Comms ministry entities adopt hybrid work model

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 06 Jul 2023

More than half of the entities under the scope of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) have adopted a hybrid way of work.

This is based on a response to a Parliamentary question addressed to communications and digital technologies minister Mondli Gungubele.

The DCDT’s portfolio of entities comprises: Broadband Infraco (BBI), Film and Publications Board (FPB), Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA), NEMISA, Postbank, SABC, SA Post Office (SAPO), Sentech, State IT Agency (SITA), Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (USAASA), and .ZA Domain Name Authority (ZADNA).

Of these, BBI, ICASA, NEMISA, SITA, SABC, Sentech and Postbank are said to be applying a hybrid model, while all employees at USAASA, FPB, ZADNA, as well as all officials of the DCDT are back in the office working environment, shows Gungubele’s response.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw many South African organisations, including government departments and entities, shift the location of their operations from office-bound to work-from-home in a matter of days.

With the easing and subsequent lifting of pandemic regulations, many either made the decision to go fully remote or return full-time to the office.

However, some took the hybrid work model as an approach to continue their operations.

A 2022 Cisco Global Hybrid Work Study showed that 61.4% of the respondents surveyed said hybrid work improved the quality of work, while 60.4% believed their productivity improved.

Similarly, a Gartner study noted hybrid as the future way of work, with 75% of hybrid or remote knowledge workers agreeing their expectations for working flexibly have increased.

The hybrid way

Responding to DA MP Tsholofelo Bodlani, Gungubele revealed that for BBI, ICASA, NEMISA, SITA, SABC, Sentech and Postbank, the hybrid model allows employees to combine in-office and remote working.

This, he says, is two-to-three days working in the office and the other days working from home.

He explains: “ICASA stated that an opportunity had risen to make [the authority] more adaptable and find new ways to still deliver on its mandate, while promoting employee wellness through creating flexible working arrangements.

“The employment of the hybrid work model was in line with government guidelines on managing exposure to occupational diseases in the workplace. The hybrid model is in a form of work rotation plans that is enforced for all employees. The employees are on site to ensure customer-facing services are not adversely affected in terms of service delivery.

“SITA stated the decision for the hybrid model was based on their commitment to ensure employees have a healthy work-life balance and excel in their performance within the organisation.”

The minister states that 50% of BBI’s employees are allowed to work from the office at a time. This is mainly due to the entity’s move from the Woodmead to Radiokop office, which can only accommodate 50% of the staff complement at a time. “All employees are fully-equipped with data and laptops to work productively from home.”

Like other organisations that adopted remote working as a result of the pandemic, NEMISA subsequently opted to implement hybrid work, requiring employees to work from the office and from home on certain days, he states.

“This was done based on the observation that employees remain productive when they work either from the office or from home. NEMISA recognises the correct use of technology enables work to be carried out at any given location.”

Sentech also opted to implement a hybrid working model, which is a combination of office and remote working, he reveals. “It determined this was the most sufficient way in managing resources and output. Further, it found this was the best way to create a healthy work environment. This model will be reviewed from time-to-time.”

According to the minister, Postbank currently occupies a SAPO building that is not conducive to housing employees due to poor maintenance, poor hygiene and space constraints. “Postbank is seeking its own suitable premises that are conducive to housing employees, for those who prefer working in an office.”

The post office indicates 201 of its employees are working from home, reveals the minister. Among the reasons noted is poor hygiene in the building, defective lifts and air-conditioning, with most sites affected by load-shedding and outdated tools of trade.