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Remote working increases workers’ productivity, says survey

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Julien Raze, regional director at Michael Page Africa.
Julien Raze, regional director at Michael Page Africa.

Despite organisations’ limited rollout of digital transformation strategies to enable remote working, South African employees have expressed a desire for flexible work policies.

This is according to the findings of the latest Michael Page Africa survey, conducted with 200 South African-based job-seekers and professionals on the impact of remote working during the national lockdown.

The month-long survey, conducted with South African-based employees visiting the company’s Web site, was undertaken to try and understand the effect the COVID-19 crisis had on their personal and professional lives, the support they got from their company and what they did to make the best of the situation.

In the wake of the COVID-19-induced lockdown, organisations scurried to introduce remote working policies, as people across the globe were forced to substitute their in-person meetings with virtual networking sessions, from corporate meetings to funerals and educational activities, in efforts to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

COVID-19 infections have surpassed 27.5 million worldwide, with the death toll at 897 231 and over 19.6 million recoveries, at the time of publication. Locally, the total number of infections has reached 639 362, with the national death toll surpassing the 15 000 mark and 566 555 people recovered, as of this morning.

Based on the study, only 26% of the respondents in SA had the freedom to work from home before the COVID-19 crisis. Due to the lockdown, that number increased dramatically, with 79% of the respondents working remotely.

As a result, the lockdown period reinforced the preference for a blend of remote and office-based work.

According to the findings, 83% of the respondents expect that one of the most significant outcomes of the COVID-19 crisis will be that companies will implement flexible work policies, such as opportunities to work remotely, or to have flexible schedules, provide devices and so on.

In addition, 74% think there will be more respect for certain job roles; for example, healthcare workers, retail workers, teachers, etc. A further 58% think there will be more environmental awareness.

Some 71% of job applicants think that working remotely will be more important than before at the companies they are currently employed with, based on the study results.

Even if they had the choice, many employees said they would still come to the office for part of the working week. Only 37% would choose to work remotely for two days and 33% for two days a week, while more than half (53%) are looking at three-to-four days a week as ideal to work from home.

"Apart from salary, culture and career growth as pivotal consideration points for candidates considering switching into new positions, top talent will also consider what flexible work arrangements companies can offer. Now more than ever, when considering new opportunities, candidates need to be convinced they are making the right decision for themselves and their family,” says Julien Raze, regional director, Michael Page Africa.

Still working hard

While some argue that working from home can lead to less productivity or motivation, the Michael Page Africa study indicates a different outcome.

It states that many professionals in SA who work from home report they are more motivated, productive and satisfied than before.

Around 63% of respondents said their productivity increased while working from home, with 31% sharing that their productivity stayed the same even after transitioning into the remote work set-up due to the pandemic.

According to the respondents, remote working also didn’t lead to less motivation; on the contrary, more than 50% felt even more motivated, with 41% saying their motivation levels stayed the same.

Turning to job satisfaction, the survey found that 41% were just as satisfied with their work as they were before the lockdown, with 46% feeling even more satisfied.

Most of the respondents (82%) said they adopted flexible start to finish hours during their workdays, with 87% stating they did not reduce their working hours.

“The lockdown resulted in one of the biggest flexible work experiments in history, and according to professionals who took the survey, the remote work experience was more than successful. In fact, 54% of job applicants based in South Africa visiting our Web site say they feel as committed as before given the way their current employer managed their workforce during the lockdown, and 28% feeling even more committed than before.”

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