Flexible working arrangements are the new normal at some South African companies, but managers are still hesitant to embrace the shift.
Linda Trim, managing director of workplace design consultancy Giant Leap, said offices are still returning to pre-Covid occupancy levels and smaller cities have new residents who benefit from avoiding the daily commute – remote work and hybrid work are firmly part of it. of South African companies alive.
Trim said that while the ‘work from anywhere’ experiment could probably be successful for veteran employees in defined roles with trusted colleagues, for many employees and certain objectives, remote work remains “a big problem that needs to be solved”.
“First is remote work worse for new workers“, said Triem. “Many inexperienced employees who join a remote virtual company realize that they are not affiliated with a company at all. They participated in little more than a group video chat. “
Many of the benefits of flexible work—such as managing your own time—can work against younger employees in companies that anchor mentorship programs.
“This is partly true of South Africa, where we have such a skills shortage and an urgent need to transfer skills to younger workers,” Trim said.
Second, remote or hybrid work is a lot worse for building new teams to take on new tasks.
A 2021 survey by Microsoft with researchers at California’s Berkley University that studied the messages and conversations of 60,000 anonymous employees found that the number of messages within teams grew significantly when workers tried to keep up with their colleagues – but information sharing actually decreased.
Working remotely made people more likely to hang out with their pre-existing teams and much less likely to have conversations that could lead to knowledge sharing, Trim said.
“The study showed that while people can still manage the ‘hard work’ of email and creating spreadsheets from anywhere, the most important part of the office is the ‘soft work’ – the conversation and informal interactions that rely on build long-term and are fundamental to business innovation.”
Other studies have reached a similar conclusion.
Earlier this year, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UCLA used smartphone geolocation data and matched it with patent citations for individual companies, Trim said.
“They concluded that the first with the most face-to-face interactions also had the most patent citations clearly showing that innovation happens in person.
Third, and closely related, remote work is plentiful worse for generating new ideas.
Research by Columbia Business School and Stanford Graduate School of Management used 1,500 engineers to analyze whether virtual teams could brainstorm as creatively as in-person teams.
“Engineers who worked hands-on produced fewer overall ideas, and external evaluators ranked their ideas significantly less creative than those of in-person teams,” Trim said.
“Successful collaboration requires trust and a kind of intimacy that is hard to build on a Zoom call,” Trim noted.
“The debate about remote work has become deeply polarized between those who see it as a necessity rather than criticism and those who see it as a culture and innovation killer. But it is certainly worth noting what the research says.”
Why your boss won’t let you work at home in South Africa
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