Monday Musings 28 September: Of fat bears and Feierabend

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We’re easing back into the work week after, what was for many, a long weekend celebrating our South African-ness and hybridity—and the fact that these two are inextricably and wonderfully linked.

And if you happen to be one of the many employees in South Africa who are still working from your home office or commandeered kitchen table, entering your umpteenth week of working remotely, it’s not a bad idea to check-in, take stock and make sure that you’re still approaching your work structure with the same intentionality you set out with back in March.

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If you find yourself in this camp, with ever blurring boundaries between work and home, Harvard Business Review outlines some handy tips for actually saving time when you’re working remotely (most of which are useful even if you find yourself back in HQ):

  • Create your own commute to help transition from work to ‘home’ mode, perhaps spent planning your day, taking a short walk or listening to a podcast.
  • Give yourself a daily evening celebration to mark the end of the workday. Known as a Feierabend in Germany, this could be that aforementioned walk, catching up with your family or friends, or having a special beverage (a beer if you want to do as the Germans do).
  • Clearing your inbox is great, but you can spend hours here and feel like you’ve added little value at the end of the day. Boost your sense of achievement by identifying and then tackling a daily ‘must win’.
  • Block out time on your calendar for productive work during which you mute distractions and focus your attention on a specific task—perhaps your must win for the day.
  • Make time for ‘active leisure’, i.e. catching up with friends, volunteering or exercising. (Don’t worry, HBR acknowledges that passive leisure like watching TV also has its time and place but doesn’t pack that same endorphin-boosting punch.)
  • Try on different time management schemes for size, see what fits your work-life needs, and tailor as needed. For example, the University of Zurich developed a ‘3-2-2 week’ approach: three days in the office, two days working from home, and two days designated for family and friends. Perhaps this is an ideal starting point for the blended model that we may see from an increasing number of South African companies.

Forbes also suggests resisting the urge to check your email first thing in the morning. By doing so and starting your day in response mode, you’ve given away control, thereby diminishing the productivity that comes from setting your own goals and priorities for the day.

Finally, a good reminder: set up a dedicated and ergonomic workspace. Considering that the human head can weigh as much as 27kg when bent down at a 60-degree angle—say looking at your laptop for eight hours a day—it’s no surprise that work-from-home injuries are on the rise. Referred to as ‘text neck’ when first studied by back surgeon Kenneth Hansraj, this is the “equivalent of giving an aardvark a piggy-back ride,” or about the weight of a piece of overstuffed checked luggage!

More than palm trees and piña coladas

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We continue to anxiously await the full scope of government regulations that will lead our industry forward for the foreseeable future (including the hotly-pondered list of countries permitted to enter South Africa). Amidst this anticipation and speculation, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition slipped in a directive last week which invites the public to comment on the designation of the 2021 British and Irish Lions Rugby Tour of South Africa as a protected event. The directive states that “the event is in the public interest” and will “create opportunities for South African businesses, in particular those from previously disadvantaged communities.”

Whether or not you’re a rugby fan, this highlights an important sub-sector within South Africa’s tourism industry: Events. Sporting events, concerts, festivals, and conferences draw crowds from across South Africa and the world. And the calendar for 2021 is quivering with anticipation—with many hoping it will be a year of redemption for events like the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, World Travel Market, and Comrades Marathon (despite losing their key sponsor, Bonitas).

So, what does the future of the events industry look like? The wearing of face masks and strict adherence to hygiene and social distancing protocols—definitely. A new antigen rapid test that delivers results in a matter of minutes with no lab analysis needed—a real possibility, currently being tested at the Austria Center Vienna and touted as the solution to running large-scale events.

What is apparent is that Tourism is more than palm trees and piña coladas. It’s business, it’s trade, it’s global connection. And considering the Events industry contributed R115 billion to the South African economy in 2018, government and the private sector mustn’t let this potential go untapped. Plus, who doesn’t relish the thought of seeing our World Champ Boks thump the British and Irish Lions? (Hard to believe that the Rugby World Cup was already a year ago!)

Busting winter blues

We’re nearly at the end of Tourism Month in South Africa, but excitingly on the cusp of tourism recovery with our borders reopening in just three days, on Thursday 1 October. While there is still much that must fall into place, our international summer season may just have been saved.

As countries in the Northern Hemisphere trudge towards colder and shorter days, the prospect of visiting sunny South Africa grows ever more alluring. And it may come as no surprise that planning, and looking forward to, an upcoming trip may be the happiest part of travel, according to Dutch researchers.

Another surefire way to beat the winter blues? Think like a Norwegian. This involves reframing stressful events as challenges that present an opportunity to learn and adapt. It’s the difference between thinking: ‘winter is boring’ vs ‘there are many things to enjoy about the winter’—a mindset that would be valuable well beyond the Scandinavian winter, say during a global pandemic.

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But, if you can’t think like a Norwegian, why not drink like a Norwegian? One of the world’s most northerly bars, located in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard and aptly named Svalbar, is seeking a new owner. Patrons include Svalbard’s 3000 locals, around 30 000 tourists who visit the archipelago during a normal year, and a few curious polar bears who have been known to sniff around the pub.

Over in Alaska, their grizzly relatives are also preparing for winter and a chance at the honoured title of fattest bear. You can weigh in (no pun intended) and cast your vote during Fat Bear Week which runs from 30 September to 6 October. Packing on the pounds in preparation for winter, they seem driven by a Norwegian mindset: ‘hibernation is boring’ vs ‘I get to eat all the sockeye salmon I can get my paws on!’

Bush, beach or berg?

Meanwhile, here in South Africa as we accelerate towards summer, South Africa is Travel Ready has again proved its stick-to-itiveness and drive to uplift the industry. September has seen plenty of lobbying, press releases, and an inspiring round-up of industry stakeholders that run the gamut from sommelier to chef to cabin crew member to tour operator and more in A Day in the Life of… series. DMC consultants also make a feature in The Insider’s Trip where they were asked about their experiences visiting properties around South Africa.

One of these questions posed to DMCs, ‘beach, bush or berg?’ got us thinking: why choose? The beauty of South Africa is that residents and visitors alike can enjoy all three in equal measure—and almost all in the same day.

Protecting these three biodiverse environments, and all the fauna and flora in between, goes hand in hand with sustainable tourism in South Africa. So it’s fitting that Tourism Month has coincided with Rhino Month in September—the juxtaposition of conservation and community as opined by Pieter Twine in the Daily Maverick.

Finally, as the juxtaposition of conservation and a warm hug, everyone’s favourite naturalist, the venerable Sir David Attenborough made his Instagram debut and quickly broke Jennifer Aniston’s previously held record for the fastest time to reach a million followers—in 4 hours and 44 minutes. Ever humble and sincere, watch his welcome message… and stay tuned.

Stay safe & strong!

The Big Ambitions team