Remote working in South Africa – Are we ready?

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Remote working in South Africa – Are we ready?

Are we ready for remote workers or working from home?


One of the ways organisations are dealing with #CoronaVirus is to encourage employees to work from home. Remote working is identified as one of the “new ways of work” that we have seen being adopted in recent years. For some organisations, it’s business as usual as they use remote skilled workers to do work they do not have skills for internally and for others it is a way to cut costs. The question is, are we ready as employees, managers and organisations for this new phenomenon?

Before we dive into the question of whether we are ready for remote working or not let us look at the benefits of remote working.

  1. Productivity – A Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom and Ctrip (A Chinese Travel Agency) ran a study with about 500 participants for almost 2 years to determine whether working from home would increase or decrease productivity. The study results showed that working from home boosted productivity equivalent to a full day’s work. You can view professor Bloom’s TEDX presentation on
  2. Cost savings for the organisation – The study mentioned above done by professor Bloom resulted in a serving of US$2000.00 per employee. A South African Innovative bank has recently introduced remote working for it’s Software Developers. The motivation behind this move is purely to save costs. By reducing the office space and other related costs it has already started realizing a significant cost saving per employee.
  3. Cost and time saving to the employees – I have spoken to some of Software Developers working for the South African Innovative Bank mentioned above and they highlighted they are saving on average R2,000.00 on transport costs and at least 2 hours in in travel time (every Software Developer knows how significant this time is in terms of lines you can code in 2 hours).


So, are we ready?

Well, Numbers seem to stack up in favor of remote working, but still organisations are still skeptical, Why?

  • The biggest challenge to the adoption of remote working is corporate culture. Most organisations believe that employees need to be in the office to embrace and live their culture. The fear is; “if we now allow people to work from home what will happen to our culture?”, what will Google do with all those fancy campuses?
  • The second issue to the adoption of remote working, are managers. Managers worry that if they allow employees to work from home, work might not get done or done correctly. This is especially true for micro managers who want to be involved in minute details.
  • The third challenge to adopting remote working is the need for meetings and collaboration. Some may argue that we can always collaborate using Slack or Microsoft Teams, but sometimes you need people in the same room for face to face communication, creativity and feedback.
  • The fourth challenge is loneliness, participants in the study done by professor Bloom highlighted that they would not take up the option to work remote permanently because they felt lonely working from home.
  • Lastly, some employees are just not responsible enough to embrace remote working. It takes self-discipline and the ability to self-manage, which some employees simply don’t have.

In conclusion, I believe remote working is one of those future ways of work but organisations still need to put proper processes and systems in place which will support it efficiently.

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