CRA Health & Wellbeing – South Africa
By Jessie Rudd (Technical business analyst at PBT Group)
No one except an author could have imagined a world in which the safest thing we can do for ourselves and others is stay at home, sanitise and handwash, and wear a mask. When Scott Z Burns wrote the screenplay for Contagion, he could never have guessed that reality would turn out to be stranger than fiction.
The impact on the world’s economy due to COVID-19 has been devastating, and every day new statistics on job losses, recessions and economic downturns capture the few headlines that are not dominated by just how virulent and devastating this pandemic has been on humanity.
That being said, humans are nothing if not resourceful and adaptable, and some enterprises are coping with the situation better than others.
Traditionally, working from home and remote working have been more than a little frowned upon by managers and the like. The normal nine to five grind was inevitably bracketed by commuting and congestion and liberally interspersed with coffee, smoking and lunch breaks. Productivity was as it always was, and business continued to tick over.
However, recent and continued improvements in connectivity speeds and work-sharing tools have begun to not only make it possible to work from home, but to also make it feasible.
This pandemic has proven that in certain instances and for certain businesses, working remotely can be as successful, if not more so, than the previous in-office work models.
So, why does remote working work so well?
This new model quite literally means you can work and live anywhere. As long as you can finish your work in time, to the same quality and consistency as before and can successfully communicate and liaise with business and the rest of your team – an employee with a laptop can be productive anywhere there is a WiFi connection.
Personally, I believe this way of working will become the new norm, barring a few tweaks and minor adjustments.
For most of us that work in big cities, the nine to five we are all used to gradually gave way to flexi hours. But even then, congestion and commuting added countless hours of frustration to the average day. Never mind the bad moods and low-level anger that quite often accompany long commutes. Remote working completely eliminates the commute and the associated stress.
Another often overlooked plus to remote working is being able to accommodate employees with special needs. People with physical disabilities and mental health apprehensions can massively improve their lives and open up opportunities that possibly never existed for them before.
One of the biggest and possibly most unexpected advantages is that productivity increases.
There has always been a concern that perhaps employees working from home may take a few more liberties than they would take in a more traditional at-work scenario. However, studies have shown that telecommuting employees are markedly more productive than their office counterparts. With fewer social distractions, working remotely seems to encourage better and more productive breaks, which help with overall performance and motivation, etc. Oddly enough, employees also tend to work longer hours as they no longer have to contend with traffic.
Health and wellness increases. If employees can find a good balance between work and home life, take the necessary breaks, set clear boundaries and expectations for work hours, projects and meetings – they should find it easy to relax and feel confident in their productivity without going overboard.
Conversely, unless this sometimes very delicate balance can be found, overworking and putting too much pressure on themselves is a very real drawback to the remote model. Some people have a hard time saying no or switching off. How much harm can it do to check one last e-mail? Quite a bit, it turns out, if it spirals down the rabbit hole into four or five hours of additional and unexpected work.
Cost savings for the employee and employer are also huge. Travelling costs are almost non-existent, and the need for actual office space is also negligible. As such, expenditure on fuel and rental will drop, amongst other savings. With these cost savings and others in mind, expertise becomes more affordable and the rates or salaries could be amended accordingly.
Another big saving often overlooked is the carbon footprint of a remote working model. Decreased fuel usage, decreased need for buildings, decreased congestion – all amount to a smaller and more sustainable carbon footprint.
So, is this our new normal?
There are many enterprises that have had a default ‘work from home’ policy that predates COVID-19.
The processes, collaborations and speeds necessary are all already in place and they have an important role in teaching other companies how to adapt to this new normal successfully.
Personally, I believe this way of working will become the new norm, barring a few tweaks and minor adjustments. There will always be a need for face-to-face at times, for people-present meetings or conferences. However, for many people and businesses, remote working is working. And it is working really well.