Advice Column, Parenting

Working from home in South Africa

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If you have been contemplating the idea of leaving the world of open-plan offices behind and embarking on a journey towards working from home in South Africa, you are not alone. 2017 stats from Dimension Data indicated that 42% of all South African companies had employees working from home on a full-time basis. Regus also reported that up to 75% of South Africans that work from home feel like they’re much more productive in a home office environment than they would be in an open office. 

Working from home has many benefits, but it takes dedication and smart strategies to pull it off successfully. As a remote worker, you will need to figure out when to work, where to work, and how to set healthy boundaries between your work life and your personal life. 

How to work from home in South Africa

With the country’s economy on a downturn and the effects of corporate downsizing being felt across the board, more and more South Africans are considering the idea of working from home. But working from home isn’t as simple as it might seem. 

It can be hard to manage expectations from your employer, and not to mention all the little home chores that can easily distract you. Some issues might not even have crossed your mind yet. Is the computer software you have at home up to the task? How will you network if you sit at home all day?

Here are some practical tips to keep in mind when starting out on your remote working journey:

1. Start by setting up the right space

The most essential element for any kind of creative work is to find a dedicated working space. If you share a space with a partner or have the kids home too, merely plopping your laptop down on the kitchen counter and thinking you’re all set isn’t going to work. You need to be able to get your job done without getting in the way of others that share the house with you. Try to find a space in your home (other than a bedroom) where you’ll set up your office. 

2. Gear yourself with the right equipment

Without the right equipment, you might as well head back to the office. You need the following to complete basic tasks in your home office environment:

  • Laptop or computer
  • Stable and reliable internet
  • Secure remote access to your company’s internal network or intranet
  • Access to corporate emails
  • A company phone 

3. Create some structure for your day

You need to structure your workday by planning out which tasks need to take priority and how many hours you will spend on each job. You also need to schedule breaks so that you’ll stay productive and ready for the next challenge. There is a difference between efficiency and productivity, and without a set structure in place, it is easy to get distracted. 

4. Use flexibility to your advantage

If you are getting the work done and keeping up good quality standards with regards to deadlines, you should be able to work during your most productive hours, which is part of the beauty of having a flexible schedule. Unless your boss expects you to be able to communicate in real-time during company business hours, you should take advantage of the time you have on your hands and get as much as possible done during your most productive hours. 

5. Ensure you are always online

As a remote worker, your most important bills will not be for software upgrades or new computers; they will be for uncapped, unshaped fibre internet. Your smartphone and apps like Dropbox ensure that you’re always online and available when your team needs you most. 

6. Be disciplined

The amount of success you achieve by working from home really depends on how seriously you treat it. For all goals and purposes, you need to apply the same kind of discipline a traditional office setup demands. Although it might sound counter-intuitive, getting ready for work every morning Is very useful to help set the stage for discipline. Get dressed in something you would be happy to wear if you were working in an office, and ensure you are available between 8:30 am and 5 pm. 

7. Stay active

Once you have settled into a routine where you are successfully working from home, it can be easy to forget about some of the obvious benefits of working in a traditional office. As much as you hated the daily commute to work, the walk from your car to the office was still some form of exercise. Therefore, it is vital to get out of the house daily, even if it is just to go grab some lunch. 

8. Remember: You are not a hermit

Human contact is yet another benefit of the traditional office setup. While Facebook and other forms of social media are great tools for catching up on the news, it is still important to make time to spend some actual (face-to-face) time with clients, have lunch with friends and generally just get out of the house, so you see something other than the wall behind your computer screen every day. 

The ins and outs of working from home in South Africa

Before you start picking out your home office furniture, it is important to understand the pros and cons of working from home. If you are considering remote jobs, here are some potential advantages and pitfalls to think about before logging in from home:

Advantages of working from home

You are independent

This goes far beyond the allure of getting to work in your pyjamas. Working from home means you will have to learn to rely on self-motivation, self-discipline, focus and concentration. It sounds simple and obvious, but time management and scheduling are super important skills for any employee working from home. 

You get more done

You can be much more productive in your home office – if you aren’t hitting the mall when you should be in the “office”. You won’t spend hours commuting, which can add up to three extra hours of stress-free productivity to your day. Plus, the occasional annoyances of office life like interruptions, chatter and loud co-workers won’t be in the way anymore either. 

Communication is something you become an expert in

From texting to Skype and web meetings, out of necessity, you will become savvy in all these communication methods. In today’s digital world, knowing how to navigate these technologies makes you mare marketable. 

You save money

Commuting costs will become a thing of the past, and the same applies to your professional wardrobe costs. Regardless of whether you are a business owner or an employee, there are costs to showing up to work five days a week that disappear when you work from home. 

Disadvantages of working from home

You might forget to clock out

A lot of people think that working from home means doing less, but the exact opposite is true for diligent employees. When you don’t have that separation of going to and from the office, your workday can blur into your home life. 

It can feel like you are left out

Some people do not realise it until they are there, but there is a lot of collaboration that happens in the office. Sometimes its sharing best practices, and other times its impromptu brainstorming sessions over a quick lunch. It can be tough to replicate that from home. 

You might battle with technology platforms

In general, cloud technology makes it easier than ever for remote workers to log in to the office setup from just about anywhere. But there are times when data security and consumer protection concerns could prevent you from having full access to all your organisation’s tech platforms. 

How to search for legitimate work from home opportunities

Before diving into the details on where to find proper remote working opportunities, it is important to understand what your options are as far as work segments are concerned. 

Potential work from home segments

1. Remote employee

Remote employees are employed with a company as usual, but they aren’t required to head into the office every day. They can work from home, or anywhere they have access to fast and reliable internet. These employees are fixed members of teams that have structured working schedules that they have to stick to. 

2. Freelancer

Freelancers offer specific services to their clients in return for remuneration once a project is completed. They work when and where they want and set their own working hours and schedules. They are free to negotiate things like deadlines and meeting with their clients too. This job does have a lot of freedom as far as a routine goes, but income is hardly ever secured, so freelancers always must source new clients or do their best to keep existing clients on board. 

3. Your own business

Owners of businesses don’t work for anyone and can work as hard as they want. They might start their own dropshipping business or try their hand at affiliate marketing or invent a new and exciting business concept. Although flexibility is great in this position, there is often a significant investment required for setup. Business owners might also need the help of a business partner, freelancers or employees to help their business grow at some stage. 

Is working from home in South Africa the right option for you?

As you can see, there are a lot of great benefits to working from home, but there are also some drawbacks. It is up to you to decide what you find more meaningful and whether a remote position will improve your work-life balance. If you plan on working from home, you need to be sure that you meet the following criteria:

  • You have a lot of self-discipline
  • You don’t get distracted easily and can stay focused 
  • Time management is something you are brilliant at
  • You are super organised and structured
  • You can work on your own without constant supervision
  • Working alone and spending most of your day alone is something you are very comfortable with

Where can I search for work from home opportunities?

If you are still determined to say goodbye to office life and embark on the journey of becoming a remote employee, you can enquire with your current employer. Perhaps they are flexible enough to accommodate you. A lot of companies are offering telecommuting jobs, and remote working is fast becoming a hot trend that most organisations across the globe are trying to keep up with. 

If you are just starting your professional career and want to gain work experience from a home office environment, you can begin your search on Adzuna. This online job aggregator lists more than 140,000 vacancies across South Africa. Adzuna reported that it had a collection of more than 1,100 remote working positions being advertised by mid September 2020 with an average annual salary of R380,000 for legitimate work from home positions. 

As you can see, working remotely is not always as easy as everyone assumes. There is a lot of isolation, fear of missing out on something and miscommunication, to name but just a few. To overcome these drawbacks and barriers, successful remote workers must be proactive, driven and very hardworking. 

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