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South Africa is officially in day nineteen of an extended lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 and while some businesses have closed shop until the period is over, others have opted to allow their employees to telecommute.

While many staff members may finally be receiving what they assume to be the best solution – working from home - both employees and employers need to understand what remote working truly entails and what bearing it has on performance, especially during the lockdown,” says Arnoux Maré, CEO of Innovative Solutions Group.

“Employers have an arsenal of tools to ensure their personnel continue delivering the same level of quality work when they are telecommuting, as they do when working from the office. There are contracts and Key Performance Indicators from a labour law perspective that hold both employees and employer accountable. From a production management standpoint, there are a series of apps and software to monitor the organisations’ performance as well,” continues Maré.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, 80 to 90% of all employees say they prefer working from home. But managers may not be warm to the idea of not having physical oversight over their teams, especially if their employees are not well acquainted with the organisation or its value systems.

Maré says that the management of expectations as well as trust is at the core of having a productive off-site team. Coupled with vigorous support from management, employers can break down major projects into bite sizes, setting daily, or weekly targets to assist the uninitiated build up confidence in working remotely.

“Employers must treat remote staff as if they were working in the office. Once deliverables have been communicated, trust that telecommuting workforces will do their job with the same level of dignity. Companies can also set guidelines such as turnaround times on deliverables and state when work calls or texts are permissible to avoid overworking employees,” Maré continues. 

Outside of disaster management, using telecommuting can also prove effective for employee and organisational well-being.

Companies with work-from-anywhere policies can boost employee productivity, reduce turnover, and lower organisational costs, according to research at Harvard Business School. A Stanford study found that employees who work from home are 13% more productive compared with their in-office counterparts.

But before managers rush to advocate for every employee to work from home, Maré mentions that there are a few basic elements that have to be met.

“If an employee is expected to work from home, then the company must provide them with the means to effectively execute their jobs, such as laptops, software, a phone or data allowance. Furthermore, the organisation must be confident in an employee’s ability to work off-site and this may require training or some form of induction,” Maré explains.

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