Picture: 123RF/HXDBZXY
Picture: 123RF/HXDBZXY

The era of remote working will create new management tensions between productivity and human relationships, says Martyn Davies, head of Deloitte’s Alchemy School of Management.

The development of technology allowing people to work and stay in touch with their office from anywhere in the world is changing workplace dynamics. The danger comes, says Davies, when employers expect staff to be constantly available, even outside normal working hours.

Remote working, he says, can be “good for productivity but often bad for family life”. One of the big challenges for corporate leaders in the post-Covid world will be managing this balance and its impact on employees.

Remote working, previously slow to take off in SA, has accelerated rapidly because of Covid-19. Many companies say they are unlikely to return to their office-bound existence once the pandemic has gone. Besides productivity gains, research suggests remote workers are often more loyal to their company.

But there are challenges. For example, asks Davies, what happens to interpersonal relationships born in the traditional work environment? How are managers to judge staff for promotion if they rarely see them?

He adds: “People are often promoted for political reasons. Relationships and networking are considered more important than performance.” In future, managers “will have to use far more objective measures and criteria”.

Since its launch last year, Davies says, Alchemy has enjoyed “a very good uptake” for its executive education programmes. Covid-19, inevitably, has interfered. Almost everything is now online. The only programmes postponed, says Davies, are those that include international travel. “We have pushed those out to 2021.”

Many Alchemy clients are impatient for programmes to return to the real classroom. “They want their people to be in class, not just for insights but also for networking,” he says. “Online is convenient but not ideal.”

Like other schools, Alchemy is revisiting its revenue model because of Covid-wrought changes. “We are re-evaluating our budget,” says Davies. “Clients expect lower rates for online programmes. It’s understandable. We’re not flying in faculty or paying for accommodation and catering. Our whole costing process needs to be reconfigured. That’s a given.”​

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