Companies across South Africa are demanding employees return to the office but is this hurting or helping your business?
A number of countries around the world are feeling the effects of the great resignation but in South Africa, not many people are in the position to leave their jobs. So in that aspect, companies issuing return-to-work mandates may not feel the impact… but they will be affected in other ways, Advaita Naidoo, managing director of Africa at executive search firm Jack Hammer Global tells Business Tech
“In South Africa, companies face a real risk of the rapid call-back impacting on their bottom line. We are already fielding calls daily from highly sought-after professionals who are not prepared – through choice, changed circumstance or both – to return to the way things were before Covid,” says Naidoo. “So while employees might not actually resign, the reasons for them wanting to do so will remain and compound.”
The truth is that, by issuing return-to-work mandates without taking time to pause, reflect and strategise, companies are doing themselves a disservice. “The reality is that after two years of pandemic fight-or-flight survival, employees are tired, demotivated, stressed, worn out, fearful of the future, straining because of the rising cost of living, and still dealing with the fallout from Covid’s impact on their lives and families, to name but a few of the issues facing most people at the moment,” says Naidoo. One only has to look at the real-life impact of the return-to-work ultimatums on social media forums on the part of desperate employees who simply can’t adapt and change their lives with short notice, to understand that just because companies can make this demand, it doesn’t mean they should,” she adds.
Naidoo notes that there are essentially three scenarios awaiting companies looking to enforce back-to-work mandates:
- Losing people;
- Developing a toxic workplace;
- Failing to attract good people down the line.
“A tremendous amount of goodwill was built up during the pandemic, with companies facilitating work-from-home arrangements. The levels of teamwork and pulling together hit impressive highs despite the stress of the pandemic, and unprecedented levels of emotional support and ‘keep in touch’ initiatives ensured the mental wellbeing and cohesion of teams,” she explains. For more than two years, companies were able to get the job done while employees continued to pull their weight and more from home. So, looking at it from the point of view of the employee who now must return to the office, it is not unreasonable for them to question why it is suddenly again necessary for everyone to be physically at their desks from sunrise until sunset.”
When companies reach this juncture, it is important to focus on communicating to employees about how the office is going to be a place of purpose, not just a place where they need to be. Additionally, Employers need to look at affording employees sufficient time to make new arrangements before returning to the office and also take into account other options, like hybrid work.
Paid time off
There is a thought trend that employees who work from home do not necessarily get the same leave benefits that in-office staff do. And while full-time employees are entitled to days off regardless of where they work, there is a reluctance to grant leave days if employees have already been working from home. This not only leads to decreased morale, burnout and a high staff turnover, it is in contravention to the BCEA.
Tracking leave with an online leave management system
Employers who offer paid vacation or sick leave need to track it for payroll, compliance and employee morale. The problem is that many companies do this manually via spreadsheets, which can lead to costly errors and mismanagement of leave. An online leave management system can help streamline the process and accurately track the leave process so that there is no confusion and so that you do not have to worry about conflicting schedules, employees taking time off when they have already exhausted their leave and costs involved with errors that would occur if you were tracking it all manually.