After 750 days, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lifting of the National State of Disaster. With the end of lockdown and nationwide restrictions, many companies will be opening their doors again and expecting employees to brush the dust off their shoes and return to the office. However, some companies remain apprehensive and are questioning whether they should in fact let their employees return or rather continue to work from home, to both safely and efficiently get their jobs done.
What the unpredictable past two years have taught us, is that productivity wasn’t affected like many thought it would be, as a vast majority of employees were forced to work from home. With technology and access to collaborative tools, people adapted and delivered work from anywhere.
But should your employees come back to work full time or can they continue to work from home part time? Many corporates have officially taken the stance of introducing a hybrid work model, but how do you know if this is best for your business?
Building a future-ready workforce
“A hybrid work model isn’t a one-size-fits all solution,” says Cleone Bakker, chief commercial officer at PLP, a group of companies that has been delivering dynamic customer and employee engagement programmes for 30 years. “Individual businesses need to figure out what works for their organisation and its people. To get this right, you need input from your employees.”
PLP conducted research to understand the pain points, priorities and perspectives of the talent force in South Africa. The research was done over an 18-month period, across a base of nearly 17 000 employees, with a representative sample selected for in-depth research.
What the company identified through this research were common themes and opportunities for improvement, together with trends and workforce realities that many organisations may not have yet considered. These insights have been published in a report titled Build a Future-Ready Workforce in a Post-Pandemic World.
The financial impact of the pandemic has been global, with people losing jobs, having their income reduced, seeing expenses grow and experiencing additional financial responsibilities. According to the report, employees who were using public transport saved, on average, 30% of their net income while working from home. These employees may have become financially reliant on this saving and employers need to factor this in to their return to work approach.
Findings from the report illustrate that working from home isn’t the right decision for everyone. During the enforced lockdown, some employees had additional family members move into their homes, with both the confinement and anxiety putting strain on relationships. While some employees struggled to cope with multiple role demands, such as mother, teacher, wife and executive, others felt isolated, disconnected and lonely while working from home.
The shape of the global workforce is changing and for many organisations, hybrid working has become the norm. Employees who don’t want to sacrifice personal or family life are embracing the freedom and flexibility that the hybrid model affords them.
A new way to work
While the hybrid work approach gives employees some control over where and how they work, it’s also forcing modern businesses to look at alternatives to traditional employment.
In the 2021 study Decoding Global Ways of Working, by Boston Consulting Group and The Network on the pandemic’s impact on worker preferences, 53% of South African respondents want a job that allows them to work from home occasionally.
“We believe that the future of work is flexible and this can benefit both businesses and motivated individuals. As a group of businesses that have learned to operate successfully with remote workers, this has motivated us to relook our workspace. For example, through an innovative app called Hey Jude, one of our group companies, we are transforming how we hire, onboard and manage people virtually,” says Bakker.
Hey Jude is a human-powered digital assistant service that uses people with everyday experiences to solve everyday challenges for members. Backed by real people, it’s the personal service that gets things done so members don’t have to.
Not only can virtual Judes choose where they want to work but also when. The company is hiring people from around the world who can work from anywhere but, more importantly, in the hours that suit them. Technology is changing attitudes and opportunities when it comes to employment, with people having greater flexibility to spend time with family, increased earning potential and a happier work-life balance.
In the constantly shifting environment in which we live and work, it’s essential that businesses find new ways to operate. This is the new reality of work, so don’t wait until tomorrow to get your workforce future-ready.