64% of SA businesses expect all staff to return to offices – report

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The ongoing global pandemic successfully lodged a spanner into many business’ workflows over the past year and a half. And while many expected this to push digital transformation practices across many industries, new research suggests that’s not the case in South Africa. Only 15% of local companies have increased their adoption of digital transformation.

“South African enterprises took a step backward in digital transformation over the first year of the pandemic, as disruptions, lockdowns and staff unable to maintain operations remotely slowed down the roll-out of new systems at head offices,” reports World Wide Worx in its Digital Corporation in South Africa 2021 research study. 

The study was conducted by World Wide Worx along with Syspro, Dell Technologies, Intel and Cycan. Its findings were interesting, especially considering many expected digital transformation to rise instead of fall. It was found that digital transformation did, indeed, drop. 

“As many as two-thirds of respondents said they had gone backwards in digital transformation, an indication that the pandemic slowed efforts to digitalise organisations,” the report explains. 

Business’ return to the old ways

Interestingly, 64% of South African companies will expect their full staff to return to an office environment. That’s almost two-thirds of all local businesses. 

Only 18% of businesses surveyed expect half or less of their staff to come back to the office. That means a total of 18% don’t expect work-from-home to become the new norm in SA. Of course, it’s important to note that many corporates and informal businesses need staff on-site to execute daily projects or operate as a whole. 

As the report notes, a return to offices is good for the commercial property industry and infrastructure providers. Companies willing to return to physical spaces is important to keep those industries on their feet. But perhaps not quite as many other positions need to be as on-site as was previously thought. 

This begs the question: is remote working the future? “Remote working needs a digital sauce,” says Bryan Hattingh, CEO of leadership trainers Cycan. “It is not only that the digital medium is essential for working flexibly, but also that it allows greater innovation in leadership. That needs, among other, investment in innovative processes.”

“Spending is surprisingly uniform across numerous operational categories, from computers and cybersecurity to accounting and ecommerce,” says Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx and principal analyst on the project. “However, in terms of budgeting priorities for specific technologies, one category stands out above the rest, namely connectivity. That tells you almost everything you need to know about the information worker during the pandemic.”

While companies are spending on IT infrastructure and development, they obviously still see value in bringing teams together for daily operations. While it’s possible to enforce remote working with a multitude of digital tools and software, nothing really beats seeing your colleagues in the flesh, we guess?

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