering anything from gaming and cosplay to dance-offs and  science displays.

The organisers provided the following information (although several million exclamation marks and exaggerations have been removed!):

Fortnite Tournament

There was a time when Gaming was a considered a solitary pastime, confined to single player consoles; but that truly is a thing of the past with a fully immersive Fortnite Tournament open to all Fortnite afficionados and even those just starting out. Players can battle it out over both show weekends, including a final on each weekend. Family fan clubs can also get in on the action with live broadcasts of the game as it happens across screens – a full-on Fortnite family affair. Sponsored by PlayStation, gamers are truly going to be spoiled and should get in on the action as fast as they can because R 100 000 in cash prizes is up for grabs.

Smart Technology Centre will deliver a super-fast FibreMAX 500Mbps fibre link, wholly dedicated to the gaming pavilion to ensure that absolutely nothing ruins the thrill of the National Fortnite Tournament. 

“As the exclusive connectivity provider, we have gone all out to ensure an amazing experience for gamers,” says Dillynn Els of Smart Technology Centre (STC), an internet service provider (ISP) and IT technology partner. “When it comes to gaming and the best experience possible, it’s all about ensuring we provide a dedicated, uncapped, unshaped connection that makes every second count.”

Keen players can come along and enter on the day, but don’t delay because space is limited.

Fortnite Inspired Dance Off

Visitors can come along and be entertained by the finalists in the Fortnite inspired dance-off. There will be daily dances to enjoy for the entire duration of the show.

Come and play – Cosplay, to be exact.

The stage is set for a celebration of creativity and imagination that is going to be literally out of this world. Super hero heavy weights and masters of the mysterious will be letting their creative vision loose and take part in various Cosplay Tournaments and a visually stunning Cosplay Masquerade. Come see what all the fuss is about and get lost in this world costumes, colour and creative talent.

Games, Games and Science

For those wanting to get their gaming on, there will be three free play areas sponsored by Xbox with a host of games available to play. Xbox will be giving away 3 Xbox 1’s and an awesome Xbox 1X, but you truly have to be in it to win it, so make sure you don’t miss out.

The Kalahari Scientist will be onstage delighting visitors with his explosive displays that are guaranteed to up the ooh and aah factor with audiences young and old.

But wait, there’s more

Along with the larger-than-life gaming entertainment offering, visitors will also get to be the first gamers on SA soil to get a sneak peak of PlayStation’s brand new Mortal Kombat 11. Don’t miss your chance to experience the continuation of this epic saga through a new cinematic story that is more than 25 years in the making. The iconic showcasing brutal battles like never before, along with a host of customisable fighters with enhanced graphics and animations.

Other activities at the Pavilion include VR Experiences, a full-on NAG Nerf Arena, Gaming vendors with awesome gaming content, retailers selling gaming related products and software, and tutorials and workshops on how to improve your gaming skills, Celebrity Fortnite match off for charity.

With huge sponsors such as PlayStation, Xbox, MMS, NAG, SABC 2 and Smart Technology, the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion is geared up to become a hot zone of entertainment.

Win big

In case the entertainment offering just doesn’t get the heart beats racing fast enough, an all-expenses paid trip to TwitchCon USA, sponsored by PlayStation, in conjunction with 94.7 Highveld Stereo, is waiting for one lucky visitor to grab it. Every ticket purchased into the Entertainment Gaming Pavilion qualifies as an entry, so bring the whole family along for the ride.

Tickets to the Gaming Entertainment Pavilion can be purchased at the show for R 20 which gives the ticket holder access for  two hours.

The pavilion will be open from 14h00 to 19h00 weekdays and 10h00 to 19h00 on weekends from 19 to 28 April 2019.

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Riaad Moosa show debuts on Vodacom Video Play

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Riaad Moosa’s comedy special, Life Begins, will be the first major local title to be released on Vodacom’s video-on-demand service, Video Play.

As an award-winning comedian, actor, writer and presenter, Riaad Moosa is one of South Africa’s most renowned funny men. His one-man show is available for download on the platform from today, 26 April 2019. Life Begins is rated PG-16L

Vodacom’s says its affordable video-on-demand service, Video Play, has had an incredible uptake since its launch in August 2018, with over 2-million subscribers. 

“But with a proliferation of affordable video-on-demand platforms available to the South African market, what is it that gives Video Play the competitive edge?” it asked in a release this week. “Recognising the consumer’s need for flexibility and freedom of choice, Vodacom has ingeniously developed an adaptable subscription model that puts the power in consumers’ hands. Forget being tied down to a monthly subscription. Video Play gives consumers the liberty of choosing a daily, weekend or even monthly package. 

“Blockbuster movies can even be viewed for a once off cost, without subscription. Furthermore, these bundles can be purchased according to niche categories and genres, from Bollywood movies to gospel music.”

Consumers are able to pay for movies and series by using their airtime or adding it to their bill, eliminating the need for a credit card. Subscribers are also able to purchase video-specific data at a fraction of the regular price to consume constant content without overspending. Daily subscriptions start from R5 a day.

Zunaid Mahomed, Group Digital and Fixed Services Officer, says: “Video Play has enabled the company to provide a seamless and enjoyable customer experience. With the addition of Riaad Moosa’s Life Begins, we’re excited to offer consumers even more quality content and a wider variety of entertainment on demand than ever before. We’re putting quality entertainment, into the hands of anyone with a mobile device and an internet connection.”

Riaad Moosa describes his show as “very philosophical and existential”.

“It involves the normal issues of getting older while at the same time experiencing, at a maturity where I’m supposed to be wise, a world that is completely turned on its head.  It’s about how I negotiate all these things happening around me while trying to maintain a positive attitude. Through my comedic lens, I hope to put a different spin on that and hopefully I can enter my next 40 years with renewed vigour and excitement.”

To access Riaad Moosa’s Life Begins comedy special, register for Video via the Video Play website (www.videoplay.co.za).

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