Working from home has become an established practice.

Working from home is a working arrangement in which a worker fulfils the essential responsibilities of his/her job while remaining at home, using information and communications technology (ICT). It requires a shared responsibility and commitment by both employers and workers to ensure business continuity and employment.

Cofesa’s Code for Good Business Practice contains some pertinent aspects:

Company rights:

  • To expect compliance with its value system
  • To appoint the best person for the job
  • To dismiss people when justified
  • To expect a high level of contribution, performance and commitment
  • To make the final decision in the best interests of the business

Employer rights:

  • The right to further the company’s business interests
  • The right to manage the strategic and operational aspects of the business
  • The right to control the level of employment
  • The right to recruit the best people for the job
  • The right to expect the highest level of performance, contribution, commitment and loyalty
  • The right to set standards of performance
  • The right to establish rules, regulations and procedures for the proper and orderly conduct of business
  • The right to issue lawful instructions
  • The right to impose discipline in the work place
  • The right to communicate directly with employees
  • The right to dismiss employees for any reason which is acceptable in law, after the required procedures have been followed
  • The right to make the final decision
  • The right to expect respect for its values

Basic employee rights that must be kept in mind:

  • Normal working hours
  • Fair entitled annual leave days
  • Sick and family responsibility leave days.
  • Maternity & Paternity leave.
  • Sufficient tools for working from home, for example, laptop and internet connection.
  • Full compensation for the work done.

A global survey of 80 companies by Colliers International, a leading real estate professional services and investment management company, showed that 86% of managers and decision-makers said they typically expect employees to work between one and four days at home from next year.

In June 2021, an estimated 50% of the South African workforce was working from home full-time, with the Covid-19 pandemic fundamentally changing views on where and how people work best.

Before the Omicron variant, it appeared most South African businesses were keen to return to the office and had instituted two to three days back in the office each week, said Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, one of South Africa’s largest workplace design consultancies.

“As we watch how new varians develop, it’s difficult to know what will happen but the last two years have taught us is that our ways of working and relating to the office have probably changed for good.”

In 2022, offices will still exist, they will just have a new purpose, Trim said.

“Rather than being a place where employees automatically report every day, offices will become corporate centres specifically meant to spur innovation and connection while developing team spirit.”  She noted that offices will no longer be a single location, but an ecosystem of offices, homes and third places such as cafes and coworking spaces to support flexibility, functionality and employee well-being.

Trim cited the example of Starbucks in the US which plans to practice “hoteling,” with employees reserving office space only when they need to collaborate with others. While its employees continue to work remotely, the coffee giant plans to redesign its headquarters: It will eliminate most private desks, renovating the extra space to foster cooperation and make it feel more like a coffee shop.

“Team-building, networking and the cross-pollination of ideas that come with in-person interaction will also be impacted after the pandemic. It could also deal a blow to progress made in diversity and inclusion efforts.”

Trim said she expects the strategies behind corporate site selection will also change 2022. Until recently, many businesses choose the ‘fewer and bigger’ workspace model as in a limited collection of large offices, she said. “Following the pandemic, some have begun to question this approach, since geographic diversity can help reduce the risk of disruption to business operations when crises occur. Businesses are now prioritising decentralisation.

“As a result, our new experience of ‘headquarters’ will be very different from the one we previously imagined. Alternatively, some leaders are choosing to open a string of offices.”

A key lockdown development is the hybrid workforce, as employees split their time between their home and the office, rather than solely working at one or the other. “South African employees seem to prefer a hybrid approach and business leaders are taking notice,” said Trim.  The hybrid workforce will be defined by flexible schedules and shared spaces so the offices of 2022 could be smaller, said Trim.

Even once local restrictions ease and businesses open their doors again, many people working in professional services will want to continue working remotely at least part of the time. As a result, employees are at risk of advancing their intercultural and global business skills at a slower pace compared to before the pandemic, she said.

“One of the points of mobility is to get the diversity of the global employee base really producing the great benefits that we know come from having diverse teams, in background, culture, and getting people working side by side from various parts of the organisation. While remote working has been very functional, these are elements that are missing,” she added. 

Contact Cofesa for advice on working from home procedures: