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Working from home makes people significantly more productive: study

12 August 2020 - 08:00 By ERNEST MABUZA
A new study has shed light on how South African companies are faring in the new norm of a remote working culture.
A new study has shed light on how South African companies are faring in the new norm of a remote working culture.
Image: 123RF/goodluz

A new study has shown that the shift to remote working has led to improved productivity - at least in nearly a third (29%) of the organisations polled.

The study - "Remote Working in South Africa 2020", done by World Wide Worx for Cisco - looked at 400 enterprises. It found that for companies that had already rolled out digital transformation strategies prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the increased productivity increased to 70%.

The study found that at the time when remote working became mandatory, only 37% of companies had rolled out a digital transformation strategy. This is defined as the digital enablement of all processes within an organisation.

The study said 56% stated that their digital strategy was under way, but not yet advanced.

“Digital transformation emerged as the key differentiator in remote working productivity and collaboration,” says Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx and lead analyst on the project.

The study said over half (56%) of respondents said the Covid-19 lockdown had a large impact on their digital transformation strategy.

Goldstuck said these numbers correlate with other international studies.

In related research, Goldstuck said 71% of technologists point to digital transformation projects that had been implemented within weeks, rather than the months or years it would have taken before the pandemic.

“As it turns out, many companies had the ability to work from home, but the Covid-19 crisis ultimately gave them that push to make digital transformation happen,” said Cisco SA country manager Garsen Naidu.

The study said for those who got it right through digital enablement, working from home has worked seamlessly, such that 38% of the study’s respondents said they would allow staff to continue working from home after the crisis is over.

“It is clear that the more a company embraces digital evolution, and the more willing it is to allow its employees to do so, the more it will benefit in terms of productivity,” said Goldstuck.

Goldstuck said the digitalisation of the office was not only about the shift to home office, but about a clear strategy behind both digitalisation and its intended benefits.

There is a long way to go to realising complete digital transformation for the entire business landscape.
Garsen Naidu

“With less than half (37%) of companies indicating that they have advanced with their digital transformation journey or have a fully rolled out strategy, there is a long way to go to realising complete digital transformation for the entire business landscape,” said Naidu.

“On a global scale, South Africa currently ranks 78th on the Digital Readiness Index that was published by Cisco in early 2020.”

The study found that for most organisations, remote working devices were not issued until it was necessitated because of the Covid-19 crisis, as staff had to be able to continue working from home.

Before the lockdown, 57% of businesses had issued less than a quarter of their staff with laptops for remote work. Only 25% of respondents said more than half of their staff were given laptops for remote work.

Although there was no widespread roll-out of remote working devices before lockdown, the study found that 70% of employees in office jobs were generally well-prepared for working from home when the lockdown was announced. This reveals that using remote work tools is largely intuitive and training was generally not required.

Respondents were also asked about the work-from-home practices of their employees and how they have adopted these practices. Almost every respondent said their employees were sticking to work hours (at 98%) and indicating availability throughout the day (at 99%).

This is followed by 97% saying their employees dress appropriately for video calls and maintain contact with a manager about work progress.