By CEO of Galetti Corporate Real Estate, John Jack
The pandemic has changed the way that we work and it is set to continue. Statistics South Africa estimates that more than 77% of South Africans are working from home, despite the easing of restrictions.
As a result of this flexibility, trends from the latest FNB Residential Property Barometer indicate a behavioural shift in which people are choosing to invest in new homes.
The FNB report cites anecdotal evidence showing rising demand for bigger properties (mainly freestanding homes), notably in less crowded “second-tier” cities that are not major commercial hubs.
While this means a relocation away from former workspaces, it does not mean that the office will become obsolete, according to John Jack. This stance is motivated by two primary factors: 1) Working remotely isn’t for everyone and 2) Working remotely doesn’t necessarily mean working from home.
John shares his top tips for employers looking to evolve their traditional office space to the ‘new normal’:
Talk to Your Employees
While some employees have access to both a quiet working space and the technical resources required to work from home, it is important to remember that a digital divide still exists in South Africa. This specifically refers to the unequal access to technical equipment and the connectivity needed to get online.
In addition to the practical challenges of working from home, many are finding themselves longing for the excitement and stimulation that comes from in-person interaction with their colleagues.
Research shows that people working together in the same room tend to solve problems faster than remote collaborators, and that team cohesion suffers in remote work arrangements. Ultimately, the decision of whether to work remotely comes down to personal preference.
Galetti conducted multiple surveys on our social platforms to gauge employee attitudes towards working from home and found that 83% of respondents indicated that they looked forward to going back to their offices.
Rethinking ‘the Office’
Depending on the industry and the type of job, we could see more people relocating to areas outside of the major cities to enjoy a quieter lifestyle whilst still having the luxury of an office base to visit every week or two for collaboration purposes.
While the office is here to stay, its form and function will need to evolve:
- Look at remote space and office space as two separate functions:
- Office space should be focused on collaboration.
- Remote space needs to be set up to optimise individual productivity and output.
- Reduce office space as needed, but don’t do away with it entirely. This may mean sharing space with other like-minded businesses, i.e. subletting.
- Consider renting your employees a desk or an office in a co-working space close to their homes. These are often more flexible and affordable than traditional office leases and encourage collaboration.
- Ensure that you invest significantly in your digital infrastructure.
- Constantly reassess the performance of your employees to see what is working and what isn’t.
- Above all, be flexible and understand that these are unprecedented times.