The Rise or Fall of Remote Working

14 Jul 2020 11:04 am by Sujata Balaram

Companies and businesses need to be well equipped with the necessary knowledge, budget and resources to successfully implement remote working. Workers also need to ensure that they are mentally and resourcefully prepared to take on remote jobs. Communication and cooperation are the keys to ensure that both the needs of the employer and employee are met. In South Africa, government support will be needed to promote this idea so that resources and education are provided to businesses and current and future employees.

Written by Sujata Balaram, Editor in the Commentaries Department at LexisNexis, South Africa.

[Durban, 18 June 2020]

Remote working has been a reality for many years now but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, its prevalence has seen a surge in both developed and developing countries. For some companies, who already had some or all of its employees working remotely before the pandemic, the idea was an old friend but many companies had to grapple with this new way of working, especially in a developing country like South Africa. Despite some negative outlooks on remote working, many published articles and social media posts have indicated that the popular view is that remote working will be a dominant reality that will close the doors to on-site working. With regard to the South African workforce, remote workers are in the minority but post Covid-19 an expansion of this group can be established, due to the perks that can be sought by both employer and employee.

The idea of saving on travelling costs and time are embraced by many workers and some workers are discovering that they have more liberty to enforce flexibility and balance in their work and personal lives and do not want to return to the office environment. However, on the other hand, there are some workers who are missing the social interaction that the office environment offers while others lack sufficient resources to work effectively. If companies wish to continue the remote working stance, then some of the following points may have to be considered:

  • While some companies have their whole workforce working remotely, others have a hybrid system where some of their workforce work remotely as a matter of a permanent arrangement, only coming in on-site for important meetings or as the company sees fit, or they work remotely intermittently (working off-site and on-site for set time-periods as per company and/or employee needs). The type of work can determine the need to work on-site or remotely.
  • Companies will have to support workers with regard to resources (technology and equipment), support services (IT services and Human Resources) and education about cybersecurity to ensure efficient and effective work from their workers and to protect their security.
  • Mental health is also a factor that companies need to consider. Developing a policy to provide workers with support and ensure their well-being is a way to meet this consideration.
  • The ability to scout for talent over a wider geography presents a favourable opportunity for companies to expand their recruitment pool. Companies can recruit workers from literally anywhere without having the restriction of their location, increasing diversity and inclusion.
  • Load-shedding poses a hindrance to remote working so solutions need to be sought in that area. The issuing of power-banks, by companies to their workers, and finding alternative working hours to work around load-shedding times are some ideas that can be adopted.
  • The personal cost of and access to internet/data may prevent workers from being able to work remotely but companies should do their best to ensure that such is provided.

With unemployment at its peak, remote working provides future employees with a vast number of working opportunities. Unemployed South Africans can find work out of their province or country without having to relocate. Furthermore, if rural areas have access to internet and resources, remote working can be a reality for them decreasing the need for a rural-urban migration. The option of remote working will also give prospective businesses the opportunity to start up without having the need for a physical office space. Therefore, the promotion of entrepreneurship will occur in the country allowing for economic growth.

With the worldwide popular belief that remote working is the future, there is no doubt that South Africa will hop onto the bandwagon, but companies and businesses need to be well equipped with the necessary knowledge, budget and resources in order to successfully implement remote working. Workers also need to ensure that they are mentally and resourcefully prepared to take on remote jobs. Communication and cooperation are the keys to ensure that both the needs of the employer and employee are met. In a developing country like South Africa, government support will be needed to promote this idea so that resources and education are provided to businesses and workers as well as future employees.

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