Embracing the new normal – a distributed work approach

When a 21-day nationwide lockdown came into effect on 26 March 2020, businesses in South Africa were required to enable staff to work remotely, almost overnight. Business leaders, managers and staff were unsure as to what impact remote working would have on operational capacity and work-life balance.

At Constantia Insurance, remote working necessitated by the lockdown has had a positive impact on operational capacity. It has unlocked several benefits at both a business and personal level, for example – more time to be productive with less time spent on the road in traffic, reduced expenditure on petrol, work-life balance through more time spent at home with family and reduced overhead costs for the business.

Very importantly, the implementation of various technologies, including softphone capabilities and hunting facilities on telephony systems, has ensured that there has been no negative impact on service delivery to our partners and clients whatsoever.

On the flip side, working remotely can pose several challenges which may impact operational capacity, due to load shedding, internet connectivity, access to equipment such as printers and missing out on in-person engagement with colleagues.

Taking all these learnings onboard, following staff engagements and a proof of concept with our Cape Town office, Constantia Insurance has decided to implement a distributed work approach on a permanent basis.

A distributed work approach refers to companies that have one or more employees who work in different physical locations, for example, allowing staff to work from home but still have smaller office space available should they wish to use specific facilities such as boardrooms and printers or overcome challenges such as load shedding.

According to Peter Todd, CEO at Constantia Insurance, “A distributed work approach empowers and enables our employees to decide which option suits them best, depending on their work schedules and circumstances. As such, it is a powerful component of our Employee Value Proposition.”

“Additional benefits to a distributed work approach include the ability to cast a wider net to attract talent, as new employees are not required to work from a specific location. This allows us to access talent in places where we don’t even have a physical presence,” notes Ian Chauvet, Head of HR at Constantia Insurance.

It is clear that both employer and employee may benefit significantly from a distributed work approach but that it does require a level of maturity and responsibility.

“With the flexibility comes a huge responsibility to not abuse it. This coincides with the culture we are building at Constantia, where we empower our staff to deliver to the best of their abilities and manage performance on output,” concludes Todd.

The onus will also be on management to ensure that their teams remain engaged and that there is a healthy blend of remote and face-to-face engagement.