Survey also reveals that working from home created new costs for employers and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. 25% of surveyed enterprises say they will implement a hybrid working model going forward.

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By Ntokozo Nkambule

A research study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) complied in partnership with Business Eswatini (BE), entitled THE NEXT NORMAL: The Changing Workplace in Eswatini has revealed that working from home led to increased absenteeism for some enterprises in Eswatini.

The research study implemented a qualitative and quantitative data collection approach. For the quantitative component, a survey questionnaire was completed by 102 registered enterprises in Eswatini. These enterprises are from a pool of 230 companies that are members of Business Eswatini.

For the qualitative data approach 20 interviews were attempted with a total of 14 being completed, including government representatives from the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Commerce.

The research study found that one of the biggest challenges of working from home was the reduced control in terms of participation in work activities and an increase in absenteeism, which had an impact on productivity. The report states that some enterprises noted that the lack of control of the workspace with people working from home has seen a reduction in valuable contributions from employees.

“It is now common cause that a person can miss a meeting and cite connectivity challenges as the reason, and because we are not in the same space we cannot be sure of the authenticity of that excuse. So we are most likely losing value which we would have otherwise retained if the person was physically at work” notes one manager surveyed.

The study also found that the shift to remote work created new costs for both employers and employees. “The survey found, many enterprises supported the costs of both. 47 percent of enterprises that had some or all of their workers transition to remote work indicated that they paid for specific items that employees needed to work remotely, such as computers or internet connections.

However, other enterprises in the country left it to employees to cover these costs, with 19 percent of enterprises reporting that they did not cover any of these costs. Only a small share of enterprises (3 percent) provided employees with a lump sum payment to be used towards the costs of remote work.  

The report notes that some enterprises have indicated that they will continue the hybrid model of remote work. It states that having some workers working from home, and others coming physically to the office is ideal for certain sectors. The financial services sector can afford for instance to have 70% of their staff working remotely, notes the survey.

“Despite all the upheaval and change in the past year and a half, Eswatini enterprises have already put thought into their future business models and a significant share indicated they would operate as mostly in-person enterprises, with some changes. This was the view of 41 percent of the enterprises that participated in the survey.

This was followed by 29 percent that said they would continue to be in-person enterprises as they were before the pandemic. Those who see themselves working as a hybrid workplace with some remote and some in-person work were at 25 percent, with only 1 percent of the enterprises saying they would be wholly or mostly a remote workplace” notes the report.

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