Source: News24

Retailer Massmart says it has started a consultation process under Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act that may affect 1 800 employees at Game stores in South Africa.

In a short update to shareholders on Tuesday, Massmart said the decision came after it “recently completed an assessment of opportunities to improve our South African Game store efficiencies”.

Section 189 of the act governs, among other things, the procedures that companies must be take ahead of any possible retrenchments.

In addition to Game, Massmart owns Makro, Dion Wired, Builders Warehouse and Masscash.

By Denise Lee Yohn for Harvard Business Review

Retailers need to stop expecting business to return to “normal.” There’s no going back to how it was anytime soon. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis, brick-and-mortar retailers had been fighting a fierce battle against Amazon and other e-commerce players. Those challenges have now accelerated at staggering speed.

The latest data from McKinsey shows that consumers are likely to keep the behaviours they’ve adopted amid stay-at-home orders, such as more online shopping and fewer mall visits. Retailers can’t afford to be in a wait-and-see mode. First, they need to reimagine their baseline requirements and then turn their attention to taking their customer experience to the next level.

A new baseline
To start, retailers have to adapt their brick-and-mortar operations to comply with health-and-safety regulations and meet basic customer expectations. This includes mask wearing, ensuring physical distancing, and controlling the number of employees and customers in stores, instituting contactless transactions, improving speed of service, and introducing more self-service options.

Retailers also need to offer a simple and seamless e-commerce experience — from browsing to researching, selecting, purchasing, and returning/exchanging. Customers will no longer tolerate sub-par digital shopping experiences like they may have before the crisis. Retailers have to make sure their sites are mobile-responsive, offer integrated services such as “buy online pick up in store” (BOPIS), and deliver a consistent, reliable digital experience across devices and channels.

For a select few retailers, such as trendy fashion stores or pop-up restaurants, executing at this baseline level is sufficient. If demand for a product is so high and/or urgent — for example, as it had been for Shake Shack burgers, Nike shoe drops, or the latest Apple release — customers will still venture out to a brick-and-mortar location. Camping out overnight or waiting in hours-long lines to shop may eventually return as a super fan’s pastime. But that’s no longer a strategy to rely on – enhanced in-store operations and a well-functioning digital presence are table stakes.

Rethinking the in-person experience
For several years now, some retailers have been putting as much if not more priority on the in-store experience than on the products they sell. From Restoration Hardware to Bass Pro Shops and even Walmart, retailers have learned that holding events or offering special experiences and services in-store not only attracts customers, but also encourages them to linger longer, buy more products, and spend more on those products.

As a result of Covid-19, all retailers will have to make their in-store experiences even more extraordinary for those who can visit in person. They have to give people a reason to visit that is so compelling, it justifies their exposure to health risks and overcomes the inertia of the behaviours they adopted during the shutdown.

To get started, retailers can consider how premium movie theatre brands such as Cinepolis emerged back when Netflix and other home movie-viewing options threatened the movie theatre industry. These new experiences didn’t simply improve what had been previously offered to customers and address the shortcomings of existing options. They made visiting a theatre better than watching at home — offering luxury reclining loungers, specialty food and beverages delivered seat-side, and lobby areas with bars to hangout with friends before and after movies. Retailers that offer an exclusive, superior experience like luxury cinemas once did can draw people out of their homes.

Elevated in-person customer service is another way to compete and win over online players, but retailers must think differently about service. Service can no longer be defined as a support for sales and be limited to generic efforts, such as greeting customers, handling complaints, and managing returns and special requests. Even personal shoppers, technical experts, and certified installers have become expected from most retailers of bigger ticket, more complex product categories.

Best Buy used this approach several years ago to rebound from its losing battle with Amazon. It introduced an advisor program that allows customers to get free in-home consultations about the products they should buy and how they should be installed. The service is intended to facilitate long-term customer relationships, not necessarily to close sales. As a result, it lured customers away from online options and positioned Best Buy as a trustworthy, more personal brand.

Digitally native customer experience
This new emphasis on innovation and service needs to extend to the digital customer experience as well. Most retailers with roots in brick-and-mortar simply try to replicate their in-store experience online, but such efforts are fruitless and misguided. Beyond the transaction basics discussed earlier, customers don’t expect a virtual experience to be like an in-person one — nor do they want it to be.

Investing in some of the unique capabilities of digital — including real-time inventory management, predictive analytics, AI-powered search, and personalisation and co-creation functions — can create completely new and different shopping experiences. Take, for example, social commerce, which not only enables companies to sell through social media channels but also incorporates social interactions; peer support, reviews, and recommendations; multimedia content; personalisation; gamification; and more. A retailer can use these new capabilities to create a social, interactive, immersive experience wherever customers are — that’s something no physical outlet can provide.

To get inspiration and insights for designing an online shopping experience from the ground up, retailers might want to examine the evolution of other brick-and-mortar industries and institutions. When Covid-19 forced churches to shut down their weekly services, most simply transferred their church services online using digital conferencing solutions like Zoom. But Cincinnati-based Crossroads Church seized the opportunity to re-imagine its pastors’ weekly sermons. Now they film pastors delivering messages at different locations to help reinforce that week’s message (for example, talking about the importance of a strong foundation at the site of a historic church). Similarly, retailers can take advantage of the greater flexibility and new contexts that digital affords by, for example, depicting a single clothing item on multiple models to show what it looks like on different body shapes and sizes or using videos to demonstrate how real customers actually use a tool.

They can also take inspiration from how digital enables immediacy and interactivity for online education platforms such as edX and Coursera. Students studying software programming can upload their coding projects and get them automatically graded, so they receive instant feedback; psychology students can use an app that goes with their class to track their habits and better notice patterns in their own behaviour. What might this look like in the retail context? Possibilities include AI-enabled answers to customers’ questions in real-time, instant video chat with a personal stylist, and apps that track usage of current products to make recommendations for new ones. Ideas like these arise when retailers think beyond adapting the in-person experience online.

This isn’t the time for the retail industry to try to simply ride out the storm. With a more proactive, progressive approach to both digital transformation and a new era of customer experience and service, the future might look less bleary.

If our free content helps you to contend with these challenges, please consider subscribing to HBR. A subscription purchase is the best way to support the creation of these resources.

What’s in a hand sanitiser?

By Burt Rodrigues, CEO of Biodx 

“Right now each time you walk in or out of a shop, office or building, you’re supposed to use whatever hand sanitiser they’re offering – unless you bring your own. And to be safe at home you’ve probably been buying various products off the supermarket or pharmacy shelves. Do these products make you feel safe? The very word sanitiser alone on the label sadly isn’t enough to guarantee your protection, particularly from Covid-19.

Protection

“So how can you make sure you are in fact fully protected? In theory the answer should be easy. The label should clearly show an SABS approval stamp. After all they call themselves a ‘leading global providers of standards and regulatory approval, certification and accreditation’. But how hard can it be to get when we’ve just cut and pasted it from the internet.

“A product showing their mark and registration is telling the consumer you’re guaranteed the same quality of product and performance every time you use it. So, without this guarantee or falsely using this label means one thing – danger.

“I you received this approval rating 15 years ago it was a very different ballgame. In the past when you saw an SABS stamp on a product containing chemicals made to kill living things, you had trust in it. “Such products pose a danger to the consumer which is why government developed a framework over many years to protect society from getting hurt. This rating should mean something, particularly given the process that products are supposed to go through to qualify – the onus shouldn’t be on the consumer to get the product tested.

Degradation of compliance

“Sadly the last 20 years has seen the degradation of such compliance platforms and people have become accustomed to buying non-regulated compounds, which are dangerous to human health. Today no one is aware what these regulations even are and with Covid-19 and the urgency around manufacturing and sourcing such products this equals a very dangerous situation.

“Then you have the NRCS (National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications) which is there to make sure your product has a registration number; proving by using the product you aren’t endangering society. The problem here is not everyone is a chemist, doctor or scientist and people don’t realise they should check out the registration on the product with the company’s website to verify its authenticity. After all if you can’t rely on the NRCS brand being real you can’t rely on yourself as a consumer. It’s comparable to taking a Ferrari hood ornament and sticking it on a Tata…

“Another thing that’s changed over the years is the enforcement behind false claims such as these. In the past nobody would dare make a false claim on a product because you could be jailed but complacency has crept in over the years and these bodies don’t have the capacity or knowledge any longer to enforce such punishment.

Only a handful of companies/ brands comply

“If people suddenly only started buying genuine SABS/NRCS labelled products there would be only a handful of companies who could supply them. What has happened overseas with the sudden surge in the need for disinfectant products was to allow products on to the shelves which have gone through the registration process but have just not been awarded final documentation. These are now being rapidly fast tracked and approved – but only if they comply with the strict regulations. Such registrations normally take years and cost hundreds of thousands of Rands to complete but somehow quite a few not so compliant products have also made it on to shelves.

“So what does this mean for schools which have just reopened? Perhaps this is one of the contributors to so many quickly closing down again. They go through all the motions of disinfecting but are they using genuine and safe products?

“It comes down to where does the responsibility lie. We’re dealing with dangerous products here – possibly that haven’t been tested for human consumption. If the instructions on a product also aren’t clear and you put too much on your skin it won’t just kill the viruses but damage your skin too. And then there’s the content. Some raw material has sugar in it and if this is left behind after use it can trigger a microbial explosion, turning 1 000 bugs into 100 000 bugs, creating rather than preventing infection. Without proper SABS and NRCS rating you are in danger!

Our recommendation

Always check the packaging label as follows:

  • Does it display the SABS and NRCS marks?
  • Does it contain SABS or NRCS registration numbers?
  • If you are in doubt go to the SABS OR NRCS websites to check it out.

What people miss about the office

A nationwide survey by one of South Africa’s largest workplace consultancies has revealed what we are missing about the workplace – and the surprisingly high number of people who want to get back to the office.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, said the survey was carried out during stage 4 of the lockdown and canvassed the opinions of several hundred people across the country who normally work in an office.

“It showed that 86% of people wanted to go back to working in an office but would like to have the option of at least a day a week to work from home or other remote locations.”

She added that while remote work was initially very popular, as time at home wore on, people realised there was a complete lack of work life balance. People often reported feelings of isolation and difficulties in carrying team tasks;many missed coworkers.

“The survey showed that 70% of people missed the general social interactions of the office while 85% said they missed the ‘colleague interaction’ while working at home.”

81% felt that it made general work communication much harder.

Interestingly, 70% reported that they were more sedentary working at home which is one the risk factors of health conditions such as diabetes, neuroskeletal problems such as back and muscle pain.

The South African results are similar to findings by global design and architecture firm Gensler’s recent US Work from Home Survey which polled 2 500 workers across the United States.

“It showed that only 12% of U.S. workers want to work from home full-time while 74% said people are what they miss most about the office. Most want to return to the workplace,” Trim noted.

She said that the survey showed that most want to spend the majority of their normal work week at the office, while maintaining the ability to work from home for part of the week.

“Notably, the quality of the work environment workers left directly correlates to their willingness to in return. On average, the more satisfied a respondent was with their prior work environment, the fewer days they want to work from home,” said Trim.

When asked about the most important reasons to come into the office, respondents overwhelmingly chose activities focused on people and community, including scheduled meetings, socialising and face-to-face time.

“55% said scheduled meetings with colleagues, 54% said socialising with colleagues while the same percentage said impromptu face time were top reasons for coming to an office. Workers also listed access to technology and the ability to focus on their work as key reasons to come in,” Trim noted.

Trim said that South Africa would slowly get back to work and offices would again be the epicentre of the working world.

“But wellbeing is now paramount. We are increasingly being asked to design for distance while still enabling interaction. Workplaces have to be resilient to this and future pandemics and as they change will become better places for people,” she concluded.

Beating back-to-work anxiety

By Dr. Olivia Remes for The Conversation 

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, people’s anxiety levels shot up. Daily reports were coming in about the number of new deaths, there was global chaos and people had to be persuaded to stay inside. And even though this was difficult, we somehow managed to pull through. We slowly became used to our new lives in lockdown, and our anxiety began to subside.

But just as we were settling in to a new reality and routine, governments announced new measures for lifting the lockdown. Naturally, this has been causing some panic and reports are beginning to surface about how people’s mental health is again being affected. Many people are worrying about whether it is safe to go back to work or send their children to school.

This anxiety is mainly related to uncertainty. We don’t know what the future will hold and this can keep us up at night. It can trigger excessive and uncontrollable worrying, and it can even lead to physical symptoms, such as shortness of breath and heart palpitations.

For people with a pre-existing anxiety disorder or depression, the coronavirus pandemic is a recipe for disaster. Going back out into society might trigger or revive past conditions – such as health anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). We’re advised to wash our hands frequently and keep our distance from others at all times – but there is a point when safety behaviours begin to morph into mental disorders.

Sometimes we think that worrying serves a useful purpose, making us vigilant and prepared. We believe that it can help us arrive at a better solution by being proactive about a situation. But worrying for even a short amount of time predisposes us to even more worrying. And before we know it, we’re stuck in a vicious cycle which we can’t escape.

It is a myth that worrying helps us arrive at a better solution. It only makes us feel anxious and stressed – especially if the worrying becomes chronic. Just knowing this can help us take useful steps forward, because we can let go of those anxious thoughts. And most of our worries won’t come true anyway. When researchers at Penn State University asked people to track their anxieties and revisit them at a later point, they saw that 91% of the participants’ worries didn’t come true.

Giving up control
Sometimes, however, this is easier said than done. Sometimes it is very difficult to stop worrying. Sometimes we can’t stop cleaning, and begin to perform repetitive behaviours that can turn into OCD. The way that OCD oftentimes starts is with repetitive, fixed ideas. People read news stories about coronavirus and start worrying that they might get infected if they go back out.

To alleviate this anxiety, they begin to engage in behaviours – such as repetitive, excessive hand-washing – to avert the dreaded outcome. When they do this, they are trying to take control of the situation. But the more they indulge their obsessions, the more – ironically – they begin to lose control. They become unable to rein in their thoughts and lose power over their actions. At this point, OCD has a stronghold over the person and they can’t get out.

One way to prevent this from happening is to do what you can to protect yourself – wash your hands for only the recommended amount and wear a mask – and then let the chips fall where they may. And realise that no matter what you do, it is sometimes impossible to completely protect yourself. Letting go of control is, paradoxically, a way of gaining it back.

This can help us see things more clearly and with a calmer mindset. It also helps us make better decisions. And if you’re worried about restrictions lifting and having to take a crowded tube again – remember, that any anxiety you will be feeling as you’re on that tube will subside. It’s temporary and you will bounce back from it. This is the nature of anxiety, and research has shown this time and again.

Master your life
Another good way to maintain your mental health during this time of constant change and uncertainty is to introduce a positive agenda into your daily routine. How do you do that? By scheduling positive activities into your life and monitoring them. This may include short walks in parks, trying a new recipe or anything else you might enjoy. It’s also important to track yourself to make sure you’re doing such activities on a consistent basis.

When we take the time to engage in pleasant activities, research shows that we not only begin to feel pleasure, but we gain “mastery”. When you have mastery, you start to feel satisfied, having a sense of achievement and control. If you suffer from depression, this technique is particularly useful – it’s like a crane that can help lift you out of a low state. And we know that low mood is something many people have been feeling during this pandemic.

But the road to mastery can be scary to some people. Scheduling things into your life that make you feel happy can be frightening, especially if depression has been a part of your life for a long time.

The rollercoaster of emotions we’ve been experiencing throughout this pandemic might also make us cautious of being too happy too quickly. You might have superstitious thoughts that, if you feel good, something bad will happen. You may worry that it won’t last, or that you’ll get hurt. Isn’t it better to have low expectations – not get too excited and maintain a position of “defensive pessimism”?

Research tells us that the answer is no. Because when we don’t hope and aim for happiness, our lives become a flat line. And isn’t it better to experience a life with ups and down, like a wave with crests and troughs? Embracing life can have a significant impact on our mental health and places us on a path to wellbeing – even during a pandemic.

By Ivan Israelstam, chief executive of Labour Law Management Consulting

The Labour Relations Act (LRA) provides that “Any person determining whether a dismissal for poor work performance is unfair should consider –

(a) whether or not the employee failed to meet a performance standard; and
(b) if the employee did not meet a required performance standard whether or not –
(i) the employee was aware, or could reasonably have been expected to be aware, of the required performance standard;
(ii) the employee was given a fair opportunity to meet the required performance standard; and
(iii) dismissal was an appropriate sanction for not meeting the required performance standard.”

Items 8(2) and 8(3) of the above-mentioned code provide that:

“(2) …… an employee should not be dismissed for unsatisfactory performance unless the employer has-

(a) given the employee appropriate evaluation, instruction, guidance, training or counselling; and
(b) after a reasonable period of time for improvement, the employee continues to perform unsatisfactorily.
(3) The procedure leading to dismissal should include an investigation to establish the reasons for the unsatisfactory performance and the employer should consider other ways, short of dismissal to remedy the matter.”

These guidelines make it clear that the employer does have the right to dismiss poor performers. However, this can only be acceptable if the employer can prove factually that it has, prior to the dismissal, complied with all the substantive and procedural requirements of the law. That is, the onus at the CCMA falls entirely on the employer to bring solid proof:

• that it followed the procedural guidelines quoted above; and also
• that, regardless of the procedure followed, the dismissal decision itself was appropriate under the circumstances.

Employers often lose poor performance cases at the CCMA because they are unable to prove that the employee failed to perform or because the dismissal process was unfair. For example, in the case of Nationwide Airlines (Pty) Ltd vs Mudau & others (2003, 3 BLLR 279) the employer dismissed Mudau after he failed a flight simulator test. However, at the disciplinary hearing the employee was neither given the right to union representation nor was he given a copy of the results of the test that he failed. In its defence, the employer contended that the employee was in a senior position. Despite this the Court upheld the CCMA’s decision that the dismissal was unfair, stating that the employee’s seniority did not deprive him of the right to fair procedure.

However, one employer came off second best at CCMA merely because the charges put to the employee were badly formulated. In Fourie vs Capitec Bank (2005, 3 BALR 314) the CCMA found that it was unfair for the employer to have charged the employee with poor performance as well as for failing to obey the employer’s instruction as these two charges were laid for one and the same incident. It appears that the employee, as a result of failing to follow the employer’s instruction, did not perform the work properly. The CCMA also found that the employer had unfairly taken into account a previous final warning for poor performance. This CCMA finding most surprising as well as frightening because:

• The CCMA viewed the bringing of the two charges as an unfair duplication of charges. In my view, as the one charge flowed form the other, the employee was in fact guilty of both charges, and bringing both allegations resulted in a comprehensive complaint that was both factually correct and justified.

• Poor performance was part of the complaint. Therefore, the taking into account of the previous warning for poor performance was fair and proper.

This CCMA award leaves employers very unsure as to what they are and are not allowed to charge an employee with. It may be that the CCMA commissioner expected the employer to charge the employee only with poor performance and then to use the employee’s failure to follow the employer’s instruction as an aggravating circumstance rather than as part of the charge itself. However, the Labour Relations Act (LRA) does not require this. Common sense dictates that the labels given to the charges should be much less important than what the employee did or failed to do in the incident in question.

However, while decisions such as that in the Capitec case are still being made, employers need to err on the side of caution. That is, employers need to ensure that their managers undergo intensive and ongoing training by a legal expert not only in enforcement of performance standards and fair procedure but also in how to formulate charges relating to poor performance. Alternatively, if such training does not take place, then the employer should take no steps towards employee discipline or performance correction without first consulting a labour law expert.

Source: Pipe Drive

No matter the size of your organisation, it’s likely you’ve been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s forced many of us to change the way we work and adapt to a sudden shift in consumer behaviour.

The COVID-19 outbreak showed us just how quickly life can change. One of the biggest impacts was made on the way we work, as well as the level and type of support our employees, customers and peers need from us.

Entire organisations have adopted remote working infrastructure at a rapid pace, ensuring those that have the ability to work from home can do so. Many were successful, while others are still overcoming teething pains.

So, what’s the best response to a crisis like this? How do we shift our behaviour and routines with minimal disruption?

In general, it’s great to have the tools and flexibility for remote working set up in your organisation, regardless of whether or not you will use them in your day-to-day. Having these infrastructures, technologies and processes in place is vital, especially when a major life event or public crisis keeps you or your team away from the office.

For example, sales teams must implement a stack that allows for both internal communication and reliable video calls with prospects.

Processes also need reviewing. What policies will you put in place to allow people to do their best work? For example, during the COVID-19 outbreak, many schools have been shut down. This means parents must strike a balance between work and looking after their children.

To respond to this, many organisations have adopted flexible working hours. As long as team members are available for two to three hours a day for communication, it doesn’t matter when they get their work done.

Audit the activities you conduct on a daily basis and see how you can optimise them for optimal remote working efficiency. Ask your team for their perspective, and allow them to contribute.

After all, these changes affect everyone in different ways. Take a dynamic approach and empower your team to perform to the best of their abilities.

Keeping your sales team safe, optimistic and productive
For salespeople used to the hustle and bustle of a lively office, the sudden change to remote working can be challenging. Not only do they need to find a new routine, but get a handle on new technologies for communication and collaboration.

This new, enforced way of working applies to sales managers, too. Your processes and training workflows must adapt; keeping salespeople motivated and engaged requires a different approach.

Making these changes doesn’t have to be daunting. As a sales leader, you have a responsibility to keep your team safe, create effective remote working policies and communicate them clearly.

Advise your team to follow their government’s guidelines and to do their best to stay out of harm’s way. You can help by ensuring they never need to break a recommended safety policy for work. This means implementing a 100% work from home policy, with guidance on how to maximiae productivity.

Luckily, getting your remote environment up and running is fast and simple.

Most importantly, expect pipeline volume to be volatile. Let your team know that this is OK and that you have a plan to weather the storm and come out stronger on the other side.

Reassuring customers and adjusting your sales messaging
Your customers will also feel the pain during times of crisis. Their priorities will shift, often overnight, as they face new and unexpected challenges.

As you help your team adjust to a new reality, no matter how temporary it may be, you must also do the same for your customers. The best philosophy to adopt? Serve first, then sell.

Yes, it’s important to continue closing deals. But there should also be a focus on helping customers and prospects that are facing new uncertainties in their lives.

For example, it’s wise to pause your cold email initiatives as a crisis breaks out. Standard messaging may seem tactless during this crisis. Instead, take this time to rework and re-frame your messaging to align with your customer’s most urgent needs.

But don’t leave them “on pause” forever. As people adjust, use that time to craft more value-driven and empathetic messaging. Once the workforce is more acclimated to this new reality, continue cold outreach initiatives with helpful content that customers and prospects can immediately benefit from.

It’s critical you communicate your company directives to your team. Make them aware that a new direction is necessary and outline a policy on what they should and shouldn’t be including in their messaging. Get them involved in the process so they not only have a sense of ownership, but also a duty to serve prospects.

Learn more about how to reassure customers and adjust your sales messaging in our guide here.

Managing your sales organisation during a health crisis
While cutting costs seems inevitable, it’s important that you continue executing revenue-generating activity.

We’ve identified three critical business-driven priorities for sales teams during this crisis:

  • Generate and communicate empathetic messaging to employees and your audience
  • Prevent pipeline decay
  • Identify new business opportunities
  • Depending on your industry, sales may drop. Adapting to sudden and temporary changes in consumer behaviour is an effective way to combat this. In the B2B world, your buyers will shift priorities to adapt and you must do the same.

Listen to and serve your existing prospects. How are they being affected by this health crisis and how can you help them beyond your sales processes? For example, if you usually share content with prospects, start collating timely information that impacts their industry and roles as it’s published from third party sources, and see if you can create or adapt your own.

New opportunities will also emerge. How can your product or solution serve your customers during this time? What features could be used to tackle these new challenges?

Capitalising on these opportunities requires a great deal of care and it can be tempting to jump toward discounting in order to tackle these issues. Resist this temptation and focus on how to best serve your customers instead.

After nearly two months of remote working South Africans are ready to get back to working in the office as the initial novelty of remote working has revealed unexpected difficulties, detracting from people doing their jobs properly.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says that the reality of working from home was certainly different to expectations now that we are well into what is a giant social experiment.

“Ironically perhaps, working from home had led to a complete lack of work life balance. People are been disrupted by colleagues at all hours and on all days.

“People are also over working and others are under working. This had caused an imbalance in productivity, creativity and by extension, difficulties in managing larger teams. Real collaboration is also very difficult.

“We need to restart the engine. In order to survive, businesses want to get their staff back to the office as quickly and healthily as possible.”

Trim notes several problems remote working had exposed:

Video conferencing fatigue
So many people are reporting similar experiences that it’s earned its own slang term, ‘Zoom fatigue’, though this exhaustion also applies to other videos conferencing like Google Meet, Skype and FaceTime.

“Virtual interactions can be extremely hard on the brain. A typical video call requires sustained and intense attention to words because the possibility of viewing body language is mostly eliminated,” says Trim.

“Multi-person, gallery view screens magnify this problem. It challenges the brain’s central vision, forcing it to decode so many people at once.”

Feelings of isolation, anxiety

Though working from home can make life easier at first, it can actually be detrimental to employees’ mental health. Humans are social creatures, and working without seeing anyone can make employees feel cut off.

Says Trim: “Remote working can also cause anxiety. The lack of close contact hinders three key parts to any effective working relationship: The formation of trust, connection and mutual purpose. Remote employees are more likely to struggle with office politics, worry what colleagues are saying about them and lobby against them.”

Teamwork troubles

When employees work mostly or exclusively from home, they likely only interact with their colleagues via email and occasional calls.

“Remote working isn’t conducive to building meaningful relationships with co-workers in the same way that working in the office is,” Trim notes.

This is important for two reasons. Firstly, interacting daily with coworkers facilitates expectation-setting. When new employees are continuously exposed to the behaviour of their colleagues, they’re able to grasp the standards of performance and communication much more quickly than they would remotely.

Second, social interaction is strongly correlated with workplace engagement and satisfaction. “A Gallup study of 15 million employees showed that those with a work buddy are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, and have greater sense of well-being compared to those without.”

Enthusiasm for business building harder to foster

Businesses want their employees to be passionate about the work they’re doing but inspiring passion across a dispersed team is not impossible, but certainly harder.

“Unless your employees are all completely self motivated, it’s difficult to stimulate enthusiasm about your service or product without ample social engagement. Big enthusiasm is tough to express digitally,” she added.

The reality is lockdowns haven’t had people working at full speeds so although the home office will still play a role in a world that gradually gets back to work, the office is still the best model of working for most companies.

“But wellbeing now has to be front of mind for companies. We have to come up with solutions on how to design for distance but still promote interaction. We have to create resilient workspaces for future pandemics.

“But the good news is that the evolved work areas will provide more privacy and cosiness. The evolved office will be a nicer place to work,” Trim concluded.

Looking at the world of work today, it has been cut in half. On one side is the office, the traffic and the regular flow of people into places and roles. On the other is the remote workforce, with staff doing their best to complete their roles using digital tools and versatile technology.

The Covid-19 pandemic has effectively turned every working eye towards what’s being referred to as the “newsual” – the new normal – and what this means for employees and companies. Organisations are grappling with unexpected challenges around payments, management and control. According to the General Manager of CRS Technologies, Ian McAlister, the most important activity any organisation can engage in right now is to keep calm and develop a plan.

“Build a solid plan, implement it and revisit it often,” he advises. “Make use of technology where it can benefit the business, don’t make hasty decisions that can have long-term consequences, and communicate often. Engaging with your employees on a regular and personal level can make all the difference.

“One of the more difficult areas of remote working is the management of employees. It can be challenging to ensure that individuals are meeting targets, being productive or even coping with their new working conditions. To resolve this, consider hosting regular online meetings that conclude with clear deliverables. If everybody knows what they are expected to do, the metrics that will measure their performance, and how they are to do it, then they will be more engaged and more likely to do the work.

“It’s also important to cater to your employee’s mental health,” McAlister continues. “Your people need to be as comfortable as possible so that their needs are being met. If they feel heard and they understand exactly what is expected of them, then they will feel of value to the organisation.”

Salary payments should be one of the few areas that remain unchanged during the remote working revolution, as long as no cash payments are required and a proper payroll system is in place. The legislation around the payment benefits is changing regularly and only a solid payroll system is capable of keeping up with these changes. Ensure that the business practises separation of duties and maintains corporate oversight.

“It’s advisable to take advantage of the financial benefits available in legislation, not only for the company’s benefit, but for the employees that are being affected,” says McAlister. “It’s very apparent that a remote workforce is the future so it’s worth putting all these processes – financial, managerial, operations – into place right from the start. They may not be temporary.”

During the course of the pandemic, the business should use this as an opportunity to refine the processes it is putting in place as they can be used going forward. A well-developed remote working policy that achieves results shouldn’t be thrown out the door the moment the regulations allow office working again. Best practice is to genuinely set clear and agreed expectations, communicate often and personally, and measure outcomes against expectations. Reward those who deliver exceptional performances during these complex times and mentor those who are struggling; it will pay off over the long term.

“There is little doubt that the processes that are required for the lockdown will be used going forward as companies realise that it’s practical to work remotely,” concludes McAlister. “With time they will be modified to suit a more long-term scenario. The HR function will need to move from a more traditional method to one that can manage the vagaries of remote working, and there needs to be more trust between management and employees at all levels. However, I think that South Africa is mature enough to meet this challenge. In fact, it already has.”

Labour Law Advice has launched a Coronavirus Response Kit for the Workplace is a user-friendly, step-by step audio-video guide for employers and employees on:

• Corona relief benefit applications for employees
• Implementation of the numerous corona-related legal requirements
• Corona infection prevention mechanisms for the workplace, and
• A teamwork strategy for reducing the impact of coronavirus on business profits and jobs.

This audio-visual Kit can be used by employers to train their employees and:

• Provide them with the Knowledge necessary to deal with coronavirus
• Explain how to use their intelligence to apply this knowledge, and
• Show them how, through teamwork, staff and management can significantly reduce coronavirus’ damage to your business profits, jobs and salary payments.

The employees and profits of every business are being badly affected by the coronavirus. The more you help other businesses, the stronger will become the country’s economy on which your business and livelihood depends.

Please therefore inform everyone you can of this video guide which also makes a very valuable promotional gift for your clients and potential clients.

To watch a preview of this video guide and to find out how to acquire it, please visit this link.

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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