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More South Africans work remotely despite connectivity woes

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While the majority of South Africans took to remote working from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, connectivity issues are hindering their productivity.

This is one of the biggest takeaways from a study conducted by Workday, a cloud-based financial management and human capital management software vendor.

The company commissioned Yonder Consulting to conduct research earlier in 2021 to understand employee sentiment across Europe and South Africa during COVID-19.

South Africa was the first country outside of Europe to conduct this research. Yonder undertook 17 054 online surveys in total, across nine European countries and South Africa (1 031) among employees below director level.

The respondents work at organisations with more than 250 employees.

The research shows that while workplaces have seen major economic, social, environmental and technological changes recently, the pandemic accelerated trends, including remote working, shifting employees’ expectations, learning and development, purpose and belonging at work, and employee wellbeing.

In South Africa, Yonder found that 80% of employees worked from home, but 96% experienced connectivity issues.

It also found that leaders viewed as honest, trustworthy, caring, supportive, approachable, inspiring and competent are perceived to have performed better; 53% of employees struggled to motivate themselves; and 58% believe their leaders are not prioritising health and wellbeing.

In SA, an average of 80% of employees reported working from home (higher than the European and UK average of 61% and 71%, respectively).

Workday says many employees feel their organisations reacted well to fundamental changes in working. Most employees working from home (72%) reported solid morale (as compared to the European standard of 56%), and said their productivity increased while working from home.

Nearly two-thirds of employees (63%) reported connectivity issues either all the time, regularly or occasionally, while a further 33% said they experienced issues but only rarely.

Compared to Europe (46%), the research found that a higher percentage of South African employees (53%) found it difficult to motivate themselves.

It adds the top motivational struggles mentioned are pay rises and bonuses being cancelled or delayed, and employees assuming different roles or additional responsibilities.

Workday says 51% of organisations made redundancies since the pandemic started, and this figure rises to two-thirds in the retail, food, beverages and restaurants sector. Some 63% of employees believe they lost opportunities to develop their career.

It points out that employees generally had positive perceptions towards their leadership and a majority felt their organisation’s leaders navigated the last year well.

According to the study, employees in SA are significantly more likely to feel their senior managers demonstrated clear vision, managed resources and understood their role in supporting the organisation.

Over half (53%) of South African employees claim they will be likely to look for a new employer in the next 12 months. This is significantly higher than the European average of 25%, the study found.

Forty-six percent of employees said they would switch careers for better training and development. This was followed by the need to seek better pay (39%), a more senior role (36%), career change (35%), or a more interesting role (34%).

Half of employees in SA feel trapped in their current job due to economic uncertainty, though a similar proportion feel they will get a pay rise in the next 12 months, says Workday.

It adds the pandemic and economic downturn have elevated the role of the chief human resources officer to help CEOs manage employees during a time of crisis and chart a course for the future.

“The perfect storm of cultural upheaval, employee stress, business challenges and opportunity has created a critical moment for businesses, and if they don’t meet it, they risk alienating employees, falling behind technologically, and missing opportunities to retain, engage and develop their workforce,” says Kiveshen Moodley, Workday country manager for South Africa.

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