Half of us work remotely – when will the rest catch up?
While the chief executive of a global internet company may recently have banned company employees from home working, new research by global workplace provider Regus shows that half the world’s workforce is now productively enjoying flexible working.
The 2013 Regus Global Economic Indicator reveals that professionals who are chained to the office desk will soon be the minority. Regus’ research, canvassing over 26,000 business managers across 90 countries, found that 48 per cent now work remotely for at least half their working week. In South Africa, 53 per cent of executives work flexibly for at least half the week.
Some chief executives may worry about motivating and managing staff at a distance. But in the Regus survey, 60 per cent of South African respondents (55 per cent globally) said they believed effective management of remote workers was perfectly achievable, and a significant portion of businesses are bringing increasing rigour to managing their remote staff.
Commenting on the research, Regus CEO Mark Dixon says: “Flexible working is a winner for all concerned when the management team takes the lead. The business people we speak with tell us that trust and freedom play a key role in remote management and, once these are in place, the benefits are clear for all to see: greater productivity, improved staff retention and lower operating costs.”Regus’ survey shows that 50 per cent of companies in South Africa (a good deal higher than the 37 per cent global figure) use specific efficiency-monitoring reporting systems, while 39 per cent of remote managers use video calls to communicate with their teams (43 per cent globally). US health insurer Aetna, a thought leader in the field, has added training courses to the mix so remote workers and their managers can be brought up to speed on effective flexible working methods. Of Aetna's 35,000 employees, 14,500 do not have a desk.
The flexible work experience can have a particular value for younger workers. Forty-two per cent of respondents in South Africa believe that junior employees become more responsible through remote working.
In addition, there is a perception that flexible working is shaping a new kind of interaction between line managers and their team members. Forty-two per cent of respondents think that remote management helps maintain a more professional relationship
Regus customer, Hanneke Oosthuizen from Bridging the Gap, a recruitment and immigration advice service in Cape Town says: My job requires me to be out of the office a few hours each day, when I am out we don’t have to worry as our phones are answered by Regus’ reception. I believe that remote working will definitely happen more and it makes sense for employees and the company in terms of expenses.
“Communication is becoming faster and better all the time. People are busy so if you can save an hour on travel to go to an interview it makes perfect sense. Flexible working will grow with better communication systems.”
Key findings in South Africa:
• 53% work remotely for half the week or more
• 60% say that seamless remote management is an achievable goal, but only if managers undergo special training
• 62% consider trust an important issue
• 50% of companies use reporting systems to monitor mobile employee efficiency
• 39% use video communication between managers and employees
• 42% believe remote management helps maintain a more professional relationship
 Reuters. com, In telecommuting debate, Aetna sticks by big at-home workforce, 1st March 2013