New tariffs for using Gauteng’s freeway system could take a huge toll on employees’ finances and affect businesses’ ability to attract out-of-town talent unless employers adopt flexible ways of working, says workplace solutions provider Regus.

The toll system – designed to recoup the government’s expenditure on road upgrades for the 2010 World Cup – is expected to open on 23 June. It includes hi-tech tollgates along major highways into Johannesburg’s main business nodes – the central business district, Pretoria, Sandton, Fourways, Midrand, Eastrand, Westrand and Gauteng North.
Driving these arterial routes will cost about 66 cents per kilometre, which could land staff with an estimated extra R1 000.00 travel bill a month based on 21 working days.
The open road toll system will affect both employees, who have to stump up more for travel, and businesses because workers will seek to reduce the cost and frequency of freeway tolls by searching for jobs closer to home so they avoid commuting.
Joanne Bushell, Regus vice-president for Africa and Middle East, says: “Companies can reduce toll costs by giving their staff access to satellite offices, hot-desks and alternative workspace closer to home. But they are missing the bigger picture. Our current ways of working are simply unsustainable, with an irrational and unfeasible focus on commuting that put stresses and strains on workers, undermining productivity and job satisfaction. Better ways of working help all companies to make staff’s lives happier, save costs, improve business and reduce their impact on the environment.”
High-profile research by Unwired Ventures, specialist in the future of work, was commissioned by Regus last year. It showed how corporates could cut costs per head by half by addressing six factors: real estate, culture, people, technology, transport and sustainability – identifying the cost of occupancy, changing to a results-based supervisory rather than management culture, understanding employees’ needs, using technology to work effectively everywhere, reducing travel through polycentric working and reducing carbon output by using a smaller property portfolio with intelligent building management systems.
“Toll or no toll, companies need to be smarter about how they maintain productivity and eliminate time-wasting exercises,” adds Bushell. “Offering alternative workplace solutions to employees can meet these challenges and serve individual workers – creating a win-win situation. A good example of a more savvy approach to the toll is to take out Regus Businessworld Gold card membership, which costs just R199.00 a month and gives individuals access to Regus business lounges and locations throughout Gauteng, including those nearer home.”
A flexibility strategy doesn’t just drive down costs in this scenario; it frees up firms from unnecessary facilities expenses, reduces the need to pay for traditional office space, gives workers the ability to meet clients and suppliers in different venues, and eases transport congestion around cities. Out-of-date industrial age practices are key to all these problems – and adopting flexible, multi-centric activity-based working styles is the only way forward.