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JOHANNESBURG - Successful companies the world over are making the necessary shift of recognising the value of the workplace as a business tool to help hire and keep the best talent.

Linda Trim, Director at workplace specialists Giant Leap, said that for South African companies, the overarching imperative must be to see workplace strategy as a business opportunity rather than a just a design challenge and a cost containment exercise.

With 80 percent of the average company’s costs tied to its talent, which is increasingly globally mobile, here are the top 5 workplace changes South African companies will need to adopt in the next 2 years to keep pace with international trends:

1. Build the ‘internet of Workplace.’

“Companies are starting to embrace everything from smartphone apps that control the window shades, to tablets in meeting rooms that enable employees to order a coffee through a virtual concierge or to adjust the temperature.”

Companies that build a workplace linked by internet connectivity – an “Internet of Workplace” – will leverage devices, furniture and environments that interact digitally to drive productivity.

2. Ingrain the co-working mentality in real estate strategy

By 2020, there will be 26 000 co-working locations worldwide. By comparison, there are 24 000 Starbucks globally. Initially, co-working was simply a term for the use of a shared workspace that businesses – many of them individual entrepreneurs or small startups.


3. Make employee experience a core part of business strategy

While most business leaders already have an understanding of the importance of employee engagement, three-quarters of those surveyed in a Harvard Business Review study said that most of their employees are not highly engaged.

4. Create a workplace that makes people healthier

Low productivity due to poor health damages companies profitability. In the U.S. for example, overweight workers and those with chronic health conditions account for more $153 billion in lost productivity annually.

Technology can also play a role. Some European companies encourage employees to wear Fitbits and answer daily questions to assess exercise levels, stress levels, productivity and overall well-being. Employees then translate data-driven insights into decisions around how, where and when to work.

5. Enable an agile organisation

Most organisations have dedicated teams with certain expertise that work on specific products or services for clients.

To boost collaboration between people with different areas of expertise and backgrounds, agile organisations must be able to bring people physically together to work. Collaborations are key, which means that more people will come to the office and average occupancy rates will increase. Additionally, formal planned meetings are replaced by short, effective “meeting moments” and continuous informal collaboration within teams.

According to a study from McKinsey & Company, businesses that are deploying agile development at scale have accelerated their innovation by up to 80 percent.

“The year 2020 isn’t that far away. It is critical for South African companies to make space and location decisions that create engaging and productive experiences for employees,” Trim concluded.


- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE