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Demand for flexible working increases



According to workplace solutions provider ‚ Regus, 41% of South African businesses estimate that the cost of getting to work will rise by 5% when the new tollgate system comes into play. Smaller companies were the most pessimistic with 44% expecting the increase compared to 30% of medium and 23.1% of big firms. This rise in the cost of getting to work is fuelling both the employee’s and employer’s need to be able to work from home, satellite offices or meeting lounges.

The extra cost of getting to work through Johannesburg’s new tollgate system (due to be operational from 23 June 2011), will drive a demand for flexible working arrangements, predicts workplace solutions provider Regus, following the results of its latest bi-annual business survey.

According to this research, 41% of businesses in South Africa estimated the cost of getting to work would rise by 5% compared to current spending when the new tollgate system created by the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP). Small companies were the most pessimistic with 44% expecting the increase compared to 30% of medium and 23.1% of big firms.

Drivers can expect to pay about 66 cents per kilometre to use the tollgates on highways into Johannesburg’s main business areas. Over 21 working days, this could mean an estimated extra R700 ‚ R1000 travel bill a month for commuters, who are already reeling from repeated hikes in fuel prices that reached a peak of R10.25 in May. The SA petrol price increased for the 8th consecutive month. The latest rise in the domestic fuel price is entirely due to the higher oil price.

‚It’s going to be more expensive than ever commuting to work in Johannesburg and not just for employees. The impact of the tolls will be passed on to companies both in terms of time wasted getting to work and in the difficulty of keeping staff who have to commute,‚ said Joanne Bushell, Regus Vice-president for Africa and Middle East. ‚Our statistics suggest that smart businesses will use alternative workspace solutions to cut down on travel, especially in the Greater Johannesburg area.‚

The Regus survey, which was based on the responses of 17,000 businesses worldwide, found that four-fifths of firms in South Africa already offer staff flexible working options. In Johannesburg, 43% of companies have businesses that allow employees flexibility over location and working hours when they reached a certain level of seniority.

‚We expect cost-conscious firms will continue this trend and make the most use of business lounges, meeting rooms and satellite office space to allow employees to work closer to home in Regus locations throughout Greater Johannesburg,‚ added Joanne.

From a wider perspective, outsourced workspace closer to the employee’s home makes good business sense full stop. The Regus survey also found that 68% of South African firms believe flexible working practices are more cost effective than fixed office working. As well as cutting down on the time employees take getting to work and easing traffic congestion, flexible working improves productivity, reduces overheads and improves staff work-life balance ‚ offering a win/win for both employer and employee.