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Working from home is here to stay, but firms have no plans for jobs offshoring or pay cuts tied to location

Many South African businesses poorly prepared for the shift to flexible working, and need to think about employee experience and job design

Compensation Strategy & Design|Future of Work|Health and Benefits|Talent|Total Rewards|Integrated Wellbeing
COVID 19 Coronavirus

December 17, 2020

JOHANNESBURG, December 17, 2020 — South African businesses predict that in three years’ time a third of their staff (33%) will still be working from home, which is not a great change from the current pandemic and lockdown-driven level of 38%, according to research by Willis Towers Watson, (NASDAQ:WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking, and solutions company.

The survey shows that, although some workers will head back to the office once it is safer to do so, remote working, which was used by just 4% of staff in South Africa three years ago, is seen as a long-term strategic change.

“The sudden boom in home working will become a permanent shift with many benefits for businesses and their staff,” said Melanie Trollip, Director of Talent and Reward at Willis Towers Watson South Africa, adding: “Businesses see that, in a world beyond COVID-19, flexible working arrangements can boost productivity, attract talent, and support diversity. The challenge for businesses now is to rethink how work is designed and rewarded so they can improve performance, and control costs and risks.”

Some staff have been worried that remote working will mean that jobs are offshored to other countries. Others are concerned that employers will pay them according to where they live - a move which major companies in some countries are considering.

The survey found that 85% of employers will pay remote workers the same as in-office employees next year, regardless of their location. 41% say that they are not concerned where most work gets done.

Firms are also not planning to use flexible working to shift jobs to other countries. On average, businesses expect that 5% of jobs currently being done through flexible working arrangements will be offshored over the next three years. Much depends on the employer, as almost two thirds (62%) say they will not relocate any such jobs.

Despite the high levels of remote working anticipated in the future, many South African firms are poorly prepared. Only 15% said their current job architecture fully supports a flexible and agile workforce, while 20% said it did not support it at all. A quarter (24%) of employers still do not have a formal policy to manage flexible working arrangements, while 61% only created a policy this year.

COVID-19 turbo-charged an existing trend towards flexible working, and now employers need to catch up.”

Melanie Trollip
Director of Talent and Reward

Melanie Trollip said: “COVID-19 turbo-charged an existing trend towards flexible working, and now employers need to catch up. The ways work is structured, how it gets done, where it gets done, and how pay is managed are all still based on people working in an office within geographically-organised teams. That needs to change if a business is to prosper.

“Employers now need to take a step back and examine the future state of their organisation and decide how they can make the most of their new agile workforce.  Many firms are looking at how they should now mix pay and rewards, and how they can best motivate and engage their people.

“Companies who haven’t done so should review their HR policies for a more flexible world. It is also important to evaluate work architecture and think about skills to better reflect how work is organised. The long-term goals for a successful business are to support workforce agility and digital transformation.”

About the Survey

A total of 66 employers in South Africa who have around 207,000 employees participated in the Flexible Work and Rewards Survey, which was conducted in September and October 2020.

A copy of the South African results is available to journalists on request.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets.

We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance.

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