Four years after the start of the Covid-19, some people are still working from home.
According to BrandMapp data, just 47% of employed individuals have returned to their full-time jobs, while 54% are either following the hybrid work trend or working permanently from home.
“It seems that the pandemic gave many more people the opportunity to experience work from home, and a lot of them like it,” director of BrandMapp, Brandon de Kock, said.
However, 2024 may finally be the year that workers return to the office.
Returning to the office is anticipated to accelerate throughout the year as more organisations understand the detrimental impact that entirely remote working has on workplace morale and productivity.
This is the belief of the chief executive of Contract Understanding, Norman Kretzmer.
Kretzmer foresees the work-from-home trend likely to reverse this year. Here is his reasoning:
Remote work erodes company culture
With a few exceptions, most businesses have realised that entirely remote employment is bad for workplace culture.
Many people have reported that team cohesiveness and collaboration have decreased throughout the years of working from home.
Online standups, WhatsApp and Slack groups, and virtual get-togethers do not foster the same amount of team cohesion as informal meetings.
Having lunch in the cafeteria, passing by a colleague’s desk with a short query, or speaking in the kitchen while preparing coffee all promote knowledge sharing more effectively than virtual alternatives.
It is alienating for new hires
Although numerous businesses have developed innovative on-boarding and training programmes to support remote workers, the reality is that these are a poor substitute for face-to-face contact.
As a result, new hires often feel disconnected from their colleagues and the business they have joined.
It also takes longer to bring people up to speed with company processes, systems, and ways of working online than to meet in the real world.
Load shedding has thrown a spanner in the works
Working from home is more difficult in an unequal society like South Africa for individuals who do not reside in locations with dependable fibre optic internet or have adequate space to set up a separate workspace.
Load shedding has exacerbated this issue, as many households cannot afford backup power alternatives such as solar panels and generators.
In contrast, most firms have invested in infrastructure that allows employees to remain productive during power outages.
Productivity can suffer
Remote work has reduced productivity in areas where work-from-home was not common before to the epidemic.
Most businesses simply haven’t designed their procedures for remote work; also, people working remotely frequently confront distractions at home, such as family commitments or domestic tasks.
It’s also not uncommon for people working from home to struggle with things that a co-worker might easily assist them with if they were in the office.
Employees are also cooling on the idea
Many office workers celebrated when they thought their days of long commutes, noisy open-plan workplaces, and rigid working hours were past.
Employees, on the other hand, are increasingly understanding that they are social creatures who require time away from their homes as well as direct engagement with colleagues and mentors.
For some people, feelings of loneliness and alienation can have a negative impact on their mental health.
In addition to a need for human touch, they recognise that it is difficult to be prominent in an organisation and develop their careers without face-to-face engagement.
Office presence will be key to the future of work
Cloud-based post-signature contract management software, for example, facilitates hybrid working patterns, allowing individuals to be productive from anywhere.
That means it’s now feasible to offer flexible working arrangements that allow employees to avoid some of those onerous journeys while simultaneously cultivating corporate culture and providing opportunity for direct, personal engagement.
It all comes down to striking the right balance.