Kathy Gibson reports – A surprising majority of South African workers have gone back to the office full-time.

That is one of the headline findings from a new study on collaboration and productivity in the South African enterprise in 2023, conducted by World Wide Worx for Zoho.

The statistics show that 55% of medium and large enterprises are fully on-site, 41,7% are hybrid and just 2,4% are fully remote, says World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck.

The study also noted a clear seniority divide in who works on-site versus hybrid, with remote work tending to be more likely in middle management and above. In the C-suite, 46,3% are fully on-site, compared to juniors where 64,1% are fully on-site.

“That is a very clear indication that the more senior you are, the more likely you are to be working in a hybrid format,” Goldstuck points out.

The reason for this is two-fold, he adds. The C-suite is answerable regardless of where they are; and they also have the resources to work in a hybrid fashion as opposed to the juniors. “Typically those two-thirds of juniors working on-site don’t have the connectivity and equipment at home.”

The smaller the business, the more likely they are to be fully on-site, at 63,8% of SMEs compared to 52,5% of enterprises.

By industry, the IT software, hardware and services sector is far more likely to be working in a hybrid model. The retail and wholesales trade, on the other hand is largely fully on-site (63,8%).

When they are on-site, companies say communication and collaboration are extremely easy or easy. Friction vanishes when workers are on-site, say Goldstuck. Being in the same room with other people makes it easier for workers to collaborate with their colleagues on a physical level as well as with the technology tools.

Even when collaborating with other teams, 61,1% of fully on-site workers find it extremely easy. The ability to collaborate with a manager is also extremely easy for more on-site workers than remote.

Productivity tends to be similar for both on-site and hybrid workers. The anomalies are in quick access to contextual, cross application data necessary to complete tasks – in this instance hybrid workers are a lot more productive.

They are also more productive when it comes to the ability to change, call, collaborate internally or from within business apps like CRM.

On-site workers are more productive when it comes to using custom apps to create and implement internal processes.

Across the board, there is a need for a unified solution, but this is particularly relevant for companies in the 500 to 1 000 workers segment.

Typically, the smaller the company, the more workers find it extremely easy to collaborate with their teams (80%), compared to larger companies. There is also a significant gap between smaller companies and enterprises when it comes to collaborating with other teams or with managers.

“The moment you get above that 200 employee mark, there is friction,” says Goldstuck. “And this highlights the need for tools that help with collaboration in companies of all sizes.”

Mid-market companies tens to have the greatest need for a unified dashboard to review all tasks – but companies in the 500-1 000 employee segment tend not to have a solution for this.

Again, smaller companies are more likely to have extremely easy access to all data and applications.

For users with between six and 10 apps, switching between them came out as a disadvantage, according to the survey.

All sectors found a challenge in being slow to adopt the latest technologies. In the IT industry, context switching and not using the latest tech like AI causes competitive disadvantage.

The most effective measure to improve teams’ productivity was cited as having quick access to contextual, cross-application data that would help users perform their jobs better (37,1%).

Top challenges facing collaboration are loadshedding (46,1%), poor WiFi/data network connectivity (39,8%), information spread across too many apps (19,5%), digital fatigue (14,4%), company culture (12,9%).

Companies that are fully onsite suffer more from loadshedding but less from poor WiFi/data network connectivity and digital fatigue – indeed, 23,4% of hybrid workers cited digital fatigue companies to 8,3% of fully on-site workers.

The benefits of a unified view of all apps and data could save a significant amount of time, according to 80,7% of respondents.

Those companies with a unified view are dramatically more likely to feel positively about the company – 56,9% compared to 37,5% are very ready and 20,3% versus 30% are ready to do so.

Other trends that came out of the survey include the fact that 44,9% of companies have adopted new technology or solutions to be better prepared for new challenges; and 51,2% are very ready and 23,2% feel ready to meet macro-economic challenges.

“And this is why I am an optimist,” Goldstuck ends.

Zoho provides integrated software apps across a number of verticals that help to unify data.

It became a billion-dollar company last year. “Not by valuation but by revenue,” says Hyther Nizam, president and Zoho Middle East and Africa.

Zoho grew in MEA at 43% last year, and Nizam says 2023 is on track to surpass this.

South Africa is currently the number two market in the Africa region, and is growing the fastest. Indeed, Zoho has seen five-times growth in South Africa the last five years; and 2022 brought 73% revenue growth.


Featured picture: Andrew Bourne, Hyther Nizam and Arthur Goldstuck.