FEATURE: ‘Remote work could be a permanent feature in SA’

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The global war against COVID-19 is central to all countries, as a third of the world remains on lockdown in attempts to conquer it. A few industries stand to benefit from this crisis. One of these is the technology space. In this series titled, COVID Tech, SABC News’ Tshepiso Moche reports on coronavirus-related tech developments in South Africa and globally. 

New research has revealed that being allowed to spend time with children during the work day is a major success factor for remote working.

This comes as some South Africans continue to work from home while others are returning to their place of employment as lockdown levels are eased.

Many South Africans started working from home in March, after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would be under nationwide lockdown to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

According to the study, more than nine out of 10 (94%) decision-makers responded that they regarded it as essential to allow parents more time with their children.

It ranked alongside good connectivity (93%) as being among the strongest success factors for employers.

“But the finding is clear: the digitalisation of the home office must take into account the personal circumstances of the employee,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx.

Cisco South Africa country manager, Garsen Naidu, says they were fascinated to learn that working from home didn’t negatively impact productivity.

“We were fascinated to learn that working from home didn’t significantly impact the output. Employees are still as productive as they were in the office, partly as a result of not spending time getting to the office and settling in. It suggests that an employee’s mental energy remains finite, within the context of traditional roles and tools,” adds Naidu.

However, a number of success factors for remote working that emerged from the study provided insight into ways organisations can look at productivity in the new normal.

Meanwhile, reliable internet connectivity plays a vital role as it has implications on stress levels of employees.

Employees are less stressed working from home if they have reliable connectivity.

Goldstuck says, “Connectivity emerges as an important factor for success in remote working throughout the study, and illustrates that remote working only functions successfully with remote connectivity. Connectivity is the key to the digital office.”

Possible work policy change

Labour analyst Terry Bell says he believes that a large number of companies will adopt the practice of remote working after the lockdown.

He says the benefits of working from home for employers are significant.

Bell adds that fewer cars on the road would mean reduced road fatalities and less pollution.

“I certainly do see that working from home is going to become much more common. It’s a lot cheaper for employers because they don’t have to provide office space. From a worker’s point of view, they end up working as individuals, they will then end up being negotiated with as individuals.”

“It’s extremely advantageous for employers, productivity does not fall. That has been shown around the world. In fact, it tends to increase. People get out of bed and go “Oh my god, I better get on with that”. There’s no more having a chat or coffee with your mates. Looking at it from a wider perspective, it’s much more advantageous, less traffic on the roads, less pollution,” explains Bell.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Department of Public Works was heavily criticised for allegedly refusing an employee with cormobidities to work from home.

The full story is in the video below: