Employees split on returning to the office in South Africa

 ·12 Jun 2022

A new BusinessTech poll shows that workers in South Africa are still heavily split on a full return to the office, with more than half of respondents still working from home or in a hybrid format.

The poll, which was conducted at the start of June, considered responses from 3,130 readers.

BusinessTech’s core readership includes professionals, executives, managers and chief executives – meaning the results are more likely to skew towards working from home compared to the average employee.

This is reflected in Statistics South Africa’s latest unemployment data which shows that professional employees are more likely to be working from home than any other worker group in the country.

A combined 1,597 (51%) respondents said they are either working from home permanently or only coming into the office on some days during the week. A further 5% of employees indicated that they are working remotely from an off-site location.

By comparison, just 28% of respondents said they have returned to the office.

Talent battlefield 

Cameron Beveridge, regional director for Southern Africa at SAP, said the return to office is not as simple as ordering people to come back as companies struggle to keep hold of vital skills.

During the early stages of the pandemic, businesses around the world shifted to remote models that saw millions of workers performing their day-to-day tasks away from the confines of corporate offices, he said.

“The past two years have marked a greater shift in how we work than the two decades preceding it. In the services industry, workers who previously completed their tasks within an office space under the watchful gaze of managers and HR specialists were suddenly asked to maintain high levels of productivity from home.

“Now that offices are reopening, many of these formerly office-bound employees now prefer to work remotely at least some of the time, creating new challenges in attracting, motivating and retaining top talent.”

Beveridge said business leaders are now confronted with the task of balancing their teams’ productivity against the physical and mental wellbeing of each employee.

“The shift to remote work created a situation where many employees work longer hours than ever before, raising the chances of burnout and forcing companies to implement additional measures to support employees that are working under immense pressure.”

Beveridge advises that business leaders deploy technology tools to dispel uncertainty in their business models and their human capital management strategies.

“Companies have an opportunity to be both an exemplar of more sustainable business and employment practices – for example by reimagining their business models to focus more on longer-term sustainability and value creation – as well as enablers, by providing tools that assist other companies in their sustainability efforts.

“As we enter an era of great uncertainty and ongoing volatility, business leaders will need to leverage the latest technologies to ensure they can manage this new balancing act.”

Read: South Africa needs at least 60% of school-leavers to enter these jobs: minister

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