6 ways tech has transformed the way we travel

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Thanks to technology, travelling internationally today is much more convenient and accessible than it was even a decade or two ago. Where planning for travel used to be time consuming, and navigating a foreign city difficult, all that has changed thanks to mobile apps, comparison engines and more. Here are six ways that tech has changed the way we travel for the better.

A few years ago, it was nearly impossible to compare flight prices as a consumer – travel agents had to do this for you manually, and even they didn’t have all the comparison information in one place. But thanks to tech integration, things like flight comparison engines allow you to compare prices of any airline in the world even on your mobile phone, which means you can choose the cheapest and most convenient flights. But integration has gone even further than that – now you can compare not only flights, but also car hire providers and accommodation search engines like Booking.com and Expedia. Platforms like Travelit by Seekers Travel allow you to do all this online in one space – which means a huge time and cost saver.

Thanks to things like online check-in and QR codes, you can keep most information and documentation to do with your trip in digital format on your phone. Things like flight boarding passes, airline reservations, train tickets and hotel reservations can all be kept digitally, which means less hassle with printing them out, and less chance of losing them as you move from place to place.  

In the past, finding information about recommended hotels, places to visit or how to get from A to B was hard to come by – there were guide books but these dated quickly, and word of mouth was only helpful if you could track down someone who’d been exactly where you were going. Nowadays, most comparison engines feature user reviews of hotels and top places to visit in your destination – and sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp are completely specialised in providing user reviews. Then there are the thousands of personal blogs and travel sites giving you personal recommendations and travel tips about where you’re going.

The need for paper maps, phrase books and more is gone – now, things like Google Maps and Google Translate mean you can easily navigate around a foreign city, even if you don’t understand the language. Restaurants, grocery stores, tourist attractions and your hotel’s location – all of these are easy to find when you can easily translate street signs for example, or ask a local for directions using your phone to speak their mother tongue. Apps like Uber have also made it more seamless to get around your destination, rather than needing to hail taxis or buses.

Staying in touch with your loved ones back home – or the office if you’re away on business – used to be difficult. Now, with messaging and video apps like Slack, WhatsApp and Skype, shared calendars and task managing apps, you can still be “virtually” present for meetings and status calls, as well as see your friends and family on screen when you may be thousands of kilometres away.

Do you remember the days of traveller’s cheques? Of having to queue up in the bank to withdraw foreign currency for your trip abroad? Now, you can simply use your debit card to withdraw local currency anywhere in the world – and specialised currency cards make this even safer to do. While you may still need to carry a small amount of cash with you, that too has become easier – you can order your forex online from most banks and pick it up at a day and time that suits you.

The common thread running through all these changes is that technology has improved our travelling experience, wherever in the world we’re going. Whether you’re in the planning stages, buying flights or navigating around a foreign city, technology has given us more choice and more convenience, letting us see more of the world and the wonderful people in it.



Innovative app helps cancer patients navigate their disease

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

In 2006, Capetonian big-wave surfer Conn Bertish was diagnosed with a rare disease: Adult malignant brain cancer. For seven years, Bertish immersed himself in his illness, using everything from his stationery cupboard to create his own physical metaphoric cancer-beating world. Although he has since left his job as a creative director for brands such as Quirk and World Design Capital Cape Town, he used his conceptual background and out-of-the-box thinking that helped him win advertising awards to create Cancer Dojo, a mobile app, in 2015. The app is an innovative, on-the-go support tool for patients with the life-threatening illness and, after four years in development, launched worldwide this past February. Here, Bertish outlines his playbook for purpose-led tech.

As a former creative director, visuals have always played an important role in Bertish’s life. Through drawing, the practice of mindfulness, writing in journals, curating an exercise and diet regime, and visualising positive scenarios, he gave himself permission to dream of a future where he no longer had the illness. In the same way, his app helps cancer patients stay positive about life and works with the principle of psychoneuroimmunology, where the mind affects one’s health. For example, one activity on the app invites the patient to imagine their cancer as a ball and themselves as the baseball bat knocking the ball out of the park and leaving the cancer behind in the dust as they run towards the next base. “This kind of playful thinking helps you shift your mindset when you’re facing a challenge,” explains Bertish. “It enables you to positively engage in the process rather than shy away from it.”

Although fun and easy to use, the app’s resources and activities are all led by research papers and medical guidance. “I needed to make sure everything was based on a scientific approach rather than a spiritual approach,” says the creator. “Here I was, with my crazy idea of using creativity to enable patients with a participatory role in their own healing, so I needed to be sure the approach was entirely sound from a medical point of view.” It didn’t take long to get the medical fraternity’s stamp of approval, and, in 2016, Bertish was invited to present the opening talk at a global conference for the International Society of Paediatric Oncology. Doctors were keen to embrace what he calls his “dojo thinking”, supporting his drive to humanise medicine. The Cancer Dojo app was twice awarded a grant from Vodacom during its development phase, allowing Bertish to delve into research, create his website and branding, and start generating content in collaboration with almost 20 creative agencies around the world.

“Cancer Dojo is not proposing to be a cure for cancer,” says Bertish. “But it helps to build resiliency, which strengthens the immune system and makes you harder to kill.” This goes for in-app and real life. Through 16 themed levels, a patient engages with their illness and powers through their treatments without dwelling on the negatives. Users of the app are required to listen to voice notes and upbeat songs, watch videos, solve word games, tackle to-do lists, read articles, and doodle their progress as they move closer to natural healing. “It’s like a cancer coach in your pocket,” smiles Bertish.

Article originally appeared in Fast Company SA October/November issue. 


To outsource or employ robotic process automation for your business?

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

The Finance Factory and the Augmented Worker are the future of finance functions within every business. The Finance Factory will see processes across the finance function of a business become ‘productionalised’ and either fully or majority-automated, with the automation either run internally or outsourced. The more specialised functions that aren’t part of the Finance Factory will be covered by automation tools that make accountants’ day jobs easier – making them ‘Augmented Workers’. Accountants will employ Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to eliminate the manual, repetitive parts of their job to allow them to be more productive and add value to the function that they’re actually performing.

Either way, the reality is that business finance functions are not going to exist without automation, and if those finance functions are outsourced to a Finance Factory or based on simple RPA, the business doesn’t need to worry about developing, maintaining or operating the processes, which results in lower costs and the opportunity to focus on other vital business functions instead. 

The immediate reaction from most businesses is that they are afraid to outsource to a sector as a vital as their finance sector. However, they are already outsourcing vital functions to operators around the world by adopting cloud tech. Where the real leap of faith comes in is that right now, there’s a massive lack of education around what robots are and aren’t capable of. The problem is that clients are unable to discern between what is automatable and what isn’t – and where a robot can save them time and money. The internet itself is a great analogy – 99% of people who use it, can’t explain how it works. That’s RPA – there’s a use case in everyone’s life, but they don’t necessarily know how to apply it.

One of the major reasons that businesses aren’t sure how to implement RPA is because they think their processes are unique. In our experience, everyone thinks they’re unique until they discover that all the software vendors out there have modelled best practice into a solution and that they either have to fit in or rather not adopt cloud tech. A lot of organisations have realised that in the face of the high cost of developing and maintaining a customised solution, it’s actually better to adapt their processes to what’s becoming a universal SOP and enjoy the flexibility and savings, instead. We’re currently automating the same process for  different clients, having discovered that they all actually have the same general ledger system. This means that everything we automate for one, we can automate for the other two. These reusable processes utilise the same underlying tech, which has cost-saving implications for all our clients. 

We believe that 83% of finance functions within a business can currently be automated. The 17% that can’t are the elements that rely on human interaction, like business development, interpretation of analytics and decision-making. In the B2B space, the decision maker on each side is still a human being, which means a lot of decisions are made – with the support of tech and loads of data – on the basis of ‘feeling’. In five years, we may see AI selling to AI, in which case they’ll be making decisions based on hard variables like quality, price, track record, potential for success and the like. In the face of such overwhelming benefits, can any business not afford to be adopting outsourced RPA?


Philip Morris continues to pioneer most advanced smoke-free products for smokers

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

In pursuit of innovating the most-advanced smoke-free products for adult smokers, Philip Morris International (PMI) has introduced the latest addition to its heat-not-burn product portfolio, IQOS 3 DUO. 

The continued development of technology showcased by IQOS 3 DUO represents PMI’s latest step in its journey to achieve a smoke-free future. PMI has continuously showed commitment to providing scientifically substantiated, industry-leading products that help adult smokers who will otherwise continue using cigarettes, to switch as quickly as possible to less harmful alternatives.  “We’ve listened and responded to consumers’ needs to deliver the most advanced IQOS product yet” says Marcelo Nico, Managing Director at Philip Morris South Africa (PMSA).

IQOS 3 DUO is designed with new features to help adult smokers switch from cigarettes more seamlessly. Featuring the fastest and most powerful holder within the IQOS family, IQOS 3 DUO allows two consecutive uses without recharging the holder, while the holder charging time is much faster compared to previous models.

“We continue investing in science and technology to develop products that meet the needs of adult smokers; products that can help many who would otherwise continue to smoke to switch. The launch of IQOS 3 DUO affirms our commitment to innovate technologically advanced and scientifically substantiated products that provide adult smokers with better choices than continued smoking,” says Nico.

To date, more than 12.5 million adult smokers globally choose IQOS, of which over 70 percent  abandon cigarettes and switched completely to IQOS.2  This is the result of more than 10 years of development by a team of over 400 leading scientists, engineers and experts at PMI and USD$6 billion investment in PMI’s growing portfolio of advanced smoke-free products.

“Evidence shows that IQOS does not negatively affect indoor air quality. IQOS heats tobacco instead of burning it, so consumers can enjoy a real tobacco taste and satisfaction, with 95 percent less harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes. The totality of PMI’s clinical evidence indicates that switching completely to IQOS is less harmful than continued smoking. It is important to note that IQOS is not risk- free. It delivers nicotine, which is addictive.

Nico points out that the majority of smokers who switch to IQOS completely quit cigarettes, which, he says, makes IQOS the most compelling smoke-free alternative today.

“Our goal is that by 2025 at least 40 million PMI cigarette smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke will have switched to smoke-free products and that at least 30 percent of our volume will come from smoke-free products,” he concludes.

In South Africa, the company has redirected its energy and resources towards helping the country’s 10 million adult smokers choose better, smoke-free alternatives. PMSA has opened more than 20 dedicated IQOS retail outlets in major South African malls including a flagship boutique in Sandton City over the last two years. “This investment signals how serious we are about creating a smoke-free South Africa” says Nico.



Co-working space design trends to look out for in 2020

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Co-working spaces have evolved from shared spaces in a downtown loft to sophisticated, highly flexible office environments, where attention to design and the latest co-working trends separate the best from the rest. For 2020, there are a number of design trends to look out for. 

The concept of a co-working space has come a long way since the phrase was first coined back in 2005 by American Brad Neuberg, to describe the communal space he set up in his San Francisco loft apartment, to which he invited fellow freelancers to casually pull in, use and share.

Fast forward nearly 15 years, and co-working spaces have evolved into sophisticated plug-and-play environments with all the convenience of traditional office space, but less of the ties that bind, particularly financially. 

Based across Johannesburg, and with a recent expansion to Mauritius, The Business Exchange has been redefining the co-working space in South Africa. Its CEO, David Seinker, believes that the financial flexibility co-working spaces offer is the main attraction: “There are no obligations to sign leases with big real estate companies, no FICA requirements to meet, and no huge outlay in terms of capital equipment. It’s up to the co-working company to provide all of these, along with all the other essentials running a business requires from internet connectivity, right through to board rooms and even reception services.”

Originally the realm of creatives, professionals from across numerous economic sectors are now seeking out co-working environments, from stand-alone entrepreneurs to companies with a full staff complement – all looking for the most flexible options that make the best business sense. 

The result is the emergence of a new set of trends in office environments, as co-working spaces compete to attract and maximise the experience for co-working converts: “The global momentum towards co-working is resulting in exciting innovations around sharing space,” says Seinker. “It’s evolving fast, and it’s important for operators of these spaces to keep abreast of these shifts.”

Among these are a number of key trends Seinker places high on his own top-three list of “must haves” for co-working spaces in 2020:


Effective co-working space is about far more than providing a desk space; it’s also about providing an overall environment into which entrepreneurs and corporate clients feel proud to welcome their clients, and which complements their own brand image. “It really pays to work with a professional interior designer who understands research-based, cutting-edge office design in terms not only of the actual work areas – including their flexibility and flow – but the areas ‘in-between’, where people can break away from their desks for more casual encounters with their clients. Or for networking with other co-workers,” says Seinker. Statement art pieces, a variety of indoor plants, lots of natural light and excellent soundproofing that enables optimal acoustics also speak to good design. 


Entrepreneurs, in particular, are seldom clock-watchers, and the flexibility to come and go as they please is a vital consideration when choosing an ideal co-working space, particularly for those who increasingly have clients in different time zones.  Apart from the usual technological requirements such as seamless, high-speed internet connectivity and access to facilities such as video conferencing, biometric access allows people to work 24/7 as does good lighting controlled by motion sensors. The latter also speaks to sustainability – another important consideration for a conscientious workforce, along with water-saving devices, mechanisms for recycling and the use of renewable materials – all of which speak towards reducing the carbon footprint.


It’s crucial to incorporate elements of wellbeing into shared work environments, believes Seinker, enabling occupants to maintain a balance between their physical and mental health. Break-away spaces that promote wellbeing are important and can include coffee and lounge areas where both clients and the co-working community who share a space are able to come together. The provision of facilities such as a gym and showers are another. However, a top trend these days is to also incorporate as much greenery as possible in the workspace to “connect” the indoors to nature. “Research has shown that a variety of well-maintained plants in the work environment helps to improve concentration and focus, problem solving and spark creative thinking,” says Seinker. “And think beyond just plants; the sound of running water, windows that look out onto green spaces, large landscapes hung on the wall and organic shapes in furniture all add a connection to the natural world.” 


5 apps to help streamline how you travel for business

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

Even in our digital world, where status meetings can be conducted via the Internet from almost every corner of the globe, business travel is still essential to many companies. Whether it’s to pitch to prospects for new work, close deals or manage relationships with clients in another city or country – nothing replaces face-to-face interaction entirely, so it’s likely you or your employees will need to travel from time to time.

Luckily, technology has made things a whole lot easier when it comes to business travel, both from a managing your workload perspective, and for making your trip more enjoyable and productive. We’ve rounded up our top 5 apps that you can use to make your business trip as seamless and productive as possible:

Keeping on top of your (and your team’s) tasks is essential to making sure work is delivered on schedule, on budget and to high standards. Just like the desktop version of the tool, Asana’s mobile app helps you track projects and tasks from wherever you are – but because it’s on your phone or tablet, you can do this while on-the-go. Get off your flight, open it up, and see what task of yours is most pressing, plus which tasks you need to chase up your team members about. Use it to communicate with your team, track projects and monitor progress – even while you’re not physically in the office.

Travelling for work is downright exhausting, especially when crossing time zones – but this doesn’t mean that you should let your productivity levels drop. This is where balancing your workload and meetings with a good amount of sleep and downtime is vital. After all, it’s impossible to perform optimally if you burnout or fall ill. Calm is a meditation and sleep aid app that helps you manage stress, monitor your moods and get good quality sleep, through a series of mediations, specially curated music, sleep stories and affirmations. Download the app on your phone and access a quick 10-minute meditation while you’re on the plane, for example, or to help you fall asleep in your hotel room after a busy day of meetings.

Even the most organised among us can lose track of the various details of work trips, from flight bookings to hotel directions. Travelit is an online end-to-end travel management system developed by Seekers Travel to help companies with almost every aspect of business travel. It integrates with any system and is tailor-made to fit each company’s travel policy controls, encouraging better travel savings. Businesses can make all bookings online through TravelIt and compare competitive pricing for flights, car hire providers, accommodation etc. When employees are on a trip, they can use the TraveIt app to access all travel related documents (like boarding passes and visas) in one place – no paper necessary. They can also use it to upload receipts on-the-go for seamless expense claiming, make changes to bookings and call the 24-hour customer care support line when the need arises.

Some people are extremely good at packing, but most of us spend hours obsessing about whether we need an extra jersey, and then completely forget about packing toothpaste. Forget the old fashioned way of writing a list of what to pack on a slip of paper, or even in notes on your phone – PackPoint is an intelligent packing app that tells you exactly what you need to pack, based on a few key variables. These include the type of trip you’re taking (business or leisure), the trip length, the forecasted weather at your destination, and the activities you have planned. You can also share your list with your fellow travellers, and select things like “Repeat basics” if you’re happy to repeat wearing items (i.e. if you’ll have access to laundry).

As much as you try and plan ahead, experiencing a travel delay or two these days is almost inevitable, especially if you travel frequently. Delayed flights can have a huge knock-on effect on the rest of your trip when it comes to catching a connecting flight, checking in at your hotel by a certain time, and attending that important meeting you’ve scheduled in your destination city. With the FlightAware app, you can track in real time the status of any flight, on any airline – worldwide. You can sign up for push notifications to receive notice of changes or delays to your flight, as well as changes to your gate, imminent weather, and where the plane is originating from. By being aware of delays early on, you can reschedule meetings, rearrange airport transfers and just reorganise your trip better, so that it gets back on track.

Thanks to the huge growth in mobile apps, travelling for work no longer needs to sap you of all physical energy, or take up a huge amount of mental space in terms of organisation. With the apps above loaded and ready to go, you can have a productive work trip that is less stressful, more enjoyable, and above all – adds value to your organisation.





SPOTLIGHT: The Wavecel Bontrager helmet offers a novel way to stop concussions

BY Fast Company 1 MINUTE READ

For decades, bike helmets have been primarily designed to prevent one thing: Skull fractures. Most products are made with EPS foam, the same material used in beer coolers, which simply cushions the head upon impact. But with increasing attention being paid to concussions and other traumatic brain injuries, finding ways to protect what’s within the skull is becoming top of mind. The new Wavecel Bontrager helmet from Trek Bikes, a leading cycling-gear company from the US, is composed of a hard plastic shell lined with a weblike layer of moldable plastic.

In the event of a crash, the collapsible lining flexes and then crumples, in a similar way to the crumple zone of a car, to absorb and redirect energy away from the rider’s head and theoretically prevent a concussion. “This is a drastic change in the way helmets are constructed,” says Trek Bikes Engineering Supervisor Tony White. The technology was originally developed by an orthopedic surgeon, Dr Steve Madey, and a biomechanical engineer, Michael Bottlang, with funding from the National Institutes of Health; they worked with Trek Bikes to bring it to market.

Here’s how the Wavecel Bontrager helmet works to prevent a concussion:

  • Flex: The cells, structured like honeycomb, flex to minimise the force of the impact. |
  • Fold: The cells buckle  and crumple.
  • Glide: The cells slide, moving energy away from the head and redirecting it.

Article originally appeared Fast Company SA’s June/July 2019 issue. 


Common mistakes SA retailers make on Black Friday

BY Fast Company 5 MINUTE READ

It’s almost that time of the year where Black Friday hysteria hits retailers across the globe. While South Africa has only recently picked up on the trend, it is growing exponentially, and online and retail stores become increasingly chaotic on the day. For consumers to make the most out of the Black Friday bargains on offer, and for retailers to cash in on the potential influx of sales revenue, it’s crucial for both parties to be prepared. Here’s what to avoid – and what to do – to handle the craze with confidence. 

When Black Friday goes right for a retailer, it can be sensational. According to Nathalie Schooling, CEO of customer experience specialists, nlighten, the brands that achieve the most success on Black Friday are not just focused on deals, profits and ‘quick-wins’ like so many businesses, but they go out of their way to consider the Customer Experience (CX). They know how to turn this ‘once-off’ marketing bandwagon into an ongoing customer relationship.

“Black Friday is a chance for consumers to trial new brands, products and find new ways to shop. The brands that understand this, have a far greater chance of keeping current customers happy, whilst winning over new ones. At a time when competition is tough and the economy is sinking, what business can’t afford to seize the long-term growth opportunity that Black Friday can offer?” says Schooling.A retailer that Schooling believes is getting this right is Takealot. Last year, the e-commerce store’s well planned and executed Blue Dot Sale for Black Friday saw them taking over R196 million – representing year on year growth of 125% and a 127% increase in orders.

Takealot attributed their success to focusing on their mobile e-commerce platform, as 68% of their Black Friday customers used their mobile phones to take advantage of deals. “This proves that Takealot considered the customer experience first and foremost and took all measures necessary to deliver on their promises. Given their results, they will likely enjoy a repeat performance this year.”

Research has shown that if a customer has a bad experience with a business, they usually won’t return, and Schooling reminds retailers that the same rules still apply on Black Friday.  “I would urge brands to not make the mistake of focusing only on offering the best and cheapest deals, but to think about the customers experience holistically.  With the potential for great success, comes the potential for a deal to go sour if the follow-through hits wide off the mark,” she says.

Leaving customers with the sense that they got a great deal from a business long after the Black Friday ‘rush’ wears off will depend on their customer experience.  Brands should make it a good one and use the opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

Here is Schoolings quick fundamental guide for retailers to make sure they deliver on CX this Black Friday.

1. Be accessible
The high pressure “buy now or miss out for good!” aspect of Black Friday coupled with our busy, mobile modern existence means that deals need to be instantly accessible. Your customers want to take advantage of Black Friday, but they have work, childcare, and other commitments that can’t be put on hold.

2. It’s all in the delivery
You must be prepared to deliver on all your Black Friday promises. Deals applied for but not honoured will live on in social media and consumer review sites like Trustpilot. The Internet has a very long memory and the negative effects of not following through on you promise can haunt your brand.

3. Take the opportunity to turn traffic into data
Make a database of new customers that shop with you. Collect data about their experience and learn from it. This is an opportunity to gather valuable insights about your customers buying behaviour and attitudes towards your products or services.

4. Be Prepared
Take on temporary staff, prepare your workforce, ensure your servers can handle the extra traffic, make sure your payment systems are robust and have a Plan B for as many eventualities as you can think of. You want your customers to be elated, not frustrated.

5. Assure customers of their safety
It’s a vulnerable time for consumer safety, both in-store and online. With identity theft on the rise in South Africa, making customers feel safe can go a long way. Brick and mortar retailers should increase in-store safety with visible security staff presence.  They can also have a controlled front-of-house entry point or invest in in-store camera systems. Online retailers could add additional layers of authentication and offer payment methods whereby the consumer has recourse, like iPay, PayPal and Payfast.

Schooling advises consumers to think of Black Friday as ‘planned’ impulse buying and warns against being sucked into the shiniest deals or fanciest advertising. “It’s easy to get swept up in the buzz. All the bargain hunting might feel great at the time, but it can quickly translate to buyer’s remorse once purchases are out of their packaging.  Being prepared, keeping your options open, and having a handle on T&C’s and return policies can help with a smooth customer journey.”

Below Schooling offers insights and tips on how consumers can take control of their customer experience and bag the best deals this Black Friday.

1. Set a budget and stick to it
As with all aspects of financial management, self-control and discipline are paramount. If you have a spending limit, stick to it no matter how tempting the next storefront appears or how enticing the deals are that pop up once you’ve already spent your budget. Ask yourself – can I afford it? If I can afford it, do I really need/want it? What else could I spend this money on if I don’t buy this?

2. Do your research
Many retailers offer Black Friday bait long before the day, giving you sneak peeks of the products or packages that may be on offer, sometimes releasing deals ahead of time. Make sure you have an idea of the brands and products you are interested in before the big day. A lack of focus can lead to confusion and temptation.

3. Have a wish list, and be flexible
Think about the items you really need or have coveted for a long time and prepare a wish list ahead of the day. This way if you come across an attractive deal, you have already considered your buying decision ahead of time. Give thought to how much you would like to pay and what you would be willing to pay, which features are must-haves and which you could live without.

4. Be Safe
Within the frenzy of Black Friday, there are opportunists and fraudsters who know consumers have their guards down and are perhaps not applying the same due diligence to their purchases or their safety (whether online or in-store). Pickpockets will be out in force, attracted by the crowds, the shopping bags filled with goodies and the bulging wallets. Online, scammers will be vying for your money alongside genuine retailers. Be vigilant and check security certificates.  Where possible, pay by methods where you have recourse, like iPay, PayPal and Payfast.

Even with the best intentions, it’s easy to get carried away on Black Friday, but with a little mindfulness and forward planning, you can bag both a bargain and a meaningful customer experience.

How to maximise your productivity when traveling for work

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

If you travel regularly for business, you’ll know how much time can be spent simply getting to and from your destination. This, together with time out of the office, can be a huge dent in your productivity levels. But with a little forward planning and smart thinking, you can make the most of your business trip abroad – while not letting things slide on the work front. With this in mind, we chatted to Carla da Silva, Regional General Manager: Southern Africa and Latin America at Air Mauritius, who shares 6 tips for maximising your productivity during your next long-haul work trip:

The key to being productive while travelling for work is having good reserves of energy – which is unlikely if you get a bad night’s sleep on the plane. If your company budget allows it, a business class seat will help you to sleep much better. If economy is your only option, see if it’s possible for you to upgrade at the last minute at minimal cost, or pay a little bit extra for an emergency seat with extra leg room. Bonus tip: Set your watch to your new time zone before you fly, so you can arrive in your new destination already mentally adjusted to the local time.

As opposed to a leisure trip, paying a little more for convenience on a work trip can be a valuable time saver. Consider paying that little bit extra to book a hotel that’s closer to the office you’ll be working in. For your air travel, it’s worth looking into routes that will get you to your destination the quickest. 

Plan your itinerary as much as possible for your days away, so that you get the most out of your time – but also make sure you leave gaps between meetings and commitments. This is valuable “in between” time where you can make phone calls, catch up on emails or complete work tasks as you need to. Planning also means you waste less time organising logistics, so confirm your hotel, transport and other details that can be done easily online before you arrive.

It’s inevitable that travelling will involve delays, whether your flight doesn’t leave on time, you have trouble finding connecting transport at the airport of your destination city, or your train is late. While they can be frustrating, delays can also mean little pockets of unexpected time that you wouldn’t otherwise have. Use these opportunities to work on smaller, less intensive tasks like adding calendar invites, assigning tasks or clearing your inbox.

A new time zone, airplane germs, a hectic schedule and a lack of sleep – this combination can mean your immune system takes a knock and you get sick, which is the last thing you need while travelling. Where you can, stick to healthy habits while you’re away: Exercise in your new location by going for a walk or run, or do a workout in the hotel gym. Try and eat healthy, wholesome food, and drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. Avoid excessive alcohol – especially on the plane – as this can make you groggy and dehydrated.

Make sure your tech is organised so that you can hit the ground running when you arrive. Arrange data on your phone so you can use things like Uber when you’re out and about, and carry the right travel adapters for your laptop, phone and tablet. Portable data devices can come in handy if you can’t find Wifi, and some execs find that a tablet keyboard can help them get work done in the cramped confines of a plane or train.

While you’ll probably try and pack in as much as possible while you’re away, being productive also means being refreshed. Besides good sleep, downtime is also important – so take some time in between meetings to explore your destination and feel inspired and energised. Above all, pace yourself so that you can feel productive throughout the duration of your trip, and not arrive home feeling like you need a holiday!  





5 practical ways to make money online without spending any cash

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

The internet has democratised business. Instead of needing thousands or millions of rands to open up a retail store, anyone with a computer and a little technical know-how, can start an online business (and make money), while hardly spending money in the process. Sound a little crazy? “Not when using effective strategies,” says Mel Ferguson, Business Development at online payment solution Payflex who shares his 5 top online businesses that can be started without any cash.

This involves having a website which sells products, while not physically stocking them.  Once you make a sale, you as the seller purchase the product from a wholesaler or manufacturer who then ships the item directly to your customer. “This means you can start a business without needing a fortune of capital to buy stock.  Plus, there’s no storage costs either,” says Mel. While this may mean you make less on the mark up price, the upside is that you have the money upfront, only paying the third party once the sale is made, which means you don’t have to lay out any cash of your own. “Drop shipping allows you to offer a wide selection of products while keeping your operating expenses low.  The only real expenses being marketing or advertising to attract your customer.  And with the advantage of leveraging social media platforms, this need not be a big amount,” says Mel.

This works by offering the products of an online retailer on your blog or website, using the traffic from your online platform to generate income for you.  You earn commission when users click on the link, so that your traffic is referred to the retailer or a sale occurs. Once the shopper clicks on the item on your site, they are taken to your affiliate partner’s website which manages payment and delivery.  You receive commission without laying out any cash.The only costs are for marketing such as on social media and emails.

If you have a passion for or expertise in a particular field, then creating content via a blogging platform could be just up your alley (and a great way to make money).  There are many blogging platforms like blogger.com or tumblr.com which host your blog without any cost.  However, some of these platforms have restrictions regarding advertising, so it may be more worth your while to get a reasonably priced hosting for your own website. “Content can be anything from writing to photos to videos recorded on your cellphone. The important thing is to make it niche, interesting and relevant to your subject and audience,” says Mel. Once you have built up your base of regular blog readers you can then look to monetise your blog:

Have you ever gone to a website and adverts appear, usually on the left- or right-hand margins?  These adverts are run through the Google advertising network and every time someone clicks on an advert, you get a small commission. Some other ad networks include media.net, powered by Bing and Yahoo, making the quality of advertising high. Chitika is a network which monetizes search traffic – visitors who arrive at a website by clicking on search results from the original site (such as you see on Social Media Examiner).

Recording a video for YouTube is easy with your cell phone.  Make sure content is interesting, valuable and relevant in order to grow a subscriber base. Once your subscribers hit 1000, with an amount of 4 000 hours watched in a 12-month period, you will start to get a percentage of the revenue from adverts appearing on your channel.

Ever wanted to be a Published author? Or If you are a specialist in a particular field, then you may want to consider writing an eBook.  Using a free eBook creator such as canva.com, you can insert your own images and content, creating a product which establishes yourself as an authority in the field, while building a vehicle to increase your income. Monetise the eBook by selling it on your own website or on a platform such as Amazon.com.

Always remember when starting a business that “cashflow is king.” This means choosing a payment provider that settles you immediately and doesn’t charge fees for all sorts of payment activities. It’s also critical that your payment provider offers a stable and proven platform, so you don’t lose any of those hard-won sales, as well as top-notch customer service to solve any issues timeously. “Payflex ticks all the boxes and provides next day settlement, a stable and proven payment platform, world-class service, and a first-in-market 6-week free spending plan for your customers that will boost your sales by 20-30%. Whether you’re at the beginning stages of your online journey or looking for an additional revenue stream, creating an (online) business has never been easier.  And if you build this up into a fulltime gig,  you get to avoid being stuck in traffic, while making money 24/7 – whether you’re awake or asleep!” concludes Mel.