Covid-19 accelerates virtual working shift

04 February 2021 11:27

More organisations realising virtual working benefits

COVID-19 has presented a significant reset in terms of how we work. While the pandemic initially forced many companies to hastily embrace remote working, it could in fact permanently shift working patterns as more organisations find that the virtual working model actually suits the needs of their business and its employees far better.

Telecommuting and other flexible, agile working arrangements have long been favoured among large organisations and their employees precisely due to the unarguable benefits they offer. Companies like Unilever use agile or virtual working as a company-wide motivating factor for the workforce. And there’s good reason – Oxford University research showed that agile workers are 13% more productive, happier in their jobs and less likely to leave than office-bound colleagues. Virtual working also saves companies money, is better for the environment and gives people flexibility.

Working from home has many benefits, from greater productivity and time management, to improved health and finances, and of course no longer having to sit in traffic on the commute to and from the office.

It also requires little infrastructure to maintain, not much more than a landline and/or mobile phone, laptop and high-speed internet connection such as satellite that allows uninterrupted connection regardless of power cuts and other forms of force majeure.

If you are fortunate to have the discipline to work independently and manage your time effectively, you can often get more work done and stay focused more easily at home than in a busy office building with its ongoing distractions. That is especially true if you do not have young children demanding your attention throughout the day at home.

While many might find they increasingly find themselves doing work at odd hours when working from home, others do find that it offers more of a work-life balance because they can get their work done and still have time to live life and enjoy the fruits of their labour.

In 2017, seasoned legal professional Reneé Caprari’s then employer, Liberty Holdings, afforded her the option of working from her new home base in the Eastern Cape, instead of leaving the company when she relocated from Johannesburg.

Caprari says, “Due to the nature of my work, requiring ultra-careful and diligent attention to detail and long hours of focus, working from home allows me to make the most of my working hours. I need large chunks of time to really make progress on a piece of work and in the office environment, there are so many potential distractions, with clients stopping in and a myriad of other things keeping your eye off the ball. This way I can control when I answer calls and emails and when I 'go silent' to get some work done.”

“Working from home was done with great success and optimum productivity (billing averaged 250 hours per month) during the final months of my tenure at Liberty. Despite not having a physical presence at Head Office we stayed in touch through various means, e.g. DropBox for shared documents, Outlook platform exchanges and daily check-ins with clients. I became perfectly comfortable and adept at using tele and video-conferencing as well as commercial and corporate IT platforms to collaborate.”

She was also able to maintain maximum productivity despite adverse conditions such as strikes, or bad weather.

“Having had first-hand experience of the joys of having a home-based office, I have the advantage of knowing how to apply the lessons learnt in my own practice today.

“I can now also vouch for the fact that it was possible for me to nurture my employer’s culture in a remote environment simply by continually advocating the need to communicate amongst my peers and clients. So can you!” she says.

Read further to find out if remote working is for you or not: