As businesses rapidly head towards the second year of “the new normal”, it’s become abundantly clear that anyone who still thinks that they’ll be “returning to the office in a few weeks’ time” is out of touch. It’s therefore imperative that businesses embrace technologies that support remote working.

According to Euphoria Telecom CEO John Woollam, that means investing in connectivity, power, telephony, and other technologies that enable employees to work at least as productively as if they were in a physical office.

Even putting aside predictions that it will take several years for the world to return to pre-pandemic conditions, a number of employees would prefer to stay at home or adopt hybrid working practises.

According to the 2021 Robert Walters Survey, 40% of employees would like to work remotely full time, with a further 27% wanting the option to work remotely at least part of the time. The return to the office is even less likely for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which may not have the resources required to comply with all the relevant protocols.

“Many employees have had nearly a year of working remotely,” says Woollam, “it would be foolhardy to try and put the genie back in the bottle now. If organisations want their employees to remain loyal, they have to provide them with the working conditions they’re most comfortable with.”

Moreover, the Euphoria Telecom CEO points out, companies stand to benefit by enabling their employees to work remotely.

“A two-year Stanford study found that remote contact centre workers were 13% more productive than their office-bound counterparts,” he says. “But in a country facing the challenges South Africa does, no organisation can simply send their workers home and expect everyone to perform as well as they would in the office.”

It’s therefore imperative that organisations invest in the technologies needed to ensure that their employees can work effectively no matter where they are. When it comes to connectivity, for example, companies can subsidise the cost of an employee’s fibre subscription where it’s available or pay for a high-speed mobile data connection where it isn’t.

Given that the realities of load-shedding are likely to be with us for at least as long as COVID-19, organisations can also help ensure their employees stay productive during blackouts by giving them a universal power supply (UPS) or a power bank.

“Businesses can also benefit greatly from embracing cloud-based telephony,” says Woollam. “Doing so not only allows them to control and manage their company phones from anywhere, but it can also save on the cost of phone bills, free them from long-term contracts and enable them to easily scale up and down according to demand.”

“If the last year has taught us anything,” he adds, “it’s the importance of flexibility. SMEs, by their nature, should lead when it comes to innovation and adaptability. By investing in the technologies needed to enable remote working, they can ensure that they don’t just survive but thrive going forward.”

“South Africa needs its SMEs to do well if the economy and employment rate are to have any hope of recovering,” Woollam concludes. “Technology may not be able to drive that recovery but it can enable it, while also helping them hold on to talent, wherever it may be located.”

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