Although the Work From Home (WFH) enhanced trust, female respondents in general felt ’more important’ when working from the office because they tended to take more frequent breaks and struggled with routine and other commitments, according to research conducted by Ipsos. Picture: Jagrit Parajuli/Pixabay
Although the Work From Home (WFH) enhanced trust, female respondents in general felt ’more important’ when working from the office because they tended to take more frequent breaks and struggled with routine and other commitments, according to research conducted by Ipsos. Picture: Jagrit Parajuli/Pixabay

Women and younger employees finding it hard to work remotely

By Given Majola Time of article published Nov 4, 2021

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ALTHOUGH the Work From Home (WFH) enhanced trust, female respondents in general felt “more important” when working from the office because they tended to take more frequent breaks and struggled with routine and other commitments, according to research conducted by global research organisation Ipsos.

They also said that tasks took more effort in this arrangement.

In contrast, male respondents said WFH meant more time spent in meetings, with inadequate communication between teams thereby making teamwork more difficult. The study shows that they also experienced difficulty in keeping teams motivated when working from home. They also maintained that completing tasks took more time.

Ipsos Service Line Lead Stella Fleetwood said that South Africans’ views on WFH also differed across racial lines.

“Our research revealed that Indian respondents had lower job satisfaction with WFH, were concerned that WFH negatively influenced their career growth and found it difficult to advance their careers while also having a negative impact on job security and their relationships with managers,” Fleetwood said.

According to her, black respondents said they were less motivated, had more interruptions and had more challenges in promoting their business. Fleetwood said this could be related to lower availability of internet access amongst this group.

White respondents,however, said WFH provided a better work-life balance and that they had more time for home chores and to run errands, while coloured respondents in general found team collaboration challenging.

According to the research by Ipsos, younger respondents were feeling too much pressure working from home.

“The 18-28 age group reported more distractions and interruptions at 60 percent, and believed they were not disciplined enough to work from home, while the 30-44 age group believed it enhanced trust but added they felt more important working from the office. The 45-55 group finds it easier working from home,” Fleetwood said.

She said companies considering a permanent or semi-permanent switch to a WFH policy should take particular note of this research as it showed companies risked losing competitiveness as productivity could potentially slump, employees could become less motivated, cohesion of teams could get eroded and managers could struggle to keep their finger on the pulse.

Fleetwood said while many respondents said they preferred the flexibility of working from home, it was quite clear their performance could suffer and teamwork, especially, became harder.

“Executives should be more considerate in understanding what employees are experiencing while working remotely. This way of working does not necessarily mean better work-life balance, or a more engaged, more motivated workforce. Permanently working from home could be putting productivity, corporate culture cohesion and business growth at risk,” she said.

“In fact, less than a third (29 percent) expressed a preference for WFH, while about half (51 percent) find it more stressful. We could also see higher churn within the workforce as employees lose their organic connection to colleagues and the business culture, and experience a loss of motivation, feelings of isolation, lower morale and stunted career development,” Fleetwood said.

Meanwhile, Alexander Forbes Health Management Solutions Senior Consultant Kreshnee Govender said that almost two years after Covid-19 reared its head, the focus had changed from crisis management to realising the long-term effect of the pandemic on people’s lives. Medical aid schemes and hospitals also warned that the society was on the cusp of a mental health crisis as more hospital admissions meant that more medical aid members were using outpatient mental health services.

Within the business sector, some companies were said to be reporting that over 50 percent of referrals made for incapacity support in the workplace were due to mental illness. This was said to signal an urgent need to provide support for employees.

The South African Society of Psychiatrists reported an increase in the numbers of psychiatric patients relapsing on treatment as well as rising new cases associated with the stresses of the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact of working from home.

South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) and clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde said that calls to the SADAG helpline from the public seeking help had more than doubled since the start of lockdown last year.

Although mental illness had for many years made up a large percentage of workplace difficulties, the prevalence and complexity of these disorders had increased in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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