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With the end of lockdown and nationwide restrictions, many companies quickly opened their doors, expecting employees to brush the dust off their shoes and casually return to the office. But others remain apprehensive, questioning whether they should, in fact, let their employees come back. Because, you know, #WFH was… working, right? By simply continuing to graft from home, companies can guarantee that employees will safely and efficiently get their jobs done.

The truth is that people have adapted and can now deliver work from anywhere. And many of them want to stay at home – going so far as to quit the job rather than face that nine-to-five again, sit in traffic again, suffer annoying co-workers again…

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So the Big Question is this: back to work, or no frikkin’ way… or a bit of both?

With technology and access to a multitude of collaborative tools, should employees come back to work full time, or can they continue to work from home part time, aka the hybrid model?

“A hybrid work model isn’t a one-size-fits all solution. Individual businesses need to figure out what works for their organisation and its people. To get this right, you need input from your employees,” says Cleone Bakker, Chief Commercial Officer at PLP.

So, PLP conducted research to understand the pain points, priorities and perspectives of the talent force in South Africa. They did this across a base of nearly 17 000 employees, with a representative sample selected for in-depth research.

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Here’s what the report on the SA workforce revealed (yup – this is how we feel about returning to the office)

The pandemic was hard on us, that’s for sure. The financial impacts have had a global effect on everyone, with people losing jobs, having their income reduced, seeing expenses grow and experiencing additional financial responsibilities.

But in some ways, financial burdens were eased. Take the cost of the daily commute, for example. “According to the report, employees who were using public transport saved, on average, 30% of their net income while working from home. These employees may have become financially reliant on this saving and employers need to factor this in to their return-to-work approach,” says Cleone.

Findings from the report also illustrate that working from home isn’t the right decision for everyone. “During the enforced lockdown, some employees had additional family members move into their homes, with both the confinement and anxiety putting strain on relationships. While some employees struggled to cope with multiple role demands, such as mother, teacher, wife and executive, others felt isolated, disconnected and lonely while working from home,” she says.

[Get the full report insights here: Build a Future-Ready Workforce in a Post-Pandemic World.]

Over 50% of us want a job that allows us to work from home occasionally

While the hybrid work approach gives employees some control over where and how they work, it’s also forcing modern businesses to look at alternatives to traditional employment. In the 2021 study Decoding Global Ways of Working, which focused on the pandemic’s impact on worker preferences, 53% of South African respondents want a job that allows them to work from home occasionally (61% preferred some or full flexibility in defining their working hours).

“We believe that the future of work is flexible and this can benefit both businesses and motivated individuals,” says Cleone. So, whether you’re a business grappling with the new world order, or a worker trying to figure it out too, know that flexibility brings benefits. And it starts with embracing it.

Photo by RF._.studio

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