In the early months of 2020, governments worldwide put their countries into lockdown to manage the spread of the coronavirus causing COVID-19. As a result, organisations enabled their workforce to work remotely. This move presented an opportunity to consider a hybrid remote working model post the pandemic.
A hybrid remote working model entails employee working a certain number of days at the office and other days remotely. President Cyril Ramaphosa has encouraged employees who are able to work from home to continue to do so even after the easing of the lockdown regulations. Because of the unprecedented national lockdown, organisations experienced both benefits and challenges that are inherent to remote working. The key challenges include intermittent network connectivity, national power supply issues, limited physical interaction with colleagues hindering collaboration, and having to balance work and home environments. The benefits include saving on operational expenses and improved productivity.
In addition, employees have reported increased discretionary effort as a result of reduced commute time. These assertions are supported by various industry findings that have observed increased output as a result of remote working. These benefits and challenges provide an opportunity for organisations to consider a hybrid remote working model. The proposed working model will provide isolated employees with an opportunity to collaborate with colleagues.
To successfully implement a hybrid remote working model, organisations may need to consider the possibility of diversifying their network service provider. This can be done by identifying employee geographical locations and assigning them provider specific access depending on area network coverage. In addition, organisations have an opportunity to introduce remote working guidelines, review of leave policy and measurement of performance.
Remote working guidelines
In order to address the challenge on balancing work and home environment organisations will need to establish remote working guidelines. The guidelines will need to outline the times employees are expected to be available, which will provide common standards for responsiveness. This will be establishing boundaries to assist employees in achieving the desired productivity, while leaving time to rest and recharge.
Although remote working has provided flexibility, there may be a downside with employees not taking time to rest and recharge. In the long run, this will be costly to organisations, as productivity may be hampered due to individual burnout. As such, there is an opportunity for organisations to review their leave policies as mitigation. Organisations may consider providing unlimited leave days to certain employees such as full-time salaried employees. Clear guidelines will be necessary to define how unlimited leave policies should be implemented. Companies such as Investec and Netflix provide examples that organisations can adopt in their environments in this regard.
Traditionally employees earn their salaries based on time spent at work. Flexibility presents an opportunity for organisations to review how they measure employee performance. Instead of measuring employees’ performance based on time spent at work, employers may consider measuring performance based on output. Employees may be given tasks to complete within a set delivery time such as daily, weekly or monthly. Performance can thus be measured upon completion a and delivery of the tasks relative to the set time.
In addition, organisations that provide services and bill their clients based on hours worked will need to reconsider this billing method. This will require a move from billing based on hours spent towards billing based on services rendered or output. This method therefore translates to billing for a specific service subscription.
To successfully implement the hybrid remote working model organisations will need to make bold decisions and embrace the continuous learning process that it will demand.
AUTHOR | Vincent Motholo CA(SA), Audit Partner, SNG Grant Thornton, Woodmead