Working from home is here to stay

The number of employees who work from home is expected to increase substantially in South Africa following the COVID-19 lockdown.

The COVID-19 pandemic has delivered the final push that was needed for businesses to implement work-from-home strategies.

Working from home have been under discussion within many businesses for some time, but there has been reluctance to roll this idea out due to a combination of fear of the “unknown”, the risk of reducing output and business continuity concerns.

World trends have shown that about 30% of South African businesses will implement some form of remote working policy after the pandemic is over.

The implementation of work-from-home or remote working in many businesses post-lockdown will happen because of the high levels of productivity experienced during the current lockdown.

People that prefer face-to-face engagements with colleagues and clients had a strong resistance to remote working; however, the lockdown has shown South Africa this is not always the case. We believe that after the experience of this lockdown it will become an everyday part of our new way of working and client engagement.

The positives of remote working

The positives outweigh the negatives considerably when it comes to remote working.

Working from home could also alleviate traffic congestion – which reduces the frustration and time constraints of workers.

Work which requires uninterrupted blocks of time are easier to do as a remote worker, as you are less likely to be interrupted compared to working in an office.

Staff happiness levels tend to increase when they are allowed to work from home, this is because they can manage their own time and achieve a better work-life balance.

Possible struggles

There are however also elements of remote working that can prove challenging.

Managing a remote team will require an increased focus on management, reporting, and KPIs in order to ensure productivity is maintained.

For a lot of employees who are not used to this, it can be perceived as micro-management, which in many businesses could create a negative ‘clock watching’ work environment.

The biggest negative of remote working is that it makes it difficult to switch off and take regular breaks, you can easily end up sitting in front of your screen for five straight hours in different meetings – this has an adverse effect on your general health and wellbeing.

Self-discipline and keeping an excellent work balance is of the utmost importance when working from home.

How to prepare for work-from-home increases

The best way to prepare for an increase in work-from-home staff is ensuring you have the right connectivity and systems in place.

High-quality, cloud-based systems should be considered, relating to telephony, video conferencing, CRM, reporting, analytics, and billing. Having the right technologies is of the outmost importance where a business will be implementing remote working.

If an employee sits at a desk at work or home, the digital experience should be the same.

The following is advised to be introduced to work-from-home culture alongside reliable infrastructure:

  1. A dedicated “open door” scheduled time where people can freely reach out and engage without feeling the need to formally schedule an appointment.
  2. Team engagements and interactions, rather than relying purely on one-on-one communications.
  3. Make use of your webcam on a regular basis, as it is healthy to see people’s faces during a meeting.
  4. Support employees by creating a schedule which includes waking up at a set time, getting dressed for work, encouraging regular activities such as exercise, and dedicated time for family.