Tag: remote workers

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.”

Five tips for running a virtual office

Industry 4.0 is changing the way we do business – particularly the traditional concept of workspace. Reputation Matters, a proudly African research agency, has been successfully working from a virtual office space since 2008 and shares five tips for acing it.

A virtual office is an office that exists almost entirely in cyberspace. Employees are free to work from anywhere that has an internet connection. Working from home or a coffee shop, or even from the side lines of a youngster’s soccer match, is commonplace. “Benefits of the virtual office include cost cutting on items like physical office maintenance, increased employee happiness and productivity as the daily commute is eliminated and they spend more time with family,” says Regine le Roux, managing director at Reputation Matters.

Le Roux explains that a virtual office does require a shift from the traditional office mentality and shares some tips for making it work:

Get the right people on board
It takes discipline and a high level of intrinsic motivation for employees to work from home. Management needs to be able to trust them to deliver quality work within agreed timelines. “We have an extensive recruitment process that gauges potential employees’ ability to work remotely,” says le Roux.

Have the right tools in place
Employees require functional laptops, cell phones, and internet connection to work from anywhere. The virtual office also requires cloud storage and digital systems for scheduling, conferencing, and task management; luckily, there are a host of business applications for every aspect of the business.

Have set team get-togethers
Convenient as the virtual office is, employees may feel increasingly isolated. “We have weekly Skype meetings and I make a point of it to check in telephonically with each employee for a monthly one-on-one. Monthly we also meet up for ‘Cheers for Peers’, an initiative that celebrates employee achievements with regional teams meeting face-to-face for a fun activity,” suggests le Roux.

Have set office hours
With increased connectivity comes the temptation to simply never switch off. Nowhere is this truer than in a virtual office, where the home environment often doubles as the office. ”I encourage my team to only be online after 07:00 and to switch off by 19:00, a balanced lifestyle key for productivity,” explains le Roux.

Have a professional office
Consider investing in a shared office space. This will enhance the reputation of your business when you need to host face-to-face client meeting. There are several service providers who give access to such leased office spaces for a fraction of the cost that it would take to buy and maintain a business property.

“We often read that the virtual office and flexible working hours is ‘the way of the future’ and we are proud to have stepped into future long ago,” says Le Roux.

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