By: Joanne Bushell, Managing Director IWG Plc. South Africa.
“There is nothing more important than an environment and a culture that says everybody is needed and wanted. The farmer doesn’t spend 80% of his time massaging the individual seeds; he spends 80% of his time preparing the soil; the environment.” – Bonang Mohale, former CEO of Business Leadership South Africa.
Almost nine out of ten leaders (88 percent) at large enterprises, in South Africa, expect they will adopt a more hybrid way of working permanently. This is according to Microsoft’s newly launched Work Reworked research conducted together with Boston Consulting Group, KRC Research and Dr. Michael Parke of the Wharton School. The study found that flexible ways of working are here to stay with many leaders focused on driving a culture of innovation.
Lots of Catching Up Ahead
Low levels of business activity under hard lockdown pushed many companies to cut costs rapidly. As organisations claw their way back under level 1, there is still a lot of catching up to do. A June survey done by Giant Leap revealed that 86% of South African workers wanted to go back to work during lockdown.
Some organisations have adopted priority hotdesking or a desk booking system. In these cases, staff choose – or are allocated – priority days when they need to be in the office, and desks are allocated accordingly.
While South African employees still see value in working from a main office at least some of the time; findings show that on average, people would now like to spend just less than half (42 percent) of their time outside of the traditional office setting. In fact, people still see time spent in the office as a powerful way to maintain bonds with their colleagues.
Remote Work Policies
A more permanent change around ways of working is already evident, with a healthy majority (82 percent) of companies now having a set remote work policy in place. Senior executives see the opportunity to maintain productivity gains they’ve experienced while, at the same time, improving employee engagement. The research found that 76 percent reported equal or increased productivity with remote working, and a high majority see it as a powerful way to help retain their best workers.
Joanne Bushel, Managing Director of IWG Plc., the largest global flexible workspace provider (Regus and SPACES in South Africa), says “the company is now seeing a rise in firms looking for hybrid working solutions, including a recent deal struck with Japanese telecoms group NTT to give its 300,000 employees around the world access to IWG’s office network. “We anticipate a massive surge in growth (in hybrid working) when we eventually emerge from the unprecedented downturn that the Covid-19 pandemic has created”.
“Video conferencing has been a lifeline for many of us over the past year and its benefits extend far beyond continuity, touching upon issues of diversity and inclusion, culture and work/life balance. “The office works great as a hub for the occasional team meeting, but if we’ve learnt anything from the pandemic it’s that it is by no means a ‘must have’. “None of us knows precisely what the future of work holds, but the reality is a sizeable part of the workforce will continue working flexibly. Businesses must recognise the need to support a long-term hybrid model.” Bushell adds.
What Is ‘the hybrid office’?
The hybrid office model brings flexibility and freedom to employees, who may not have been able to work remotely before. And it enables companies to reduce their office space overheads – from rental to coffee.
Adopting a hybrid workplace model means companies can reduce their office space requirements because only some of their employees will be in an office at any given point. The rest will be working from home, or on the road (as sales and support teams often are).
Lockdown forced many companies to digitalise their processes and systems in order for employees to be able to work from anywhere and keep the business running. Modern cloud-based telephony and business systems have even enabled call centres, collection agencies and other entities that traditionally worked from a central point to go remote.
Hybrid models emphasised
A hybrid model, however, accommodates all employees—letting those who enjoy the office keep coming in, while those who thrive while working from home, stay at home and those who enjoy both choose freely.
“Covid-19 has made us all rethink our working models,” says Bushell. “Workforce management has become more agile out of necessity and we are reinventing internal processes to facilitate freedom of movement. Hybrid working could result in better work/life balance, increase productivity and lower costs for organisations – even beyond Covid.”
Remote and hybrid working solutions during the pandemic are empowering employees to feel safer, work more independently and become more responsible for delivering on their KPIs. Implemented effectively, hybrid workspaces will prove to be beneficial for employees and businesses in 2021 and beyond.