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With the global shift towards hybrid work models, touted for their ability to boost productivity and employee satisfaction, South Africa is at a crossroad. While a third of organisations globally have a majority hybrid workforce according to research by Cisco, another report from KPMG reveals almost a third of CEOs in Southern Africa support a full return to the office. With this in mind, local businesses need to consider shifting their strategies to reap the benefits of hybrid working and remain competitive not only in South Africa but internationally.

A win-win for employees and businesses

“This global focus on digital innovation resonates strongly with the possibilities of hybrid work models, especially here in South Africa,” says Conwell Less, Collaboration Specialist at Cisco. “Such models offer employees the best of both worlds: the valuable interaction and collaboration that comes with in-office presence, alongside the solitude and flexibility of remote work that contributes to a healthy work-life balance. This can be a key advantage for South African businesses looking to attract and retain top talent in a competitive market.”

As per Cisco’s research, organisations globally are reaping the benefits of a hybrid workforce. “For example, 65% of employers said that hybrid working has had a positive impact on their employees’ wellbeing, and 66% indicated that it boosted productivity. Further, 65% reported that it unlocked cost savings for their businesses, while 56% said that it benefited team communications, diversity and inclusion, and boosted workplace culture,” he adds.

Closing the gap between expectations and reality

While hybrid models offer clear advantages, Less emphasises that both employees’ and employers’ expectations are evolving. “The report highlights that more should be done to reimagine workplaces and workspaces to cater to these shifts so that all can fully benefit from these blended working arrangements.”

One key takeaway is the increased need for seamless collaboration between in-office and remote employees, he points out. “Employers say 40% of office interactions now involve remote participants, with collaboration technology central to shaping the future workplace as it boosts employee engagement and satisfaction through enabling flexible collaboration.”

Less adds that the gap between expectations and current office spaces can however be remedied through technology to address key areas like communication (56% of employers agree), productivity (61%), and workplace culture (60%).

Modern workspaces of the future

The data also highlights the ineffectiveness of traditional office layouts for hybrid work. Nearly half of both employers and employees find workstations and meeting rooms, large and small, to be only moderately effective at best in boosting in-office productivity.

He highlights that employees value improvements in office design, upgraded technology infrastructure, investment in sustainable features, and the inclusion of health amenities. “The future workspace should prioritise well-designed collaboration spaces equipped with the right technology to facilitate seamless hybrid interaction.”

“Workers crave collaboration in the office, and companies that are committed to staying ahead of employee satisfaction and productivity can use hybrid work to create sustainable and eco-friendly workspaces. With four out of five employers and three-quarters of employees saying sustainability is important in redesigning and reimagining their workspaces, pivoting hybrid work strategies in South Africa is crucial to remain competitive locally and across the globe,” concludes Less.

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