The reality of working from home has been a bag of mixed fortunes. Both positive and negative. However, The Future of Work report indicates organizations that have adopted flexible working models will continue to do so in the future.
Photo credit: Vlada
Fuzu recently conducted research to investigate the adoption of new working models and compiled the findings into a report called The Future of Work. The report revealed that the reality of working from home has been a bag of mixed fortunes. Both positive and negative.
Conversations around remote working after the pandemic is over are gaining pace rapidly because a major question arises. When the pandemic is over, will people still be working from home? If they will be, what about on-site roles that require one to be at the office such as those in the manufacturing industry?
Remote working has always been around but its intensity was fueled by the stay-at-home orders. This then opened our eyes to see the possibilities that come with it. To some industries, it was good news. Remote working means saving costs on office costs, travel expenses, and getting flexible work hours.
Working from home particularly cuts commuting time and enables a person to use that time to do more work. Any entrepreneur would want to save time and get more done because it impacts profits positively.
In Kenya for example, the report noted that “In Nairobi, before COVID-19 struck, study reports indicated that the average travel time from one point to another in the city was about 57 minutes, resulting in overall economic losses estimated at more than Kshs 50 million daily.”
Remote work also opens the possibilities of cross-boundary working. Companies like technology conglomerate Cisco Systems and some organizations within the United Nations have long leveraged this model. They employ people to work at their home stations despite being in different countries.
Companies like Fiverr and Upwork have opened freelancers to a wide global market that hinges on remote working.
The downsides of working from home
Working remotely equally came with its set of disadvantages. The business leaders and HR managers identified the following challenges that arose as a result of working from home.
Some employees’ productivity was affected because of a lack of good resources such as internet connectivity and lack of work tools. These ranked highest among the barriers to remote working productivity. They created a poor working environment at home.
The Future of Work report revealed that there are Human Resource experts and even team leaders that reported that they’ve never met some of their team members physically. It’s a completely different experience from what we were used to. Building trust-based on uncertainty is a major challenge.
Company cultures were negatively impacted
29% of respondents revealed that company culture suffered deeply when employees transitioned to remote work.
An increase in disciplinary issues
HR Professionals surveyed revealed that they saw a spike in disciplinary issues because people faced too many distractions at home. The distractions that were highlighted were such as Interruption by children and other family members therefore breaking concentration. Others would show up to virtual meetings late and fail to meet deadlines and deliverables.
Communication was also a challenge due to missing out on office place discussions or poor network connectivity.
Into the report
In an attempt to delve into how this phenomenon will unfold in the future, Fuzu surveyed over 400+ business and HR leaders from across more than 6 industries on the continent. We wanted to get a clearer picture of how companies are adjusting to remote work and how it will look like post-Covid.
The report indicates that in Africa, 67% of organizations want their employees back to the office after the pandemic. This is quite on the higher side compared to companies globally. A global survey revealed that 40% of companies in the world would want their staff to return to the office.
However, it’s important to note that the numbers vary per industry. When you take a look at the manufacturing industry, for example, 70% of the workforce is returning to the office. This is after the vaccine was rolled out in most countries in the continent. 23% of the staff who work in this industry returned to office for more days of the week. Meaning they are working more days in the office than at home while at the same time alternating who reports to the office and who stays at home on different days of the week with their colleagues. That is what we call the hybrid system.
Under this category, we also have teachers who have gone back to the classroom after schools were reopened. Till now, according to the report, only a handful of 5% is still working remotely.
Industries/roles that favor a remote working
On the other end of the spectrum, however, professional services that involve more brainwork saw very low percentages go back to the office. These are services such as finance managers, accountants, non-profit, consulting, among others. Only 12% of those in the professional services industry have returned on-site.
The report uncovered that roles that don’t require direct contact with customers are as productive at home as they would be in an office. Respondents were twice more likely to recommend roles such as business strategy and legal be performed from home. A manager of an international development agency said that technical roles could be performed in the field but a review of reports and collection of data can be done remotely.
Global consulting firm McKinsey anticipates that a majority of companies will resort to a hybrid working model of remote work post-Covid. This will be for a more highly-educated, well-paid minority of the workforce.
Companies will uphold flexible working models beyond the pandemic
The findings of the report indicate that organizations that have adopted flexible working models will continue to do so in the future. 46% of them showed intentions of maintaining a flexible operating model when the pandemic ends.
It’s clear that now a hybrid working model will be the new norm in the future of work.
About the Authors
Jussi Hinkkanen is Fuzu’s Founder & CEO. He is a software and strategy expert with 15+ years on-the-ground experience across African countries. He has a proven track record from multinationals and start-ups across the globe, from building strategic partnerships across 10+ African markets and from launching B2C services to millions of users in the region. His 20+ year-long career includes notable organizations like Nokia, Microsoft & UN.
Dylan McCall-Landry is Fuzu's COO where he leads Fuzu’s teams supporting employers and institutions to find top talent. He was previously an Engagement Manager at McKinsey & Co. where he led projects across the US and Africa on organizational design, business turnaround, and strategy. He holds a MA in International Economics from Johns Hopkins University.
Muthoni Mathenge is Fuzu’s Head of Account Excellence where she supports employers across East Africa to leverage the power of Fuzu to find their next great hire. Prior to Fuzu, she was a Lead Customer Support and Retention specialist at Poa internet. She holds a Masters’ from Egerton University.
Roshelle Kayeyia is a Strategy and Operations Associate pursuing her studies in Business Analytics from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She previously worked as a Relationship Officer at Equity Bank.
This article is part of a broader series from Fuzu’s research. This is part 2 of 8. Read part 1 here - Trust: the true test of remote work.