As the City of Cape Town is pushing employers to introduce flexi-time, to help them combat the issue of a grid-locked traffic situation, there might be a more effective way for employers to ensure productivity isn’t hampered by a situation that may take the council years to rectify.
The answer may well be in remote working, particularly for employees not required to be office-bound at all times.
“While flexible working hours may be a short term solution, and could help to alleviate the traffic situation at specific times of the day, the real answer lies in corporate Cape Town’s appetite for remote working,” states Vanessa Smith, branch manager at SkyGroup Communications Cape Town. “With modern technology remote working is a reality. What’s more is that when using modern day solutions such as video conferencing, unified communication and collaboration technologies, you can monitor and track the progress of employees while not at the office.”
According to Smith, a Cape Town commuter herself, she was losing between two and four hours a day stuck in traffic commuting to and from her offices but now that the company has implemented Project P.O.P (place of productivity) she has been able to get through much more work in a day and goes to customer meetings in hours that are not busy. But flexible hours are not the only way that Smith and her team are helping customers meet the challenge head on.
“It is unrealistic to ask global companies who need to dial into conference calls and the like five working days a week to suddenly expect that Capetonians only work a four-day week as an example. We are already working with a number of local customers to help roll out video conferencing and unified communication solutions that encourage a remote and off-site working culture.
“With these technologies, staffers can still dial into meetings, project teams can update their statuses from offsite and mark their progress on the system. It doesn’t mean people are at the pub or sitting at the Waterfront. It means you are giving them the freedom to get their work done in a stress-free environment that actually encourages productivity. With modern, cloud-based technologies and solutions like our VideoHUB conferencing service and even Skype for Business, your teams can work from anywhere as long as they have a stable Internet connection,” adds Smith.
By encouraging remote working and developing staff rosters and schedules for who is off on any given day, a company can half the number of people in the office, and potentially increase their productivity by up to 30% – just factoring in the amount of time wasted on the roads. This will not only save them time on the roads, but also offers employers the ability to scale down on their office real estate and implement hot desking for those who can work from home and do not need to be office bound.
According to Smith, a well-known Cape Town design and branding company, approximately four years ago, implemented remote working to 90% of their organisation. Through this exercise they were able to scale down their offices dramatically and the 10% balance of employees that needed to be in the office, namely administrative employees such as finance and admin, were the only employees required to go into the office.
Remote and flexible working is particularly attractive to millennials, who have been surveyed and have reported that they would take less pay for fewer hours, in order to take advantage of a better work-life balance. In a recent article in Fortune magazine, open plan offices were also cited as one of the biggest productivity killers in business today. Now couple disgruntled staff who have waded through hours of traffic and put them in an open plan environment that fosters even more dissent, and you have a recipe for disaster.
While the City of Cape Town has announced that it will be spending R750-million over the next five years to address infrastructure problems that contribute to congestion, companies can take the situation head on by simply deploying technology today.
“People hear the words video conferencing and remote working and want to run for the hills because they perceive the investment to be out of their league. The reality is that cloud-based technologies have made video conferencing and unified communications an affordable alternative. Furthermore, you decide on the solution you want and then scale it according to your business needs – it is a win-win for your business, the City of Cape Town and most importantly – your employees,” ends Smith.