While South Africa’s national lockdown has forced many companies to equip employees to work from home, analysts believe the model will be introduced by many corporates after the COVID-19 outbreak subsides. South Africans who are working from home say their productivity levels have since increased.
For millions of South Africans, the past two weeks have meant no early morning alarm bells, no rushed breakfasts on the go and more importantly, a saving of two hours a day not spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
The national lockdown has forced companies to implement the work-from-home model under unprecedented conditions.
In the video below, Workshop17 co-founder and CEO Paul Keursten talks about the advantages of working from home.
How has this worked out for you and have productivity levels for corporates dropped? For mother of two from Durban, Thelma Mnembe, working from home has meant reduced stress and higher levels of efficiency.
“Getting stuck in traffic, waking up early; the stress levels have actually been decreased by the fact that I’m actually working from home. I’m able to do my work perfectly with no issues whatsoever. If you stationed at home, you don’t have to worry about your kids not coming back home from school on time.”
35-year-old consultant Vershlin Moodley says working from home has meant he is less tired without having to tackle two hours of the mammoth Johannesburg traffic on a daily basis. This has increased his energy and productivity levels.
“Get ready in the morning. I feel less tired and I’m more productive in terms of work. Because my PC is set up at home, find myself doing more work, even after hours.”
While avoiding traffic and early morning alarms may seems optimal for some, others are not as convinced. Johannesburg mother of three, Candice Maistry, says working from home has forced her to go beyond the call of duty and dedicate more time to her laptop, meaning less time for her family.
“Even work on the weekends. It is eating into my family time because I place no restriction on a start and end. Some of the restrictions are having to continuously check on the kids, even though the helper is around. If your child is calling you, you are not going to ignore. If they need attention, there is no such thing as ‘I will give it to you later’. They are at that age when they don’t understand that mommy is working and working from home. There is no differentiation from weekday to weekend.”
With employees away from their desks, the task of managing becomes more difficult. Prevlen Rambalee who manages a team, says while his team experienced teething challenges of working from home, a structure of accountability assisted him in ensuring that the rate of output was not compromised.
“Yes there were challenges. People were unsure how to approach this and how to work from home. What we finding out now with our better structure, we are probably as effective as if we were in the office. We needed proper structure, not just rely on the discipline of individuals. We have meetings in the morning, afternoon, weekly catch up meetings, one-on-one. Younger professionals adapt much quicker. Every morning, everyone outlines what they are doing for the day. At the end of the day, they update us on what they did, the challenges and we track this. That seems to work very well with the individual.”
In the video below, CEO at AVeS Cyber Security, Charl Ueckermann, talks about the cyber risks associated with working from home.
Meanwhile, labour analyst Terry Bell, who is currently writing a piece on the work-from-home model, predicts that the current litmus test will see more companies, permanently adopt the practice. Bell says the benefits for employers and the environment are exponential.
“A lot cheaper for employers because they don’t have to provide the office space. From a workers 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.”
Bell believes the Work from Home movement will allow employees to negotiate salaries as individuals, hence saving companies money. He says if managed correctly as other countries around the world, the model could be as effective as being office-based; if not more.