7 December 2021

The Hybrid Workforce Debate: What SMEs Need to Know

A third of respondents surveyed during a recent study into the hybrid workforce indicated they would continue working from home.

Around the world the Covid-19 pandemic has changed work practices and South Africa is no exception. This required a practical solution from businesses which has resulted in the hybrid working model.

This may give small businesses a chance to reduce office space and inventory, and possibly to repurpose the funds.

“Success in a hybrid work environment requires employers to move beyond viewing remote or hybrid environments as a temporary or short-term strategy and to treat it as an opportunity” (Vice President of Gartner, George Penn)

The gradual transition from the conventional office environment to a remote, tech-savvy workforce has been topical in various industries for a while. However the pandemic has  accelerated acceptance of the reality of remote working.

The recent Digital Corporation in South Africa 2021 study, conducted by IT research organisation World Wide Worx with the support of Syspro, Dell Technologies, Intel and Cycan, looked into the hybrid work place model among enterprises in South Africa. It found that a third of respondent companies did not foresee their workforce returning to the office environment.

The hybrid workplace is an operating model incorporating both remote and in-office working. This is made feasible by cloud computing together with collaborative tools such as direct messaging tools like WeChat, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger, as well as task management tools like Asana, Google Workspace and Trello. 

The above-mentioned research also analysed the spending habits and investment trends of companies concerning hybrid environment technologies, among other things.

Budgeting is a critical consideration in remote working. Cloud computing – an important aspect of hybrid working, is second only to business intelligence, which is software designed to retrieve, analyse, and report data for business improvement, in terms of budgeting for specific technologies in South Africa, according to the report

“Spending is surprisingly uniform across numerous operational categories, from computers and cyber-security to accounting and ecommerce,” says Arthur Goldstuck, CEO of World Wide Worx and principal analyst on the project.

Furthermore, remote working involves tax considerations for both employees and employers – an area best tackled only with professional advice.

For example, employers are often requested to issue letters confirming that employees performed their duties mainly in a home office and the difficulty is that the employer must vouch that all requirements were met.

In general, the hybrid workforce debate is of particular interest to SMEs, particularly since they may be able repurpose the savings of reducing office space and overheads.

The three pillars of a functional hybrid working model

The University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business lists the following pillars as vital to a functional hybrid working model:

  1. Trust: This is the foundation of the employee-employer relationship. The working model requires both parties to actively work on making it a success.
  2. Practicality: The nature of the business offering should determine the inner workings of the model and budget.
  3. Organisational policy: Policy needs to complement the working environment. 

Take professional advice on how hybrid working can impact your business’ bottom line.  

For additional reading

  • To read about the Digital Corporation in South Africa 2021 study read “Remote working needs digital sauce” on the World Wide Worx website.
  • For tips on how to ensure a successful hybrid workforce model, see the UCT Graduate School of Business article “How to ensure the success of the hybrid working model”  here.
  • To find out the requirements for claiming tax reductions for home office expenses, follow the links to the SARS “Home Office Expenses” webpage and see the Draft Interpretation Note 28 (Issue 3) here.
  • For workforce trends in South Africa during the current pandemic, read “The Hybrid Workplace: Pros and Cons for South African Businesses” on The Work Space website.
  • Read also “Remote Working Tax Conundrums for Employers and Employees in South Africa” on the ICLG website.

The article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice.