Author: Rentia Landman – Industrial Psychologist | Professional Coach | HR Consultant | OD Specialist and owner of Landman Consulting
The increased demand for flexible working is one of the key driving forces behind the rapidly changing nature of work (source: Key trends for global employers in 2018 by Baker Mackenzie). It is essential for anyone making employment and hiring decisions in South Africa to be prepared and equipped to respond to the evolving needs of the modern workforce.
This is not by any means a new insight, nor is it one that we are surprised to see listed, but it is interesting to note the rate of prevalence has grown so quickly. Employers have been fielding requests – or more recently increased demands – for flexible working conditions for years. Appeals for increased flexibility come from parents, millennials, introverts, unconventional and forward-thinking employees in almost every sphere of business worldwide.
Significant research has been done on the need for and benefits of flexible working, as well as the risks and challenges. Polycom’s Global survey of 24,000+ workers unearths the need for flexibility in the workplace in order for businesses “to thrive”. Another example is Regus’s research, The Workplace Revolution, which canvasses the opinions of over 20,000 senior managers and business owners, exploring the increasing trend in flexible working around the world.
Despite global changes to accommodate a more flexible workforce, we have seen a slow adoption rate amongst South African employers. Locally, most positions are still advertised as full-time, permanent, in-office positions. In rare cases where flexible working is offered, the perception is that the employee is being granted an extraordinary allowance and it is expected that they be grateful, disproportionately so in comparison to other benefits. If flexibility is still viewed by some as an inconvenience to the employer, we aim to explore possible reasons for this and uncover ways to overcome these challenges – ultimately unleashing the international trend of flexible working in South Africa.
The lessons have been learnt globally and the time is right for us to embrace this knowledge, prepare ourselves and make the change which we all know is radically needed in our way of working.
Company Culture – Adjusting a Mindset
Perhaps having read so far, you’re thinking it sounds great in theory, but to try and implement a new “pro-flexibility” mindset at your company is going to be easier said than done. Our goal is to enable anyone in a hiring capacity, including small business owners, managers of SME’s and HR professionals to take up the role of behaviour scientists/specialists and partner with their businesses to make these changes possible. It is vital that you do, not only for the benefits of employees but also – and perhaps more so – for the sake of the business. Globally, companies that are not implementing more flexible work policies are falling behind and feeling the impact of losing the war for talent.
In South Africa, while other companies hang on to old working structures, those driving change will have a competitive edge. For some, resisting change by choosing to believe flexible working is just the latest trend – adopting the attitude that… this too shall pass – could mean seriously missing out on some of the best skills and talent. To be blunt, addressing those companies: I am afraid you are wrong. You need only switch on the radio to hear this “case for change” broadcasted over the airways.
To name a few recent examples:
- As part of Cape Town’s “Day Zero” contingency planning, employers were encouraged to prepare for employees to work from home.
- The “traffic congestion crisis” – which sees ongoing and ever-increasing traffic problems in most of our metropolitan cities – where thousands of productive hours are lost daily by people trying to get to work. It has been stated many times that the solution is in more efficient transportation systems: an expensive, radical change. Flexible working conditions, staggered hours and especially remote working could a true solution to this.
- In the news once again: National transport strikes and bus drivers’ strikes. In anticipation of the strikes, an official announcement was to employers encouraging them to prepare for employees to work from home.
There are many more examples of this. The point is, this is not a passing phase… the time has come to equip ourselves and make the changes toward flexible working in our employment practices. If we accept this and buy into it, why does it feel as though it might be an insurmountable challenge to sell the idea to the chief decision makers and heads of our companies?