Why South Africa should embrace flexible working

Why South Africa should embrace flexible working

Before COVID-19, formal employment in South Africa was stable and increasing modestly. Then the pandemic hit. Like most countries affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, the South African Government introduced restrictions – in fact, they introduced some of the most stringent measures of any countries globally. Borders were shut, schools were closed, and people were told to remain at home.

The inevitable result was that the economy suffered badly, and many businesses were struggling to remain afloat. 36% of businesses reported that they had laid-off staff during level 5 restrictions, and the same percentage feared they did not have the financial resources necessary to maintain operations during the pandemic.

New directives necessitate flexible working

The silver lining for many people was that they were able to work from home, and this trend looks set to continue – even beyond the pandemic. It may well signal a major change in the way that people work in the future. As a study from Direct Line reveals, HR directors are expecting a 45% increase in the number of workers requesting flexible working arrangements once the pandemic has passed.

As companies are now getting back into line with the gradual, phased reopening of the South African economy, one thing is now apparent. It cannot be business as usual. Level 4 lockdown regulations and revised Occupational Health and Safety directives are giving employers the chance to formalise flexible working. It is something that could prove advantageous not just in the short-term, but in the long-term too.

The benefits of flexible working

For employees, there are obvious benefits: they are able to achieve greater work-life balance, and save on the costs of commuting. Flexible working allows them to choose the hours they work; fitting their working pattern around their life to maximise both productivity and job satisfaction. Employers can save money too, as there is less need to run a large and dedicated office space, and some studies have found that companies with flexible working policies are actually more productive.

Flexible working arrangements also open up new opportunities for employers: they are able to draw on a wider pool of remote working talent, rather than relying on the more limited pool of talent based around their local area.

Due to supply and demand considerations, businesses are also coming to the realisation that flexible working policies might be a necessity. Workers with sought-after skills are now expecting flexibility from potential employers, and this is driving them to offer attractive employment packages. A clear case of supply and demand in motion. 

Coming to terms with flexible working

As many countries are now facing rising COVID-19 infections, the necessity for flexible working as the new way forward is becoming obvious. South African employers are now becoming more open to the new working philosophy, and the workers themselves are learning to come to terms with it as the new norm. Unsurprisingly, workers are keen to enhance their work-life balance, and their experience during the pandemic has shown them that they are able to perform their jobs just as well while working from home. This has made the case against flexible working weaker than ever.

Although flexible working may have been widely implemented out of necessity, there are many benefits to be found if we embrace this mode of working in the long-term. Employers should not be afraid of doing so – change might be scary, but if the evidence is in favour of flexible working they should not stand in the way of progress. As the South African economy looks to recover in the future, revolutionary and exciting steps like these might be just what we need to get the country going again. 

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