That’s “good morning” in Xhosa
With nearly 13,000 people on its payroll, Discovery is a leader in health insurance and financial services in South Africa. The company recently mandated
every one of its employees to get vaccinated by 1 January 2022. Or else…
Africa might be lagging the world in vaccination rates — and there are legal challenges
to actually implementing such a mandate — but that hasn’t stopped businesses around the continent, like Discovery, from reading the riot act to their employees yet to get vaccinated.
Oh, look, a bird!
Discovery claims that it is “legally” and “morally” obligated to implement the mandatory vaccination policy and that its approach was:
“in line with major multinationals, including Google, Facebook, Netflix, Walmart, and Disney.”
But for many organizations, especially in Africa, vaccination isn’t actually about legality or morality. As the remote work experiment draws to a close, many are simply searching for ways to get workers back on their desks without them kicking and screaming.
If you take a look at studies on remote work, you’ll notice that they are mostly conducted from the point of view of the employees. And for this group, the last few months have mostly gone well.
According to this study
on productivity in the workplace:
- 30% of South African employees said their productivity had increased as a result of working from home.
- 37% of employees prefer to work at home on a full-time basis,
- Whilst 30% of employees prefer going to the office at least 2-3 times a week.
But you won’t find many studies asking employers how they, too, feel about worker productivity. And whether they, too, are ready for this short-term adjustment to become a long-term switch.
Can’t leapfrog this
That readiness typically depends on two factors:
1. First, an organization’s state before the remote work experiment. All organizations aren’t created equal. On one end of the spectrum, there are the digital laggards — where digital technology is an afterthought, and on the other end, there are digital leaders — where it is used by default. In the last few months, companies closer to the laggard end undoubtedly found remote work far more challenging than companies closer to the leader end.
2. The second factor affecting readiness is how much an organization has allowed the remote work experiment to transform its operations. If at the start of the experiment, an organization was low on the spectrum, and its position hasn’t changed since then, do you really think management will be excited about the long-term prospects of remote/hybrid work?
The truth is that far more organizations in Africa occupy the lower end than the higher end. According to some estimates, less than 8%
of South African companies are digital leaders.
Also, the cost of digital transformation is often so high that returning to the status quo often becomes too tempting to overlook.
That’s the reason why, for organizations mandating their employees to get vaccinated, the true test of intention would be whether they continue remote/hybrid work despite the vaccine mandate or if they ask all their employees to return to the office because of it.