Remote work is here to stay, with 90% of South African respondents agreeing that it will be more common post-pandemic.

New research from Citrix shows that remote and flexible work options are now key to attracting and retaining talent, with 60% saying that businesses will miss out on top talent if they do not offer flexible work options, and 57% saying that if they were to change jobs, they would only accept a role which offered flexible and remote work options.

Almost two thirds (63%) of respondents go a step further and would like remote work policies to be regulated by the government.

While 40% of South African respondents feel that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their working life and career, almost as many (37%) say it has had a positive impact, in terms of time management, flexibility and overall performance.

In addition, 57% believe their personal lives have been positively affected as the lack of a commute has given them a chance to spend more time with family (28%), do something which promotes their own wellbeing like exercise or meditation (17%), or to take on a hobby (10%).

As a result, post-pandemic, half (52%) of respondents favour a hybrid model where they can work from both the office and remotely, with just 17% wanting to go back to an office every day.

Where South African companies did not offer remote work prior to the pandemic, it was usually because they feared their employees would not work the same number of hours as in the office. But the research shows that three quarters (76%) of respondents work at least the same number of hours, with 53% working longer hours than from the office.

Despite the practical benefits experienced by many people as a result of remote work, 31% of respondents felt that their mental health had got worse over the last 12 months.

The study also shows that a huge 97% see a company culture that promotes mental and/or physical wellbeing as important, suggesting that businesses must now redefine their company culture to provide an employee experience which ensures they are able to continue to work productively, long term.

“For all the challenges caused by the pandemic, office workers are still reporting improvements to their personal lives and careers as a result of remote working,” says Amir Sohrabi, area vice-president: emerging markets at Citrix.

“If people can find a silver lining in even these difficult circumstances, we have an opportunity to evolve work post-pandemic, and see a new generation of happier workers that stay committed to their companies longer, having been given the choice of working wherever is best for them.”

He adds: “In 2020, businesses were surviving, not thriving. In 2021, they need to look up from the operational side of the business and dedicate time and resource to identifying the core values of their organisation in a post-pandemic world, with a hybrid workforce which is looking to be supported and engaged by their employer.

“Culture is a key differentiator in attracting and retaining talent, and it is essential that businesses prioritise this to ensure that they are future-ready.”