– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase
Remote working has been a method that employers have shielded away from in the past. Could it be a lack of trust in their employees? Or not being able to micro-manage everything? It has always been important that managers be able to keep a close eye on their direct reports; however, the current global pandemic has led to drastic changes. If you were to ask the management of any organisation about 5-10 years ago if they believed that remote working would become the norm in the near future, they would probably tell you to keep dreaming. However, it is now a reality and currently playing an integral role in laying a foundation for the workforce of the future.
This practice was seldom a discussion in the pre-COVID-19 era but more companies like UKZN Extended Learning who stay on the cutting edge of their respective industries are embracing flexible and remote working policies. A brand-new perspective on the working environment provides a different view for young employees, thus contributing to the rebuild of the “office culture”. The evolution of the home office to the ‘office from home’ was usually available on special arrangements to accommodate unique circumstances. Remote working has become a strategy that many organisations have resorted to, in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus, thus helping companies avoid a severe loss of productivity and protecting public health.
It is interesting to witness the development of technological adaptation. In the past, once you were out of the office, you were unreachable or officially done for the day. The various methods of communication today however, allow for instant dissemination of information through email and instant messaging through the introduction of smartphones. Rendering devices such as pagers and facsimile will be completely obsolete in the near future, if they are not already. Technology has since afforded many the privilege of remote working on an almost full-time basis, at any given place and time.
Since the declaration of the coronavirus as a pandemic by WHO on the 11th of March 2020, one of the most helpful technologies for colleagues to stay in contact has been video conferencing which is the next best thing to face-to-face meetings. Many companies have tested the waters on this work trend, but they still feel the need to create a ‘work-from-home’ policy for at least one or two days a week to maintain some kind of order. On the other hand, some companies such as Google and Microsoft have expressed the intention of down-scaling their traditional office spaces for essential employees to access, while the majority work remotely. Alternatively, they might choose to run their businesses out of co-working spaces to accommodate their largely remote workforce.
It is unclear of what to expect during the continuation of lockdown, but there seems to be an increasing demand for remote working opportunities thus creating a significant shift in how organisations will choose to work during and beyond the lockdown. We are currently facing the fact that remote working may continue for some, which will play a pivotal role in how businesses structure their strategies going forward. The 4IR is no longer an academic discussion, it is a matter-of-fact redesign of the working environment, and we at UKZN Extended are looking forward to taking up this challenge.
At UKZN Extended Learning, we have welcomed the changes and have taken all our workshops online and now offer regular online webinars. Click here to view our exciting line-up! Secondly, we are offering free online courses and are regularly partnering with organisations to increase the offerings available. Click here to view our latest offerings!