More employees have returned to work as the lockdown has eased, but new data has shown that more than half of company employees are still working remotely.
More employees have returned to work as the lockdown has eased, but new data has shown that more than half of company employees are still working remotely.

More than half of employees are still working from home

By Edward West Time of article published Aug 14, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - More employees have returned to work as the lockdown has eased, but new data has shown that more than half of company employees are still working remotely.

A survey by human resources and remuneration specialist firm 21st Century released yesterday (Thur) also showed that employees were being supplied with the necessary tools of trade to work at home.

“Where employees are able to effectively work at home, most of the organisations have neither unpaid nor partial pay periods; and it seems organisations are returning to normal payment as work is resumed and revenue flows into the organisation,” said 21st Century executive director Morag Phillips.

The survey showed that drastic changes in company policies had been influenced by the impact of the lockdown on the organisation in terms of its survival and its sustainability post this period.

In general, organisations were deducting annual leave in cases where an employee had run out of sick leave and was needing the leave, either because of being ill, or being forced to quarantine.

On leave management, organisations were faced with a growing leave liability and were considering creative ways to encourage employees to use their leave, for the benefit of both the employer and the employee.

“As a trend, we see that the possibility of remote working is being considered as a more permanent possibility by employers, in roles where it has proved successful,” said Phillips.

He said more than 70 percent of organisations now had work from home as a temporary offering for employees, while around 18 percent of organisations had it as a permanent offering for employees.

“We see employers are doing their utmost to avoid reducing salaries or not paying, although the prevalence of pay freeze decisions is on the increase, with above 40 percent of our survey participants indicating a freeze from management level and above,” said Phillips.

He said some organisations were indicating a zero-percentage pay increase into 2021.

Around 65 percent had revised their company budgets, and more than 40 percent had adjusted their company strategies to cater for the pandemic and shutdown levels.

Most participants said there was a need to change key companies policies, practises and processes beyond Covid-19; although some organisations had not fully realised the impact the pandemic is likely to have on their organisations.

These respondents hoped for minimal change that would not impact their day-to-day workings too drastically. Some 81 organisations surveyed now had a Covid-19 policy.

Around 18 percent of participating organisations were putting their short-term incentive (STI) scheme on hold, and around 12 percent were continuing their STI scheme with no changes. “Although most organisations are more concerned with v operational requirements right now, prioritising talent as a competitive business driver is very much on the horizon in the next six months,“ he said.

Predictive talent solutions were crucial in the months to come, as organisations would have to anticipate ongoing changes in the wake of Covid-19.

South African Reward Association exco member Lindiwe Sebesho said many companies were looking at working from home to become part of a next-generation workplace strategy to improve productivity, while “humanising” work life and performance management.

A survey by Deloitte showed 70 percent of workers in financial services had found working from home a positive experience.

The top reason was no commuting (76 percent), with more flexibility (43 percent), more time with family (39 percent) and more time to exercise (2 percent) also contributing.

Those who reported negative experiences cited lack of personal interaction as the main reason (51 percent), followed by the challenges of a work/life balance (41 percent) as the boundaries between work and home could become blurred when both were done in the same physical space. The majority (76 percent) felt they were more productive at home.

Companies would have to begin looking at compensation structures that met the needs of working from home employees by considering broader factors such as the cost of physical office infrastructure, she said.

BUSINESS REPORT

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